Still image from Midnight Family

Programmers’ Picks!! – Vivian Belik, Documentary Film Programmer

Programmers’ Picks are back and our second pick is by Documentary Film Programmer Vivian Belik! We’ll be sharing all four of our Programmers’ Picks so stay tuned and make sure to add these to your list!


Still Image from For SameFOR SAMA

For Sama is one of the most arresting films I’ve seen in years. It’s an intimate and first-person perspective of the Syrian war that humanizes conflict in a way that few documentaries do.  Filmmaker Waad Al-Kateab and her husband work at one of the last remaining hospitals in Aleppo. As bombs threaten to destroy the hospital – and put their lives at risk – Waad picks up a camera and starts making a film for her yet unborn daughter, Sama. A haunting and unflinching portrait of what people risk for love, community and freedom. This film won big at Cannes, Hot Docs and SXSW. Buy your tickets here!




This film is required viewing for every Canadian. Colten Boushie’s death in 2016 threw a harsh spotlight on settler-Indigenous relations, particularly on the prairies where land ownership is contested and farming is intimately tied to people’s livelihoods. This documentary from Indigenous filmmaker Tasha Hubbard teases out the colonial attitudes that led to Boushie’s death and the following court trial which many saw as a miscarriage of justice.  Discussing her own upbringing by a non-Indigenous family, Hubbard draws on personal experience as well as up-close footage from the Boushie family. Raw and uncompromising, Hubbard isn’t afraid to ask difficult questions. Buy your tickets here!



Still image from JawlineJAWLINE
*Canadian premiere
*Filmmaker in attendance!

As if the internet wasn’t already the wild, wild west director Liza Mandelup comes along with a fascinating portrait of the latest online gold rush, teen webcasting. This lush and beautifully shot documentary follows 16-year-old Austyn Tester as he attempts to escape his dead-end life in rural Tennesee by live-broadcasting to adoring teenage fans. A sympathetic look at stardom in the social media age Mandelup creates an incredibly relevant and sometimes unsettling look at generation Z’s desire for fame.  Winner of the Special Jury prize at Sundance. Director in attendance! Buy your tickets here!



Still image from Los ReyesLOS REYES

When directors Bettina Perut and Iván Osnovikoff aren’t able to film skateboarders in Santiago’s largest skate park, they decide to turn their cameras on the next best thing: two dogs living in the park.  Told entirely from the point of view of two stray dogs, Football and Chola, this is an inventive and charming take on an observational documentary. The dogs are magnetic but the film also digs into deeper issues of class politics and youth struggles as we overhear conversations amongst the skateboarders and others in the park. A refreshing spin on what could otherwise be another twee documentary about dogs. Buy your tickets here!



Still image from Midnight FamilyMIDNIGHT FAMILY

Continuing with this year’s unintentional (but welcome) theme of Latin American films comes Midnight Family a gorgeously shot and moving documentary of ambulance workers in Mexico City.  In a city where only 45 public ambulances service a population of 9 million, private ambulances have become commonplace. Enter the Ochoa family, barely scraping together a living as the father, Fern, races through the streets at night with his two young sons working the midnight shift. A wonderful character portrait and searing sociological study of healthcare in Mexico this expertly crafted documentary is as suspenseful and satisfying as a car chase but with actual stakes involved. Buy your tickets here!


Check out the full list of fiction feature films here! See you at the festival — July 24 – 28!

Check out Vivan Belik’s playlist she made for GFF 2019 on Spotify!

A playlist inspired by the Documentary line-up at GFF 2019. Listen below!