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Arts Arts and Culture Community Student Life

Student Organized Day of Screenings: Rethinking Palestine Through Films

Don’t miss the films screened during Concordia art history student-organised week of events for Palestine.

On the week of Jan. 29, a group of Concordian art history students organised a week of events for Palestine. Their intention was to host meaningful sites of horizontal solidarity, seeking to platform Palestinian artists and stories of resistance in conversation with decolonial art histories and artworks.

Their events included a teach-in on Jan. 29, with Palestinian artists Jenin Yaseen and Sameerah Ahmad, whose work was briefly censored from the Royal Ontario Museum’s exhibition Death: Life’s Greatest Mystery, which opened on Oct. 28, for its depictions of Muslim mourning traditions and the presence of Palestinian subjects. The works of Jewish artists were also removed from display. Following an 18-hour action of solidarity where the artists and 50 supporters rallied outside the museum to challenge its censorship, the pieces were reinstalled. However, the museum placed warnings and context panels next to the artists’ works. 

At the date of this article’s publication the group will host a Day of Film Screenings in collaboration with Raah lab, Raah, a research lab aiming to examine the intersection of migratory processes and media practices, entitled “Decolonizing Memory: Heritage, Displacement and Narratives of Resistance.” The films will screen in Raah Fab, FB. 630.17. Not sure which screening to attend, or missed one you were interested in? Here are details about each screening:

12:30-2pm: The Truth: Lost at Sea (dir. Rifat Audeh, 2017) is an award-winning film that discusses the Israeli attack on the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla, consisting of a convoy of six civilian boats from various nations, including Canada, carrying humanitarian aid. The Freedom Flotilla refused Israel’s demand to turn away as they neared Gaza on international waters, and were raided by Israeli Occupation Forces in an overnight attack. Numerous unarmed civilian human rights activists were killed, and the film details the story of this attack and its resulting media coverage from the perspective of one of the survivors. The screening will be followed by a discussion with the director, moderated by Claire Begbie, a PhD candidate in film studies at Concordia. 

3-4:30pm: A series of short films by Forensic Architecture, a research agency, based in Goldsmiths, University of London, which investigates human rights violations including violence committed by states, police forces, militaries, and corporations. The featured shorts focus on investigations of Palestine/Israel, including:  Conquer and Divide (2019),  Living Archeology in Gaza (2022), Executions and mass graves in Tantura, 23 May 1948 (2023), Destruction and Return in Al-Araqib (2017), Sheikh Jarrah: Ethnic Cleansing in Jerusalem (2021), and Herbicidal Warfair in Gaza (2019). These films employ cutting-edge techniques in spatial and architectural analysis, open source investigation, digital modelling, and immersive technologies, as well as documentary research, situated interviews, and academic collaboration to discuss the history and current situation in Palestine. The screening will be preceded by a presentation on Forensic Architecture by guest Dr. Tracy Valcourt.

5-6pm: Un-Documented: Unlearning Imperial Plunder (dir. Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, 2019) discusses the treatment of plundered objects in European museums and asylum seekers in the same European countries. Arguing these migrations are interrelated, the film juxtaposes the generous hospitality stolen objects receive by the same countries who deny entry and care to people to whom the objects truly belong. Un-Documented articulates the power of material culture as a bastion of human rights, illuminating the violence of plunder and the urgency of repatriation. This screening will be introduced by art history doctorate student, Alexandra Nordstrom.

6:30-8pm: La Piedra Ausente (The Absent Stone) (dir.  Sandra Rozental and Jesse Lerner, 2013), which details the 1964 theft of the Tlaloc stone, the largest carved stone of the Americas from the town of Coatlinchan to the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City. The film explores the importance of so-called ruins of the past in the present day, to shore up the living injury of extraction, the technologies of violence, and the construction of nationalism. This screening will be introduced by art history masters candidate, Karina Roman Justo.

The remainder of the week of action include a Day of Action, including zine making and letter writing, on Jan. 31; a group gallery tour of Velvet Terrorism: Pussy Riot’s Russia at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal to critically engage aesthetics of resistance on Feb. 1; and a vigil in collaboration with Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) Concordia on Feb. 2. 

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Arts Arts and Culture Culture Student Life

November films: What you may have missed and what’s coming up

Did you manage to catch all the films screening on campus this month?

Many exciting films were screened on campus this month. Cinema Politica’s Montreal chapter, founded in 2004 at Concordia University, screened Labor (dir. Trove Pils, 2023), a Swedish film which explores sex work, sexual exploration and self discovery as protagonist Hanna moves to San Francisco on Nov. 6, and La bataille de La Plaine (The Battle of La Plaine, dir. Sandra Ach, Nicolas Burlaud and Thomas Hakenholz., 2021), a French documentary which follows the gentrification and resistance efforts of the district of La Plaine in Marseille, France, on Nov. 13. 

Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema screened Geographies of Solitude (dir. Jacquelyn Mills, 2022) on Nov. 10. Mills graduated from Concordia’s BFA program in 2008. Her film is a documentary about Sable Island and Zoe Lucas, the woman who has spent a large part of her life studying and documenting everything about it. Mill’s film is an immersion into this life and its landscapes.

