By Anne Brodie
One of the most anticipated doc series this year has launched on Disney+. The Beatles: Get Back, a three-parter from Peter Jackson takes place in a latter-day recording session, compiled from 60 hours of verite footage shot by Michael Lindsay-Hogg in January 1969. The footage hasn’t been seen in fifty years and it’s a treasure trove! The four Beatles – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr – are clearly warm friends, playful, upbeat and endlessly creative, as they prepare for their first live show in two years and 14 songs for a new album. But the elephant in the room is their very existence. The Beatles were restless, Paul wanted to begin a solo career, John and Yoko wanted to record together, and begin advocacy, George wanted out. Rumours about the reasons for the band’s breakup are put to bed. That famous rooftop concert above Apple Corps. Ltd on Saville Row is shown in its entirety for the first time ever. Their music brings back rushes of nostalgia and admiration, but the best thing is – here they are, four young men at their peaks of creativity as one, fresh, young, mop-topped and engaged with one another, having made world history and brought so much joy.
TVO‘s Original documentary Magic Shadows, Elwy Yost: A Life in Movies celebrates a Canadian celebrity locally up there with the Beatles. The affable and learned Yost hosted Saturday Night at the Movies on the newly formed TV Ontario and charmed not only his viewers but the biggest stars in Hollywood. He had access based on his reputation for his extensive knowledge of film, his warmth and his appreciation for creatives. Yost didn’t cover stars on the usual press rounds – he was invited to their homes in Hollywood. He created his own unmatched niche – stars like Janet Leigh are relaxed and generous with him, as were Gregory Peck and Jimmy Stewart. Martin Short admired him, musician Greg Godovotz remarks that he’s met two Beatles and two Rolling Stones but meeting Elwy .. he stops and lights up, speechless. From 1974 to 1999 Yost taught us about film – history, technique, the studios and stars and influenced an entire generation to look for more than just two hours of entertainment. Archival interviews and new material with celebrities, critics, politicians and fans speak of the love his audiences have for him. His son Graham, a Hollywood filmmaker says his father inspired him to make Speed by telling the story of Kurosawa’s Runaway Train. And wait till you hear Yost’s theme music, it will take you back with joy. Karen Shopsowitz’ star-studded doc airs on TVO Saturday, Nov. 27, at 8 and streams on TVO.org, YouTube and Roku. Sister doc Magic Shadows from Colette Vosberg and Meredith Usher looks at Yost’s presentation of serialisations and thematic films, which is also available.
The Humans takes us to an unexpected and dramatic Thanksgiving dinner party in a pre-WWII apartment not far from New York’s One World Trade Center. Erik and Deirdre Blake (Richard Jenkins and Jayne Houdyshell) have journeyed from Scranton (unwillingly) to the Lower East Side with wheelchair-bound Momo (June Squibb). Their daughters and a boyfriend (Amy Schumer, Beanie Feldstein and Steven Yeun) cook and prepare dinner, converse and squabble while maintaining a false air of peace. It isn’t a verite piece but the cinematography, often at a distance suggesting spying, and the casual, lifelike delivery of lines makes it feel so. Spontaneous moments and missteps are left in. The apartment’ in a flood zone and there’s an undercurrent of tension around that, plus the walls are bubbling and dripping, and the lights are going off; all very unsettling and vaguely sci-fi. With too much wine and whiskey, the family takes its corners. Amy’s been dumped by her lover and was fired because of colitis absences, mum’s treated poorly, underpaid and mocked at work, they describe dreams and reveal too much, a remembered suicide attempt is raised. Bit by bit revelations grow more extreme, as the building seems to crumble around them. Theatre director Stephen Karam guides us through a nerve-shredding evening using sly shooting angles to throw us off balance, and into psychological discomfort, buoyed by actors who go all in. These are, after all, humans, “the creatures monsters tell horror stories about”. TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto and VIFF Connect in Vancouver, others to follow.
