Chlotrudis logo
Chlotrudis banner
news & events
spotlight
reviews
mewsings
boston
awards
short film festival
our favorite films
become a member
resources
about us
members
sponsors

Last updated: August 20, 2005
Copyright 2006
Michael R. Colford. All rights reserved

Film Festival Reviews

Toronto International Film Festival, 2002

 

My First Trip to Toronto

by Ellen Robbins
 
Ellen RobbinsThis was my first trip to Toronto after hearing about it for several years from other Chlotrudis members. Under the guidance of Michael Colford and Scot Capehart, I quickly learned the in's and out's of a successful Toronto experience. And, it proved to be everything I had heard about - Daniel's Musical Hideaway, Senses, internet cafe, and, of course, movies, movies, movies. Being a novice, I only managed to take in 17 films, but rarely did they disappoint. I managed to see three Russian films and two other films made in Russia as well as four documentaries. I can highly recommend all four of the documentaries:
 
Alexei and the SpringAlexei and the Spring - Seiichi Motohashi, Director (Japan) - A close-up view of the lives of 55 elderly people and one 35-year-old disabled man who have remained in their small village only 40 miles from the infamous Chernobyl accident. Amazingly, radiation contamination is all around them except in the spring where they get their water.
 
Atlantic Drift - Michael Daeron, Director (Austria) - A mother and her son travel back to Mauritius to relive the mother's attempts to escape Hitler by sailing to Palestine only to end up jailed in Mauritius. This was a journey of emotion for both mother and son as the son tried to learn facts about the father he never knew.
 

Blind Spot. Hitler's SecretaryBlind Spot. Hitler's Secretary - Andre Heller and Othmar Schmiderer, Directors (Austria) - The entire film consists of Traudi Junge telling her story of being the secretary to Hitler in the final days of the Hitler regime. I heard complaints that no new information was revealed but I found it thoroughly fascinating to hear this very ordinary woman tell of being part of this very extraordinary time.

 
FamilyFamily - Sami Saif and Phie Ambo, Directors (Denmark) - A Danish man whose mother was Danish and father is Yemeni goes in search of the Yemeni father that he never knew. His travels take him to Yemen where he meats the half-brother he never knew he had.
 

Several feature films were also fabulous, including:

 
The CuckooThe Cuckoo - Alexander Rughozhkin, Director (Russia) - Who can pass up a comedy set in Lappland?! Need I say more?!
 
Lilya 4-Ever - Lucas Moodysson, Director (Sweden) - Set in present day Russia, Moodysson examines the illegal sex trade. I think Michael, Scot and I all agreed that there were two dominant themes in films this year - the illegal sex trade in Eastern Europe and huffing. This film contained both.
 
The LoverThe Lover - Valeriy Todorovskiy, Director (Russia) - When Mitya's wife dies unexepectedly, he discovers that there was another man in her life which launches him on a quest to find out who this man is and sort out his own love for his wife.
 
Marion Bridge - Wiebke von Carolsfeld, Director (Canada) - When Agnes returns to her Cape Breton home, old wounds are opened and her family teeters on the precipice of emotional breakdown.
 
Rabbit-Proof FenceRabbit-Proof Fence - Phillip Noyce, Director (Austalia) - Thanks to Michael getting up at a very early hour to procure tickets, I was able to see this fabulous film based on the true story of three aboriginal girls who were taken from their aboriginal family and plopped into a very British "orphanage." Under the leadership of their very determined older sister, they decide to walk across the country to return to their mother by following the rabbit-proof fence.
 
The Wild Dogs - Thom Fitzgerald, Director (Canada) - This was another examination of the illegal sex trade and the interplay of money, poverty, and a chaotic society as it exists in Romania. The wild dogs roaming the city were effectively used as allegory for what was happening to the humans around them.
 