One screening remains for November: The Society of the Spectacle (dir. Roxy Farhat and Göran Hugo Olsson, 2023). On Monday, Nov. 27 at 7 p.m., Cinema Politica will host the Montréal premiere the latest film from acclaimed Swedish director Göran Hugo Olsson and acclaimed artist Roxy Farhat. The film is an adaptation of Guy Debord’s prophetic 1967 essay La Société du Spectacle (translated as The Society of Spectacle), which is an indictment of the image-saturated consumer culture of his time. 

In this essay, Debord argues that representation has replaced authentic experience and interaction. The text analyses the concept of “spectacle,” which is Debord’s term for the everyday manifestation of capitalist-driven phenomena, which includes advertising, television, film and celebrity. Debord describes how spectacle functions to obfuscate the past and future into an undifferentiated mass, creating something of a hyper and perpetual present. Here, the spectacle is a social phenomenon where life recedes into a representation, which Debord describes as a “a separate pseudo-world that can only be looked at.” 

Six decades later, Olsson and Farhat utilise found footage, contemporary images and original scenes to examine and illustrate Debord’s indictment of consumerism and the ways the unending circulation of images impacts how we see ourselves and interact with each other. Images of the climate crisis and selfies are in dialogue with renowned scholars, as Olsson and Farhat unpack the society of the spectacle. 

Visit the Cinema Politica on Nov. 27 to witness Olsson and Farhat’s attempt at the daunting challenge of creating a film tackling a complex theory that critiques the notion of image itself. Cinema Politica asks that audiences wear a mask to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. 

— 

This article marks the start of a regular column at The Concordian, where I will round up films screening at and around Concordia. Stay tuned for December films coming in our next print issue.

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Arts and Culture Culture Opinions

Martin Scorsese is wrong about Marvel, but he’s right about Hollywood

There’s a cry for artistic freedom in the Academy-Award-winning director’s latest rant that sympathizers and dissenters alike should find common ground with.

Martin Scorsese is yet again bemoaning the sweeping influence and thronging presence of Marvel movies in the modern cinema. In pre-pandemic years, Scorsese had lamented that the characters in these films lack complexity, the plot stakes are illegitimate, and that they provoke neither novel reflection nor genuine emotion for the viewer. In a recent interview with British GQ, Scorsese reiterated with more grave urgency the need for a radical upheaval in the industry. 

As he sees it, true cinema is a dwindling art form—surviving only by virtue of legacy filmmakers, like the Safdie brothers and Christopher Nolan—that must be rescued from the grips of increasingly parochial executives lest a new generation come to view blockbusters as the cinematic standard. 

It is far too tempting to dismiss his polemic as yet another quasi-existential fret on the part of an octogenarian who refuses to come to terms with changing tides and generational proclivities. And this would be in many ways correct. Scorsese’s assessment of Marvel movies crowding local theaters is largely exaggerated—we typically receive only a couple of them each year. His casual assumption that all films within the genre are essentially indistinguishable from one another is demonstrably crass, for there are notable character-driven complexities to be found in Marvel’s cinematic universe when we pay close attention. While there is something to be said for the lack of “real danger” posed to many of Marvel’s heroes, the happily-ever-after eludes many of them, as evidenced by the bittersweet conclusions to Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Scorsese himself is renowned for directing several classic gangster movies. Prior to The Godfather, the predominant view of these films was equally as dismal as Scorsese’s perception of the superhero genre, as they were commonly decried for their glorification of crime and even denied the honorific of “art.” Coppola, Scorsese, and others in that lineage redefined what “real” cinema came to be understood as. 

If Scorsese’s gripe with superhero movies has to do with a perceived simplicity of character and narrative, we would need to throw out a great deal of films produced every year. And even so, who should we then designate as the arbiter for the requisite degree of sophistication a production must exhibit to qualify as “true cinema?”

Yet Scorsese’s sorrow is not unjustified. It is incontestably true that filmmakers are being constricted and prodded to respond to market interests in increasingly narrower ways. Even as decorated a filmmaker as Scorsese himself was left with no other resort than releasing The Irishman as a Netflix exclusive, for no other outlet would grant him the big screen while producing the film in the manner he intended – that is, to have the freedom to make creative decisions without having to consider the needs of an endless franchise. Scorsese lamented to British GQ about his experience with Warner Brothers when producing The Departed, noting that executives were more concerned with the potential for sequels than the integrity of the story Scorcese wanted to tell. 

Increasingly intolerant attention spans have exacerbated the demand for fast-paced plots instead of character-driven narratives—something that, as Endgame’s director Joe Russo acknowledged, has impacted the direction of the Marvel franchise. James Gunn, who directed the Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy, expressed similar laments, saying that “Movies in general are not as good as they used to be” as a result of the creative inhibitions that film executives have saddled writers with. 

It is, therefore, not strictly Scorsese versus Marvel, but rather a clash between creatives and an industry that seeks to commodify art. It is pointless to engage in semantic gatekeeping over what constitutes “true cinema,” and one need not agree with Scorsese on every level—he is in many ways mistaken—to recognize in his words a plea for upholding cinema as an art form instead of an adaptive commodity.

