Reviewer Ed Farolan



Listen to Me Marlon

USA 2015, Dir. Stevan Riley

Dates and Venue 15 - 20 Sep | Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour St

Excellent documentary. There is nothing written in print about this famous actor but Riley was able to find a vast archive of personal audio and visual materials in Brando's house at Mulholland Drive. We see footage of what a womanizer he was, flirting with pretty interviewers. We hear him confess how he hated himself coming out in silly films. He narrates in audio tapes about how he had problems with an incompetent director in Mutiny on the Bounty. There are scenes showing his speeches in defense of the black struggle in the 1960s and the native Indian cause. Footage of a Native Indian speaking on his behalf rejecting the Oscar for his Best Actor Award in The Godfather because of the treatment of Indians in film. Things we never knew about Brando over the course of his lifetime narrated in tapes of the actor speaking about fame, his craft, and how he hated all these eventually. Personal thoughts about the abuse he received from his father, and footage of him crying like a baby in front of the press when he was asked about the suicide of his daughter in Tahiti. And many more facts we never knew about this mysterious actor. Exceptional documentary.



Cartel Land

USA 2015, Dir. Matthew Heineman

Dates and Venue 5 - 6 Sep | Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour St

In this documentary, we see two parallel vigilante groups fighting the Mexican drug cartels: in Michoacán, Dr. Jose Mireles, a small-town physician leads the Autodefensas, a citizen uprising against the violent Knights Templar drug cartel that has wreaked havoc on the region for years. Meanwhile, in Arizona’s Altar Valley known as Cocaine Alley, Tim "Nailer" Foley, an American veteran, heads a small paramilitary group called Arizona Border Recon, whose goal is to stop Mexico’s drug wars from seeping across the US border. In the case of Nailer, the documentary shows him and his group catching some illegals coming in and he calls border patrol to take them in. In the case of Mirelles, however, the start of his autodefensa campaign works, but the irony is, despite his efforts, he ends up losing with a decree from Mexico's president ordering all arms to be surrendered. Everyone except him surrenders, and he is apprehended and jailed. And the cycle begins: the cartels are even stronger than ever. You sometimes wonder whether the forces of evil are impossible to stop.




Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine

USA 2015, Dir. Alex Gibney

Dates and Venue 5 - 6 Sep | Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour St

The darker side of Steve Jobs is reflectedin this more than two hour documentary. In past documentaries and even a 2013 docudrama Jobs starring Ashton Kucher, we see him in a positive light: computer nerd turned entrepreneur, rock star, genius, and guru, and a man reshaping the world we live in. However, in this film, we see his darker side. His personal life is a mess. He is a womanizer, and refused to accept the fact that he impregnated a woman but shen he is threatened with a DNA comparison, he gives in and finally gives child support. The documentary also shows how petty he is using all his power to get at Jason Chen of all because of a lost cell phone. Another segment of the documentary shows Apple outsourcing in China and making a profit of more than $300 for every cellphone manufactured. The documentary was enlightening as it did show not only the genius side of Jobs, but also his dark,controlling and power-hungry personality.


Madame Bovary

USA 2014, Dir. Sophie Barthes

Dates and Venue 1 - 6 Aug | Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour St

Sophie Barthes captures the ambience of an authentic 19th century world, with all the architecture, costumes and manners of the old world. She also picks the right actress for the title role, Mia Wasikowska, who metamorphosizes from the a naive country girl to an impulsive pssionate woman who commits adultery..

If we were living during this period, this movie would make a lot of sense. But today, where there is no line between morality, immorality and amorality, young audiences would snicker at the thought that in those days, morality meant a lot. Naturally, for old-fashioned folks like myself, I still remember how it was growing up as a child, being physically punished by priests in my Jesuit high school, just like the priest in this film who tweaks children's ears. Today, this would be called "Child abuse".

But all in all, I think Barthes did homage to Flaubert's masterpiece in this film adaptation..




Sunshine on Leith

GB 2014, Dir. Dexter Fletcher

Dates and Venue 25-30 Jul | Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour St

This feel-good musical is almost identical to another 2014 film musical I reviewed at the VIFF last year, God Help the Girl. There seems to be a lot of interest in Great Britain doing film musicals. This one is about two lads returning to Edinburgh after active duty in Afghanistan. All that singing and dancing is reminiscent of the Gene Kelly movies of the 1950s. Today I find these kinds of films corny and belonging to stage rather than film, but somehow, the trend seems to go that route: from stage hits to film.