Point - Counterpoint: Two Views of the Toronto Film Festival

by Emily Neill and Greg Jacobs
Greg and Emily  breakfast at Daniel's Musical HideawayThis is Greg and Emily's report from the Toronto Film Festival, 2002. We had a lovely experience as usual, we got to see almost all the films we wanted to (maybe those critics who got turned away should have gotten up early with us to make sure they got into the films they wanted!) though overall were not quite as impressed with the films we saw this year compared to last - call it a matter of chance possibly (our favorites from last year - Greg's was a French movie called Loin, Em's was Ken Loach's The Navigators). But this is such a great festival - it's very well organized, the volunteer workers are dedicated and do an excellent job - we hope we can make it next year for a weekend at least, despite the fact that we will have a newborn boy about 8 months along by next September!
 
Here are the films we saw this year, somewhat in order of preference:
 
Bowling for Columbine1. Bowling For Columbine - Michael Moore's deepest film to date about the perpetual mystery of violence in America. We were about 150 people back in the stand-by line but still were able to get in. It was well worth it - a powerful film that was especially well-recieved by the Canadian audience, since they come off looking much saner and civilized than their American counterparts in the film.
 
2. The Trials of Henry KissingerThe Trials of Henry Kissinger - This was a good year for politically-based documentaries. This was a very thorough examination of Kissinger's time serving under Nixon in the White House and the many despicable and frightening things he had a hand in instigating (the film contends) while he was there. Based largely on Christopher Hitchens' book The Trial of Henry Kissinger, it fairly clearly outlines and documents it's case for Kissinger's having a corrupting hand in spreading violence and chaos in Vietnam and Chile, among other places. The filmmakers were supposed to be present at the end to answer questions, but they didn't make it. After seeing this film, you couldn't help but wonder... maybe someone didn't want them to show...??
 
3. Frida - FridaThis was a surprisingly rich and engaging bio-pic of Frida Kahlo, largely driven by Salma Hayak's compelling performance as Kahlo and Alfred Molina's as husband Diego Rivera. This is a film that may end up finding a large audience and possibly some Oscar nominations when it comes out here, but it's a film you can feel good about liking. If you're unfamiliar, as Greg was, with much of Kahlo's life and story, it's a facinating introduction, and it's told with such elegance and passion here. It also probably helped that Greg has had a huge crush on Salma for many years now and she is especially sexy and luminous here as Kahlo (Edward Norton, that lucky man...). The film techniques used are especially worthy of note (there are some animations painted atop the regular film) that add some of that artist's spice to the presentation of the story as well.
 
4. Love Liza - A moving film about a man coping with his wife's suicide by inhaling gas fumes and flying model airplanes. Sounds odd, but writer Gordy Hoffman and lead actor (and brother of Gordy) Philip Seymour Hoffman weave these disparate elements into a sad yet touchingly comical and realistic portrait of grieving. This was Em's favorite, it was introduced by PSH himself, scripted by his brother who was on hand for the Q&A, and attended by none other than our own Marilyn! (PSH's mom) Always charming...make SURE you catch this if/when it shows up in theatres here.
 
Marius et Jeannette5. Marius et Jeannette - Part of a retrospective of French writer/directer Robert Guediguian's films, this very French film from 1997 about a group of working-class couples and their struggles with romance and politics was both endearing and annoying for the same reasons. It was ultimately a winning slice-of-life type story, though sometimes grating. And there's a great drunken comical bar-fight scene towards the end... since this film is older I am sure its out on video in the States.
 
Gerry6. Gerry - This is Gus Van Sant's new film and it drew a real split decision from us. Em wrote a review of it earlier that you can probably find in the Chlotrudis reviews section. Basically, the film consists of long, long takes of two people lost in the desert, wandering.... experimental, you might say, in its long and silent takes... a self professed strategy on the part of the film maker to move one out of the usual filmic expectation of narrative... OR, a true test of filmgoers patience for a story with no dialogue? Em really liked it and thought this 'method' was ultimately effective in forcing our attention into that space of desperation (she especially lthought the last scene between the two lost boys achieved this goal). Greg, however, found it ultimately devoid of much substance in the end. It could have worked as a metaphor for Gen X detactment, and almost does, but no real sense for the characters is conveyed without more dialogue and two actors whose facial expression range leave something to be desired (Matt Damon and Casey Affleck).
 