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Arts and Culture Festival

A brief history of one of Canada’s oldest film festivals

Since 1971, Montréal’s Festival du Nouveau Cinéma has transformed audiences through their dedication to independent films, and this year was no exception.

We go to the cinema expecting to be changed in some way. To be reprieved, perhaps, from malaise, boredom, or a Tuesday afternoon with forgotten responsibilities. Or rather to be fed when hungry for new stories, perspectives, knowledges, colours, textures, and realities—or maybe that dimension of flavour in popcorn only the concession stand can produce. It may be that we wish to be held by that particular fabric that is always tender (if not a bit scratchy) or by an emotion released by a skilled performance. We go to the cinema because we seek to be transformed, even for a moment. 

Founded in 1971, the Festival du nouveau cinéma (FNC), one of Canada’s oldest film festivals, lets you do just this as it continues to reveal new explorations in the style, story, and structure of film to Montréalers and its visiting national and iInternational audience.

Originally known as the Montreal International 16mm Film Festival, founders Claude Chamberlan and Dimitri Eipides created the festival out of a desire to provide space for films possessing urgent, experimental and exciting aesthetic, narrative, and structural explorations—but lacking distribution. This first festival offered selections such as “Political and Social Cinema” and “Visual and Structural Cinema” alongside “European Short Films”—revealing a dedication to social struggle as well as to aesthetic exploration. In 1980, the festival changed its name to the Montreal International Festival of New Cinema, dropping 16mm to signify the festival’s embrace of all practices devoted to explorations in film structure and content. 

Other names through the years include the Montreal International Festival of New Film and Video (1984), New Montreal International Festival of Cinema, Video and New Technologies (1995), and Montreal International Festival of New Cinema and New Media (1997), until it was named Festival du nouveau cinéma in 2004. 

Despite these changes in names, what remains constant is an ardent devotion and respect for evolutions in cinematographic language and form. Indeed, FNC has continued to evoke empathy, excitement, and exploration at the shores of the familiar, providing festivalgoers with unique experiences for over 50 years. The urgency and importance of such a festival cannot be understated: at $13 a ticket for students (or $11 if you go in groups of ten), FNC makes the magic of cinema accessible. It provides the opportunity to learn, grow, and take an hour or two of your day to be changed, quite possibly forever.

Visit the FNC’s website here to see what films were screened this year and to check out the winners of their various contests.

Categories
Community Student Life

Things to do in Montreal this month

October is not only for frights but many adventurous nights.

  1. Ramen Ramen Fest 

Where: In participating restaurants around Montreal 

When: Oct. 11-16 

What: A celebration of the iconic dish. You can try different ramen dishes around Montreal and then vote for the best online.

  1. Fright Fest

Where: La Ronde, Île Sainte-Hélène

When: every Saturday and Sunday from Oct. 8-30 

What: The amusement park has several haunted houses open to try, as well as zombies and vampires parading the park. 

  1.  Arab World Festival of Montreal

Where: Place des Arts 

When: Oct. 29 through Nov. 13

What: A multidisciplinary event that looks at the intercultural exchanges of the Arab and Western world. You can see a variety of performance pieces, art exhibits, and films from all over the world. 

  1. Montreal Connect

Where: online and in Montreal 

When: Oct. 15 – 23 

What: A festival that looks at digital development and its connection with many topics. Expect guest speakers, events and conferences. 

  1. Fika

What: An immersive festival of Scandinavian and Nordic culture and art.

Where: Participating locations around Montreal 

When: Oct. 17-23

  1.  SOS Labyrinthe Halloween Special

What: A halloween themed maze.

When: Every weekend until Halloween 

Where: Old Port of Montreal 

  1. Imagining a Queer Eruv: A Walking Conversation

Where: Starting in St-Viateur Park Outremont, 

When: Oct. 19

What: A walk and discussion with artist and researcher Iso E. Setel. 

  1. Walk the Promenade Fleuve-Montagne

Where: From Mont Royal near Pine and Peel

When: Any day

What: A 3.8 km walk that connects Mount Royal and the St. Lawrence river. 

  1. Le sentier du cœur de l’île

Where: downtown Montreal

When: Any day 

What: An interactive path that you can walk or cycle that goes across some of Montreal’s cultural landscapes as well as art installations.

  1. Quinn’s Farm 

Where: 2495 Boul Perrot, Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot

What: Farm visit including apple picking and pumpkin picking. 

When: October

  1. Yayoi Kusama: DANCING LIGHTS THAT FLEW UP TO THE UNIVERSE

Where: PHI Centre 

What: Yayoi Kusama is one of the most popular living contemporary artists today. She worked alongside the PHI Centre to bring her first exhibit to Montreal in celebration of the location’s 15th anniversary. 

When: Wednesday to Sunday until Jan. 15

  1. Festival du Nouveau Cinéma

Where: Participating venues around Montreal

When: Oct. 5 -16 

What: A festival showing hundreds of new and interesting films from a wide variety of genres. 

  1. Montreal’s Off Jazz Festival 

Where: Varying locations around Montreal

When: Oct. 6-15

What: A series of jazz concerts and shows, organised by Montreal jazz artists.

