A former Bond makes like Bourne and Susan Sarandon plays police in Ontario

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RICH HILL: Poverty and stunted dreams get an up-close examination in this poignant documentary set in a small (pop. 1396) town in Missouri. It’s nowhere near Ferguson or those problems.  It seems to be all-white and right in the middle of the state (and maybe America itself). It is also well-known to the directors, Andrew Droz Palermo and Tracy Droz Tragos, who grew up nearby and give us an intimate study of life in the run-down part of town.  They show us heartbreak, powerlessness and frustration (“I have no say in what happens,” says one young man) but also a fragile optimism that keeps people hoping.


The film spends time with three teenage boys and their families (if they’re around). Andrew insists “We’re not trash. We’re good people.” Harley’s mom is in prison; he lives with his grandmother and eight other relatives.  Appachey has AAD, absolutely no patience and an un-cooperative attitude that gets him suspended from school. He also dreams of becoming an art teacher. One dad has gone away (“He didn’t even say goodbye”); another doesn’t like to hold a job and may go looking for gold. From such details we get the big picture. Junk-cluttered yards or not, these people are bright and doing the best with what they know. As one says: “You learn to survive.”  (VanCity Theatre) 4 out of 5

Playing in tandem with …

FOXFIRE: This film also shows young people with no say in what happens to them but they do something about it. Too much actually. It’s the 1950s in small town New York state and six teen girls form a gang which they proclaim is a “refuge for all girls, all women, all our suffering sisters.” They go after a groping math teacher, then an incestuous storekeeper and an uncle for his attempted sexual assault. This is based on a novel by Joyce Carol Oates and was previously filmed 18 years ago with Angelina Jolie prominent in the cast. She was little known back then.


So, are the actors in this new version.  Raven Adamson has her role as Legs Sadovsky the most ardent of the bunch. Katie Coseni as Maddy recalls and narrates the story. After a priest’s tales of attending a Communist Party congress in his youth and the inspiration he gained there, the gang turns itself into a commune. However as with many groups like it, disputes split it apart. The divisive issues? Money and tactics. A botched kidnapping is their undoing. As a film it’s mixed. Initially it’s an engaging tale of angry women fighting the men and the patriarchal system that oppress them. French director Laurent Cantet, best known for the sublime high school drama The Class, came to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario to make this film, his first in English. He lets it stretch out too long (almost 2 ½ hours) and it drags later on. The cast playing the gang members are natural and believable enough but clearly first-timers.  (VanCity Theatre) 2 ½ out of 5 

LATIN AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL:  Twelve years now this festival has been an annual event and it’s grown again. It’s showing 70 films this year from all over the region and particularly spotlighting Chile, from where it’s bringing a national star, Manuela Martelli, and screening a retrospective of her work.

Check out the well-presented website to read descriptions of all the films. Here are a few that caught my eye.

El Benny tells the story of Benny Moré the great Cuban singer. Could be very interesting.

Moré had a turbulent life that included great success, addiction, creative excess, the Cuban revolution  and ups and down in his musical career. Renny Arozarena portrays him. There’s Santeria in the movie too.

The Last Elvis is a drama set at an impersonator contest in Argentina. A factory worker concocts a foolproof plan to win. He’s played by a local architect and sometime impersonator who apparently does sound a great deal like The King.

Cry of the Andes, by Denis Paquette and Carmen Henriquez, a couple of Vancouver filmmakers, visits the mountains between Chile and Argentina to document the fight over a mine. Pascua Lama being developed by a Toronto company will be the largest open pit mine on earth. The people in the valley below fear for their water supply. Here in B.C., we can understand that.

Anina, an animated film from Uruguay and Colombia, is the closing film.

A schoolyard fight leads to an unusual corrective action by the principal. It also gets 10-year-old Anina into lots more trouble. The drawing style looks charming.

VLAFF runs  until Sept 7 at several venues including The Cinematheque, The VanCity Theatre, SFU Woodwards and UBC’s Museum of Anthropology.


Also now playing

SWEARNET: The Trailer Park Boys again. Their last movie was just here in April. Now, as per the plot of this one, they’re unemployed, tired of being censored (I didn’t realize they were) and start a new show on the internet where they can swear all they want. Is that enough story for a movie? They’ve got Tom Green and Carrot Top in the cast and Warren P. Sonoda directing. It’s his ninth feature film and he’ll also be directing when Robb, Mike and J.P. launch a new TV series as, yes, The Trailer Park Boys. They’re tenacious those guys.


More in New Movies

Two good kids films (though one is better for adults) and then rampant juvenilia with Hellboy

And more: the real Mary Magdalene story; the origin of Stockholm syndrome and a growing young again fantasy called Little. (Plus, three also rans).

Super hero fun, a not so good Stephen King adaptation and a daffy Ronaldo clone

And more: a guitar maker keeps the old ways, a banned Iranian filmmaker carries on, pre-World War I tremors in Europe, the underclass in Brazil and thoughts on fidelity in Toronto

Notes on the revised Dumbo; some worthy Canadian films and hot fun with McConaughey in Florida

And more: a glorious stroll through New York, ghosts in Quebec, indigenous struggle in Ontario and taming horses and yourself in a Nevada prison
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