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Black Panther’s Afro-futurism, Early Man’s British humor and Oscar’s short-film hopefuls

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My favorite is REVOLTING RHYMES, four times longer than any of the others, but brilliantly told. It’s from England and perfectly captures the off-kilter humor of Roald Dahl who mashed up Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and the Three Little Pigs into this story told by a wolf.

LIVE ACTION: A startling coincidence starts it off here. In DEKALB ELEMENTARY a distraught young man stomps into a school carrying a high-powered gun. He says he doesn’t have anything to live for. A kindly secretary has to try and deal with him. MY NEPHEW EMMETT goes back in history, to Aug. 1955 and a racial killing in Mississippi. Emmett Till was accused of whistling at a white man’s wife. His body was found next day. The story here is based on his uncle’s recollections. WATU WOTE/ALL OF US is also based on a real incident, an attack by terrorists on a bus in Somalia during which the Muslim passengers protected the real targets, the Christians among them. That one is very tense.

 

THE SILENT CHILD from the UK shows a clash between a tutor who wants to teach sign language to a deaf young girl and the parents who are just too busy to care or support her. It plays like a public service announcement.  And for a change of pace there’s THE ELEVEN O’CLOCK, a very funny piece from Australia about a session in a psychiatrist’s office. Both the man behind the desk, and the one in front, claims he’s the doctor. The dialogue is fast and hilarious. 

DOCUMENTARY, Program A has three films starting with EDITH + EDDIE which is uncomfortable to watch. They’re an interracial couple in their 90s whose children want to split them up so they can get their house. That one is extremely poignant. HEAVEN IS A TRAFFIC JAM is too but with a positive ending. Los Angeles artist Mindy Alper tells of her battles with depression and the disputes with her dad and rejection by her mother that may have brought it on. She was in and out of mental hospitals and on dozens of pills but was saved by a life-long gift for creativity. TRAFFIC STOP is the tough one in this trio. A cop’s routine attempt to issue a speeding ticket turns violent when the woman driver, who is black, objects. The whole scene is caught on the police dashboard cam and intercut with the woman’s descriptions of her life as a teacher and a singer. The film, which also premieres on HBO today, feels premature. It says the case is heading to court.

DOCUMENTARY Program B has two positive stories. HEROIN(E) watches three women help deal with the heroin and fentanyl crisis in Alexandria, West Virginia. One is a church lady, two are first responders. A few scenes are harrowing, most are heroic. You wonder if someone should make a similar film here in Vancouver. KNIFE SKILLS, despite the title, isn’t violent or threatening at all. It’s about a restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio that doubles as a training course for ex-cons, mostly drug violators it seems. They learn to cook and serve French cuisine and to bury any anti-social feelings or resentments. One, of the several we follow, doesn’t manage that but the film has you rooting for all of them.

The Oscar Shorts programs start Monday and run on various days until March 3. Check the website, viff.org, for details.

KDOCS:  There’s a very strong line up of social issue documentaries at this festival organized by Kwantlen College but screening downtown at the VanCity Theatre. I can tell that from the abstracts that have been posted—about the lives of garment workers in Banglasdesh and farm workers in California, prison conditions in the US, the dangers we all face from our electronic gadgets and more—and from the four films I’ve already seen.

Three I’ve written about before. SHADOW WORLD is a powerful expose of the world arms trade (the director will be in attendance); BLACK CODE is an alarming film about surveillance and the internet but with a bright kicker, the boost it’s given to citizen journalism; NO FIXED ADDRESS is about our local housing crisis. It covers the subject but should have been stronger. A panel discussion led by poverty activist Jean Swanson might add some of the kick I was missing.

BIRTH OF A FAMILY, which I’ve only just caught up to, is an emotional film about the 60s Scoop, in which aboriginal children in Canada were taken from their families and placed in foster homes. Some 20,000 were taken. One of them, Betty Ann Adam, now a reporter in Saskatoon, tracked down her brother and two sisters and brought them together for a visit. We see them arrive one by one at the arrivals gate, get tearful hugs and a few laughs and spend a week getting know each other.

 

In a particularly heartfelt scene they meet an elder at a museum who reminds them of their heritage. The Scoop, they agree, was intended to “take the Indian out of the child.” It’s interesting to watch for any remaining indigenous characteristics. The brother says he can only speak “white.” One of the sisters says she feels she’s been “ripped off” (of her heritage). Betty remembers vividly the day she was taken. They get along like siblings anywhere, except these four had never seen each other before. This film plays Saturday morning at 11:45 at the VanCity and will be followed by a panel discussion.

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