The real story of the Canadian-Iran caper; Atom Egoyan’s take on the West Memphis 3 and I, Frankenstein
Except for that revived Frankenstein, the new films are on the small side this week and notice how many are Canadian. Also notice that the National Film Board is giving you free access for two days to one of its most popular films from last year. My Prairie Home was a hit at VIFF and is nominated for best documentary at the Canadian Screen Awards. It’s a charming, moving and funny visit with transgender singer Rae Spoon. For two days, Jan 26 and 27, just about when it screens at Sundance, it’ll stream for free at NFB.ca
Here’s the week’s new list:
Our Man in Tehran: 4 stars
Gabrielle: 3 ½
Devil’s Knot: 3
I, Frankenstein: 2
The Visitor: 3
Ice Soldiers: 2 ½
Three Night Stand: 2
OUR MAN IN TEHRAN: Argo told the story of the 1979 Iran hostage crisis as entertainment and won last’s year’s Best Picture Oscar for it. This sprightly documentary fills in a few gaps and removes a few Hollywood fictions to give us a more correct version. Canada’s role, for instance, was far bigger than Argo allowed. Ken Taylor, who was the ambassador there, Flora MacDonald, who was his boss as External Affairs Minister and Joe Clark, who was Prime Minister, recall how dangerous it was to shelter six hostages, help plan their escape and get them Canadian passports. Especially since, because of a CIA foul up, they had to provide them twice.
There’s new information about the U.S. role too, including how Jimmy Carter`s actions inadvertently led to the crisis with a New Year’s Eve speech praising the Shah of Iran. Then Carter was too occupied with the Camp David Accords to notice the crisis grow and paid for it in the election, which he lost to Ronald Reagan. Diplomats, journalists, three of the hostages, a CIA man who was in the larger group held hostage and Tony Mendez, the agent and would-be movie producer Ben Affleck played, all tell their part of the story. There’s no chase on the tarmac but there is tension and enough detail to make this a real-history thriller. The co-directors, Larry Weinstein and Drew Taylor (no relation to Ken) will be at the Friday and Saturday screenings to answer questions. Drew, by the way, used to be a pro baseball player. (VanCity Theatre) 4 out of 5
Playing in tandem with …
MAIDENTRIP: Sailors will like this as well as anyone open to a story of going for it. Laura Dekker was 14 when she decided to sail around the world solo. Crazy? No, as we find along the way she’s driven and a dreamer. She was 16 when she finished; the youngest person ever to do it.
She shot her own video along the way, often speaking right into the camera to explain herself. An extended selfie. She was born in New Zealand to Dutch parents and doesn’t really feel Kiwi or Dutch. On her 16th birthday she comes to a realization: “Freedom is when you’re not attached to anything.” (Kris Kristofferson would understand). Statements of philosophy, though, are rare. Too much to do. Along the way, as the days count up to 499, we’re taken to the Canary Islands, the Galapagos, French Polynesia, into a heavy storm round the Cape of Good Hope and into a prolongued windless stretch that seems to unnerve Laura more than rain and storm. “Bobbing on the waves will make you crazy,” she says. She’s both a normal teenager (who listens to loud music) and an exceptional teen who pushes herself to finish the dream. A beautiful film. (VanCity Theatre) 4 out of 5
GABRIELLE: Our submission to the Academy Awards didn’t survive to the final nominees possibly because it’s too nice. It’s a love story set in a Montreal centre for developmentally challenged adults where the biggest barrier proves to be the attitudes of some people. “You know it’s not the same for people like them,” says the mother of one. Her son (played convincingly by actor Alexandre Landry ) is attracted to another patient (Gabrielle Marion-Rivard, who actually is affected by an intellectual disability called Williams’ syndrome. She gives an endearing performance, showing she’s a little bit slow but not at all disabled.