  1. Light The Night

Where: Virtual event

When: Saturday, Oct. 22

What: A fundraiser for those affected by blood cancer. 

  1. Carnaval des Couleurs

Where: Quartier de Spectacles

When: Oct. 7-9 

What: A celebration of LGBTQ+ communities, with shows and themed workshops regarding issues on homophobia and racism.

Categories
Arts

Canadian whiteness pervades the Montreal International Black Film Festival

Racism in the Great White North just isn’t worth denouncing for those who chose the opening movie of this year’s Festival

The opening of the Montreal International Black Film Festival with the screening of Lovely Jackson on Sept. 20 was nothing less than a pure expression of devious Canadian whiteness. 

Yes, there is such a thing.

A lot of Canadian identity is predicated on not being American. So when it comes to racism, the white Canadian rhetoric is that it’s simply “not as bad as it is in the States.” 

The result is a local form of whiteness that pushes Euro-Canadians to decry racial violence in the United States but harshly deny its existence in their own country, so as to preserve the myth of white innocence, of non-American superiority. I don’t know any Black person in Canada who hasn’t been humiliated by these seemingly contradictory reactions that actually go hand in hand. 

Yes, we are familiar with Canadian whiteness.

I expected more from the Montreal Black Film Festival because it established multiple events and opportunities around the theme of Being Black in Canada. I thus decided to give Lovely Jackson a chance despite the fact that it’s produced by a white male  — first red flag — , and was suspiciously acclaimed by a white Québécois executive of the Festival (who declared in his speech that it was “just so beautiful”) — second red flag.

The movie tells the story of Rickey Jones, an African American man who spent 39 years on death row in Cleveland, Ohio for the murder of a white man that he did not commit. Two white police officers wrongfully convicted him at age 18 by forcing a 12-year-old Black boy — the case’s sole eyewitness — to write a false statement “proving” his guilt.

He was released in 2014 at age 57, years after the Ohio Innocence Project started investigating his case.

As my heart juggled between rage, sadness and admiration for Jackson who boldly shared his incredible journey towards healing and happiness, I grew more and more disgusted at producer Matt Waldeck who carefully washed away the blood off the white criminals’ hands.

In fact, the Festival’s choice of this movie is far more than just disrespectful in the Canadian context as another strategic focus on U.S. racism that overshadows local tyranny. It’s also full of white saviourism. 

That is very clear: all white characters are angels. More blame is put on the poor child who bore the traumatic burden of the officers’ illegal manipulation and coercion for decades than on the policemen responsible for Jackson’s misery. 

The movie includes detailed follow-ups on the life and testimonies of the former, but the latter are completely erased from the story, despite Jackson implying the full extent of their guilt in one brief clip. 

This point-of-view remains unexplored. However, the white prosecutor who was the director of the Ohio Innocence Project gets heroic attention — never mind the fact that he admitted to believing all prisoners were evil until the project’s creator went on sabbatical leave, forcing him into the job.

The movie does not name “racism” or the prison-industrial complex, let alone the roots of the colonial capitalist system that rips families apart and instills planned suffering into Black people’s existence.

I went from being frustrated to holding back tears at the cruelty of this world, exhausted by Waldeck’s distortion of reality that was further empowered by the Canadian whiteness of the Festival.

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Arts

Cinémania 2020: Three highlights

Cinémania 2020: Three highlights to discover before the festival ends on Nov. 22

The transition of film festivals to the online world remains a good opportunity to discov er exclusive auteur cinema and offers a change from the usual Netflix suggestions. It also, however, comes with its own challenges. For instance, there are often too many films to choose from, and they are often only available for a limited time.

I therefore embarked on a Cinémania marathon these last few days to help you choose some of the best francophone films the festival has to offer, and maybe save you some time as the festival approaches its end on Nov. 22!

Louis Bélanger: A retrospective

Louis Bélanger is one of Quebec’s most prolific directors, but he, unfortunately, remains  unknown to young audiences. Though he made some of his most acclaimed works in the 1990s and early 2000s, he remains active today, exploring many different themes and genres.

Cinémania is presenting a special retrospective of the director’s career, including his most celebrated fiction films; his lesser known, but still interesting, documentaries; and a special masterclass by Bélanger himself.

The festival has also produced its own documentary about the filmmaker. Directed by Kalina Bertin (Manic, 2017), Louis Bélanger : Portrait du cinéaste québécois traces the director’s journey from making experimental short films in the 1990s to directing big-budget comedy features more recently. It is available online for free, on the festival’s website.

Additionally, Post Mortem (1999) might just be Bélanger’s best film. Blending magical realism and a typical Québécois family drama setting, it tells the poetic story of a single mother’s resurrection in the most unusual circumstances. While the film only had one online showing last week at Cinémania, it remains available on various streaming platforms, and is a must-watch to understand Québécois cinema of the 1990s.

However, other interesting Bélanger films are still up for grabs on Cinémania’s website. I particularly recommend Lauzon Lauzonne (2001), a documentary about filmmaker Jean-Claude Lauzon (Léolo, 1992), and Les 14 définitions de la pluie (1992), a beautiful short film about two men who embark on an existential journey in the Quebec wilderness.

