Hot tips from a programmer’s notebook

CANADA FIRST!

CANADA FIRST!

Young People Fucking (Martin Gero): Smart look at five archetypal relationships. Friends who decide to have sex, exes who meet for the first time since they broke up, a couple who have been together for a while, roommates, and the first date. Smartly observed and nicely acted. And very well written.

Continental, un film sans fusil (Stéphane Lafleur): Very stylized. Normally when you say that, people don’t think it can be emotionally direct, but this is especially strong. Sly sense of humor.

Amal (Richie Mehta): Very ambitious piece. A portrait of contemporary India in a lot of ways. The lead [Rupinder Nagra] is astonishing.

This Beautiful City (Ed Gass-Donnelly): A portrait of a neighborhood – set around Toronto’s Parkdale. Miasmic and atmospherically sharp. There’s a tension that builds up that’s nice. It’s a difficult thing for even a veteran director to do, so in some ways it’s a surprising debut film.

They Wait (Ernie Barbarash): Deals with the ghost story framework and specific Canadian folklore about Chinese workers on the railroad. Slickly directed, inventive look at that folklore. But also a very seminal Canadian story for a large percentage of the population.

Le cèdre penché (Rafaël Ouellet): Intimate portrait of two sisters dealing with their mother’s death. Beautifully done. Pretty cool, actually. Not that budget is a concern for us, but Le cèdre penché and Nos vies privées (Denis Côté) – both produced by Côté – cost 20 grand total. The fact they look the way they do is awesome.

CONTEMPORARY WORLD CINEMA

Contre toute espérance (Bernard Émond): A real breakthrough for Émond. Without a doubt one of our finest filmmakers. And he gets better with each film. This one is about hope, and it looks at a middle-aged couple that is disillusioned and having economic difficulty. It’s really, really intense. Émond’s stuff should be seen – and the performances are incredible.

Normal (Carl Bessai): This film is a leap forward for Bessai as well. A really smart piece about people dealing with the death of a teenage boy. Very intense and beautifully shot. Very assured. It might be his best film.

SPECIAL PRESENTATION

My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin): It’s pretty awesome. It’s totally nuts. This might be Maddin’s most personal film, in a weird sort of way. It’s his goodbye letter to Winnipeg, and it’s a rather idiosyncratic account of the city’s history as well.

REAL TO REEL

Wild Horse Redemption (John Zaritsky) Strong documentary. Pairs off with All Hat (Leonard Farlinger – Contemporary World Cinema) – in a way – because they’re both neo-westerns and they debunk those generic moral codes that often come with genre. Redemption is about convicts who are in a transitional program to release and they’re training wild horses. The way they [film] these horses is incredible. You really get a sense of the size and ferocity, which you seldom get in movies. Some of the strongest stuff I’ve seen all year.

VISIONS

The Tracey Fragments (Bruce McDonald): Technically innovative. I don’t think anybody has used split screens quite this way or to this extent. But it’s not just a technical tour de force. Ellen Page’s performance is really strong. The film is very much about a runaway teenager and her fragmented consciousness. It packs an emotional wallop.