By Anne Brodie
Write director Darlene Naponse’s Stellar gets under the skin in record time. It takes place inside a dilapidated bar in Sudbury near the nickel and copper mines formed by a meteorite hitting Earth 1.8 billion years ago. “Aadizookaan” from the sky it came. Mother Earth willfully split the ground beneath the lake. Serpents swam again in this world. She and He braided the rift.” Goosebumps yet? The indigenous origins of the rim of metals it created somehow came into being. Inside the bar are three people, the bartender (Rossif Sutherland), He (Braeden Clarke), and She (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers). While they spend time mixing drinks and drinking, they ignore the view out the front window of out-of-control fires, people running for their lives, and total destruction. We are shown images of nature at peace, deer roaming and watching, and sun-dappled forests, untouched by fire. Various people come in – a dancing guy with a cane, an older fellow denying what his eyes see, and front-line workers, offered a safe place. Following a panic attack, the bartender, He and She must decide how to spend their remaining time, or is what’s happening outside not applicable to them? Can they mend the rift? Naponse’s incredibly powerful, utterly quiet fable spans millennia and an evening; it is lyrical, mysterious, depressing, and hopeful, so much power packed into a quick look at humanity in the scheme of things. In theatres.
Tom Wolfe, a modern great in American literature is profiled in Richard Dewey’s amusing doc Radical Wolfe. The white-suited dandy and southern gentleman, Wolfe wrote iconic books and articles that captured and deconstructed the times, Bonfire Of The Vanities, The Right Stuff, And The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, his essay collection The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, and a host of articles that were often stinging rebukes of people and ideas. Radical Chic was a takedown of Leonard Bernstein’s swanky, at-home fundraiser for the Black Panthers; Wolfe wrote about the anarchists daintily enjoying blue cheese rolled in crushed nuts as though the act weakened their fire. His uncomfortable satire got backlash but he didn’t care who he stung. Always in well-cut silk suits, watch chains, vests, and smart shirts with gleaming shoes, he entered the worlds of stockcar racing, biker gangs, and criminals. His friend Gay Talese called him an imperfect role model, and no one else took the “moral and stylistic risks” he did. He was revered as “the most skillful writer in America”, became a pop icon, and kept doing what he did best. Interestingly, Wolfe kept his private life private, removed from the hurly-burly he regularly caused. This is a wonderfully illuminating and entertaining look at the late, great iconoclast, featuring interviews with Michael Lewis, Lynn Nesbit, Terry McDonell, Tom Junod, Christopher Buckley, Niall Ferguson, and daughter Alexandra Wolfe. Now on at Hot Docs Cinema.
My expectations of Apple TV+ docuseries The Super Models now on Crave were low. Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, and Christy Turlington. These beautiful women, who also produced the series, would presumably revisit their stellar careers and dish about being born beautiful. But not so, as their stories are complex, having been four of the most famous women in the world at one time. We discover their roots, including Evangelista’s here in St Catharine’s, Ontario, and how they entered the culture’s elite kingdom as the undisputed top models of the 80s and 90s, and what they gleaned from it all. Photographers, agents, and industry folks sing their praises, remembering funny moments, the strangeness of the fashion industry and modeling, the colossal fame, and awkward experiences like Oprah asking Cindy to stand up and show the audience her body. Crawford confesses she felt like chattel. Christy’s optimism and happy glow are abundant, she came out of the career unscathed, Linda’s career came to an unexpected end, and Naomi, the least knowable of the quartet, and her emotional and addiction issues. “We weren’t the Beatles,” says Evangelista, but they weren’t far off. These were women who could, according to themselves, “move the product”, or sell dresses. Each had a style signature, Linda the chameleon, could become anything a designer wished. Cindy’s midwestern good looks represented a rural American Dream of sorts, Christy was sophisticated and self-confident, and Campbell a sultry ideal. They looked powerful, and began to feel powerful, and “all of a sudden we became the personification of power”. It’s said they were endlessly demanding, Concordes, limos, drivers, chefs, top pay, the best suites, and as one wag says “they controlled every inch of their makeup and hair”. Well, why not? They worked for themselves and they moved product. But then came hip hop, grunge, waif, heroin chic, which was in effect, a “rejection of supermodels”. They have new lives now, as mothers and activists, but we learn things weren’t easy, particularly for Linda. Fascinating series that I was ready to write off as fluff. The best part? They’ve remained close friends for thirty plus years.