Si le vent tombe, by Nora Martirosyan (Feature Image)

Si le vent tombe is Martirosyan’s first short film, but it exudes great wisdom and finesse, most notably through its impeccable cinematography. It depicts the life-changing trip of Alain (Grégoire Colin), an engineer, who travels to Nagorno-Karabakh, a small self-proclaimed republic in Caucasus, to help reopen their airport.

As a France-Belgium-Armenia co-production that was selected at the latest Cannes festival, Si le vent tombe is a beautiful gateway to discover international contemporary francophone cinema.

Été 85 by François Ozon

Été 85 is not the most believable story, and sometimes resorts to clichés, but remains a compelling coming-of-age film. It could even be argued that Ozon assumes and accepts his clichés and plays with a classic rom-com narrative and 80s queer aesthetics to enhance his storytelling.

Depicting a tragic story of grief and jealousy, Été 85 remains a fun way to become acquainted by Ozon’s style, and to discover what makes him one of the most popular French directors today.


The entire programming is available here. It costs $8 per individual film, or $65 for the entire online selection. 

Also make sure to consult Cinémania’s online schedule, as most films are only available within specific 48 hour time slots.

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Arts

Concordia Film Festival: Online

The Concordia Film Festival (CFF) is returning online this weekend for its 47th edition. Run by Concordia students across the university, this year’s festival was organized by film animation student, Mélissa Rousseau, and film production student, Juan Opsina.

Still from The Mother’s Land, directed by Kevin Rahardjo from Indonesia.

With respect to social distancing, the planning for the festival occurred entirely online. The process, while smooth, was not hiccup free.

“We’ve lost a lot of our talks and workshops,” said Rousseau, “but fortunately this allowed us to accept all submissions from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema and create three mixed screenings dedicated to Concordia students.”

While the festival doesn’t present themed selections, the CFF is proud to feature diverse voices and experiences.

“Almost half of our Spotlight screenings are BIPOC student films,” explained Rousseau.

Still from Tender Hearts, film directed by Lauren Jevnikar from the United States.

After the opening speech at 1:30 p.m. on June 20, Rousseau and Opsina will jump straight into their only panel, Women In Film Education (W.I.F.E), an event discussing female representation in film production. Rousseau is particularly looking forward to the international student Spotlight interviews, conducted by the Head Spotlight Programmers. There are four Spotlight categories: Lights Out (genre films), Visions (underrepresented voices), Insight (documentaries), and Kaleidoscope (experimental), each containing several films from students around the world.

The entire festival will be held on Twitch for free, accessible, and high quality viewing around the world.

 

 

 

Rousseau’s suggested BIPOC watch list:

From Concordia:

Guardian (Misha Bellerive, Concordia film animation student)

Mitochondrial (Dir. Laura Kamugisha, Concordia film production student)

Hyphen (Dir. Laura Kamugisha, Concordia film production student)

 

From elsewhere:

The Lost Village (Dir. Kaelo Iyizoba, Nigeria)

Psychosis (Paolo Cesti, USA)

Greenwood (Dir. Benjamin McGregor, Canada)

Midden (Dir. Adriana Gramly, USA)

Women of Steel (Dir. Miriam Muhiie, Egypt)

Don’t Shoot the Messenger (Dir. Bianca Malcom, USA)

Pass (Dir. Elika Abdollahi, Iran)

Gay As in Happy: A Queer Tragedy (Dir. Jordana Valerie Allen-Shim, Canada)

The Mother’s Land (Dir. Kevin Rahardjo, Indonesia)

Sleepwalker (Dir. Andrea Yu-Chieh Chung, USA)

Fun to Cook (Dir. Dongjun Kim, USA)

 

For more information visit:

https://www.concordiafilmfestival.com 

https://www.facebook.com/concordiafilmfest 

https://www.instagram.com/cffconcordiafilmfestival/ 

And to be a part of the audience, watch Concordia Film Festival’s live stream through Twitch on June 20 and 21 here: https://www.twitch.tv/concordiafilmfestival/

Photos courtesy of the Concordia Film Festival (CFF).

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Arts

5 Must-See Films of the 2010s

Selected highlights from a decade of gems

The 2010s were undoubtedly an interesting time for cinema. The decade saw the rise of superhero movies and shared universes, the popularization of streaming services, the standardization of digital de-ageing, innumerable sequels, and even reboots and remakes that no one asked for. Still, the last 10 years gave us some incredible, wholly original and unique films that are absolutely worth your time.

Here are just five of them.

Cold War (dir. Paweł Pawlikowski, Poland, 2018)

By the time the credits roll at the end of Paweł Pawlikowski’s period drama Cold War, you cannot help but be overcome by an astounding sense of melancholy and emptiness. Pawlikowski’s film is bleak and despondent, allowing its viewers very little in terms of consolation or assurance; but it is that very same bleakness that lies at the essence of Cold War’s efficacy.

The film tells the story of an ill-fated relationship between a male musical director and a young female singer. Beginning in post-World War II Poland, the film bounces between several time periods and settings, and follows the couple as they are repeatedly separated but ultimately brought together again under different circumstances. Cold War boasts a beautiful black and white visual aesthetic that accentuates the coldness of the film and the detachment of its characters.

