GFF is proud to continue promoting gender parity in the cinematic arts at our festival in 2020, with over half of our films being directed by women! This bold series of feature films presents new works by the world’s best emerging female filmmakers working today! Generously sponsored by Farpoint Films, Black Watch Entertainment, Blue Prairie Productions, Build Films, Canadian Media Producers Association, Rebecca Gibson, Nüman Films, Original Pictures Inc. and Tripwire Media Group.
An Indigenous apprentice Ironworker in a city that for a hundred years suppressed the memory of its formative struggles learns his trade building a monument to the streetcar tipped over during the bloody climax of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike. He is joined by a colourful cast of fellow workers; activists; an anarchist; community organizer; a chorus; a labour historian; and a Winnipeg born, Chinese-Metis veteran octogenarian Ironworker with fifty-plus years of labour history. In this affecting documentary, intersecting characters embark on a journey to reveal the enigmatic and evocative strike story as the streetcar monument takes shape.
“How much should I change myself, because society doesn’t change fast enough?” Just 17 years old but already wise to the social constructs of gender and behaviour, Amber takes the neutral Swedish pronoun “hen” and their own path. Best friends since elementary school, Amber and Sebastian explored their queerness together, dyed each other’s hair every colour possible and became each other’s safe space. With the first blush of romantic love, however, Sebastian falls for Amber’s girlfriend. The love triangle breaks the trust between the once-inseparable pair, leaving Amber to transition alone. But in place of the tantrums and tearful scenes that define classic teen narratives, Always Amber rewrites the coming-of-age story with the inspiring self-confidence of its protagonist. Following Amber for three years, this intimate observation reveals an understanding of selfhood and an acceptance of difference entirely unique to the “their” generation. – Hot Docs
From their little house just outside the city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 10-year-old Asalif and his mother look out on rows of newly-built, concrete apartment blocks. From the forest behind their house, they hear the hyenas howl at night. They used to live where the condominiums now stand. Asalif’s mother had a plot of land there, where she grew crops and kept animals. Now, developers already have their eyes on their new home—they’re worse than the hyenas, his mother says.
When Áila encounters a young Indigenous woman, barefoot and crying in the rain on the side of a busy street, she soon discovers that this young woman, Rosie, has just escaped a violent assault at the hands of her boyfriend. Áila decides to bring Rosie home with her and over the course of the evening, the two navigate the aftermath of this traumatic event. Inspired by a very real and transformative moment in the co-director Elle-Máijá Tailfeather’s life, THE BODY REMEMBERS WHEN THE WORLD BROKE OPEN weaves an intricately complex, while at the same time very simple, story of a chance encounter between two Indigenous women with drastically different lived experience, navigating the aftermath of domestic abuse.
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`
Dope is Death
dir. Mia Donovan
2020 | Canada | 78 min
For over 50 years, alternative medicine practitioners have advocated the use of acupuncture as part of treatment for drug addiction. However, few people know that this practice evolved in large part thanks to the Black Panthers, radical liberation politics and Dr. Mutulu Shakur, Tupac Shakur’s stepfather. Dope is Death turns the clock back to 1970, at the height of the heroin epidemic in the South Bronx, where a group of political radicals—fed up with inaction—occupied New York’s Lincoln Hospital. Under the leadership of Shakur, the Lincoln Detox clinic became the first and only politically run drug treatment program funded by the US government. Inspiring and enraging in equal measure, the story of Lincoln Detox and the civil rights organizations that supported it testifies to the continuous need to explore this period in US history—a time that, until recently, has often been misrepresented. – Hot Docs 2020
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 a meaningless conflict.
