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

Programmers’ Picks are back and our second pick is by Documentary Film Programmer, Vivian Belik! Check out all of our Programmers’ Picks on the GFF Blog.


maɬni – towards the ocean, towards the shore

dir. Sky Hopinka

Bodies of water ebb and flow throughout this poetic experimental documentary by filmmaker Sky Hopinka. Honoring connections to nature and the cycles of life, ma?ni separately follows two American First Nation people from the Pacific Northwest as they share their own personal rituals and relationships to life, identity, language, and their homeland while sonically weaving in the origin-of-death myth from the Chinookan people. Meditative and beautifully photographed, Hopinka’s film is a lush exploration of afterlife, rebirth, and the place in-between. – San Francisco Film Festival. Available for free and world-wide Sat, Jul 25th, 9:00 PM @ GFF Live Stream!


Prayer for a Lost Mitten

dir. Jean-François Lesage

Lost and found items collected at the Montreal Metro—glasses, toques, gloves, wallets—patiently await their forgetful owners. A wide cross-section of transit users desperately describe their missing possession and look through bins with a hopeful gaze. Elegantly framing black-and-white images in the depths of dark and snowy winter nights, director Jean-François Lesage assembles a mesmerizing city symphony set against a clarinet-led jazz soundtrack. The familiar hustle of a major metropolis is hushed and the anonymity that keeps us separated melts like a snowflake, as strangers reveal their humanity and joyfully reunite with beloved items. This beautifully observed meditation on the nature of loss and memory brings together an eclectic range of subjects from all walks of life. The intimacy of their recollections and the respect with which they’re treated turns the mundane subject matter and deceptively simple premise into something transcendent. – Hot Docs 2020 Buy your Festival pass or individual tickets to watch on GFF On Demand here!


Breaking the Silence

dir. Priscilla Padilla

Luz, from the Emberá Chamí Indigenous community in Colombia, left her home territory for Bogotá when she discovered she underwent female genital mutilation at birth. The Emberá is one of the few communities in South America that still carries out the practice, a brutal byproduct of colonialism.

Far from her family, Luz struggles to make her way in the relentless city, until she meets Claudia, a fellow Emberá Chamí and activist. Through the strength of their friendship, Claudia decides to travel to Luz’s home to start a dialogue with other Indigenous women and encourage them to make critical and urgent changes to end the practice of female genital mutilation. Through her intimate approaches to filming, director Priscila Padilla has crafted a deeply sensitive and breathtaking film that follows the women in their journey to break ties with colonialism and recover their ancestral wisdom of body–earth connection. Top 10 Audience Choice favourites at Hot Docs 2020. Buy your Festival pass or individual tickets to watch on GFF On Demand here!


The Painter and the Thief

dir. Benjamin Ree

When two paintings by Czech naturalist Barbora Kysilkova are stolen from an Oslo art gallery, Norwegian authorities quickly identify and arrest the two thieves but find no trace of the paintings. Hoping to learn what happened, Barbora approaches one of the thieves, Karl-Bertil Nordland, at his criminal hearing. She asks if she can paint his portrait and, contrite, he agrees. What follows—over a series of portraits and many years—is an extraordinary story of human connection and friendship.

Using a structure that cleverly shifts perspectives, Norwegian filmmaker Benjamin Ree unfolds the fraught lives and vulnerabilities of two souls who come to recognize themselves in the other—the darkness, wounds, compulsions, and self-destructive behavior. Ree captures the revelatory moment when Bertil, a junkie and petty crook who has done jail time, first sees his portrait and breaks down completely. Throughout the film, our understanding of both people—and even the stolen paintings—changes entirely. In life, certain aspects of human nature defy comprehension, and yet Ree materializes them in a way that is accessible and transcendent. Buy your Festival pass or individual tickets to watch on GFF On Demand here!


All I Can Say

dir. Danny Clinch / Taryn Gould / Colleen Hennessy / Shannon Hoon

Shannon Hoon, lead singer of the rock band Blind Melon, filmed from 1990-95 with a Hi8 camera, recording up until hours before his death at age 28. In the hundreds of hours of footage, Hoon meticulously documented his life – his family, his creative process, his television, his band’s rise to fame and his struggle with addiction. He filmed his daughter’s birth and archived the politics and culture of the 90’s, before the internet changed the world. Created with his own footage, voice and music, this intimate autobiography is a prescient exploration of experience and memory in the age of video. It is also Hoon’s last work, completed 23 years after his death. Buy your Festival pass or individual tickets to watch on GFF On Demand here!


The Earth is as Blue as an Orange

dir. Iryna Tsilyk

Exquisitely shot and bold in its metastorytelling approach, director Iryna Tsilyk’s documentary follows single mother Anna and her four children as they document their lives under siege in Ukraine.

Eldest daughter Mira dreams of becoming a cinematographer. As bombs descend on neighboring homes, the family construct, act in, and edit stylized scenes of dangerous predicaments they’ve lived to tell. Mira’s re-creations ratchet up the drama, using local soldiers, tanks, and even her own grandmother to tell terrifying tales of survival. Meanwhile, Iryna quietly captures their more quotidian moments during their shoots and in between takes—scenes that include Mira’s siblings squabbling over line readings, cozy dinners by the fire, and Anna’s compassionate gaze as she watches Mira apply to film school.

Eventually, the two projects fuse into a single vision that gorgeously encapsulates the extremes of war, both its explosive trauma and its mundane peripheral existence in everyday life. With miraculous insight, The Earth Is Blue as an Orange observes a family—and a filmmaker—cope with war using their cameras, working in tandem to create meaning out of meaningless conflict. Buy your Festival pass or individual tickets to watch on GFF On Demand here!