Author: Adam Sidsworth

Human Rights Film Festival 2015 Review: Trials of Spring

Trials of Spring is a fascinating documentary playing at this year’s JAYU Human Rights Festival in Toronto. Focusing on Egypt’s Arab Spring, it goes beyond the media reports to explore both the revolution’s ultimate failure and Egyptian women’s precarious relationship with power and religion. Trials of Spring is formatted in talking heads, juxtaposing Western media reports and participants’ videos with interviews of Arab Spring revolutionaries—all women. But the documentary ultimately focuses on Hend Nafea, a young small-town woman who travels to Cairo to participate in the revolution. Hend speaks of the horrors she’s experienced: Beyond the police beatings and...

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Reel Asian 2015 Review: Seoul Searching

Seoul Searching should be intelligent and thought provoking, as it tackles cultural identity and immigrants’ kids’ experiences. Unfortunately, in execution and tone, it is a sloppy and lazy John Hughes spoof that treads into Porky’s and Animal House. Set in 1986, the film opens with a documentary style montage telling us that the South Korean government hosted a cultural exchange program, inviting expatriates’ kids to Korea to learn about their heritage. The movie then jumps into the story, and that’s where things falter. The story has three story arcs: Sid (Justin Chon, of Twilight), from California, dresses like Sid...

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Rendezvous with Madness 2015 Review: Autobiography of Michelle Maren

An Autobiography of Micheele Maren is a fascinating exploration of family, abuse, identity, and mental illness that introduces an eccentric and at times bizarre character. When co-director Michel Negroponte receives an email from Michelle Maren, who states she would be an ideal subject of a documentary because she once attempted to kill herself after she caught her then-husband cheating, he depicts Michelle as an enigma. She survives parental and domestic abuse: her mother was mentally ill and abused her kids and shacked up with equally abusive men; her alcoholic yet financially secure father barely acknowledged her; and Michelle obviously...

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Reel Asian 2015 Review: Zinnia Flower

In the meandering and ultimately pointless Zinnia Flower, two strangers struggle to cope with the loss of their significant others and take part in the 100-day Buddhist mourning ritual. Unfortunately, this leads to such an inane exploration of loss that it may leave you wishing for a quick cremation. Taiwanese director Tom Lin Shu-yu’s Zinnia Flower follows Lei (played by Taiwanese musician Stone), who survives a crash and in an early scene is asked by doctors to choose between his pregnant wife or the fetus (neither of whom ultimately survive), and widow Ming (portrayed by Vancouver’s own Karena Lam), whose fiancé...

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Cinema Revisited: NFB and the Indigenous voice

In October 2013, imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, in cooperation with the Ontario Media Development Cooperation and Telefilm Canada, commissioned a report entitled Indigenous Feature Film Production in Canada: A National and International Perspective. ImagineNATIVE “foster[s] and promote[s] the Aboriginal film and media sector,” culminating in its annual festival, based at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox. In its 65-page report, imagineNATIVE concluded, “the Aboriginal screen-based sector is dynamic and vibrant,” despite the fact that Aboriginal people are “underrepresented in almost all areas” and that there is “a significant gap in Aboriginal feature film production.” The report analysed Aboriginal contributions...

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Review: Labyrinth of Lies

By all accounts, Labyrinth of Lies should be an interesting watch. It’s a German movie that deals with a touchy subject matter for Germans: the Holocaust. It focuses not only on the Holocaust but also Auschwitz, the infamous concentration camp that witnessed the worst of Nazi mass murder. North American audiences, who often equate European and subtitled movies as art-film fare, may dismiss this movie as a challenge to watch. But make no mistake: in style and execution, it tackles a difficult subject with the flare of a watered-down Hollywood movie. The movie is a fictionalized account of the...

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Review: Coming Home

Director Zhang Yimou is best known to Western audiences for Hero and Raise the Red Dragon. His newest movie, Coming Home, doesn’t have the bright colours of his previous works, but it betrays his cinematographic detail and composition. Dandan (Zhang Huiwen) is a teenage girl during China’s Cultural Revolution of the 1970s. An aspiring ballet dancer, she has had no relationship with her father, Lu (Chen Daoming), a political prisoner since she was three. After Dandan discovers him standing in the apartment she shares with her mother, Wanyu (Gong Li), she reports her parents’ planned meeting to the police, who...

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