7. SpunSpun - We saw this at a midnight screening, and it was probably the best celebrity studded night. All the stars of the film came out - Mickey Rourke, looking like a plastic rebel-rocker in black leather, though still somehow cool, Mena Suvari, Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore)--who sure knows how to work a crowd-- and the always adorable and true-to-life shy, Patrick Fugit (of Almost Famous fame). Brittany Murphy also stars but was not on hand for the evening. All the actors play truly abysmal characters, and quite well. Really to the point of making you sick. So if you're into that, we recommend it!...but seriously folks... The film was like Trainspotting, except speed is the addiction of choice , and despite it's flashy quick-edit/animation tricks (VERY reminiscent of Requiem of a Dream which, if you recall, Em was not a big fan of), it did a good job of viscerally conveying the mind-set and desperation of the speed-addict lifestyle. The last scene shows a drug-lab blowing up in the background while Schwartzman's character nods off in an exhausted post speed daze in his car. This film was directed by Jonas Akerlund, credited with the famed "Smack My Bitch Up" video for Prodidgy, and I must say this film felt a lot like a video, frankly....
 
8. Morvern CallarMorvern Callar - Another split decision - Second feature from Lynne Ramsay, director of Ratcatcher, about a woman who comes home to find her boyfriend has killed himself, and left a last request that she try getting his completed first novel published post-mortem. Samantha Morton is incredible as Morvern Callar, who subsequently sends the novel, under her name, to a publisher who is crazy about it and offers her a large sum of money for the publishing rights. Em was really drawn in by the story and the characters, though Greg, being a writer of sorts himself (songwriter), couldn't get past Morvern's taking credit for her boyfriend's dying artistic achievement. We disagreed about whether Morvern's act was one of bravery and self/life affirmation in the face of the thoughtless tortured artist's premature exit, or an act of cowardice and/or theft, depriving the true artist of the only opportunity for the public recognition of his talent ...can you guess who thought what?
 
We also saw a program of some very interesting short film pieces that were comprised of only images and sounds, of note was the work of Janie Geiser and Casey Koehler. And finally we also saw a program of 2 documentaries by Alan King, a Canadian directer who was given a retrospective at the festival this year, titled Skid Row and A Matter of Pride. Pretty tedious and somewhat formative, as they were some of his very first works, though interesting documents of early 60's economic struggle.
 
That's about it - we hope some of you can make it to next year's festival as it is really a great experience for film lovers!
 

Third Year at the Toronto International Film Festival

by Michael R. Colford
 
Scot Capehart and Michael Colford Ranked in the Top 5 Film Festivals around the Globe, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is sometimes called “the Public’s Film Festival.” Not having much experience with the other Film Festivals in the Top 5 makes it impossible to comment on them, but the above quote is a fairly accurate description of the citywide celebration of film that takes place every September north of the border. At first, negotiating the screenings and obtaining tickets in Toronto seems an overwhelming and ill-fated endeavor, yet experience shows otherwise. As one of the masses, the general public without a press or industry pass, all it takes to have a successful experiencve at the Toronto International Film Festival is a willingness to stand in lots of lines (and meet interesting people or catch up on your reading while you do so), get very little sleep, (late night screenings and early morning lines for tickets), and plan on eating some meals in line.
 
My third sojourn to the TIFF was like coming home. Accommodations at the same Bed & Breakfast, familiar meals at wonderful coffee shops, pubs and high-end restaurants, walks through recognized neighborhoods, and screenings at theatres I’ve spent many hours in already all contribute to this feeling. Some of this year’s highlights other than the films include: bumping into Arsinée Khanjian at a screening and having a delightful, if hurried conversation with her, introducing myself to the divine Sandra Oh, spending time with the superb Marilyn O’Conner in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel, and catching sight of such stars as Salma Hayek and Pierce Brosnan, and finally meeting her son, Gordy Hoffman, who wrote the powerful screenplay for Love, Liza. In the 6 1/2 days in attendance, I caught 21screenings. 13 countries were represented in those 21 films, with the majority (seven!) coming from Canada. The only two films I tried to get tickets to but couldn't were also Canadian; Atom Egoyan's Ararat (a member who saw it found the negative criticisms harsh and felt the film was ambitious and challenging) and Rub & Tug, starring Don McKellar. I also eschewed several high-profile films that I knew would be released in the coming months. The only movie that I could have seen that I regret skipping was Todd Hayne's reportedly brilliant Far From Heaven . Ah well... it will be released in the States very soon. What follows are capsule reviews of the films I saw.
 
