By Anne Brodie
Twice Colonized opens this year’s 30th annual Hot Docs Film Festival on April 27. Filmmaker Lin Alluna focused her lens for seven years on Inuit lawyer and sealskin clothes designer, Aaju Peter. She was indeed ‘twice colonized”. The first time Peter was taken alone as a child of eight, from her Greenland home to Denmark, to be stripped of her indigenous heritage and raised as a European. She grew up in Copenhagen and associates the country and the language with the words ‘cold’, ‘harsh’, and ‘strict’. Peter refuses to speak Danish and she calls out an interviewer for refusing her modernity as she drinks a Starbucks and yet somehow remains indigenous. Peter says she was colonized for the second time living in Iqaluit, Nunavut by southern Canada; the definition of the term is “ruled by other countries”. She travels the world in support of indigenous rights, at the UN, and at world conferences including Abu Dhabi as a respected activist. Her defence of the annual seal hunt has been criticized by non-Artic people who do not understand that the indigenous population is “absolutely dependent” on walrus meat and oil to survive. Peter still lives in Iqaluit where she cares for her grandchild following the suicide of her son – there is a huge cemetery in her community as suicide is a serious health crisis for the young. And she is trying to extricate herself from an abusive relationship with a white man. Tiny, fit, and energetic, Peter is a whirlwind of activity and an inspirational thinker who attracts admirers for her forthright, just intelligence and experience – and for her appealingly buoyant personality. At 58, she’s a dynamo and gentle leader and a member of the Order of Canada. Twice Colonized is in theatres May 12.
Light is shed on a little-known chapter in French history and the figure of Chevalier. Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799) was a French Creole virtuoso violinist, composer, conductor, and fencer in Paris, who spoke multiple languages, born on a plantation in Guadeloupe to a white master and a slave mother. His father felt he owed him an education and the chance to hone his prodigious musical skills, and sent him to Paris at age 8. Joseph developed ways of handling racists and bullies and made a good life for himself. Eventually, he was considered the most accomplished man of his age; Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton) named Bologna (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) Chevalier de Saint-Georges. If true, as seen in the film, he humiliated Mozart by outplaying him on his own Fourth Symphony before an audience and creating jealousy and resentment in high society, including the powerful, tyrannical Montalembert with whose wife Marie-Josephine (Samara Weaving) he had an affair. Chevalier is passed over to run the Paris Opera in a political move as the citizens began rioting in the streets protesting the extravagances of Marie-Antoinette and her court. France is on the edge of revolt. The good story, sumptuous art direction, and sensual confidence Harrison exudes are rewarding. In theatres.
If Betty Gilpin’s in it, you know it’s going to be fun, smart, and action-packed. She stars as a nun in Mrs. Davis and is true to her legacy..wow! The action begins in the 1300s as rogue soldiers invade a convent in Paris, threatening to kill the nuns if they don’t hand over the most coveted artifact of all time – the Holy Grail – which they believe is in their custody. The marauders don’t know that the nuns are Catholic Templars and well-trained in battle – what a battle scene! The Mother Superior is cut down; her dying instructions are to get the artifact to the New World and keep it safe. Cut to 2023 and a man stranded on an island is saved, he’s been there ten years. He learns of an AI force that now rules human existence; it offers him anything he wants. Cut to Reno, Nevada, and a Catholic convent where Sister Simone (Gilpin) comes across a nighttime desert accident scene; she realises is a setup by “It” the AI force. An injured woman helicopters into the convent and they take her in as they prepare jams for a fundraiser. They’re in great need of money to live and to serve the community. A mysterious blinding light – in the desert – explodes the jam. Our heroine is followed by Neo-Nazi Germans, who threaten to explode her horse, and other miscreants, all after the Holy Grail. But her most powerful adversary is It; she refuses to communicate with -Sister Simone’s mission is to rid the world of AI and IT is it in a nutshell. She learns all the people she’s met along the way were algorithms to get her to meet It. However, through an emissary, she asks It to die, to end herself and she agrees if Simone will locate the Holy Grail and destroy it – an impossible proposition. Then it’s back to Simone’s childhood to find the roots of her obsessions – David Arquette plays her father, a magician – that’s a start before this mind melt of a series takes us to London. Mrs. Davis is so high concept, so brilliantly written and surprisingly rich and dark and rooted in history – there’s been nothing like it before. Highly recommended. Classic Gilpin. Owen Garris directs. The WB series is on Crave and CTV Sci-Fi Channel now.
The hard-hitting Netflix series The Diplomat is strong stuff, a fine replacement for the late great Homeland. Kerri Russell plays Kate Wyler, newly named US Ambassador to the UK; a disappointment as she was expecting to return to her Kabul, Afghanistan territory- she knows its political, global, cultural, military, and social zeitgeist and was trusted for her hard work calming rough seas. She’s accompanied by her husband Hal (Rufus Sewell) a revered political big shot and a former Ambassador. The UK has just suffered a tragic politically motivated attack on a military carrier. Twenty-five dead, a message to the US President Rayburn (Michael McKean) from Iran; Wyler believes she is of more use in Kabul, and now faces much ado about nothing but pomp and circumstances of her UK placement which she thinks is a frivolous waste of her time and talents. She doesn’t own a “tea-length dress” but does own a burka and she’s desperate to get out; she is unsuited to the new role and she has new enemies. Meanwhile, her staff attempt to reign her in – with limited success- as her husband sinks into invisibility. A known right-wing political fanatic (Celia Imrie) has targeted him to push her agenda, snagging photo ops with him. During a wreath-laying ceremony, he is drugged and kidnapped, to appear before Farsi-speaking agents, who say Iran didn’t explode the carrier, and that it quashed their plans for an assassination three years in the making. He returns home calling it not a kidnapping but a “pull aside”. This is one juicy, smart, fast-paced, and complex offering. Russell expands her repertoire with grit, and her face is her own.
