Four films in the VIFF previews on Wednesday, September 21. I’m starting to wonder if I can keep this up.
Grandma, a Thousand Times. UAE/Qatar/Lebanon, 48 min.
Director Mahmoud Kaabour aims the camera at his grandmother and lets her talk. Set in North America, this film would be too sweet to tolerate; but since Grandma lives in the Middle East (I missed exactly where), we overlook the cuteness and search for cultural oddities. There are few.
Summary: Not a bad film. Just bland.
Sunflower Hour. Canada, 85 min.
It’s set in Vancouver and has a few outrageously funny moments, so this film will be a festival favourite. Done in faux documentary style, the film features a married couple of film producers who have shifted their focus from porn to children’s television and are now looking for a new puppeteer to fill a slot in their program. We follow four candidates — a crusading Christian with an anti-gay agenda, a teenage goth girl, a would-be Irish rebel with a leprechaun puppet permanently stuck on his hand and a teenage loser tormented by his family. Film maker Aaron Houston is channelling Christopher Guest here, but his efforts tend too much toward the crude, violent and grotesque to be memorable.
Summary: A few funny moments, but ultimately crude.
The Jewel (Il gioiellino). Italy, 110 min.
This professional, highly-polished fictional account of the Parmalat disaster of a decade ago features Toni Servillo (Il Divo) as the go-to CFO of an international food giant. Under the command of the CEO, the overextended company stumbles happily towards bankruptcy leaving a debris of sexual misadventures, mayhem and suicide in its wake.
Summary: A well-produced intriguing drama. Definitely worth your time.
People of a Feather. Canada, 90 min.
Above and below the waters of Hudson Bay, this film is a showcase of wild-life photography, weaving together the lives of local Inuit and their most precious resource, the thousands of eider ducks that live on or between the ice flows. Although the threat of environmental change wrought by the development of hydro-electric dams gets more than a mention, what dominates here is the annual struggle for the birds to survive.
Summary: Better than average nature film that nicely avoids preaching to its audience.