Film About a Father Who
dir. Lynne Sachs
2020 | United States | 74 min
Watch on GFF On Demand | July 22 – 26, 2020
Watch on GFF Live Stream | Fri, July 24, 9:00 PM CDT
**Available to stream in Manitoba
Over a period of 35 years between 1984 and 2019, filmmaker Lynne Sachs shot 8 and 16mm film, videotape and digital images of her father, Ira Sachs Sr., a bon vivant and pioneering businessman from Park City, Utah. FILM ABOUT A FATHER WHO is her attempt to understand the web that connects a child to her parent and a sister to her siblings. With a nod to the Cubist renderings of a face, Sachs’ cinematic exploration of her father offers simultaneous, sometimes contradictory, views of one seemingly unknowable man who is publicly the uninhibited center of the frame yet privately ensconced in secrets. In the process, Sachs allows herself and her audience inside to see beyond the surface of the skin, the projected reality. As the startling facts mount, Sachs as a daughter discovers more about her father than she had ever hoped to reveal.
Adapted from Naomi Fontaine’s acclaimed novel, Kuessipan is Myriam Verreault’s first narrative feature. In a Quebec Innu community, Mikuan (Sharon Fontaine-Ishpatao) and Shaniss (Yamie Grégoire) struggle to maintain their close friendship when they clash over their diverging ambitions. When Mikuan falls in love with a white boy and starts to consider a life beyond their tiny reserve, her bond with Shaniss and her family is put to the test. A coming-of-age story told with humour, tenderness, and heartbreak, Kuessipan is a poignant exploration of evolving friendship and dreams, and the bonds that will forever root us in our culture. Kuessipan is told through an Indigenous lens yet remains relevant to us all as we discover the power of community — along with the individual strength it takes to follow our own path. – Eva Greyeyes, TIFF
What do you do as a young filmmaker if you’re not sure what direction to take? You go and ask Miranda July for advice. She seems to do exactly what she wants, and it works out pretty well for her, too: after all, she doesn’t need to translate online hotel reviews to pay the rent, as Sophie Bédard Marcotte does. So she sets off with her camerawoman on a road trip to Los Angeles to have tea with July. Of course, nothing goes as planned.
Their unorthodox journey across the United States results in a lighthearted road movie filled with meditative landscapes, unlikely encounters, animations and a touch of magic. It is a playful quest for a framework in life. A film about friendship, the thirtysomething dilemma and the search for inspiration.
In her third film, Bédard Marcotte incorporates references to her cinematic inspirations, and creates a posthumous starring role for Chantal Akerman. She appears on the pink horizon as an oracle for every filmmaker who, for want of a clear path, is looking for the yellow brick road.
In a remote part of Iceland, a long line of farmers has kept an ancient sheepherding tradition alive for centuries—year after year, season after season, in one of the most desolate parts of the world, framed by inhospitable terrain and the imposing presence of the Arctic Ocean. However, the world has evolved and the natural bounties and rituals are starting to give way to a more streamlined industrial complex. Farmer Úlfar has one final season left and must accept that his traditional way of life is coming to an end. Through stunning visuals and sombre nostalgia, The Last Autumn captures a beautiful place and time that, even as it fades, will linger in the cold air for centuries longer. – Hot Docs 2020
Olivia (Isabel Sandoval), an undocumented Filipino transwoman, works as a caregiver to Olga (Lynn Cohen), an elderly Russian woman, in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. When Olivia runs out of options to attain legal status in the US, she becomes romantically involved with Alex (Eamon Farren), Olga’s adult grandson, in the pursuit of a marriage-based green card.
On the steps outside New York City’s dizzying central bus station, Port Authority, a girl named Wye vogues with her siblings. Paul, a young drifter, watches her, transfixed by her beauty. After he seeks her out, an intense love soon blossoms. Wye introduces him to the ballroom community, an underground LGBTQ subculture and to her house, a self-selected chosen family. But when Paul realizes Wye is trans, he is forced to confront his feelings for her and the social forces that seek to rupture their bond.
