TIFF22 REVIEW: Concrete Valley [2023]

What does a doctor look like? Welcome to Antoine Bourges‘ love letter to the Thorncliffe Park apartment complex, better known as “Arrival City” considering it’s the usual landing spot for new immigrants coming into Toronto. Titled Concrete Valley and starring a mix of professional and amateur actors blurring the line between fiction and non-fiction, Bourges and co-writer Teyama Alkamli spent a lot of time with residents to help flesh out their motives and narrative in the form of Rashid (Hussam Douhna) and Farah (Amani Ibrahim), a Syrian couple who have…

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TIFF22 REVIEW: I Like Movies [2023]

The medium is the homework. Lawrence Kweller (Isaiah Lehtinen) likes movies. Not in the putting a film on in the background while hanging with friends sense. I mean recommending ‘s Happiness to a pregnant couple looking for a romantic comedy. He drags his best friend Matt Macarchuck (Percy Hynes White) to see because they both love watching “Saturday Night Live” together and laughs about intentionally duping him into seeing a Paul Thomas Anderson film he’ll probably hate. So, while Lawrence tells himself that he “likes” movies, he actually likes being…

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TIFF22 REVIEW: Maya and the Wave [2023]

Accidents are part of the routine. At twenty-six years of age, Brazilian Maya Gabeira was at the top of her sport. A world champion. Winner of countless awards. On covers of magazines. And repped by Red Bull. Looking to progress her career from becoming a pioneer for women in the big wave surfing game to holding a World Record that stood next to the men in control of the sport, she and mentor Carlos Burle traveled to Nazaré, Portugal to accomplish the unthinkable. Everything came apart instead. Not only did…

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TIFF22 REVIEW: Autobiography [2023]

It can turn rage into blessing. General Purna (Arswendy Bening Swara) never had a son, so returning to his mansion to ready for a reelection campaign (the days of military dictatorship in Indonesia might be over, but the power structure surely isn’t) makes him grow sentimental at the sight of young Rakib (Kevin Ardilova). The boy is the youngest son of Amir (Rukman Rosadi)—a man Purna calls a “friend” despite their relationship truly being one of employer and employee. It’s been that way for three generations with Amir’s father serving…

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TIFF22 REVIEW: Free Money [2023]

We received funding to do an experiment. Everyone over the age of eighteen (those fifteen and older become eligible on their eighteenth birthday) will receive twenty-two dollars a month for twelve years. That’s the promise GiveDirectly (represented by co-founder Michael Faye) made to the poor rural Kenyan village of Kogutu and, to their credit, has met in full. The idea is that too many NGOs (non-governmental organizations) have ravaged third world countries by making assurances they never follow through on. People would give them money, they would disburse it as…

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TIFF22 REVIEW: Obet [Victim] [2022]

Maybe someone saw something. There’s a reason director Michal Blasko and screenwriter Jakub Medvecký wrote Irina (Vita Smachelyuk) and her son Igor (Gleb Kuchuk) as Ukrainian nationals. Obet [Victim] doesn’t quite work if they are native Czechs because its impact demands that they also be outsiders attempting to build a home just like the Roma they and their host country are quick to villainize. Because they should know better. They should be able to understand what it’s like to come to a foreign place and start over again. We see…

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TIFF22 REVIEW: Until Branches Bend [2023]

You did the right thing. Something is amiss both with Robin (Grace Glowicki) and the quiet Canadian peach grove town of Montague. An invader has taken hold. It’s wormed its way beneath the surface to incubate and grow, causing incalculable stress upon its vessel. And nobody wants to admit it’s there. Because doing that—making it real—means turning everything upside down to deal with it. So, they bury their heads in the sand and ignore that a problem could even be feasible let alone already in progress. Unlike everyone else, however,…

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TIFF22 REVIEW: Alice, Darling [2022]

What are the chances? Everything you need to know about Alice’s (Anna Kendrick) state of mind concerning the abuse inflicted by her boyfriend Simon (Charlie Carrick) are the words, “It’s not like he hurts me.” We feel Sophie’s (Wunmi Mosaku) wince in our bones because “hurt” doesn’t only become noteworthy when wrought by a physical altercation. Alice is glued to her phone to ensure she doesn’t miss a call or text. She wakes up super early to apply make-up and style her hair to Simon’s preference. Parrots all the soundbites…

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TIFF22 REVIEW: Sanctuary [2023]

I am a person who wins. How well do you know your regular sex worker? How well do they know you? What Hal (Christopher Abbott) and Rebecca (Margaret Qualley) share may have begun as a source for fun, but it’s obviously evolved into something much deeper since. It’s akin to therapy now and they both know it to be true. The problem, however, lies in how they interpret what these sessions actually provide. Does Hal need Rebecca to come and validate his fetishized insecurities so he can achieve orgasmic release?…

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TIFF22 REVIEW: The Blackening [2023]

Probably runs on racism. The original short directed by Chioke Nassor asked a group of Black friends to choose who amongst them was the “blackest” as a sacrifice to save the rest. Why? Because the killer got confused when starting his spree due to his inability to find the “Black character” his trope-fueled brain demanded as its first victim. Hilarity ensues as everyone desperately tries erasing said blackness to keep breathing, revealing embarrassing (and some unforgivable) secrets along the way. It’s an ingenious conceit for a satire that’s perfectly suited…

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TIFF22 REVIEW: Chevalier [2023]

Choice comes from within. The Toronto International Film Festival wasn’t kidding when they said they were welcoming director Stephen Williams back after pivoting into prestige television. It’s been twenty-seven years since his theatrical debut Soul Survivor with a laundry list of all your favorite shows in the meantime. It just goes to prove that sometimes it’s all about the right project bringing you back into the fold. And it seems a script by rising star Stefani Robinson (coming from FX shows such as “Atlanta” and “What We Do in the…

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