By Anne Brodie
Lina Rodriguez’ meditative, determinedly slow-paced TIFF entry, the immigration story So Much Tenderness follows a Colombian environmental lawyer Aurora (Noëlle Schönwald) under death threats who flees to Canada. She witnessed the murder of her husband, also an activist, and figures she’s next. Hidden in the trunk of the car of two Americans, she makes it across the US border to downtown Toronto. It’s unfamiliar, she fears for the daughter (Natalia Aranguren) she left behind and she’s concerned about rebuilding a life and making a case to stay. Local organizations help and she is able to settle down, eventually joined by her daughter. Rodriguez travels back and forth in time with flashes of the murder, her past life with loving friends, to some time forward in Toronto working as an ESL instructor. One day she sees a man on the subway who brings the past rushing back to her. The film is an immigrant struggle scenario, it’s something of a suspense thriller, and it takes its time to get into our bones. Rodriguez’ love of Toronto is clear in the film. TIFF Bell Lightbox
Hijack now on AppleTV+, finds the mighty Idris Elba fighting back in a sky-high life-and-death event, so you know it’s going to turn out alright! But till then, knickers will be in knots of tension and turmoil. It’s no slow burn, it’s full throttle all the way as well-organised, well-armed terrorists take over a flight from Dubai to London. They don’t declare a political position, but make it clear that they intend to subdue the passengers; their phones are taken and they’re advised if they don’t do what they are told, operatives on the ground will kill their families. The thugs are mainly white and from London, judging by their accents and they’re merciless. Various passenger stories come out and lead characters, but not enough to distract from the awful situation; violence and threats quell any obstruction. Elba’s Sam tries reasoning and pleading for those who will be left behind, while he learns more about them, It’s what he does for a living, he’s a fixer, a security expert, an investigator and negotiator on the ground, and those skills keep the plane in the air. There is a Hungarian connection and a massive network backing them, and there’s a familial element that changes the odds. So why are they doing this? That’s the kicker!!! Realism and a high pitch make Hijack sing with nothing unnecessary; a full-bodied, smart experience. A good international cast including Simon McBurney, Ruth Sheen, Archie Panjabi, and here’s a shout out to Waleed Elgadi who plays memorably the role of a Dubai ATC Supervisor, who first twigged to what was happening on the plane.
For a time in the fifties and sixties, Rock Hudson was considered the biggest star in Hollywood. He had his own romantic comedy genre, dreamed up by Ross Hunter, that of the straight man pretending not to be interested in sex with women, who then uses that hard-to-get story to seduce them. It may have been kind of a wink and a nod to the fact that he was a happy, busy homosexual, a “sexual gladiator” and “Adonis”, supported by artfully edited film clips. Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed. Director Stephen Kijak illustrates the ways he was a symbol of masculine heterosexual romance. His body of work alongside Doris Day in the sex comedies Pillow Talk, Lover Come Back and Send Me No Flowers, and Strange Bedfellows with Gina Lollobrigida confirmed his appeal to all sexes and left for open speculation. He married his agent’s secretary Phyllis Gates as a convenience, she is alleged to have been gay or bisexual. His agent represented closeted Hollywood hunks almost exclusively. Hudson had lived with and allowed photography of himself with several men over the years, pairings considered “eligible bachelors”. How sad that Hudson was forced to a lead double life or risk losing his enviable career. Former lovers, friends, and co-stars people speak glowingly of Hudson’s affable personality and decency. But shockingly when asked about his being gay, Day said she didn’t know him and knew nothing about him, even after their many films together, appearing to distance herself from the issue – and her dear friend. A fascinating study of society not so long ago that is nearly unrecognisable to us today. Now on Crave HBO
Acorn TV presents a new female-led police procedural series set in one of the world’s top glam spots. Cannes Confidential scours the French Riviera for clues in solving the frequent murders that appear to take place there – outside Cannes Film Fest season, of course. Still, there are plenty of references to the area’s decades-long love affair with film. Detective Camille Delmasse (Lucie Lucas) is a respected member of the local constabulary and is given the top cases. Her wing woman Lea Robert (Tamara Marthe) knows her well and the way her mind works – a productive and supportive duo. The wife of a wealthy developer is poisoned by cyanide at an event given by her husband and it turns out there are lots of people who might have wished her dead, including women who follow him around, attracted by his money. Camille on the other hand is trying to steer clear of UK con artist Harry King (Jamie Bamber) but he wont steer clear of her. Perhaps it’s that old credo “keep your enemies closer” so he can learn if she is on to him. And then a Banksy-like artist is shot dead in public while gramming. Camille’s father, the ex-Chief of Police, in prison on corruption charges has just pled guilty – even though she knows he’s not. So why? The jam-packed series is fun and light and quasi-exotic, even as Cannes is presented as a seaside Las Vegas.
