GFF 2017 – PROGRAMMER’S PICKS !!
FEATURE DOCUMENTARY FILMS
as suggested by programmer Aaron Zeghers
1) Dina, dirs. Dan Sickles & Antonio Santini
**Grand Jury Prize, Sundance Film Festival 2017
It comes as no surprise that Dina is my #1 documentary pick at this year’s Gimli Film Festival. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and we are so honoured to be able to present the Canadian Premiere of this film. Dina – named after the film’s protagonist – is an unconventional love story about an eccentric woman who has overcome tragedy and found true love. As the film’s outset the story seems obvious on the surface, but as it progresses we find layer after layer after layer peeled back, revealing a film so moving and full of empathy for it’s central character. Dina is an unstoppable force of nature and a survivor. She is the star of her own life story and she’s an unconventional movie protagonist the likes of which has never been seen before.
2) Acts and Intermissions, dir. Abigail Child
**plays with Kelly Gallagher’s short film “More Dangerous Than a Thousand Rioters”
Once considered the “most dangerous woman alive”, the American revolutionary Emma Goldman was also a passionate and poetic lecturer on anarchist philosophy, women’s rights, and social issues, attracting crowds of thousands. During her life, Goldman was championed as a free-thinking “rebel woman” by admirers, and denounced by detractors as an advocate of politically motivated murder and violent revolution. This documentary skillfully weaves historical, industrial-era found footage with excerpts of Emma’s prescient speeches and intimate diary entries, exploring both one woman’s prodigious life as well as greater themes of human vulnerabilities, compromises, and choices.
Acts and Intermissions is preceded perfectly with radical underground animator Kelly Gallagher’s short documentary More Dangerous Than a Thousand Rioters, which chronicles the life of African-American political radical Lucy Parsons. Gallagher’s hand-made animation joyously illuminate the life and writings of Lucy Parsons, whose contribution to the birth of America’s turn-of-the-century, revolutionary working-class movement is often tragically overlooked.
3) I Am Not Your Negro, dir. Raoul Peck
**Nominated, Best Documentary Feature, Academy Awards
**People’s Choice for Best Documentary Film, Toronto I.F.F. 2017
When famed American novelist James Baldwin died in 1987, he left behind an unfinished manuscript. The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and assassinations of three of his close friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Filmmaker Raoul Peck masterfully re-envisions this incomplete novel, transforming it into an incendiary new documentary that manages to be poetic yet political, subversive yet accessible, provocative yet reaffirming. I Am Not Your Negro goes far beyond recounting historical civil rights movements or documenting current Black Lives Matter campaigns, it is a groundbreaking rallying call for social justice and civil rights in America and beyond. As James Baldwin so eloquently says in the film, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
4) A Better Man, dirs. Attiya Khan & Lawrence Jackman
**Western Canadian premiere
**filmmaker Attiya Khan will be in attendance**
Attiya Khan was 17 when she dated Steve. For two years she was daily subjected to severe physical and mental abuse, but now – two decades later – they are sitting across the table from one another. In a powerful act of restorative justice, they’ve come together to talk through their abusive relationship consensually, in front of the camera. This dialogue-driven documentary looks deep into an abusive relationship as it was experienced and continues to linger through the lives of both people involved, and perhaps most importantly is an effort to heal. A brave film in every regard. We are so very privileged to have filmmaker Attiya Khan attending the festival in person to introduce and do a Q&A after her screenings.
5) A Moon of Nickel and Ice, dir. François Jacob
**Filmmaker François Jacob will be in attendance!
**Best Emerging Director – Hot Docs 2017
In this expose at the end of the world, Canadian filmmaker François Jacob journeys to the Siberian mining town of Norilsk to probe the community’s past, present and future. While teenagers in the icy city dream of escape, the nickel miners ponder the lost Soviet comradeship and the atrocities of the Gulag prison that founded this remote community. A Moon of Nickel and Ice uncovers Norilsk’s dark past, buried under ice and censorship and shrouded in government secrecy, from the former USSR to today’s administration.
FEATURE FICTION FILMS
as suggested by programmer David Knipe
1) Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki, dir. Juho Kuosmanen
**Prix Un Certain Regard – 2016 Cannes Film Festival
Taking an alternative trajectory to the traditional dramatic rise and fall of a typical sports film, Olli Maki instead chooses to focus on the tender relationship at the centre of its narrative. Its humble protagonist, which the film refuses to over-psychologize, is less concerned with winning the title fight than he is winning the girl. Beautifully shot in high-contrast 16mm film and filled with heart, this is sure to be a hit of the festival.