Take Care of My CatTake Care of My Cat (South Korea)
director - Jeong Jae-eun
cast - Bae Doo-na; Lee Yo-won; Ok Je-young; Lee Eung-sil; Lee Eun-ja
Five friends from high school living in a poor city in South Korea try to maintain their friendship a year after graduation even as they all seek diverging paths away from their current lives. Take Care of My Cat provides a terrific look at contemporary South Korea, with frequent cell phone and text message use. integrated wonderfully into the film. Performances are strong, and the script is punctuated with humor and emotional moments. The lack of stereotype so prevalant in this type of film is a testament to the actresses, and the sure directorial hand that elevates this film above the norm. 4 cats
 
One Night the MoonOne Night the Moon (Australia)
director - Rachel Perkins
cast - Paul Kelly; Kaarin Fairfax; Memphis Kelly; Kelton Pell
Based on a true story set in the Australian outback in 1932, One Night the Moon is a musical of sorts. When a couple's little girl wander off in the night chasing after the moon, help arrives in the form of an aboriginal tracker. After his assistance is rejected by the patriarch due to racial prejudice, the search for the little girl looks hopeless despite the assitance of the local sherrif and his men. In desperation, the girl's mother puts aside her prejudice and seeks help from the tracker. This 55-minute featurette sports magnificent art direction using the stark landscape. Performances by Kaarin Fairfax and the mother and Memphis Kelly as the tracker are powerful. The music was written by Australian pop star Paul Kelly who also plays the anguised and ineffectual father. Unfortunately as a musical One Night the Moon doesn't really work. It's pacing and style is more akin to an extended music video of Australian folk-style songs. 3 cats
 
Baadasssss Cinema (US/UK)
director - Isaac Julien
documentary
Julien's entertaining documentary examines the "blaxploitation" genre that rose and fell in popularity during the first half of the 1970's. Utilizing dozens of clips from "blaxploitation" films, interviews with filmmakers, actors and critics, as well as newsclips from the time, Julien presents a well-rounded, all sides picture of a politically controversial piece of film history. While I enjoyed watching Baadasssss Cinema, I wonder if that was because I enjoyed the clips so much, or if the film itself was entertaining. One thing is certain, the frequent interview clips of the incessantly annoying Quentin Tarrantino could certainly have been cut down. 2 1/2 cats
 
1010 (Iran)
director - Abbas Kiarostami
cast - Roya Arabshahi; Katayoun Taleidzadeh; Mandana Sharbaf; Amene Moradi; Amin Maher
I was wary of 10 after not being particularly enthralled by Kiarostami's previous flim, A Taste of Cherry. Yet in a surprisingly effective and inventive film, Kiarostami mounts a digital camera to the dashboard of a car and records ten different scenes of a young female driver having conversations with a variety of passengers. Starting with an amazing scene with her son Amin, who hasn't forgiven her for divorcing his father, the woman interacts with a startlingly wide array of women. Slowly, through these conversations, 10 becomes a portrait of a society where women are struggling to find their voices. 4 cats
 