Writer-Director Shamim Sarif’s prairie love story Polarized set in Manitoba, is familiar to Canadian film lovers. The story of immigrants to Canada and lower economic classes battling it out for recognition, to be heard, and to rise above their stations and traditions, to fulfill the dream of living in a free Canada. We’ve seen it in Quebec vineyards, B.C. peach groves, and now in a successful vertical farm owned by Muslim immigrants. Lisa (Holly Deveaux) a local woman whose family suffered the foreclosure of their beloved farm, and the end-stage cancer diagnosis of her father, is in disarray. She’s angry, hot-tempered, and needs an outlet – she finds one at work and is promptly fired. Her boss (Maxine Denis) justly accuses her of racism but later when Lisa comes to ask for her job back, realises she was under pressure and takes her back. They feel sympatico. Dalia’s newly married but something’s missing – Lisa. The women developed a bond that can’t be ignored and risk it all, wealth, business, status, and families to be together. Do they have the courage to walk away from everything? The story’s not new, but Sarif’s production is good and the global music is bracing. DVD.
Tanya Tagaq and Chelsea McMullan’s shattering NFB documentary Ever Deadly spotlights Taqaq’s performance, throat singing in concert, intercut with the harsh, otherworldly environs of Canada’s Cambridge Bay (Iqaluktuuttiaq), Nunavut where she grew up and remains today when she’s not on global tours. The Inuk performance artist’s concert is something to behold. I’ve seen videos and single performances but never a full concert and I’m not sure my heart could take that emotional spiritual and a cultural grand slam. But I’d like to try. Her music and personal, daily life on the shale shores of our northern Arctic coast are the primary focuses, but we learn of her activism from MMIWG to defending the seal hunt – a tradition and necessity for people living on the land. But it is ever deadly, extremely dangerous, she says, walking over the shale and expressing her appreciation of the shimmering sound it makes, promising to add it to her next album. Through her elders, we learn of the Great Relocation when the Canadian government lured the Inuit population to new locations, promising food, education, and care only to find none of it. The government took ownership of their land for its natural resources. Taqaq is a member of the Order of Canada and won the Polaris Music Prize and JUNO nods for her singing, avant-garde compositions and songwriting, although “song” seems too tight a definition for the ecstatic, pain-filled, gorgeous soundscape she produces. What an experience. In English, Inuktitut now streaming in Canada free of charge at www.NFB.ca
Fashion is one of the worst global polluters on the planet. Becky Hutner’s documentary Fashion Reimagined delineates the industry’s enormous environmental cost; its production causes a heavy burden on lands and waterways, releasing dyes, synthetic fibre traces, and more in huge amounts. Fashion leaders are expected to release six collections a year, in mall stores weekly, exacerbating a growing menace, and to really drive it home – we buy far more than we need and discard almost immediately. The average garment is sent to a landfill within a year, where it will sit, choking the land, until it breaks down, some 200 years into the future. Our synthetic clothing has created a global hazard. British designer Amy Powney, who heads the UK brand Mother of Pearl, and won Vogue’s Best Young Designer of the Year, hopes to reverse the danger by setting a strong example. She produces just two collections a year, made from sustainable fabrics she painstakingly sources from around the world and tries to use local as far as possible to reduce her carbon footprint. One average garment in the industry today travels through eight countries from plant to store. Powney uses minimal resources, makes sure producers protect animals and the environment, and pays workers – no children – properly. Her No Frills line is bare bones and beautiful. Powney was raised by environmental activists off the grid and was a fashion outsider. Now, she’s leading the band, let’s hope, to a brighter, cleaner, and more beautiful future. In theatres now.