Baroness Von Sketch’ tallest member Carolyn Taylor isn’t necessarily an athlete and she certainly isn’t an Olympic-level skating choreographer. She’s a comedian. But all that is meaningless to an obsessed person. While driving her car one fateful day, Taylor heard Whitney Houston’s I Have Nothing on the radio and “saw” the “jump”. The action made by a skating professional at the climax of a song, number, or phrase – the crowd-pleaser, and knew she had to bring it to life in the most magnificent way possible to that song. So with all the attributes missing required to pull off a Gold medal performance by herself (“I’ve been in skates”) to a famous rights-requiring tune in front of a rapturous crowd, Taylor went forth on her mission. She learned skater’s lingo, tried some basic moves, called on old pal Mae Martin, hired a disbelieving choreographer, trainer, and rotation man, and tried to skate. Hopeless. Someone else would have to do it – how about newlywed Olympians David Pelletier and Ekaterina Gordeeva? She got them and things began in earnest. Taylor’s single intense focus is a thing of wonder. She ignores all the naysayers, takes the advice of a psychic who said she would be successful, and well, you’ll have to see for yourself what became of the dream. Surreal, hilarious, uncomfortable, star-studded, and with a glorious twist, the docu-series I Have Nothing is a thing to behold. Taylor never doubted herself. There’s a lesson and laughter in this for all of us dreamers. On Crave Saturday, Sept. 23.
HBO‘s documentary series Savior Complex debuts Sept 26th on Crave and shows what can happen when someone with good intentions but a fundamental lack of understanding and runaway ego is set loose. There’s a No White Saviors movement in Africa that takes aim at white privilege in the form of missionaries, celebrities, and do-gooders who flood the country, particularly Uganda to save the Black people. It’s offensive to Africans that they are used to satisfy white guilt, their need for heroism and attention. Locals believe it harms their subjects. One of the most egregious examples is that of American missionary Renee Bach who went to Uganda as a teenager and founded a nonprofit to save malnourished children. She got enough donations from her fundamentalist Virginia church to set up a home/hospital although there were no doctors affiliated or trained medical staff. Bach undertook all medical treatments herself, diagnoses, medications, injections, the works, alone, relying on Google. Ultimately 126 children died, earning her the moniker the “Angel of Death” – a “poster child for neocolonialism. So how to understand what she did? She feels no remorse because she was following God’s mission, what she says He told her to do. No medical training? She believes her motto “God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called” protects her from blame. Find out what happens and her thoughts today about this appalling case of fundamentalist fervour and white privilege, a combination that has been at work in Africa for two hundred years.
Season seven of The Great Canadian Baking Show is upon us, reuniting judges Bruno Feldeisen and Kyla Kennaly with hosts Ann Pornel and Alan Shane Lewis and introducing ten new bakers from across Canada. Right off the bat, it’s Cake Week, as contestants are asked to create three cakes including a hard-to-make Boston Cream Pie Cake and Top Forward Cake which is large, round, and set on its side, to which the bakers add incredible decorative scenes. The imagination that goes into their labour is outstanding, with 3D depictions of Manitoba, a landscape with a waterfall, a garden, and whatever these talented folks can serve up as the clock ticks away. The execution doesn’t always match the intent but it’s always fun to watch the excitement, joys, and fumbles and imagine the flavours. Always a good time. Oct. 1 CBC Gem and CBC TV. The same night Hot Docs hosts the premiere episode followed by an exclusive live Q&A with Pornel and Lewis, moderated by Season 3 finalist and media personality, Colin Asuncion.
APTN and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) will host a national, all media network live event Remembering the Children on Parliament Hill in honour of the third annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with the Anishinaabe Algonquin Nation. It will be a 90-minute multilingual commemorative gathering. Sept. 30, to be broadcast live across the country. The commemoration will include powerful reflections from esteemed Elders and Survivors, including Claudette Commanda, Wilton Littlechild, and Dorene Bernard, with live performances by First Nations, Inuit and Métis artists such as Aysanabee, Willows and Alicia Kayley. The live gathering will be available for streaming on APTN lumi for a limited time beginning October 2. APTN is the first indigenous television network in the world!