The Lover (Russia)
director - Valeriy Todorovskiy
cast - Oleg Yakovskiy; Sergei Garmash; Vera Voronkova; Anrey Smirnov; Yulia Rytokova
When Mitya's wife dies suddenly, he struggles with his grief, but when he finds an unfinished letter his wife had been writing to a lover, he becomes a man obssessed. Upon finding Vanya, his wife's lover of practically their entire marriage, he searches for the details and the reasons, unable to let things go. The two men form a strange relationship, both competetive and caring, based on the love they shared with a woman who has been cruelly taken away. But when the identity of Mitya's tenn-aged son comes into question he refuses to accept the possibilities presented, which leads to the sad and sobering conclusion. The Lover is a well-constructed and amusing tale about grief and letting go. 3 cats
Long Life, Happienss, and ProsperityLong Life, Happiness and Prosperity (Canada)
director - Mina Shum
cast - Sandra Oh; Valerie Tian; Tsai Chin; Ric Young; Christina Ma
Mina Shum reunites with her Double Happiness star, Sandra Oh for this funny, poignant and slightly sentimental look at several Asian-American families living in Vancouver's Chinatown. Oh plays a single mother whose hasband left her suddenly to care for her precious daughter, Mindy. In an attempt to find happiness for her mother, Mindy studies Chinese charms and sorcery. Mindy's spells don't seem to help her mother, but her painstaking efforts seem to have an effect on the desires and difficulties of several other community members. Shum sprinkles liberal amounts of humor into the mix as the storylines play out while weaving back and forth between the characters. The moving denoument does come across a little forced, but Oh is such a vibrant presences, and little Mindy so endearing that the flaws in the script are easily overlooked. 3 cats
 
Marion BridgeMarion Bridge (Canada)
director - Wiebke von Carolsfeld
cast - Molly Parker; Rebecca Jenkins; Stacy Smith; Marguerite McNeli; Ellen Page
Daniel McIvor (The Five Senses; Beefcake) has written an extraordinary family drama involving three sisters trying to deal with their dying mother and the shared secrets of their past. Surely a recipe for mawkish, formula family drama, Marion Bridge succeeds wonderfully thanks to McIvor's sharp, funny screenplay, strong performances by Parker, Jenkins, Smith and youngster Ellen Page, and an assured directorial hand by first-timer von Carolsfeld. Bridge is filled with laugh-out-loud humor and powerful emotion as Parker's middle sister Agnes returns to her rural, Cape Breton hometown after living wild in Toronto. Her two sister Theresa and Louise view her return skeptically, but Agnes insists she's given up the booze and drugs she once played heavily with, and takes charge of their mother's care. Yet as in any family drama, those secrets preferred left undiscussed rear their ugly head. The sweeping Nova Scotia landscape echoes the arc of emotions of this troubled family dredged once more to the surface. A stand out film. 5 cats
La Turbulence des FluidesLa Turbulence de Fluides (Canada)
director - Manon Briand
cast - Pascale Bussières, Jean-Nicolas Verreault, Julie Gayet, Geneviève Bujold
Pascale Bussières as an action hero? High-tech eco thriller merged with a tragic, ghost story? Briand blends a range of genres in a film that delights, surprises and moves us emotionally. When we first see Alice (Bussières) she is waking, Bond-like from a night of passion in Tokyo, where she works as a seismologist. She's trying to forget her past, while avoiding any present-day emotional entanglements by throwing her self into the study of earthquake predictors. She is shocked to find out that her supervisors are sending her home to her birthplace of Baie-Comeau where the tides have mysteriously stopped. What follows is a film that refuses to take itself seriously, yet presents a lovely, romantic tale that just won't stay pegged down. Briand's evocative imagery fits the story perfectly as we root for Alice to solve both the mystery of the tides, whether tied to a possible haunting, or the precursor to a massive earthquake, and of her own heart. 4 cats
 
Love LizaLove Liza (USA)
director - Todd Luiso
cast - Philip Seymour Hoffman; Kathy Bates; Jack Kehler; Sarah Koskoff
Devastating, yet strangely hopeful, first-time screenwriter Gordy Hoffman paints a powerful portrait of a man's struggle with the grief created by his wife's tragic suicide. Wilson is having trouble coping with his wife's unexplained suicide, yet still manages to get to work. Yet after discovering a suicide note left under his pillow which he cannot bring himself to open and read, he begins a harrowing journey from which he may not recover. Working from Hoffman's incredibly original screenplay, Luiso fashions a film filled with marvelous performances. Philip Seymour Hoffman's Wilson embodies the various stages of grief supported by a superb cast including Kathy Bates as his mother-in-law, and Jack Kehler as a friend's husband who tries in his own bumbling way to help Wilson get back on his feet. 4 1/2 cats
 
