The Kingston Canadian Film Festival is powering through the pandemic with an online offering of feature length and short films from Indigenous and Canadian filmmakers from now until March 7, 2021. I decided to pick up a pass and check out a selection of films. I’ll review them throughout the week!
Shiva Baby (2020)
First up was Shiva Baby, the stressful tale of a Jewish twenty-something named Danielle (Rachel Sennot) attending a funeral service and running into, not only her ex-girlfriend, but her sugar daddy. At only 77 minutes running time, it feels much longer! The anxiety and the tension are amplified by the music, the close-up shots and the long, awkward pauses writer and director, Emma Seligman, artfully employs. 5/5 stars for sure!
I checked out Beans next, which tells the story of Kiawentiio, aka Beans, as she grows up during the Oka Crisis in 1990. As a Mohawk from Kahnawake, she faces racism, violence and hatred from the government and neighbouring communities, all while navigating those awkward middle school years. Beans is based on director and writer, Tracey Deer’s experience growing up in Kahnawake in the early 90s. Deer interspersed filmed footage during the Oka standoff with Kiawentiio’s perspective. It adds a very special layer to the documented footage, because you get to see the real effects of the crisis on Kiawentiio and those around her. Beans is a beautiful story of resilience and finding one’s way when it feels like the world is stacked against you. 5/5. If I could give it more than 5 stars, I would!
My Salinger Year (2020)
Next on the watch list was, My Salinger Year from Hull director, Phillipe Falardeau. With this one, you’re transported back in time to late nineties New York, where a college student named Joanna takes on a job as an assistant for the literary agent, Phyllis Westberg (Sigourney Weaver), of the one and only, J.D. Salinger. If you’ve seen Devil Wears Prada, this is a lot like that, except, well, literary! Joanna is thrown into an office culture that feels like it’s fifty years late. Phyllis detests computers and insists everyone use a typewriter. As part of Joanna’s duties, she is to look through J.D. Salinger’s letters and reply with canned responses, which poses as a challenge. While she adjusts to work pressures, she is also dreaming of being a writer, which gets in the way of her job. This film was a tonne of fun and it captured the essence of a love for the written word. 4/5 stars!
Call Me Human / Je M’appelle Humain (2020)
For my fourth watch, I chose Call Me Human from Abenaki director, Kim O’Bomsawin. To call this a documentary is too simple. It’s a history lesson that, at its heart, is a biography for not just Joséphine Bacon, but the Innu elders she learned from over the years. The film celebrates Josephine’s extraordinary life. She grew up in the Innu community of Pessamit, but was sent to residential school at the age of five. When she was older, she moved to Montreal, dealing with homelessness and finding her way in the city. As she got older, she turned her focus to researching and translating the Innu-aimun language into French. She always had a way with words, and so was encouraged by loved ones to take on poetry. Josephine’s work has preserved the culture and teachings of Innu elders and her poetry artfully shares in these, too. Call Me Human is spectacular, with beautiful long shots in nature with Josephine’s words spoken over them. I learned so much from this film, and in particular, just how important it is to listen to your elders and remember these lessons to pass on to future generations. 5/5 stars.
No Visible Trauma (2020)
Next up was No Visible Trauma, a documentary that looks at several allegations against the Calgary Police from directors, Marc Serpa Francoeur and Robinder Uppal. It hopes to answer the question of why police-related shootings are higher in Calgary than other cities like Toronto, New York and Chicago. The documentary looks into several incidents where police used brutal violence on people, where in many cases, it resulted in their deaths. This film hit me in the gut. I felt total anger watching it. There is a deep-seeded cultural issue in the Calgary police force that is at the root of so many needless deaths and injuries that affect people’s mental and physical well-being for life. And it gets worse, with a lack of accountability for the offenders and long, drawn out processes and systems that suggest that some people in power are above the law. No Visible Trauma shed a huge light on a serious problem. I think everyone should watch this, but I will say, it is very heavy content. 5/5 stars.
Check back for more reviews!
How to get watching:
You can watch the films individually for $12 each or purchase a pass for 6,9 or 12 films. Films can be watched using smartphones, laptops or tablets or by downloading the Eventive app on your Roku or Apple TV. Find all the details here.