Author: Aren Bergstrom

imagineNATIVE 2016 Review: Angry Inuk

Since the 1960s, animal rights organizations have effectively argued against the commercial seal hunt, crippling the once-thriving industry through advertising campaigns and the implementation of trade bans. Angry Inuk is director Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s personal argument against banning the commercial hunt. The film argues that the hunt is traditional, humane, environmentally-sustainable, and essential to the economy of the Inuit. Angry Inuk is as articulate and personal as an activist documentary can get. Well-structured and deliberately paced, Arnaquq-Baril’s film effectively counters every argument currently used in favour of banning the seal hunt. It roots the argument in the traditions of the...

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The nostalgia of horror

On a recent episode of the Filmspotting: SVU podcast, hosts Matt Singer and Alison Willmore discussed the Netflix phenomenon Stranger Things and questioned whether horror can be nostalgic. It’s an interesting question as horror is predicated on exploiting fears and anxieties, while nostalgia is generally understood as revelling in past experiences. We believe one relies on negative association, the other positive. And yet, despite this seeming contradiction, horror in film is often nostalgic. This is because nostalgia is not always about remembering the happiness of the past. Because we’re living in the midst of a nostalgia wave, people assume...

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Review: The Lovers and the Despot

In 1978, North Korean dictator-to-be Kim Jong-Il kidnapped South Korea’s most famous director, Shin Sang-ok, and his former wife, starlet Choi Eun-hee, in order to set them up as propagandist filmmakers for the communist republic. As his prisoners in North Korea, he gave them the means to make countless films all the while bolstering the notion that he was a great artist in addition to a great leader. Ross Adam and Robert Cannan’s The Lovers and the Despot tells one of the strangest and most fascinating stories in international cinema history. Sadly, the film doesn’t live up to the...

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Review: Southside With You

In 1989 Chicago, a young lawyer interning at a trademark law firm for the summer took his supervisor on a date through Chicago’s Southside. They admired African American artwork at the Art Institute of Chicago, attended a community meeting, and saw Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. That young lawyer was Barack Obama (Parker Sawyers) and his supervisor was his future wife, Michelle Robinson (Tika Sumpter). Richard Tanne’s Southside With You details the first date of America’s first couple, showing the people they were before becoming the most famous people in the world. At its best, Southside With You feels like...

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Review: In Order of Disappearance

Hans Petter Moland’s In Order of Disappearance follows Stellan Skarsgard’s snow plow driver, Nils, as he executes revenge against the Norwegian mobsters who killed his son and covered up his death as an overdose. As the bodies start piling up, the mobsters start a gang war with their Serbian rivals who they think are responsible for their heavy losses. Certain characters take over their films. For instance, in The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger’s Joker dominates the film, tonally and narratively, even though he only appears for an eighth of the runtime. It’s as if the character has a gravitational pull that...

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The new flesh: the unnatural nudity of David Cronenberg

Nudity is everywhere in the films of David Cronenberg. From his earliest artsy features Stereo and Crimes of the Future to his most popular films, The Fly and A History of Violence, nudity is pervasive. However, David Cronenberg almost never depicts nudity as natural or graceful. He’s neither a pornographer nor an erotic filmmaker. To Cronenberg, nudity is a means to depict the unnatural. Cronenberg is famous for pioneering body horror, a horror subgenre that explores grotesque physical mutation or transformation that parallels mental transformation or devolution. Thus, for a filmmaker with such an obsession with the human body,...

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Review: Anthropoid

In 1938 at the Munich Conference, the Allied powers ceded control of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany in hopes of preventing an inevitable European war. The effort soon failed as Germany invaded Poland, starting World War Two, and Czechoslovakia mounted a passionate resistance to German occupation. Hitler stymied the resistance by sending his third-in-command, Reinhard Heydrich, to Prague to beat the country into submission. Heydrich’s presence broke the Czechoslovak spirit, but in retaliation, the free-Czechoslovak government in London planned a resistance attack, “Operation Anthropoid,” to buoy national spirits. Anthropoid is the story of Jozef Gabčík (Cillian Murphy) and Jan Kubiš...

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