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Incendies, Another Year, No Strings Attached, and more, plus a new film festival

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There’s a roll-call of top Vancouver actors in the cast. Ben Ratner’s character first meets his father, a comical Jay Brazeau, at a funeral. They don’t get along. Blu Mankuma gave $100,000 to a community centre and his son is furious. “What have you done for me lately,” he asks. A South Asian son is embarrassed when his gay father (Little Mosque on the Prairie’s Manoj Sood) creates a Bollywood-style dance number for his wedding. And four brothers (including Tyler Labine and Tom Scholte) argue and bring back old sibling rivalries as they gather in their late father’s house and ponder his will and his tough child-raising ways. The material was improvised in workshops and that gives the film a lively, natural feel. The ideas aren’t new and the production is modest, but it is well-acted and entertaining. (International Village) 3 out of 5

MARWENCOL: This odd and appealing documentary gets a regular run from now until Wednesday and deserves your attention. It’s fascinating for anybody interested in mental health issues, art and toys. It’s  about Mark Hogancamp of Kingston, N.Y. who found a distinctive self-therapy after he suffered brain damage. He was beaten up outside a tavern, for reasons the film only reveals far into its 83 minute running time. He had been an expert sketch artist and now with damaged motor skills and memory loss, he had to turn elsewhere. He built a 1/16th scale model village in his backyard and created dioramas of World War 2 in Belgium. Barbie dolls and action figures became soldiers and townspeople, acting out complex stories with fantasy parallels to his own life. He’s shown as an American air force pilot and his attackers as German S S troops.

He photographed these scenes to depict elaborate story lines involving spies, bar girls, Nazis and freedom fighters. The photos were so well done, especially the lighting and the backgrounds, that they were discovered as art, published in magazines and given a gallery showing. The Globe and Mail put the film on its 10-best list for last year. I wouldn’t go that far but do recommend it as a stirring essay on the human spirit. (VanCity Theatre)  3 ½ out of 5

SOUTH AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL: Vancouver’s newest film festival wants to show us “the new face” of South Africa with eight films over two days, Saturday and Sunday. I’m especially interested in these two.

SKIN, the opening film, tells the almost incredible true story of Sandra Laing, who was born with dark skin to a white family, a genetic anomaly that brought on a 30-year struggle. Her father went to court to have her declared white. When she went to school she was classified as colored, then re-classified again as white. Later, living with a black man and bearing his children, she had to fight to be classified again as colored. At that point, her father disowned her. She’s portrayed by Sophie Okonedo, who was in Hotel Rwanda,  while Sam Neill plays her racist father.

JERUSALEMA shows that the country’s problems did not end with apartheid. Drug deals, shoot-outs and armed robberies are the new reality brought on by the unrelenting poverty. The film tells the true story of  a Johannesburg petty criminal who shoots for the big time with an elaborate scheme in the city’s most crime-infested district. He highjacks slum buildings by organizing the tenants against the landlords. Both the police and local drug lord come after him.

The films are showing at the Granville Theatre. You can find info, times and more at http://vsaff.org.

CHAPLIN: The Pacific Cinematheque has started an ambitious retrospective of one of the movies most important artists. Charlie Chaplin is instantly recognizable for his endearing little tramp character. He was also a pioneer on the business side and a contributor to the visual language of movies.

 

You can watch brand new prints of many of his best films, including his Hitler parody, The Great Dictator, his World War 1 satire, Shoulder Arms, and his more serious satire of industrialization, unemployment and global economic meltdown, Modern Times. There are many more, both feature length and shorts. Check out http://www.cinematheque.bc.ca/chaplin for details.

NOTE: The photos were supplied by the movie studios and are therefore the exclusive property of their copyright owners.

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