Category

2019-2020 Season

PAIN & GLORY

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Pain and Glory – Spain

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Location: SilverCity

Show Times:  6:30 & 8:40 pm

Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Cast:  Antonio Banderas, Asier Etxeandia, Leonardo Sbaraglia 
Running time: 113 minutes 
Language: Spanish with English subtitles 

Cannes Film Festival, European Film Awards, Hollywood Film Awards, New York Film Critics Circle Awards: Best Actor, Antonio Banderas. Golden Globe nominations: Best Actor, Best Foreign Language Film. 11 other wins, 105 other nominations.

“Pain and Glory,” all about healing rifts and rejoining life, is personal and universal. It’s also simple in a way that’s incandescent – suffused by a strange and beautiful gentleness of spirit.”—Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

Pedro Almodóvar sums up many of his strongest themes in Pain and Glory, an autumnal look back at a career that came upon us bursting with vitality and vigor and, even at this introspective stage, still has room to move.

Frequent collaborator Antonio Banderas plays Salvador Mallo, a popular Spanish film director struggling with a creative and personal dry spell after the death of his mother. In elaborate flashbacks set in Franco-era rural Spain, she is seen as an uncontainable force of nature played Penélope Cruz. The boy is overwhelmed by his earthy mom, who in turn senses and is frightened by her son’s incipient sexuality. 

The suave director hasn’t made anything in several years and has become a virtual recluse at his modernist urban villa in Madrid. But something impels him to join his one-time star (Asier Etxeandia) for an event celebrating the restoration of their breakthrough film. Unfortunately, this Alberto Crespo introduces him to heroin, and Salvador’s an easy mark for opiates, having had severe back pain and other physical ailments since childhood.

What’s most impressive here is the quietly amusing way Banderas conveys both the agony and ecstasy of his situation. (The Spanish title, Dolor y Gloria, has more playful poetry to it.)

As always, Almodóvar is not about to let dour circumstances get in the way of visual fun. His palette favours cool greens and grays, with slashes of gold and red. There are even animated bits, recalling Saul Bass graphics from ’50s movies, as well as many nods to favourite filmmakers.

Pain and Glory is being treated in some circles as Almodóvar’s 8 ½. It is also somewhat of a wistful reflection on mortality for Banderas, who recently revealed his recovery from a heart attack two years ago. Pain and Glory offers a welcome summation of the estimable careers of both of these acclaimed artists who have offered film goers much to recollect and to savour.

ALL IS TRUE

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All Is True – United Kingdom

Wednesday, January 22nd

Location: SilverCity

Show Times:  6:30 & 8:30 pm

Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen

Running Time: 101 minutes 
Language: English

Rating:  PG

AARP Award, Best Supporting Actress, Judi Dench

“In a mesmerizing meditation on Shakespeare’s last days, director-star Kenneth Branagh shuns the idea of the Bard as a literary rock star to find the flawed, touchingly human man inside.”—Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

When Kenneth Branagh steps on screen as William Shakespeare in All is True, it’s a career moment: Here is Branagh, Hollywood’s foremost Shakespeare obsessive, finally playing the Bard himself.

After appearing in and/or directing screen versions of Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, Hamlet, Love’s Labour’s Lost and Macbeth, playing Shakespeare is Branagh realizing his life’s destiny, and he dives in with zeal.

All is True brings Shakespeare to life, grounds him, and demystifies the legend of history’s greatest playwright. It’s a loving and often humourous work, and Branagh — who also directs — shows viewers a quiet, reflective Shakespeare, away from the limelight in his final years.

Branagh opens in 1613, after a fire destroys London’s Globe Theatre during a performance of “Henry VIII,” known at the time as “All is True.” Shakespeare vows to never write again, and returns home to Stratford where he takes up, um… gardening?

Judi Dench plays Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway (not the Hollywood actress), while Lydia Wilson and Kathryn Wilder play his two daughters. Bill is still torn up about the death of his son years earlier (Hamnet, believe it or not), which he never fully internalized, and his return home brings up unresolved feelings. 

