VIFF picks to start a new week, from Italy, Poland and, an unsettling one, from right here
QUIET KILLING: This is not the happiest film at the festival but it is one to see. Grim as it gets, it has information all Canadians should be more aware of. Hundreds of Indigenous women have been killed or gone missing over the years, maybe thousands. It’s hard to put a real number on it but it is clear that Indigenous women are something like eight times more likely to be murdered than others. This film by Kim O’bomsawin explores why and lays much of the blame on the legacy of the residential schools. That comes out now and then in the heartrending stories she gets from women, abused sex workers, men who admit to taking out their frustrations through violence on their family and more.
There are stories from Winnipeg, Val D’Or, Quebec and from right here, from the downtown eastside. Willie Pickton is mentioned but the really moving stories are from people most of us don’t know. Angel Gates tells tales of her sex trade work including her first ever, when she was only 12. It’s uncomfortable to hear but it, like the stories from several others, will likely draw a very emotional reaction from you. That’ll be heightened when Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond details how the system fails young people who end up down there. She’s the former BC Representative for Children and Youth, now head of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at UBC. It’s a solid film with quite an impact. And expect more: the director and several of the people seen in the film will be there when it screens this evening. (6:15 at SFU)
PATRIMONY: No this is not a blast at a male-dominated social system. It’s a fun and quite affecting road movie and a mother-daughter reconciliation from the Czech republic. Sure, a man starts it going, but he’s just died at the start of the film and it’s his life that we, and the two women, are exploring. Specifically, what is the meaning of that child’s drawing found in an old jacket that’s being tossed out. It says Tomas on the back. Did dad have another child somewhere, asks his daughter (Tatiana Vilhelmová). Mom (Eliška Balzerová) dismisses the idea but agrees to come along anyway to visit some of his old women friends.
Prepare for several twists in this quest, dead-ends, false leads and surprises. Mother and daughter, driving a classic Czech car called a Volga, get to know each other better through several talks along the way and their visits with a haughty rich woman in a super-modern house, another in a retirement home, a third with a senile husband. The tone is light through all this. Then a super surprise. This film takes you effortlessly through a range of moods. It’s a comedy with some bite. (Screens Tues afternoon)
BEL CANTO: I’m not really recommending this one but if you want to a prime example of good people getting together and making an almost mess of things, here it is. The story from a popular novel is set in a Latin American country where a swanky government affair is crashed by revolutionaries. (Something like it did happen in Peru but no country is specified here). A Japanese industrialist (Ken Watanabe) has promised to invest in a new factory if his favorite opera singer can be there to help celebrate. Enter Julianne Moore, lip synching to Renee Fleming’s voice (sometimes not too badly).
The film directed by comedy-specialist Paul Weitz has an unfortunate habit of failing to build up to events. He lets them just pop up and try to convince us. So the singer and the industrialist fall in love. So does his translator and one of the rebels, the young woman. German actor Sebastian Koch arrives as a Red Cross worker trying to de-fuse the situation before the army steps in. His best idea is only mentioned, not considered or even dismissed, it seems. It’s an example of how clumsy this film is and how little of it has you believing in it. There’s not much tension either but to its credit it suggests some sympathy for the rebels, even as disorganized and close to inept they are. (Tonight, Mon, evening and Thurs afternoon)