Past PerfectPast Perfect (Canada)
director - Daniel McIvor
cast - Daniel McIvor; Rebecca Jenkins; Maury Chaykin; Marie Brassard
Two people, both struggling with broken relationships, meet on an overnight flight from Halifx to Vancouver. After sitting through an uncomfortably awkward start, fate intervenes and they fall in love. Two years later, they are married, but their relationship has hit a seemingly insurmmountable roadblock. McIvor writes, directs and stars in this moving and funny tale of two souls and their desires. Lovely cinematography, a pair of strong performances and an accomplished script all combine in an elegant character piece that rises above the usual cliches. 4 1/2 cats
 
Laurel CanyonLaurel Canyon (USA)
director - Lisa Cholodenko
cast - Christian Bale; Kate Beckinsale; Frances McDormand; Alessandro Nivola
After taking on the world of art and drugs in High Art, Cholodenko tackles rock & roll. Christian Bale and Kate Beckinsale play Sam and Alex, a young succesful couple both undertaking post-graduate studies and engaged to be married. Alex is writing her dissertation and Sam has reluctantly accepted a residence at a prestigious L.A. hospital across the country from their New England life. The reason for his reluctance stems from the inevitable reunion with his famous, record-producer mom Jane, played with passion and rock 'n roll panache by Frances McDormand. As the couple warily agree to stay in Jane's palatial abode until they find an apartment, her raucous, sex-drugs-and-rock-'n-roll lifestyle has a startling, loosening-up effect on Alex. The resulting clash of lifestyles, along with the long-held struggle between mother and son is played out with grace and humor. Cholodenko realistically creates the two worlds of rock 'n roll and medical research while exploring complex relationships. 3 1/2 cats
 
Lilya 4-EverLilya 4-Ever (Sweden)
director - Lukas Moodysson
cast - Oksana Akinshina; Artiom Bogucharkij; Elina Benenson; Lilia Sinkarjova; Pavel Ponomarjov
After the joyous optimism of community featured in Together, Moodysson shifts gears radically with a starkly bleak portrait of Lilya, a young girl living in an unnamed Russian city. Abandoned by her mother at age 16 so she can travel to the U.S. with a boyfriend, Lilya is left to care for herself even as the money promised form her mother trickles away. As Lilya's life begins a spiralling descent into the horror of the sex-trade, only the close friendship with a young isloated boy provides her with any solace. Moodysson treats his adult characters as demonic, from Lilya's Aunt Anna, to the men who she must deal with in the latter half of the film. Yet even at the film's bleakest, Moodysson refuses to give up hope completely. This strong condemnation of the sex trade is a powerful character drama that will leave even the most jaded viewers affected. 4 cats
 
The Secret Lives of DentistsThe Secret Lives of Dentists (USA)
director - Alan Rudolph
cast - Campbell Scott; Hope Davis; Dennis Leary; Robin Tunney
Rudolph applies his trademark off-beat characters and quirky humor to a Craig Lucas screenplay adapted from a Jane Smiley novella with mixed results. Scott and Davis play a married pair of dentists raising three young daughters. When Scott's Dave suspects his wife of having an affair, his sudden jealousy and odd behavior cause both to examine their hopes and expectations for marriage and how they compare with the reality. While parts of the film shine, much of the story falls flat, particularly the use of Leary as one of Dave's unpleasant patients who becomes his internal guide. 2 1/2 cats
 