 

Shoplifters (dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan, 2018)

“What makes a family?”: a question Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda sought to answer in his 2018 film Shoplifters. Time and time again, Hirokazu has proven himself a master of the modern familial drama, crafting thoughtful, contemplative films that assess the intricacies of family life. The 2018 Palme D’Or winner follows a group of shoplifters that steal a young girl from a broken home, “adopting” her into their household. Despite not being biologically related, the characters are kept afloat by an intimate bond that fastens them together as a family.

Hirokazu’s leisurely-paced film examines familial relationships and dynamics, stressing the importance of having people to care for and depend upon. Although the situations presented in the film are likely far removed from the realities of its viewers, Shoplifters still somehow manages to carry an indescribable familiarity with it. The moments when the family members are idly lying about, spending a day at the beach or stepping outside to catch a glimpse of nearby fireworks, each tap into a certain universality that recalls distant memories.

 

Certified Copy (dir. Abbas Kiarostami, France/Iran, 2010)

Director Abbas Kiarostami’s first film outside of Iran is arguably one of his best. William Shimell plays an author that meets an antiques dealer on a trip to Tuscany. At first glance, what seems to be a romantic comedy turns out to be anything but, as the film slowly reveals itself as something richer and more complex than initially anticipated.

The film opens with Shimell’s character, James, holding a press conference to discuss his latest book in which he examines the worth of an original piece of art compared to a replication. This opening scene sets the stage for themes and ideas that Certified Copy will spend the remainder of the film exploring: the fluidity of identity and the value of truth.

A remarkable shift occurs midway through the film, in which the man and the woman who we had believed to have just met, begin acting as though they are on the last legs on a lengthy marriage. From that point on, things begin to get even more intricate and strange, and details become increasingly obscure and unverifiable. Juliette Binoche’s character switches seamlessly from French to Italian and then to English, and it has us questioning the validity behind everything we’ve been told thus far. What, then, happens to truth? To meaning? How do we know if something is authentic or not? Certified Copy will leave you wondering.

 

Poetry (dir. Lee Chang-dong, South Korea, 2010)

Like the aforementioned Cold War, Poetry is a difficult watch. South Korean filmmaker Lee Chang-dong’s heartbreaking film tells the story of a woman in her sixties, Mi Ja, trying to cope with an inundation of life altering news. Recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and informed that her grandson was involved in a horrible crime, Mi Ja meanders through her days disconnected and adrift. It is not until she enrolls in a poetry class that she begins to find meaning and purpose in her life.

The performance of lead actress Yoon Jeong-hee is understated yet captivating, with tiny gestures and expressions conveying the ways in which she is quietly aching. Chang-dong’s Poetry is a consistently gut-wrenching film that examines personal struggles and suffering and how we choose to deal with our circumstances.

 

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand, 2010)

Upon first viewing, Uncle Boonmee may seem like a hard film to crack. But perhaps director Apitchatpong Weerasethakul intended it to be that way. In a 2010 interview, Weerasethakul told The Guardian: “Sometimes you don’t need to understand everything to appreciate a certain beauty. And I think the film operates in the same way.”

Weerasethakul’s ethereal, dreamlike film follows the last days of the titular Boonmee, a dying man who is visited by the ghost of his deceased wife and an apparition of his long-lost son in a non-human form. At the same time, Boonmee is having hallucinatory visions of previous lives he may have lived. These glimpses are sudden and without explanation and there is little to explicitly connect them to Boonmee. But much like real-life instances of déjà vu, sporadic memory flashes, or concepts of afterlife or reincarnation, the film’s vignettes defy any sort of logic or explanation. It eludes us because we, too, do not have the answers.

The film perhaps raises more questions than it resolves, but its non-linear, almost stream of consciousness-like presentation will envelop you in a trance and leave you hypnotized.

Categories
Arts

Image+Nation brings new voices of queer cinema to Montreal

The LGBTQ+ festival stands out with its quality Canadian and Latinx programming

Turning 32 this month, Image+Nation is the oldest still-running LGBTQ+ film festival in Canada. Every year, they aim to explore new themes and ways of filming queer stories.

This year’s edition marks a special turn. They brought back their animation film selection after 10 years of absence, added a selection of Canadian short films, and put forward nine Latinx feature films – the most they have ever had.

“These are all films that center on self-acceptance,” said Kat Setzer, the programming director.

In today’s context of diversity and inclusion in cinema, one could think that a queer film festival in Montreal would have lost its necessity, political power and relevance. Charlie Boudreau, the director of Image+Nation, defended her festival at the opening night on Thursday Nov. 21. She said that this year’s films bring to Montreal exclusive screenings that embody the constant evolution of queer cinema, putting forward new directors, new parts of the world and new issues.

In that regard, Image+Nation helps redefine queerness and its relationship to national cinemas and their political ramifications.

For its opening weekend, it brought to the forefront surprisingly high-quality filmmaking.

And then we danced marked the opening ceremony last Thursday.