The Look of Silence

Denmark/Indonesia 2014, Dir. Joshua Oppenheimer

Dates and Venue 24 Jul - 4 Aug | Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour St

This documentary is a sequel to Act of Killing which depicted the mass murders of "communists" in Indonesia when the military took over the Indonesian government in 1965. This documentary focuses on an optometrist named Adi, whose older brother was tortured and killed. He confronts in a series of interviews, the men who killed his brother and, while testing their eyesight, asks them to accept responsibility for their actions.

It's a heart-rending documentary, and those in power still feel proud of the genocide done 60 years ago. In the filmmaker's words, this film is "what it means to survive atrocity, what it means to live a life shattered by mass violence, and to be silenced by terror."

When the credits were shown at the end, there were many "anonymous" members of the crew, just to show that they still fear for their lives for participating in this documentary.



About Elly

Iran 2009, Dir. Asghar Farhadi

Date and Venue 25 Jul @ 3:40pm | Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour St

Academy Award winner Asghar Farhadi comes up with another suspense thriller about middle class friends meeting up for a long weekend at a beach house on the Caspian Sea. Everything seems right with everyone enjoying, until Elly disappears and no one knows what happened to her. The plot complicates itself with lies, until finally the truth comes up at the end. This is an intriguing film. At first, I thought it was going to be boring, but when Elly disappears, that's when it started getting interesting. Don't miss this one. It's only screening for a day.



Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

USA 2015, Dir. Alex Gibney

Dates and Venue 13 - 20 May | Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour St

In this excellent documentary, Gibney interviews 8 former Scientologists, including Academy Award winner Canadian writer-director Paul Haggis and several senior members who have left the organization. One could tell from the history of this cult religion that its founder, L Ron Hubbard, was not in his right mind. He had a huge imagination and wrote a lot of science fiction books, and was involved in the occult. In fact, when you reach the final stage of scientology, which Haggis reached, it's all science fiction. You receive a document saying that there will be a ruler similar to the Wizard of Oz, who will control a society similar to 1950s USA.

It just shows how disturbing some cult religions can be, and how manipulative this particular religion is, especially when it dealt with the IRS using devious tactics until the IRS finally gave in and made this cult a tax-exempt religious organization. There are also archival footage of Hollywood celebrities like Tom Cruise and John Travolta who are being used to promote this cult religion.

"Religion is the opium of the people" according to Karl Marx, and this very well applies to the addiction that trap many naivetes who are manipulated and fall prey to madmen like Rasputin, Jim Jones and Hubbard.



Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

USA 2014, Dir. David Zellner

Dates and Venues 8 - 9 April Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour St

This film goes from ultrarealism to surrealism as the end comes. It's quirky in the reality part, a cross between dead-pan humour and dark tongue-in-cheek comedy, as Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) , a frustrated Tokyo office worker who becomes obsessed with a VHS tape of Fargo which she mistakes for a documentary, where a suitcase of stolen cash is buried in the desolate, frozen landscape of North Dakota.

This isn't a bad film, except for the ending which can be surmised in different ways. I'd call it surrealist because of the dreamlike-afterlife mood, but from the reality angle, did she survive the cold winter of North Dakota and wake up alive? The latter is obviously illogical.




White God

Hungary 2014, Dir. Kornél Mundruczó

Dates and Venue 1 - 4 Apr 2015 | Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour St

The Straight's film critic Janet Smith sees Hitchcock's The Birds on a "canine spin" for this film. More so, I see the horrors of Cronenberg and King with the bloody spills amalgamating Hitchcock's suspense thrills. It's a pretty good film by this 40 year old Hungarian director. I highly recommend it for SPCA enthusiasts and dog lovers. Amazing how these dogs were well-trained to do their roles!

This film won the Prize Un Certain Regard at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. The dogs in the film were also awarded with the Palm Dog Award. It was selected as the Hungarian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards, but it was not nominated.


© 2015 Ed Farolan