Elizabeth Olsen, sister of Kate and Ashley, is a naturally talented acting Olsen, experienced, and capable of subtle and powerful performances. She’s in top form in the disturbing fact-based story of Candy Montgomery, a Texas woman who allegedly took an axe to kill a woman who took the axe to kill her. They were suburban, middle-class wives raising children in 1980 while their husbands worked. The Crave Original Love & Death, a seven-parter, follows Candy as she embarks on an extramarital affair with Allan, the husband (Jesse Plemons) of her close friend Betty (Lily Rabe). It’s a small, tight, white community centred around the Methodist church; most of the community belongs to the choir. David E. Kelly’s Gothic story features hysterical, home-bound women, bland husbands, and overall dissatisfaction. One day Candy realises she’s attracted to Allan and persuades him to have an affair; it is hot and heavy until he and Betty attend a “marriage encounter” and rediscover one another. He ditches Candy, and she’s furious then Betty discovers the truth and comes after her with an axe. A quiet God-fearing town is turned upside down as the case goes to trial and makes international headlines. The series gets digs into fundamentalism and the social repression of women in that time and place. April 27
Prime Video‘s new series, a retread of David Cronenberg’s landmark doctor downer Dead Ringers of 1988, is here. Steel yourself. It aims for the same shock trauma territory of gore, horror, deceit, subversion, weird sex, outliers, and the omnipresent bugbears of money and power. It’s sexually and medically graphic, gross at times, and hits the mark – it feels Cronenbergish, but the emphasis is on women. Rachel Weisz replaces Jeremy Irons in the dual role of twisted twin doctors, Beverly and Elliot, pulling double duty in this energetic, complex elegy for underserved women. B and E are the “famous Mantle Twins” whose reputation as excellent birthing doctors is well-earned. Elliot, the dominant twin is brash, brainy, and single-minded, while Beverly is fun-loving and submissive. Elliot seduces a woman to pave the road for Beverly to enter into an affair with her. It requires switching identities, a common practice as they wind their way through life, love, and work; a change of hairstyle, demeanour, and great timing and they’ve never been caught. The dream is to open their own birthing clinic without hospital limitations as they’ve seen too many women and babies die due to the system. They pitch a wealthy woman at the strangest dinner party you’ve seen onscreen in a long while; the woman happens to be the heir of the family that created the opioid crisis. Morality aside, Elliot will take dirty money to recreate birth and maternal healthcare that is available to all. So they’re twins with dual sides, as saviours and deceivers. Dead Ringers is strong meat and crammed with expletives, and extreme characters, and well, it’s a ride. An all-female writers’ room pinpoints women’s health care in the US, the most expensive country in the world to give birth, and its shameful record of high mortality for mothers who are Black, Indigenous, and people of colour.
Ghosted from Apple TV+ is a satirical cute couple romcom spy jaunt starring Chris Evans as Cole and Marilyn star Ana de Armas as Sadie. They meet at a Washington, D.C. farmers market, have sex and he’s smitten. The next day he sends 11 texts and calls but no Sadie. He’d left his GPS-tagged inhaler in her purse and lo and behold, she’s in London. He tracks her down to Tower Bridge only to land in the soup, beaten and tortured by a bunch of well-organised thugs. Sadie to the rescue, well-armed and fighting – she’s a spy – and shoots them all dead. Cut immediately without explanation to the Khyber Pass in Pakistan where the chase continues. Someone thinks Sadie has the password to a dangerous device and will do what it takes to get it. The thugs chase and shoot and chase and shoot, and Adrien Brody shows up as the top thug. Cut immediately to Sadie and Cole on a desert island having parachuted out of danger. Head-spinning, not quite cooked satire is confirmed by a sudden rotating sky-high restaurant appearance of a beloved star. Loaded with cameos and 110% tongue-in-cheek.
There are hidden hordes of us who really get a kick out of the British period murder mystery series, like Father Brown, Agatha Christie, Grantchester and Endeavour. There is something classically true about them. The new series Sister Boniface Mysteries, starring British comedienne Lorna Watson, now in S2 on BritBox, follows Father Brown and Grantchester into the ecclesiastical world where a savvy and kindly nun with great instincts, forensic capabilities, and a nose for investigation trumps local working police detectives. But this time as opposed to say, Father Brown, the local copper Sam (Max Brown) is delighted to reap the benefits of Sister Boniface’s intellectual work; he respects and is galvanised by her. Ruth, the glam local newspaper reporter (Amanda Raison) is a fun, engaging, and challenging character who’s helped make the series a hit, Sadly she leaves for the London Times in S2E2 so now we’re excited to see which shining star will replace her as a worthy newspaper reporter. And there’s a new detective Felix Livingstone (Jerry Iwuin) in town from Africa who was assigned to Scotland Yard but was somehow sent to Great Slaughter(!) So that’s fun. He wants out! Or does he? Terrific series, total comfort viewing.