Blue Gate CrossingBlue Gate Crossing (Taiwan/France)
director - Yee Chih-yen
cast - Chen Bo-lin; Guey Lun-mei; Liang Shu-hui
Yee's lovely film Blue Gate Crossing (the first of two Asian films I saw to tackle the subject of homosexuality) is his third look at adolesence. Ke-rou and Yueh-chen are best friends, but while the latter dreams of a husband and family in her future, the former can't seem to picture her future at all. When Yueh-chen asks Ke-rou to deliver a note to the boy she admires, Ke-rou reluctantly agrees. She-haou, the object of Youeh-chen's affections instead falls for the messenger. Still, all his charm and persistence avail him naught as Ke-rou's heart is already stolen by her friend, Yueh-chen. What blossoms between She-haou and Ke-rou is a friendship that Ke-rour is finally able to envision, far into her future. With touching simplicity and a knack for showing the stubbornness of youth, Yee has created a touching and funny film for all ages. 4 cats
 
The Baroness and the PigThe Baroness and the Pig (Canada)
director - Michael Mackenzie
cast - Oksana Akinshina; Artiom Bogucharkij; Elina Benenson; Lilia Sinkarjova; Pavel Ponomarjov
It's too bad Patricia Clarkson's first lead role was in a movie that was over ambitious (to put it politely). Base on his own play, Michael Mackenzie is not content to tell a story, he tells several stories, in several genres and styles. The resulting mish-mash overcomes the few redeeming qualities of the film. On the plus side, Clarkson is superb as an American Quaker who marries an English Baron and moves to France. She gamely tries to form a cultural life for herself based on her interest in technological innovation despite the obstacles that arise. Add in a woman who was raised by pigs, a devious duchess and a cruel husband and Mackenzie is just getting started. 2 1/2 cats
 
Blue SkiesSHORT FILMS (Canada)
"Heatscore" directed by Adam Brodie and Dave Derewlany
"Flux" directed by Chris Hinton
"Spring Chickens" directed by Matthew Holm
"Little Dickie" directed by Anita McGee
"Straight in the Face" directed by Peter Demos
"Countdown" directed by Nathan Morlando
"Blue Skies" directed by Ann Marie Fleming
Talk about making me feel good about the Chlotrudis Awards Short Film Festival, this exceedingly disappointing collection of Canadian Short Films range from the god-awful to the sublime. Ann Marie Fleming's 7 minute "Blue Skies" (pictured above) is an outstanding performance piece... an understated homage to September 11. "Flux" features the frenetic animation of Chris Hinton in an imaginative and humorous look at the life cycle. And Anita McGee's "Little Dickie" features a macho cowboy singing the praises of his... well... little dickie. Otherwise, there's not much to recommend here. "Straight in the Face" features some amusing moments and comes from an intriguing premise where a gay couple's daughter brings her new boyfriend home to meet the family and everyone becomes convinced the musical-loving, well groomed, accomplished chef is in fact gay, but the cliches are too broad and not really all that funny. "Spring Chickens" is an overlong, underwritten look at a small town baseball team whose former star player still participates despite his advanced age. "Countdown" has the high-tech look of a video game, and Morlando clearly wanted to make a rad, kung-fu movie, but lost his characters along the way (par for an action movie, I guess.) And worst of all is "Heatscore" which is so amateurish and unfunny, I can't imagine what the programmers were thinking when they included it.
 
Small VoicesSmall Voices (The Philippines)
director - Gil M. Portes
cast - Alessandra de Rossi; Dester Dona; Gina Alajar; Amy Austria; Bryan Homecillo Melinda is a young teacher who finds herself employed in a remote village where parents look down on formal education in favor of having their children work on the farms. In addition to dealing with the poverty striken families, the village is under constant gunfire in the night as rebels prowl the area. In an attempt to unite the students and teach them the power of small voices, Melinda enters a nation-wide choral competition. Based on the true stories of the directors niece, Small Voices falls a little too strongly in the realm of those Hollywood feelgood films (like Music of the Heart ) but its juxtaposition of the harsh realities of poverty and political unrest help that saccharine sweet pill down. 3 cats
 
