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Film Festival

Human Rights Watch Film Fest 2015: Uyghurs, Prisoners of the Absurd

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As US forces inhabit Afghanistan in October of 2001 in search of their enemy number one Osama Bin Laden, the US military starts bombarding the country with flyers from planes above promising riches beyond compare for the information/capture of Taliban terrorists. For 22 members of China’s Uyghur minority that just happen to be living in the country after fleeing oppression in their native land, this turns out to be a disastrous turn of events. The Turkish-speaking Muslims are sold to US forces under false accusations and propaganda where they become some of the first accused terrorists illegally detained at Guantanamo Bay. (more…)

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The 9 most anticipated films at the 9th annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival

TAD 14

Since this year marks the 9th annual for the Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TAD for short), we will run down 9 of the most anticipated film playing this year, in what looks to be one of the strongest overall lineups of the festival’s history.

Housebound

housebound

If you haven’t already procured tickets for tonight’s opening film then you better get down there really early for the rush line! Housebound had been leaving genre fans ecstatic for months now after a wildly successful festival run. The horror comedy from New Zealand about a haunted house has been a major crowd pleaser everywhere it has played. If its half as good as What we do in the Shadows, another New Zealand horror comedy that debuted at TIFF this year, then it should be a major hit.

ABC’s of Death 2

abc's 2

While the first ABC’s was uneven and even downright awful in parts this new incarnation features a brand new crop of talented filmmakers, some may argue its a more talented bunch but that is for them to debate, and more importantly perhaps this time around there was clear guidelines delivered for the filmmakers. The outcome, from word of mouth coming out of Fantastic Fest, is a film that is miles above its predecessor. (more…)



Hot Docs 2014: Love Me (Dork Shelf)

Originally published at Dork ShelfLove-MeLove Me examines the Ukrainian mail-order bride business (which has gotten even more lucrative in the past decade) and the single men willing to risk their money to find companionship. The film follows 6 men of varying backgrounds and motivations and examines their relationship to the industry and the women they meet. The men take trips to the Ukraine where they encounter bombshells who cut straight to the point: they each want a man serious about marriage.

The 6 guys picked as the subjects for Love Me are very strategically placed to show the whole spectrum of outcomes of Internet dating, with some successful, some taken for a ride, and one in particular that’s to be a bit of a creep, yet he blames the women for not being interested. (more…)


Hot Docs 2014: An Honest Liar (Dork Shelf)

Originally Published at Dork ShelfAn-Honest-LiarJames “The Amazing” Randi is an 85-year-old magician who has been at the forefront of a movement to debunk frauds and phonies for decades. After dedicating his life to the magical arts from a very early age, Randi became a sensation mainly due to his impeccable skills as an escape artist. Randi has always referred to himself as being a “liar, cheat and charlatan.” But when the leading crusader against false propaganda is found to have been holding a secret for the past 26 years, will Randi be able to remain an honest liar?

Featuring appearances from other famous magicians, mentalists and skeptics like Penn and Teller, Banachek and Adam Savage from MythbustersAn Honest Liar is an excellent time capsule looking at the past couple of decades of magic and deception while also proving to be a very effective character study of Randi himself. The film is buoyed by a considerable amount of archival footage that’s edited and culled together in impressive fashion. The film’s pacing is excellent and keeps the audience immersed throughout the entire running time. (more…)


Hot Docs 2014: Domino Effect (Dork Shelf)

Originally Published at Dork Shelf

Domino-Effect

 

Abkhazia is a mainly unrecognized state on the Black Sea that has claimed independence from Georgia. What used to be a frolicking beach getaway for lucky Soviets now sits in post-Communist ruin. But for Abkhazian Sports Minister Rafael everything appears to be turning around. His new young wife, Russian opera singer Natasha, gives up her home and custody of her daughter to take a chance on a new life in the country.  But when the fiercely traditional locals don’t take to Natasha at all, and aren’t afraid to show it, their relationship starts to crack like the old buildings that surround them.

Domino Effect features a very static camera that doesn’t get involved with the proceedings for most of the film, something that sadly adds to its fiercely methodical pacing, making it feel much longer than its 75 minute run time. Rafael seems oblivious to the observations and conclusions of his wife, stuck in old world customs that show the vast chasm of difference between the couple. Natasha does have an epic encounter in a kitchen with a  local woman after a traditional custom not being observed comes crashing down hard on her. (more…)


Hot Docs 2014: Before the Last Curtain Falls (Dork Shelf)

Originally Published at Dork Shelf

Before-the-Last-Curtain-Falls

When the Belgian stage production Gardenia opened in 2010 it was a massive success: playing over 200 shows in 25 countries. The show is as much a performance art piece as it is cabaret, starring older gay and trans performers. The film follows the cast through their final performance and beyond, as they attempt to adapt and reintegrate themselves back into regular society after their final heart wrenching performance at home in Ghent.

Director Thomas Wallner has shot a gorgeous documentary (the performance pieces look outstanding), but the film seems to lack forward momentum throughout. The focus is more on performance than storytelling. These performers have led interesting lives, so the filmmakers’ choice to show us the troupe as a whole outside of the show instead of focusing on some of their stories dilutes the overall  impact and leads to a very superficial account. (more…)