Mostly located in the lush Stratford area, All is True is so beautifully shot, with Vermeer window light, meticulous detail, and gorgeous greenery, it would be enough just to see how people lived and died (from the plague, mostly) in Shakespeare’s day. We also work through various plot layers, including Will trying to connect with his eldest daughter. A few guests pop by the estate for a visit, including Ian McKellen, who offers up a deliciously catty, award-worthy cameo as the Earl of Southampton. 

But mostly what All is True does is give viewers is a fresh look at Shakespeare, behind the guise, flaws and all. And if ever there was a man for that job, it’s Kenneth Branagh. 

GIANT LITTLE ONES

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Giant Little Ones – Canada

Location: SilverCity

Showtimes: 6:30 & 8:15 pm

Director: Keith Behrman 

Cast: Josh Wiggins, Maria Bello, Kyle MacLachlan, Darren Mann, Peter Outerbridge, Niamh Wilson

Running Time: 93 minutes 

Language: English 

Rating: 14A

Vancouver Film Critics Circle: Best Canadian Screenplay; Leo Awards: Best Performance by a Male Lead (Darren Mann); Goteborg Film Festival: Best International Feature; 2 other wins, 7 other nominations

“The film belongs to Wiggins, who brings an openness and sincerity to Franky’s struggles that help suggest to what extent his character’s specific story has elements that everybody will be able to relate to.” —Boyd van Hoeii, The Hollywood Reporter

Adolescents face enormous pressure to make life-defining decisions every day, and they want to lock in their identities sooner rather than later. All of this pressure is exacerbated by physical and social changes. Franky (Josh Wiggins, Mean Dreams), the hero of Keith Behrman’s exquisite and generous Giant Little Ones, is under more pressure than most. 

His life was altered when his father (Kyle MacLachlan, television’s Twin Peaks) left his mother (Maria Bello, television’s NCIS) for a man. Franky is left confused, feeling like he has to figure out his sexuality right away to avoid the disruption he blames his father for. Determined to hide his uncertainty from his best friend and his girlfriend, Franky doesn’t realize he’s not the only one who doesn’t know where he stands. When a wild party ends in a way none of them could have expected, Franky and his friends are forced to decide what kind of people they want to be. 

An official selection for Canada’s Top Ten in 2018, Giant Little Ones is a sensitive and touching look at that point in adolescence when freedom is both intoxicating and terrifying — and feelings are both elegiac and erotic. It’s driven by extraordinary young talents, along with great work from veterans MacLachlan, Bello, and Peter Outerbridge (TV’s Orphan Black) and the subtle, evocative directorial touch of Behrman, whose Flower & Garnet won the 2002 Canadian Screen Award for Best First Feature.

TEL AVIV ON FIRE

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Tel Aviv on Fire – Israel/France/Belgium/Luxembourg

Location: SilverCity

Show Times:  6:30 & 8:25 pm

Director: Sameh Zoabi

Cast: Lubna Azabal, Kais Nashef, Maisa Abd Elhadi, Yaniv Biton

Running Time: 97 minutes 

Language: Arabic, Hebrew with English subtitles 

Rating: N/A

Venice Film Awards: Best Film, Best Actor (Kais Nashef), Asia Pacific Screen Awards: Best Screenplay; Seattle International Film Festival: Best Film; 3 other wins; 11 nominations

“Wonderfully cast, Sameh Zoabi’s zippy comedy takes clever basic ingredients and runs with them, affectionately lampooning stereotypical attitudes about Arabs and Jews and how each group supposedly demands to be depicted.”—Lisa Nesselson, Screen International       

One of the most irreverent cinematic spins on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the latest from writer-director Sameh Zoabi follows a fledgling soap-opera scenarist who bumbles into having to concoct plot twists to suit viewers on both sides. 

A slacker sliding into middle age with little to show for it, Salam (Kais Nashef) lands a production-assistant gig on “Tel Aviv on Fire,” a popular Palestinian evening soap for which his uncle is show runner. A banal, offhand remark made during a shoot puts Salam in hot water with the show’s head writer but curries favour with its star (Lubna Azabal), a French diva who barely speaks Arabic. It’s only Salam’s first day and he already gets promoted. 

