Author: Liam Volke

The TFS List: Canadian documentaries that got us talking

Documentaries with a political bent are vital to Canadian cinema. Many are amazing films that deserve to be seen. They show the rest of the world—and us—what some Canadian filmmakers have accomplished in the art of documentary. Political docs can make great stories. But rather than being incidental, it’s in the DNA of the subject matter. The stakes are often incredibly high (sometimes life and death). If the filmmaker has done their job, the audience will care deeply about the characters, or at least be impressed by the aesthetic of the film, by the time the credits roll. There...

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Connecting the dots between comedy and mental health

There’s a scene in Zach Galifianakis’s stand-up hour/documentary Live at the Purple Onion that I keep thinking about. After rushing out of a cramped elevator, Galifianakis tells his friend and videographer Joe Wagner that small spaces make him really anxious. Wagner then points out to him that mental illness seems to be a theme in his work. Galifianakis agrees. “The human psyche is so fragile a lot of times,” he says. “Can you really trust your mind?” Galifianakis is known for an absurd brand of humour. Regardless of the kind of a person he is off screen, what intrigues...

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How does sci-fi represent characters with disability?

Science fiction deals with our relationship to technology, and since technology is an extension of our own bodies, it should come as no surprise that the theme of disability comes up as often as it does in sci-fi. But this theme is addressed in more than one way, and each case tells us something different about how we view people with disability, and the technology they have. Jake Sully (Avatar) Jake Sully is a paraplegic ex-marine who has his consciousness melded with the body of a Navi, a being indigenous to the planet Pandora. With this assignment comes the ability to not...

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Review: The Railway Man

The Railway Man tells the story of Eric Lomax, a former British Army officer who was forced into a labour camp to help build the Burma Railway for the Japanese army during World War II. The film opens decades after the war, when Eric (Colin Firth) meets Patti (Nicole Kidman). They fall in love and get married, and it’s not long after that Patti discovers how deeply traumatized her husband is by his experiences as a P.O.W. As Eric’s behaviour becomes more volatile, Patti turns to his best friend and fellow officer Finlay (Stellan Skarsgård), who reluctantly tells her...

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The TFS List: movies we were told not to watch, but did anyway

It’s difficult talking about films we were told not to watch but secretly did in part because there’s more than one reason why younger audiences aren’t allowed to watch some films: some times those reasons are valid, some times they aren’t. There’s also more than one reason why those young audiences might be watching those films. The following list is of those kinds of movies and the reasons why kids and young adults may be drawn to them. The Forbidden Fruit This is probably the most common reason. Just about any adult-oriented film could fall into this category. I remember...

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Cinema Revisited: documentaries that got it wrong

Documentary film has a long and illustrious tradition of not being objective. Michael Moore isn’t the only game in town: this list presents a tiny sampling of this tradition, ranging from relatively subjective, to wildly and unabashedly so. GMO OMG Back in November, I reviewed GMO OMG. I was pretty easy on it where other film reviews weren’t, partly because I thought it was well done, and maaaybe partly because I was thinking a bit too wishfully. GMO OMG‘s perspective is that of a layperson’s, and it appears to be okay with that. Director Jeremy Seifert said in an interview...

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Spotlight On: Canadian Sport Film Festival

Sports are full of spectacle and high drama, making them ideal for film. Often we find ourselves wanting to know the inner lives of sports fanatics and athletes without a commentator jabbering away at us, or constant interludes of player stats and Coors Light commercials. Film can distill the beauty of sports to its essentials, to the parts that really matter. Of course we want our team to win, but only after a good fight, a good story. We love sports for their stories, and some times we want more than just inspirational baseball stories, and Will Ferrell on...

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