Reviewer Ed Farolan
85 min., Canada, dir. Bruce Sweeney
Bruce Sweeney won the VIFF 1998 Best New Western Canadian Director Award for Dirty, and in this feature, he deals with the "handicaps" of sex and golf in this dry romantic comedy that takes place in Vancouver. Golf-course owner and operator Kevin (Cam Cronin), finds himself in the middle of an eight-year dating drought. He and his brother Randy (Paul Skrudland), are constantly harassesd by their Mom (Gabrielle Rose) about producing grandchildren. After a failed attempt to hit on a woman, Kevin asks Randy to see if his girlfriend Vera (Agam Darshi) will set him up with a friend. Enter Hiam (Laara Sadiq): an attractive woman whom he immediately takes an interest in. He shies away, however, because of a sexual problem. Sweeney crafts an interesting and challenging exploration of intimacy as the film progresses with scenes that reflect his erotic/soft porno directorial approach. The only problem I saw in this film was technical. The dialogues didn't come out clearly, and I felt a need for more careful editing. But other than that, I liked the film, and enjoyed the happy ending which somewhat cured him of his sexual problem.
Charlie Haden: Rambling Boy
84 min., Switzerland, dir. Reto Caduff
This is an excellent documentary. I heard a VIFF volunteer at the back say: "This is the best film I've seen so far.".Reto Caduff’ captures the charming personality of this jazz base ploayer who, through the years, had done so much for American jazz. The documentary revisits his roots as a 22-month old blue grass/country singer when his father got the whole family crooning ballads on the radio. Through archival footage and enlightening interviews, Caduff leads us through the next six decades, detailing Haden’s collaborations with legends like Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane, as well as ongoing projects such as Quartet West and Liberation Music Orchestra. Despite his placid exterior disguise, we see a deep-seated passion that manifests itself in his art and politics.He was briefly jailed in Portugal in 1971 for attacking the Portuguese dictatorship and their exploitation of their African colonies when he made incendiary comments onstage during a concert there. The documentary ends with his children going back to their blue grass/country music roots. An inspiring documentary indeed!
97 min., Egypt, dir. Ahmad Abdalla
Ahmad Abdalla makes his debut as a filmmaker, as his experience is that of a film editor. I think he should stick to film editing because I found his film extremely boring. In fact, around half-way through the film, people were walking out. I think that he has a good story but the delivery has to be more exciting. The movie was so slow-paced, and that's probably why some viewers walked out. I also found it hard to read the subtitles. As an editor, he should know better. His storyline is good, but too lacadaisical in its delivery: Cairo’s historical Heliopolis neighbourhood is the subject of this film, and over the course of a day, Abdalla tells the story of its residents. Hany (Hany Adel) wants to procure a visa to travel to Canada, but comes up with visa problems. Ali (Atef Yousef) and Maha (Aya Soliman) want to buy Hany’s apartment but first need to negotiate. Grad student Ibrahim (Khaled Abol Naga) wants to do a documentary of Helioplois. As he was doing his interviews, I was asking myself, "Shouldn't this film just be a documentary of Heliopolis?" Hotel clerk Engy (Hanan Motawe) simply wants to be anywhere but Egypt. As they each fail to achieve their goals, Abdalla suggests that their individual frustrations stem from an underlying discontent of living in their country. Unfortunately, the film falls flat despite the fantasy sequence in the finale.
71 min., Canada, dirs. Nimisha Mukerji,
Finally, a Canadian entry, and a Vancouver one to boot! There wasn't a dry eye during the preview showing of this documentary, attended mostly by VIFF volunteers On September 22 at Vancity Cinema. It's a very moving and heartrending film about a 23-year old colourful, positive, vivacious young woman, Eva, who is in the advanced stages of CF (Cystic Fibrosis). When directors Mukerji and Lyall begin documenting her life, Eva's lungs are functioning at minimal capacity as we watch her deteriorate.. She waits for almost a year for news of a donor, and while waiting, she meets two young women online, Meg and Kina, in the same predicament. The film gives an inside look at everything that Eva goes through, from family to doctors. We even get footage from the surgery (which made me feel a bit queasy), and interviews with her online friends in the United States. I was inspired by Dr. Yee, the surgeon, when he said that he'd do the best he can, but the decision lies in a more superior power. He kneels to pray in his locker room before he enters the OR. This is an a well-documented film, and everyone in the audience felt relieved at the happy ending.
66 min., Australia, dir. Molly Reynolds, Rolf de Heer
Twelve wetland Yolngu paintings made by the aboriginal peoples of Raminging, about 500 kilometers east of Darwin, in north Australia, reflect their history and culture. They are named Creation, Our Ancestors, the Mac Assans, First White Men, ThomsomTime, the Swamp, Flora and Fauna, Seasons, Kinship, Ceremony, Language, and Nowadays, and are narrated by members of the different clans. The last chapter, Nowadays, was, what I thought to be the beginning of the effects of media on aboriginal peoples of the world. Here they are dancing to their rituals, but dressed in Nike shirts and shoes, and exposed to hiphop and reggae. The first chapters reflect the same beliefs and history of the aboriginal first nations of Canada showing the conflicts with the white men who came to take over their lands. There were some good white men, and one chapter is dedicated to the anthropolgist Dr. Thomsom, who fought for their rights. Australia and Canada are at par now when it comes to respecting the traditions and culture of the first nations. This is a sequel to Ten Canoes, another film that Rolf de Heer made on these paintings.
28 min., Australia, dirs. Michael Angus, Murray Fredericks
From the wetlands of northern Australia in 12 Canoes, this documentary transports us to photo-artist Murray Fredricks' extreme journeys in his bicycle carrying all his sophisticated cameras and other equipment (including his cell phone where his wife calls time and again), to capture the landscape on Lake Eyre, South Australia. This film won the Best Australian Short, Melbourne 2009. And you could tell from watching this beautiful documentary why: those beautiful shots of the starry sky at night, the glaring white or blue during the day, the reddish/bluish twilight, the sun and the moon---extremely beautiful photos taken by this cameraman. Not only that, we also get an emotional glimpse of his philosophy as he narrates, while cooking his porridge and spaghetti meals, his innermost thoughts on the meaning of life and solitude in the midst of this desert.
For the Love of Movies
81 min., USA, dir. Gerald Peary
Finally, a film about critics. Who would have thought that there was anything interesting to film about critics who pan/praise films, plays, concerts, etc. in their reviews? But, yes indeed, a film critic himself (and former VIFF programming consultant) Gerald Peary has crafted an informative documentary--the first of its kind--about reviewers. This is a must see documentary for reviewers, especially film critics, as it traces the history of American film criticism from its beginnings to the present. Many well-known American film critics are featured here: Bowsley Crowther, Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris Janet Maslin, J. Hoberman, Roger Evert and others.Towards the end of the film, It poses the question: What now with internet? The newspaper reviewers are slowly being eliminated because of the internet where anyone now can have his blog and do his reviews. Well, that's how ReviewVancouver started 12 years ago, when internet was beginning to be the way media was moving towards. But what it boils down to in this documentary is if you love movies, if you like to talk about them, then you write what you think about them, whether you do it from the auteur perspective, or simply from what you feel, like and don't like about them.
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.© 2009 Ed Farolan