Author: Jordan Adler

TJFF 2017 Review: Uncle Howard

“Because of Howard, I wanted to make movies.” These are the words of filmmaker Aaron Brookner, whose non-fiction debut is, fittingly, a testament to his uncle. Howard Brookner was a lauded New York director, who made two docs and a Hollywood feature before succumbing to AIDS three days before his 35th birthday. As Aaron searches through Howard’s archive – full of home movies, diary entries, and photographs – he becomes re-immersed in a mostly forgotten but momentous cultural era. Meeting with his uncle’s old friends and collaborators, such as Jim Jarmusch and Sara Driver, Aaron learns more about a...

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TJFF 2017 Review: Murder in Polná

Based on true events, Murder in Polná is a two-part television mini-series from the Czech Republic. It dramatizes the infamous trial of Leopold Hilsner (Karel Hermánek Jr.), who was accused in 1899 of murdering a 19-year-old girl. The young man’s status as a Jew, and the rumours that the murder was a blood ritual to make Passover matzo, vilified the man. Rising attorney Aurednícek (Jaroslav Plesl) and a highly regarded professor (Karel Roden) believe Hilsner has been scapegoated for a crime he didn’t commit. Can they persuade an anti-Semitic jury that Hilsner is innocent? (Note: The reviewer only had...

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TJFF 2017 Review: Moos

Moos (Jip Smit), a shy Jewish girl in her early-twenties, bombs her audition for a spot at a theatre school in the Netherlands. Instead of confessing to the school’s rejection, she lies to her father (Michiel Romeyn) and tells him she was accepted. As Moos tries to keep the fib under wraps, she also has trouble hiding another truth: that she is in love with an old friend, Sam (Daniel Cornelissen). Despite a refreshing performance from the female lead, Moos is about as predictable as romantic comedies get. It took the work of three screenwriters (including director Job Gosschalk)...

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TJFF 2017 Review: One Week and A Day

After the seven-day mourning period for his 25-year-old son, Israeli father Eyal (Shai Avivi) doesn’t know what to do. His wife, schoolteacher Vicki (Evgenia Dodina), wants to go back to work. But when Eyal finds the marijuana his son left behind in the hospice, he hopes that substance is just the medicine he needs. He calls on his stoner next-door neighbour Zooler (Tomer Kapon) to teach him how to roll a joint – and provide company as Eyal figures out how to move on with his life. One Week and a Day is a near miracle, a graceful balance...

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TJFF 2017 Review: The 90 Minute War

After decades of brutal and bloody conflict in Israel and Palestine, a solution has been made. There will be a soccer match between teams from both sides, and the winner will lay claim to the entire country. Unsurprisingly, this provocative decision does not sit well with many in the region. The chairman of Israel’s soccer federation (Moshe Ivgy), as well as his Palestinian counterpart (Norman Issa), face enormous pressure. From arguments over picking referees to the legitimacy of an Arab Israeli on the Palestinian team, the lead-up to the match is full of tension. That’s what happens when the...

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Hot Docs 2017 Review: 78/52

The shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is one of the most studied, revered, and parodied sequences in all of cinema. In 1960, the gruesome killing of a main character shocked millions of curious moviegoers. In the twenty-first century, audiences are just as rapt by the moment’s power and menace. In 78/52, named after the number of camera setups and cuts within the seminal scene, we hear from directors, actors, editors, and craftspeople who remain awed by this key moment of cultural history. There have been many books, films, and cultural tributes to the “Master of Suspense.” (One recent...

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Hot Docs 2017 Review: Ramen Heads

There is nothing that Osamu Tomita savours like a good bowl of ramen. In the unassuming Japanese town of Matsudo, Tomita is the master chef of a prized kitchen. His obsessive and meticulous routine – preparing a thick broth with many types of fish, making noodles with four types of flour – is all in the pursuit of a perfect meal. As he desires for his ramen to be the gold standard, Tomita must contend with training a group of apprentices and the pressure of satisfying thousands of Japanese customers a month. Ramen Heads is a love story between...

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