C’mon C’mon, Mike Mills’ black and white love letter to family stars Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny, a radio journalist and phenomenally talented British eleven-year-old Woody Norman, as his nephew Jesse. Johnny and his sister Viv (Gaby Hoffmann) are estranged but her husband needs urgent psychiatric care and she’s closest to their mother who is in a care home. She asks Johnny to take her son, Jesse while she sorts things. Johnny’s travelling the US interviewing teenagers about their lives and hopes for the future but gladly agrees to take care of him; the boy has only a dim memory of Johnny, but happily, they spark chemistry immediately, a lovely, easy, natural interaction and harmony that grows over their journey recording interviews. From Detroit to Los Angeles, New York and New Orleans, their understanding of one another grows and Johnny gets insights into the family dynamic. Jesse’s seen his parents argue hard and pretends to be an orphan and that his mother has children that died. Johnny is able to calm him – their personalities mesh, they’re a harmonious match. Jesse becomes part of Johnny’s documentary team, recording sound and feeling good about himself. He appears to be recovering from the trauma of his parents when weeks later his mom calls to say she’s coming to get him. Not a lot happens, but everything does, the operatic, choral score is thrilling, Jesse loves listening to opera at full volume, lying on the floor; the music gains momentum and the story becomes a chamber piece, breathing and alive through music. C’mon C’mon is a revelation, basically a three-hander that’s persuasive and optimistic. In theatres Toronto – Varsity, Montreal – Cineplex Forum, Cinema du Parc, Vancouver – Fifth Ave, Ottawa – Bytowne.
Ruby (Emilia Jones) is the only hearing person in her tightly knit family, a Child of Deaf Adults, or CODA. Her mother (Marlee Matlin), father (Troy Kotsur) and brother (Daniel Durant) are deaf, played by deaf actors. The family runs a fishing boat and while they’re not rich, they’re content. Each contributes to the fishing business. Ruby must be onboard to hear alarms, the radio, horns and weather reports but when a new music teacher hears her singing, which she loves to do, he realises she has something special and strongly suggests she pursue music at college. But her parents can’t afford to lose her as part of the business and their interpreter. and need her at home. She takes a day off the boat to rehearse and her father is heavily fined after missing alarms and coast guard radio calls, and prevented from working. Lots of problems for a young girl who is beginning to come into her own, to leave the loving security of the life she’s known with her family. And there’s a guy she likes at school. How to fix everything? Apple TV+‘s enlightening movie offers interesting insights – the deaf are loud to hearing people, can develop facilities to cope, are subject to bullying for being different but function as well as anyone. From writer-director Sian Heder’, also a CODA.
Not To Forget, about a young con-artist sent by a judge to care for his grandmother stars five Academy Award Winners – Cloris Leachman, Olympia Dukakis, George Chakiris, Louis Gossett Jr. and Tatum O’Neal! Tate Dewey is Chris, the young man with a record, no parents or guardians, used to preying on others for a living. So off he goes to live with Miss Melody on her massive but failing corn farm. He barely knows her but quickly sizes her up as wealthy, a little dotty and an easy mark so he lays on the charm. Two of his street colleagues from NYC show up to see what he has in mind and learn their role in his scam. Fortunately, grandma has layers of protection as a beloved community member, a Baptist minister and handyman Joe who singlehandedly runs the farm. Chris and his pals tear the place apart looking for the key to Melody’s safe deposit box and putting mental price tags on her possessions while appearing to be a loving and helpful grandson. She gives him the key, he asks her to sign the farm over to him, but grandma has charms of her own. And who is Joe, anyway? Chris’ inevitable change of heart isn’t believable for a second, but Dewey (a Harry Styles lookalike) works the role hard. Also stars Karen Grassle, Kevin Hardesty, on TVOD.
National Geographic Documentary on Disney+ launches Liz Garbus’ thorough documentary on one of the first and most influential environmental activists of the modern era, French naval officer, explorer, conservationist, filmmaker, scientist, photographer, author and researcher, the late, great Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Becoming Cousteau His engaging manner and enthusiasm for the planet made him a beloved celebrity; he opened eyes to the beauty, the teeming life and health of our oceans and planet for more than forty years. He and engineer Emile Gagnan co-invent the Aqualung, what became known as Scuba (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) in 1943, allowing humans to explore Earth’s vast underwater world and created means of filming underwater, enabling him to create and appear in so many films and television specials, and educate generations.