2) Neruda, dir. Pablo Larraín
**Western Canadian premiere
**Nominated, Best Motion Picture (Foreign Language) – 2017 Golden Globes
This extremely engaging and labyrinthian game of cat-and-mouse playfully blends fact with fiction in the story of an obsessed police inspector, played with a deft flair by Gael Garcia Bernal, who is hunting for the Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. Lavish visuals and a touch of the absurd make this anti-biopic a lot of fun.
3) Son of Sofia, dir. Elina Psikou
**Best International Narrative Feature – 2017 Tribeca Film Festival
Truly one of the more unsettling films of the festival. An eleven year-old boy retreats in to the world of fantasy when he is brought from Russia to Greece to live with his mother and her new husband – an older Greek man who was once a beloved children’s show host and whose motivations may or may not be sinister. Novice director Elina Psikou elicits incredible performances that contain hidden truths, and composes strange and unnerving images that leave the viewer off-kilter.
4) Personal Shopper, dir. Olivier Assayas
**Best Director Award – 2016 Cannes Film Festival
Master French director Olivier Assayas is back at it with the inimitable Kristen Stewart, who is truly one of the best actors of our generation. This film is a sharply intelligent spin on the ghost story, and is quite poignant in how it engages with our society’s relationship to digital technology. It is a very seductive film, suffused with cinematography built on cool tones and slick surfaces.
5) Dim the Fluorescents, dir. Daniel Warth
**Filmmaker Daniel Warth in attendance**
**Grand Jury Prize – 2017 Slamdance Film Festival
The divide between art and commerce has never been so bizarre. Dim the Fluorescents features two struggling artists and intrepid women who write and act out role-playing demonstrations for corporate training seminars. The film has a strange sense of humor, while still managing to be affecting. and its two leads are fantastic.
CLASSIC CANADIAN / MANITOBAN FILMS
as suggested by programmer Aaron Zeghers
#1) IT’S A TIE! : Duke and Battersby / Mike Hoolboom Retrospectives !!
**Filmmakers in attendance!
It should be no surprise that my personally most anticipated part of the Great Canadian Film Series are these two retrospective programs featuring highly experimental work by these giants of Canadian underground film/video. Both Duke and Battersby (aka. Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby) and Mike Hoolboom will be in attendance at this year’s festival to introduce their films and answer audience questions afterward. While their work is drastically different, you can be assured that this ain’t your traditional filmmaking. Form and style are experimented with in traditions more akin to contemporary art and avant-garde filmmaking than traditional narrative storytelling. If you’re looking for something beyond the Hollywood norm, this is for you.
2) Kubasa in a Glass, dir. Atelier national du Manitoba (Matthew Rankin & Walter Forsberg)
Kubasa in a Glass is a hilarious Manitoban pastiche, made up of iconic commercials and television shows from Winnipeg’s glorious heyday of 80s cable access television. Relive these made-in-Manitoba television moments, saved from a dumpster for your reminiscent entertainment. Starring Nick Hill, Hunky Bill, Sylvia Kuzyk, Chantal Kreviazuk, Doug Henning and – of course – the penultimate Winnipeg icon Burton Cummings! Kubasa in a Glass will make you laugh, make you cry and make you kinda wonder, “Why!?”
3) My American Cousin, dir. Sandy Wilson
**Filmmaker Sandy Wilson in attendance.
With director Sandy Wilson here in person, this will be the perfect coming-of-age story to remember your summer at the cottage by. Rewind to 50s cottage country in British Columbia. 12-year-old Sandy Wilcox longs for adventure over her summer break, and it comes in spades when her cousin Butch arrives unexpectedly from America. He introduces her to rock music and makes her swoon. An unforgettable Canadian tale of a young woman coming-of-age.
4) Picture of Light, dir. Peter Mettler
We live in a time where things do not seem to exist if they are not captured as an image. Twenty-three years ago – when the world was a very different, less connected place – one Canadian film crew braved the rigours of the Canadian Arctic Circle. Their goal: to capture on celluloid the beauty of the Northern Lights in Churchill, Manitoba. A beautiful, poetic film by master Canadian documentarian Peter Mettler.
5) Norman McLaren Retrospective
If you haven’t already seen the animations of legendary Oscar®-winning Canadian filmmaker, Norman McLaren (1914-1987), this is your chance! Witness the films that helped cement the National Film Board’s international reputation. McLaren was a pioneer in several areas of animation and filmmaking, including hand-drawn animation, drawn-on-film animation, visual music, abstract film, pixilation and graphical sound. Suitable for audiences of all ages, these films will leave you touched by the genius that was: Norman McLaren.