“This film is my love letter to Georgia,” said director Levan Akin, in a video directed to the Montreal public prior to the screening. It was shown in a Montreal theatre for the second time after its Quebec premiere at the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma (FNC).

The Swedish-Georgian film depicts the love affair of Merab, a dancer training in the National Georgian Ensemble, with a new rival in the team, Irakli. In a conservative Georgia and dancing ensemble, where masculinity is “the essence” of the dance, their relationship is fraught and forbidden. Their love is subtly and gently told, mostly unsaid but very much felt.

Filled with enticing Georgian music, warm golden lighting throughout the film, and dynamic choreography, it was a wise choice for the opening of Image+Nation.

And then we danced also very much connects with the political relevance of such a festival. When it premiered in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, on Nov. 8, it was welcomed by hundreds of anti-LGBT protesters, blocking the entrance to the film. Despite the scandal forcing Georgian theatres to stop showing the film after three days, it still sold an estimated 6,000 tickets.

Proving the necessity of queer storytelling worldwide, And then we danced was well received by both the public and critics, and deserved the spotlight.

Adding to the films that kicked off the festival, This is not Berlin and José, presented one after the other at l’Impérial on Friday Nov. 22, were particularly good. They were both part of the Latinx programming of the festival.

“This is one is superb, one of my top five of this year,” said Setzer, when talking about the Mexican feature film This is not Berlin.

 

Directed by Hari Sama, it tells the story of two high-school students as they dive deep into the Mexican underground punk arts scene. Because, as the title says, this is not Berlin, things get complicated when they try to make art and fall in love the way they want.

José, by Li Cheng, was probably the best film of the entire weekend and the most underrated. It was the first Guatemaltecan movie in the history of Image+Nation and turned out to be a naturalistic and poetic gem. Unlike many movies that tackle the hookup culture among some modern gay men, this film avoids clichés and touches people with its beautiful yet believable and relatable love story. It has to have more screenings in Montreal, or at least be available to stream in Canada.

With even more events coming in the course of this week, including short film programs of Quebec and Canadian films, as well as documentaries about LGBTQ+ issues and award-winning feature films, Montreal has not seen the last of Image+Nation this year.

The Concordian will follow their activities and review some of their featured films next week.

For more information about the festival’s history and programming, visit https://www.image-nation.org/

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Opinions

Just a sci-fi girl in an apathetic world

How attending Comiccon helped me find community

Anyone who’s spent a significant amount of time with me knows I’m a horror junkie. Even as a kid, I grasped onto any opportunity to feast my eyes on something that would permanently maim me. When I was just barely 10-years-old, I cherished sleepovers at my grandparents’ house because my grandmother would take me to the video store and let me pick out any DVD I wanted.

At home, I was never allowed to watch anything rated PG-13 or higher. I was sequestered while adults watched movies that all my friends had seen, like Titanic or Grease, until I hit double digits. My parents deemed Kate Winslet’s nipples and hickeys from Kenickie as content far too inappropriate for my prepubescent eyes.

My mom’s parents were never the sheltering type, though. Nor were they fond of enforcing strict bedtimes. The first horror movie I remember watching was in their basement, shortly after midnight, both of them fast asleep on the couch beside me. It was Child’s Play—often colloquially referred to as Chucky. The film is a 1988 Tom Holland slasher (the first of seven in the series) about a possessed doll who terrorizes a little boy and his mother. To an adult, it’s a fun, vulgar, slightly cheesy hour and a half. As a child, it was virtually my worst nightmare—and I couldn’t get enough.

Luckily, it wasn’t hard to find others that shared my dark taste in cinema, especially as I got older. From supernatural scares at seventh grade slumber parties, to ninth grade torture porn marathons, to Marble Hornets binges during senior year, I found that most of my friends shared this interest of mine (or at least tolerated it). I’m guilty of making a good handful of boys sit through the classics with me. My first relationship started in my family’s dingy basement, kissing on an old couch while the credits rolled on Friday the 13th. Our hearts pounded in our ears as a result of teen hormones, but mostly because of that insane shot where Jason Voorhees’ decomposing body shoots out of the water and totally wrecks Adrienne King.

The thing with horror is that, while it’s not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, it’s become relatively accepted. It’s not hard to find people to bond over it with. Yes, an obsession with it might be off-kilter, but it still makes for good conversation, pizza night entertainment, and background noise for makeout sessions. Throughout my 20-something years, I never really considered my interest in horror to be “nerdy”. It was so vast and varied as a genre that I wasn’t forced to identify with a particular group. There was something in it for almost everyone. Before last summer, I hadn’t truly known what it was like to be into something that few people understood.

About a year ago, I discovered The X-Files—a sci-fi television show about two FBI agents who investigate cases that deal with the supernatural. I had always been generally aware of The X-Files. I knew it existed. Most people I knew had either tuned in occasionally when it originally aired in the 90s, or had seen an episode or two on Netflix and given up. One night, I came across it in my “Top Picks” and decided to give it a chance. It was one of those rare occasions where, from episode one, I knew I’d hit the jackpot. Everything about it screamed “me”. I promptly reached out to anyone and everyone I knew and was shocked to find that literally no one in my personal life thought anything of it. Not only did the show not stand out to them as special, but some people even admitted outright that they hated it.