Acorn‘s mystery series Finding Alice stars one of the UK’s busiest and most versatile actors, Keeley Hawes, who can conquer any character placed in front of her. She’s Alice and she and her partner and their two children are moving into an ultra-modern, minimalist rural home he designed and built. But he falls down a handleless staircase and dies days after the move. Her mixed emotions signal that after twenty years of marriage, she doesn’t have the full picture of who he is and then a young man shows up at the door claiming to be his son. Then there’s the mystery of where he put the fridge, and how on earth to open the curtains, comic refreshers to leaven the heavy burden of his preventable passing and secret life. The house plainly shows his disregard for convention – there are few safety features, lots of windows, albeit curtained, temperamental toilets and an overall sense of repression and unease. She blurts out inappropriate things while identifying her husband in the morgue and a visit to his office reveals his secrets. Plus the man’s left no will and she has no money; his parents won’t loan her 50 Euros and they’re claiming the house as their own in the absence of a will. Who are these people? Good gripping stuff heightened by Hawe’s unique characterisation.
The 10th Anniversary of the worldwide Human Rights Film Festival, ten days of celebration of freedom and justice, during International Human Rights Month, launches in person Dec 1 at Toronto’s Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema And virtually: WWW.HRFF.CA.The fest opens with Being Bebe is a documentary feature film about performance, persistence, and purpose, as explored through the iconic life of BeBe Zahara Benet, the first winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race, celebrating Queer Black Excellence. Inside The Red Brick Wall. In November of 2019, trapped inside the red brick wall, a heroic collection of anonymous filmmakers took to filming the chaos of the Polytechnic University siege to bring to light the struggles these students faced and the bravery to defend their democratic rights. End Of The Line: The Women Of Standing Rock, about a group of Indigenous women that risk their lives to stop the Dakota Access oil pipeline construction that desecrated their ancient burial and prayer sites and threatens their land, water, and very existence. Decriminalize Now: Akia’S Story, the 2019 Arts for Human Rights Award Winner Kenya-Jade Pinto’s powerful short about the opioid crisis in Toronto and critique of the city’s mismanagement of addiction. Reframe: A Short Film Series On Mental Health from six Toronto-based graduates of the iAM Program worked with professional filmmakers to develop six short films about mental health. Between Fire And Water Directed by Viviana Gómez, is the story of Camilo, the adopted son of an Indigenous couple of the Quillasinga tribe from the Cocha lagoon, the only Black person in his community. Iam Workshop: Filmmaking With Leek Virtual & In-Person @ the JAYU Studio, Iam Workshop: Mobile Photography With Ebt I In-Person @ the JAYU Studio, The Hum Podcast Live In-Studio In person @ the JAYU Studio, Iam Workshop: Painting With Ashley In-Person @ the JAYU Studio – facilitated by Ashley Beerdat, participants will focus on their own hands to create a personal symbol in connection to human rights. The Art Of Living In Danger In an internal monologue, the director of Art of Living In Danger, Mina unveils the tragic story of her grandmother’s mysterious death. Although they never met, the fates of the two women are inextricably linked. Shorts Against Violence: A Screening Series Virtual – 1:00 PM – 3:00 PM on National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women to watch a powerful selection of shorts that commemorates the perseverance of women suffering from gender-based violence and discrimination. Jayu Stages National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women spotlights the personal journeys of six diverse women. We’ve Been Here: An Exhibition And Panel on a Kitchener, Ontario partnership with White Owl Native Ancestry, t provided a two-week arts program where Indigenous youth received arts and social justice mentorship. Wake Up On Mars A 10-year-old Roma boy living in Sweden attempts to come to terms with the mysterious Resignation syndrome that has put his two sisters in a coma. HRFF Comedy Night In-Person & Virtual – hosted by Nick Reynoldson. Jayu Slams Poets battle head to head in the 2nd annual HRFF+ Poetry Slam, hosted by Desiree Mckenzie. Pay what you can tickets available for the hybrid fest Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema and online at https://www.hrff.ca/