Mon-Rak TransistorMon-Rak Transistor (Thailand)
director - Pen-ek Ratanaruang
cast - Suppa Korn Kitsuwan; Siriyakorn Pukkavesa
A little bit musical, a little bit romance, this Homeric epic is a tale of rags-to-riches-to rags. Pan wins the heart of his true love Sadaw in rural Thailand by singing her lovesongs. Just as they decide to start a family Pan is drafted into the army, leaving his wife and unborn child to wait. In an effort to escape the drudgery or army life, Pan goes AWOL in the hopes of finding fame as a pop singer in Bangkok. His life makes a series of twists and turns/highs and lows, before he can find his way home again. But will Sadaw be waiting? Like The Barroness and the Pig, this one tries a little bit of everything, but it manages to stay unified in its tale of love and fame. 3 1/2 cats
 
blueblue (Japan)
director - Hiroshi Ando
cast - Mikako Ichikawa; Manami Konishi; Asami Imajukee; Jun Murakami
In Japan, the color blue represents youth, as well as sadness. Director Hiroshi Ando links the two in this visually stunning, emotionally dense tale of two high school friends. Kayako is happy in her small circle of friends in the sleepy seaside village of Niigata, but when she befriends the mysterious Endo, her life is suddenly turned around. Her emotions flare as she becomes simultaneously more introspective and more courageous and she begins to withdraw from her other friends. The slow deliberate place of blue echoes the difficulty Kayako has both feeling and expressing her passionat emotions for her new friend. Hiroshi's style is reminiscent of the masterful Hirokazu Koreeda (After Life , Distance) 4 1/2 cats
 
YellowknifeYellowknife (Canada)
director - Rodrigue Jean
cast - Sébastien Huberdeau, Hélène Florent, Patsy Gallant, Philippe Clément, Brad Mann, Todd Mann This rambling French Canadian film focuses on two siblings, Linda and Max. At the start, Linda is lost, suffering from some maladie that causes her to sleep. Max spirits her from the hospital and the two begin a wacky, roadtrip toward the town of Yellowknife. Along the way they encounter a series of off-beat characters whose paths keep intersecting, from the faded lounge singer Marlene and her dangerous lover Johnny, to the go-go dancing twins, Bill and Billy. Unfortunately the lack of a strong story makes the random unusual occurrences fall flat. A movie trying to be provocative needs to do a little more or else it's just annoying. 1 1/2 cats
 
Sex Is ComedySex is Comedy (France)
director - Catherine Breillat
cast - Anne Parillaud, Grégoire Colin, Roxane Mesquida, Ashley Wanninger As a follow-up to the controversial Fat Girl, Breillat serves up something highly original and self-reflexive. At the core of Fat Girl's controversy is a 12 - 20 minutes (depending on how you measure it) seduction/sex scene involving an erection, anal sex, and a character who is a minor. Sex is Comedy is a film about the filming of that scene. Breillat shows the painstaking and sometimes ludicrous details that went into a scene that depicts one of the most raw and honest sex scenes in film history. it's also a fascinating look at a director working with her crew and actors. 4 cats
 
The Wild DogsThe Wild Dogs (Canada)
director - Thom Fitzgerald
cast - Thom Fitzgerald; Alberta Watson; David Hayman; Mihai Calota
In a stunning turn from his previous films, the director of the magnificent The Hanging Garden plunges himself into the ethical morass of the sex trade and poverty of Bucharest, Romania. In a remarkably succesful bit of casting, Fitzgerald himself plays a pornographer sent to Romania to exploit the young, inexpensive female labor there. Upon his arrival he befriends an equally corrupt Canadian diplomat, as well as several of the poor and outcast of Bucharest society. Fitzgerald skillfully ties this lives of the poor outcasts with the hundreds of wild dogs that roam the city, and a young man with a temperment ill-suited for his job of catching them for disposal. And with his character, Fitzgerald creates a morally ambiguous man who keeps surprising the viewer in this powerful and wonderfully made film. 5 cats
 

Boston International Festival of Women's Cinema High Falls Film FestivalIndependent Film Festival of BostonProvincetown International Film FestivalSidewalk Film FestivalSundance Film FestivalToronto International Film Festival Tribeca Film FestivalVenice Film Festival