When 17-year-old aspiring writer Ayanna (Zora Howard) meets an infinitely charming music composer named Isaiah, her world is turned upside down. Wise beyond her years, Ayanna maintains a watchful, guarded exterior that is threatened when she falls hard and fast for him. But it’s not all ballads and poetry; tensions erupt when the couple’s relationship has unintended consequences that Ayanna must confront. In a vibrant and rapidly changing Harlem, it’s Ayanna’s experience that anchors this story of Black love and self-discovery. Howard — who co-wrote the film with director Rashaad Ernesto Green — delivers a powerhouse lead performance as Ayanna. Each moment of vulnerability and tenderness in Howard’s performance feels like a gift, jolting energy and authenticity into the story. Her mostly supportive, sometimes shady, friends punctuate the film with humour and emotional resonance, their dialogue standing out for its authenticity in how youth actually speak. Textured, gritty, and quietly gut-wrenching, Premature will burst your heart open in all the best ways. – Ikoro Hugging-Warner, TIFF
Ruthless Souls follows Jackalope “Jackie” Cambell, a tough as nails Ojibwe artist born and raised in the strange land of Winnipeg, Manitoba. On the one year anniversary of her partner’s tragic death due to complications from gender affirming surgery, she’s back at work, she only drinks and smokes up “on the regular” instead of a “concerning amount daily.” It’s all gotta go up from here, right? Wrong.
Jackie finds out that her best friend Rooney has dumped her long time partner Tay. The problem? Tay is Jackie’s only other friend. The three have been each other’s pillars of supports since they were kids growing up in Winnipeg’s often turbulent North End. Jackie was so sure that she had just experienced the worst year of her life, but the year unfolding in front of her might just give it’s predecessor a run for it’s money. Jackie must now navigate the fallout of Rooney and Tay’s relationship while also trying to wrangle her own spiraling mind, especially when the ghosts of the past seem to be lingering
Flailing thirty-four-year-old Bridget (Kelly O’Sullivan) finally catches a break when she meets a nice guy and lands a much-needed job nannying six-year-old Frances (played by a scene-stealing Ramona Edith-Williams). But an unwanted pregnancy introduces an unexpected complication. To make matters worse, she clashes with the obstinate Frances and struggles to navigate a growing tension between Frances’s moms. Amidst her tempestuous personal relationships, a reluctant friendship with Frances emerges, and Bridget contends with the inevitable joys and shit-shows of becoming a part of someone else’s family.
On the edge of adulthood, Alma leaves her mother’s home in the Netherlands and travels to her native Bosnia to visit the father she’s never met. But from the start nothing goes as planned. Her cousin Emir gives her a frosty reception and mocks her easy life in the West. At the same time, undeniable sexual chemistry leads Alma into a passionate relationship with Emir’s best friend, the troublemaker Denis. As the obstacles mount, Alma stays fearlessly determined to follow her plan and find her father. She just has to figure herself out first.
High on the reckless energy of youth and the rush of adult discovery, the rebellious trio sets off on the adventure together, embarking on an increasingly unpredictable road trip through the scorching Bosnian heartland. Over the course of the journey, Alma will learn to accept and understand herself, embracing all challenges that come her way.
A tragic-comic tale with surrealistic tendencies about a lost 23-year-old who is haunted by her disappointed 13-year-old self. On her 23rd birthday, Kate (Amber Hubert) opens a letter that she wrote as a precocious adolescent to her imaginary grown-up self. The letter asks, “Are you happy?” Knowing the answer is “no,” Kate moves in a dreamlike state, passive and indifferent as Jiffy muffins burn and various men take advantage of her. Throughout, we hear 13-year-old Kate’s voice echo in adult Kate’s thoughts. Eventually, the young Kate character (Marguerite Brown) makes an appearance, leading to a moving confrontation.
IDFA and Canadian filmmaker Peter Wintonick had a close relationship for decades. He was a hard worker and often far from home, visiting festivals around the world. In 2013, he died after a short illness. His daughter Mira was left behind with a whole lot of questions, and a box full of videotapes that Wintonick shot for his Utopia project. She resolved to investigate what sort of film he envisaged, and to complete it for him.
The result is a fascinating collage of footage from the Utopia collection, home movies from the family archive, scenes from earlier films, and telephone conversations with colleagues and family members. In voice-over, Mira takes us along on her journey. She molds all these elements into a story about the grieving process, a daughter’s attempt to understand the father she lost too soon, and a tribute to a restless and original spirit on a quest to find an ideal world.