Author: Harry Cepka

Memories, Past and Future: Chris Marker gets a mini retrospective at TIFF Bell Lightbox

April 26 marked the opening of Chris Marker: Memory of a Certain Time, an exhibition of the legendary French filmmaker’s photographs. To accompany the exhibition, TIFF Bell Lightbox is throwing Remembrance of Things to Come, a mini retrospective of Marker’s films, which includes classics such as La Jetée and Sans Soleil . Cinephiles, Francophiles, prepare to flock! If you ever take (or have taken) a survey course on the French New Wave, you’ll spend a minute with Chris Marker. Well, probably 28 minutes, to be precise. In the tumultuous burst of expression that is post-war French film, Chris Marker...

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Review: Kon-Tiki

In the age of Google Maps and computer nano calculations, it sounds quaint for a scientist to drift across the ocean on a wooden raft to prove a hypothesis. Only 66 years ago, however, a Norwegian explorer named Thor Heyerdahl built such a raft, named it Kon-Tiki, and cruised from Peru to Polynesia – across 6900 kilometres of ocean. Before 1947, the scientific community had decided that the Polynesian islands had been populated from Asia 1500 years earlier. Heyerdahl spent ten years in Polynesia, and from the locals’ folklore and a big hunch, he concluded that the accepted theory...

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Hot Docs Review: Eufrosina’s Revolution

Eufrosina’s Revolution is set in the impoverished Mexican state of Oaxaca, where many indigenous communities have scarcely been touched by modernity. Supposedly considered autonomous, these communities suffer from isolation as well as a backward legal and political anomaly: women cannot vote. In towns where poverty has been longstanding and feels normal, women find themselves with little agency. Enter Eufrosina Mendoza, a sharp, tenacious and very likeable woman from Santa Maria Quiegolani, Oaxaca. Eufrosina decides to break the cycle which cajoles women into constant pregnancy and domestic poverty. Tireless in her pursuit of better governance, resources and equality for her...

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Hot Docs Review: The Defector: Escape from North Korea

Now that Kim Jong-un has disappointed the world by continuing his late father’s crushing leadership, it becomes tempting to write North Korea off as a lost cause. But its citizens don’t feel that way. Every year, defectors escape North Korea by surreptitiously crossing the border into eastern China. China, however, isn’t the end destination. If caught in The People’s Republic, defectors will be sent back to their homeland and punished. In The Defector: Escape from North Korea , director Ann Shin follows a group of North Koreans who find themselves stuck in China. This state of purgatory is replete...

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Hot Docs Review: Before the Revolution

Before its Islamic revolution, Iran made friends with an unlikely neighbour. In the days of the Shah, Israel was not a hated enemy but a trade partner. Israel supplied guns and civic infrastructure to Iran, which traded oil in return. Today, when Israel is utterly convinced Iran wants to send a nuclear bomb its way, it’s hard to imagine such a cooperative relationship. Sometimes it seems as though the enemy has always been the enemy. Before the Revolution offers proof of a different past. Director Dan Shadur’s own Isreali family lived in Iran during the pre-revolution era. Through original...

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Hot Docs Review: Last Woman Standing

I duck out on the Olympics. Every two years, I fold my arms exaggeratedly and avoid watching what I see as pointless competition and world chauvinism. So naturally I did not know that humble, bronze-loving Canada houses the two greatest female boxers in the world. Last Woman Standing chronicles this ironic situation: Mary Spencer of Ontario and and Quebecoise Ariane Fortin are close friends, champions of various world competitions – and they have to fight for only one spot on the Canadian Olympic team. In one of the only athletic areas where Canada excels, it must destroy the hopes...

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Proposing a Canadian Queen of Versailles

Last year’s sensational American documentary A Queen of Versailles felt like a reality TV era wink at Citizen Kane . The premises match nicely: a disgustingly rich American businessman builds himself a palatial estate in Florida. Similar ingredients: a lot of ambition, self-mythologizing, American super-sizing. A handful of decades later, things have changed a bit: Xanadu becomes Louis XIV’s palace; a newspaper fortune warps into the largest time-share real estate empire ever; and Kane’s second wife, a singer, gets replaced by David Siegel’s third wife, an engineer turned beauty queen. These differences are details, though. The myth of American...

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