HOT DOCS 2024: Feminist Wrap – Emma Badame reports

Of this year’s slate of 168 films, 54% of them featured women behind the camera. Many focussed in on lived experiences of those they admire (Helen and the Bear) or intriguing names both big and small (A Photographic Memory); others shone the spotlight on the oppressed or inspired (Nice Ladies), LGBTQ+ trailblazers (Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story), the people fighting for justice (The Sharp End of Peace) or just a better world (Once Upon a Time in a Forest), or just the consistently curious (Synchrony). As it does every year, the festival wrapped with the announcement of this year’s cohort of award winners. 15 prizes were handed out in recognition of outstanding Canadian and International contribution to the documentary field, nine of which went to female filmmakers

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THE HOLDOVERS (TIFF 2023) – Review by Emma Badame

Filmmaker Alexander Payne’s latest offering is not particularly original in any of its elements and doesn’t attempt to break any new ground, but as it transpires, that’s not at all a bad thing. Well-acted, lovingly directed, and sharply written by David Hemingson, The Holdovers is a warm, nostalgic hug of a film that harks back to a specific and beloved era of filmmaking. Payne sets the film in the early ‘70s to allow for a showcase of his vintage favorites. From the soundtrack to the color palette, he immerses his film in everything of the era and it truly works in the film’s favor.

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THE MOVIE TELLER (TIFF 2023) – Review by Emma Badame

Cinematic love letters to the art and magic of movies are common enough and more often than not, are told from the perspective of a young boy, eager to experience all the technicolor adventures on the big screen have to offer. With The Movie Teller (La Contadora de Películas), Danish filmmaker Lone Scherfig has not only gifted to audiences a moving, captivating ode to both movies and the power they have to create and bind communities, but one told–for a change–from the perspective of an imaginative young girl with a talent for storytelling herself.

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THE ROYAL HOTEL (TIFF 2023) – Review by Emma Badame

Australian director Kitty Green’s second narrative feature The Royal Hotel is a wholly unnerving and totally engrossing thriller. Atmospheric and all too realistic, it’s the kind of story that sticks with you long after the credits have rolled. The film is paced to perfection and each and every well-planned element is woven expertly together to build layers upon layers of truly discomforting suspense. With Green’s keen eye the film becomes a riveting exploration of isolation and what it truly feels like to be a young woman in the world. It helps too that Julia Garner and Jessica Henwick nail their characters.

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MATCH ME IF YOU CAN – Review by Emma Badame

Romantic comedies are making a comeback. There were a few years there where there were sparse pickings in the perennial favorite genre but there has been a real resurgence, especially on the streamers. Marian Yeager’s Match Me If You Can is the latest offering in this 21st century cohort. With a lower budget than many of its contemporaries, the new film has a touch of the Hallmark about it. Though not a stand-out in this well-worn genre, there’s enough in Match to entertain some truly diehard rom-com fans.

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HAUNTED MANSION – Review by Emma Badame

Disney’s first attempt at turning their popular, gothic Haunted Mansion ride into a film gave them a hit at the box office, but was widely panned by critics. Cut to 20 years later and the House of Mouse has decided to revisit the idea – clearly hoping to recreate that movie-goer mojo but this time, capture the goodwill of the critics, too. It’s truly a delightful surprise that Haunted Mansion is as enjoyable as it is. Particularly in light of its predecessor. It’s truly the perfect summer-movie fare and a great way to spend an overheated afternoon or evening for film fans of all ages. For lovers of the spooky and supernatural, it delivers there, too.

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Casting Director Nina Gold on Intuition and Happy Accidents – Emma Badame interviews

British Casting Director Nina Gold, a veteran of more than three decades in the industry, began her impressive career casting extras in rock music videos and before long found herself working alongside her countryman, auteur Mike Leigh. From there she’s gone on to collaborate with award-winning filmmakers like Jane Campion (Bright Star and The Power of the Dog), Steven Spielberg (The BFG), and Sam Mendes (1917 and Empire of Light). Her full filmography reads like a “best of”, with the casts of audience and critical favourites like Bad Sisters, Game of Thrones and Chernobyl down to her. Her most recent project, Firebrand, just premiered in competition at Cannes 2023.

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BLACKBERRY – Review by Emma Badame

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the story of the sensational rise and fall of the first smartphone would make a better doc than drama, but director and co-writer Matt Johnson turns that theory on its head with the fabulous bio-comedy, and faux-documentary, BlackBerry. The proudly Canadian feature tells the home-grown story of Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel) and Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton), the two men behind the spectacularly popular line of thumb-numbing mobile devices. It traces its beginnings at the Waterloo, Ontario-based tech company Research in Motion (RiM) to its impressive and catastrophic downfall, largely due to cocky business decisions and a failure to keep up in an ever-changing, fast-moving market.

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HotDocs2023: Feminist Festival Wrap – Emma Badame reports

Hot Docs International Film Festival has long been a fabulous showcase of work from female filmmakers, and its 2023 line-up was no different. After achieving gender parity in 2018, this year the festival hosted a slate of world and North American premieres, director panel discussions, and networking events, there was plenty for film fans and industry members alike to take in as part of the festival’s 30th anniversary. The yearly, Toronto-based festival has been transparent about their goals of equity and inclusion, especially over the last 10 years. Hot Docs pledged “commitment to equity and inclusiveness in all aspects of the organization.” While they talk the talk, the organization clearly walks the walk when it comes to their programming too.

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SHTETLERS – Review by Emma Badame

Community is an essential part of understanding who you are and where you fit in. As the world expands and grows ever more chaotic, there’s comfort and calm to be found in the strong ties that bind. They lift us up, give us purpose, and support us. But what happens when your community disappears? Forced apart or scattered to the wind by circumstance. That’s the question at the heart of Katya Ustinova’s debut feature documentary, Shtetlers.

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