Yet just as Salam’s prospects rise, he has a fateful encounter with Assi (Yaniv Biton), an Israeli military officer at the Ramallah checkpoint. During his interrogation of Salam, who must cross daily to get between home and work, Assi sees an opportunity to influence “Tel Aviv on Fire,” which, in his mind, is far too unflattering to its Israeli characters. Salam has just begun life as a writer, and he’s already forced to compromise his integrity while the entire country watches flabbergasted.

Zoabi’s ingenious satire exudes a deadpan audacity that’s hard to resist, while Nashef’s outwardly unflappable middleman grounds this battle of ideologies in comic pragmatism. Films like Tel Aviv on Fire might not bring peace to the Middle East, but making everyone laugh at the same thing feels like a step in the right direction.

THE FAREWELL

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The Farewell, USA 

Location: SilverCity

Showtimes: 6:30 & 8:25 pm

Director: Lulu Wang

Cast: Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin

Running Time: 98 minutes 

Language: English, Mandarin w/ English subtitles 

Rating: PG

Palm Springs International Film Festival: Directors to Watch, Lulu Wang; Atlanta Film Festival: Audience Award; 4 other wins, 2 nominations. 

“The Farewell is a funny, finely observed generational study about identity, family and obligation, and how all three of those things can be one and the same.”—Norman Wilner, NOW Magazine

Lulu Wang’s Sundance hit The Farewell is an intergenerational family drama that is at once celebratory, heart-wrenching, and life-affirming. Based on true events, the film follows a young Chinese American woman named Billi (Awkwafina, Crazy Rich Asians) as she travels back to China to visit her dying grandmother.

Billi’s family has decided to spare their beloved matriarch the news of her terminal diagnosis so as not to darken what time she has left. In order for everyone to have a chance to say goodbye without tipping her off that the end is near, they orchestrate an elaborate excuse to reunite in the form of a fake wedding. Though cultures clash and family conflict ensues, the story is told with universally relatable warmth and charm. 

Awkwafina is dazzling as the quick-witted and empathetic Billi, supported by a remarkable cast that includes the charming Tzi Ma (Meditation Park) as her father and Diana Lin (Australia Day) as her mother. Little by little, we realize that this story is not only about Billi saying goodbye to her grandmother, but also about her reconnecting with a country and extended family that she left behind at a young age. The Farewell is truly remarkable. It will make you laugh out loud, cry both sad and happy tears, and contemplate the meaning of home.

WOMAN AT WAR

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Woman at War – Iceland/France/Ukraine

Location: SilverCity

Show times:  6:30 & 8:30 pm

Director: Benedikt Erlingsson

Cast: Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, Jóhann Sigurðarson, Juan Camillo Roman Estrada

Running time: 101 minutes 

Language: Icelandic with English subtitles 

Rating: PG

Cannes Film Festival: Screenwriting Award; Hamburg Film Festival: Best Feature; Montreal Film Festival of New Cinema: Best Actress; 22 other wins; 13 nominations

“Is there anything rarer than an intelligent feel-good film that knows how to tackle urgent global issues with humor as well as a satisfying sense of justice? Look no further than Woman at War.” – Jay Weissberg,  Variety

As a follow-up to his 2013 film Of Horses and Men, director Benedikt Erlingsson delivers the Cannes 2018 award winner Woman at War, a timely film that speaks to social awareness with wit and warmth. 

Halla (Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir) is a middle-aged choir director in a small town, popular amongst her neighbours and respected in the community. Unbeknownst to her fellow citizens, she is also an environmentalist vigilante who destroys power lines in an effort to preserve the beautiful local countryside. Deep in the trenches of her anonymous battle against industrialist destruction, Halla depends on the few solitary sources of support in her life: her identical twin sister (also played by Geirharðsdóttir), a co-conspirator (Jorundur Ragnarsson, Rams) who keeps her updated on the movements of the government, and a mysterious local farmer (Jóhann Sigurðarson). 

Just as Halla begins to ramp up her anti-industrial campaign efforts, she receives entirely unexpected news: an application she made years ago to adopt a child from Ukraine has finally been approved, and she’s about to become a mother.