Aside from a few other fans I found in real life who I texted during major plot twists, watching The X-Files was a completely solitary experience for me. I watched each of the 11 seasons and two films all by myself. Because of this, my experience of the show was very private in nature. It felt like my dirty little secret—an escape of sorts. I spent hours laughing, crying, and gasping in front of my television screen during popcorn-fueled binge sessions after the rest of my family went to bed. I became deeply attached to the characters. Unlike horror movies, it was the first time I had an obsession that I couldn’t share. It truly felt like the show had been created for me, and the fact that I had no one to experience it with was both entirely uplifting and mildly heartbreaking.

Up until this point, I had little-to-no experience with nerd culture. I’d never picked up a comic book, I didn’t really like anime, I’d seen only a handful of superhero movies, and I thought “gaming” was something that 30-year-old white guys with neckbeards did in their moms’ basements while double fisting Mountain Dew and Doritos. Plus, I had always associated nerd culture with sexism. In my mind, “nerdy” spaces were cesspools of male cliques firing off condescending remarks and participating in sexual harassment. I wanted no part of it.

Nearly every time I clicked into an online forum discussing The X-Files, my preconceived notions of these spaces were instantly validated. I simply didn’t feel welcome. This was jarring, especially considering the feminist tones of the show. I was annoyed and I concluded it was an interest I’d just keep to myself. But, it was lonely. I wanted so badly to be a part of a community I could share it with.

When I was first offered the opportunity to attend Montreal Comiccon as a member of the media this year, I was skeptical. I wanted to go to see if I could find fellow “X-Philes,” but I knew I’d have to write up something about the convention, and I didn’t want to have to write a scathing review about a toxic environment. Boy, were my preconceived notions ever wrong.

Montreal Comiccon completely shifted my perspective on what it means to be a nerd. It channeled what the true spirit of what being a “nerd” really is. I mean, where else on earth can you walk into a room full of strangers by yourself and instantly feel completely welcome and at ease? Where else can someone who is in love with an odd, campy, 90s television show about aliens find a thousand other people who feel the same way?

Walking into a room full of hundreds of “X-Philes,” I felt the most included and myself I had in a long time. It also made me realize that nerds weren’t all straight, white men in cargo shorts tweeting about #GamerGate and quoting The Big Bang Theory. Nerds were 10-year-old girls, drag queens, disabled people, gay couples, women of colour… I suddenly realized that this thing—this series that I had turned into such a private indulgence—was far bigger than just my secret obsession. These characters that I had developed one-sided relationships with weren’t just mine, they were ours. They helped us all relate to one another.

Comiccon takes a person’s private experience with art and makes it social. The main reason people attend is to meet other people and find those who love the same stuff they do. Making friends only gets harder as you age, so finding somewhere you can be yourself, express gratitude to the artists behind your favourite work, and meet people from different walks of life with shared interests is something pretty special.

There will always be cliques, fandoms, and rivalries. We will always be into different kinds of art. We’ll always experience that art differently from one another. Comiccon showcases that perfectly, but also reminds us that, at the end of the day, we’re all just huge freakin’ nerds. Together.

Graphic by Wednesday Laplante

Categories
Student Life

Documentaries from the comfort of your own home

Cinema Politica launches online streaming service to showcase independent filmmakers

Instead of staying informed on current events and political issues through short tweets and five-minute news reports, perhaps documentaries are what you’re looking for.

Known for screening films aimed at sparking social change, Cinema Politica recently made its content available through an online streaming service known by its acronym, CPSVOD. Following a two-week free trial, anyone can access this Netflix-style service with a monthly subscription of USD$4.99.

From documentaries to dramatic short films, CPSVOD uploads new content to its library every Tuesday. This service is an updated version of Cinema Politica’s previous online pay-per-view service.

According to the group’s communications coordinator, Danielle Gasher, this new service gives people the opportunity to watch documentaries that would otherwise be hard to access, as most are made by independent filmmakers. It also gives users a glimpse at the various types of independent documentaries being created around the world.

“We want everyone to get engaged socially and politically and take action after seeing these documentaries,” Gasher said.

For the Concordia-based non-profit community, the goal has long been to share the work of independent Canadian and international filmmakers, Gasher said, as well as inspire, educate and engage their audience in politics through art.

Among the documentaries already available for streaming are stories of repression, oppression and many political issues the group feels are overlooked by mainstream media. This includes are Street Politics 101, a documentary about the student strikes in Montreal opposing tuition hikes in 2012.

Dramatic short films are also available such as Stolen, created by Indigenous filmmaker Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs and aimed at addressing the issue of missing Indigenous women across Canada.

According to Gasher, the screening service is the group’s attempt to reach a younger audience by replicating the popular Netflix-style of movie-watching and making their films available on cellphones, tablets, laptops and televisions.

“Not only does it utilize the recent surge of interest in documentaries in the university setting, it’s also a great educational tool,” Gasher said. “As entertaining as these documentaries can be, they are extremely informative about social and political issues going on in the world.”

For more information about Cinema Politica streaming service, visit: https://cinemapolitica.vhx.tv.

Graphic by Alexa Hacksworth

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