Anchored by Geirharðsdóttir’s standout performance, Woman at War provides a breathtaking showcase for Iceland’s natural beauty; the surrounding landscapes are stunningly shot and provide a quick answer to the question of why one woman would take on an entire industrial complex to preserve them. Enveloped in spectacular camerawork, inventive sound design, and genuinely moving performances, Woman at War reminds us that some things are worth fighting for. 

VILLAGE ROCKSTARS

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Village Rockstars – India

Location: SilverCity

Showtimes: 6:40 pm & 8:45 pm     

Director: Rima Das

Cast: Bhanita Das, Basanti Das, Boloram Das 
Running Time: 87 minutes 
Language: Assamese with English Subtitles

Rating: 

Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles: Best Feature Film; Bueno Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema: Best Original Score; 11 other wins, 8 nominations

“Village Rockstars is confident and sincere, its story unfolding at a languid but controlled pace. – Barry Hertz, Globe and Mail

Dhunu (Bhanita Das) wants a rock band. It’s an admirable goal for a young girl, but out of reach when you live in a remote village in northeast India. And when your mother is a widow struggling to put food on the table, dreams of electric guitars can seem like madness. Yet a guitar is exactly what drives Dhunu’s ambition. 

At 10 years old, she is alive with a passion for music and a dazzling confidence in her own convictions.  Village Rockstars, the second feature from TIFF Share Her Journey Ambassador Rima Das and India’s nominee submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards, paints an inspiring portrait of a young girl finding her own place in a world made for boys and men. 

Das grew up in the same village where she shot Village Rockstars, and recruited a local, non-professional cast. This may also have seemed daring, but the result is magic. The performances are natural and fresh. The marshlands and village textures are palpable in Das’

 intimate, widescreen camerawork. When the rains come, they drench Dhunu and her playmates in scenes that could never be staged.

It’s an idyllic world, although Dhunu still has to navigate the mysterious ways of adults and boys. The same boys who want to join her in rock-star glory tease and mistreat her because she’s a girl. Her mother is a strong figure in her life but seems to have little patience for her daughter’s extravagant dreams. It’s only when Dhunu sits at the feet of a village elder as he describes how to unlock the power of thought that she begins to glimpse how she might achieve her boundless musical vision.

THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO

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The Last Black Man in San Francisco – USA

Location: SilverCity

Showtimes: 6:30 & 8:50 pm

Director: Joe Talbot
Cast: Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, Danny Glover, Rob Morgan, Tichina Arnold
Running Time: 120 minutes 
Language: English

Rating:  14A

Sundance Film Festival: Directing Award, US Dramatic Special Jury Award; 3 nominations

“An indelibly beautiful story of love, family, and loss in America from two childhood friends turned filmmakers.” —Manohla Dargis,  The New York Times

Director Joe Talbot’s debut feature is an ode to the city of San Francisco, rooted in the real-life experiences of his childhood best friend, Jimmie Fails. Though Fails is a non-actor, no one else could give a more genuine and heartfelt performance than he could — so Talbot cast him in the lead role. 

The Last Black Man in San Francisco tells a story of the city through the eyes of a fictionalized version of Jimmie, who is obsessed by the idea of reclaiming the Victorian house in Fillmore that his grandfather built. This house is where he grew up, and was the last real home he had before his family broke apart. 

Jimmie spends most of his time hanging out with his best friend, aspiring playwright Montgomery (Jonathan Majors, Out of Blue, White Boy Rick), haunting the neighbourhoods they knew as children and watching old black-and-white movies at the small house they share with Montgomery’s nearly-blind grandfather (Danny Glover, The Old Man and the Gun). Jimmie also visits and fixes up the house his grandfather built to keep it from falling into disrepair, much to the annoyance of its current owners. 

Unexpectedly, the house is one day left empty and an estate dispute ensues. Jimmie and Montgomery seize the opportunity to move in and live out a make-believe home life — but their dream can’t last forever. This is a story about transformation, friendship, resilience, and what it means to belong to a community. And though The Last Black Man in San Francisco is not directly about gentrification, that’s so much a part of the day-to-day reality of San Franciscans that the force of it can’t be ignored.