MOVIE OF THE WEEK April 16, 2021: HOPE

Maria Sodhal follows up 2010’s Limbo with another quiet yet powerful exploration of relationships under pressure; in this case, a shocking cancer diagnosis. Andrea Braein Hovig and Stellan Skarsgaard put in sterling performances as the long-term couple whose stale relationship is shaken up by the terminal illness. Writer/director at Sodhal – who drew on her own experiences – eschews overwrought melodrama and obvious emotional cues in favour of deeply felt observation, and delivers a film of raw realism and genuine humanity.

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WATER WARS: WHEN DROUGHT, FLOOD AND GREED COLLIDE – Retroview by Jennifer Merin

By presenting an overview of recent flooding, drought, and other water-related disasters in Bangladesh, India and New Orleans, director Jim Burrough’s Water Wars: When Drought, Flood and Greed Collide presents a prescient look into the future of fresh water access and control, which many believe will be the cause for World War III.

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SLALOM – Review by Jennifer Merin

Slalom is, as the title suggests, a film about skiing. Set in the glorious French Alps, French director and co-scripter Charlene Favier’s first feature is the story of fifteen year old Lyz Lopez (Noee Abita) who is attending a boarding school for gifted high school athletes who have the ambition and potential to represent France on the ski team at the Winter Olympics.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK April 2, 2021: SUGAR DADDY

Stylish and original, director Wendy Morgan’s drama Sugar Daddy is a film that demands your attention. Much like its central character, Darren (Kelly McCormack, who also wrote the screenplay), it’s never gentle, yielding, or meek — rather, it’s bold, complicated, and confident in its artistry. It’s not always easy to watch, but it’s never less than compelling.

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Wendy Morgan on SUGAR DADDY – Jennifer Merin interviews

Some films jump off the screen to announce the arrival of vital new talent. Such is the case with Canadian filmmaker Wendy Morgan’s Sugar Daddy, starring Kelly McCormack in a tour de force performance as Darren, a new age music composer and performer who is trying to break into the record industry. McCormack also wrote the script. Sugar Daddy received its premiere at the Whistler Film Festival 2020, where it was the opening night film, and it has now been selected as AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for April 2, 2021.

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SUGAR DADDY – Review by Jennifer Merin

Sugar Daddy is a beautifully crafted film. Director Wendy Morgan, cinematographer Kristin Fieldhouse and editor Christine Armstrong skillfully tell the story through moving images that subtly indicate shifts of mood and intention as they inform the viewer of Darren’s evolving feelings and circumstances. Kelly McCormack’s brave and intimate performance is simply stunning. As writer and actor, she allows Darren’s story to unfold without explanation or apology. Brava!

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 26, 2021: GROOMED

Both heartbreaking and immensely informative, Gwen van de Pas’ documentary Groomed details the trauma inflicted on her as a child by a trusted adult who betrayed that trust in the most heinous way possible. Decades later, when the long-buried memories of the sexual abuse and rape she suffered resurface as nightmares and panic attacks, she uses filmmaking as a way to process the experience and figure out how to move on.

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LANGUAGE LESSONS (SXSW 21) – Review by Jennifer Merin

Language Lessons is a fine example of pandemic moviemaking at its best. Its conceit is simple, believable and appealing. There is nothing gimmicky about the production. Almost all of the action takes place via the internet — so there’s no need for social distancing and any inherent concern about or danger of contagion is eliminated. The story, essentially a tale of two characters who meet serendipitously on the internet, begins with their first encounter and follows their developing relationship as they, from afar and via the internet, offer each other support during harrowingly emotional experiences.

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GROOMED – Review by Jennifer Merin

Groomed is an intensely personal documentary in which the filmmaker chronicles her own journey to discover the truth about her childhood encounter with a predatory sexual abuser and to recover from the long lasting impact his abuse has had on her life as an adult. Gwen van de Pas, now living in San Francisco with a wonderfully understanding and supportive man, is beset by nightmares and panic attacks and sets out to investigate the cause of them.

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DELIVER US FROM EVIL – Retroview by Jennifer Merin

In her Academy Award nominated (2006) documentary, Deliver Us From Evil, director Amy Berg uses gripping testimony by victims, interviews with expert witnesses and archival footage to reveal the Catholic Church’s shocking cover up of ongoing incidents of child abuse by members of the clergy. The film focuses specifically on the case of Father Oliver O’Grady, the notorious pedophile priest who raped and sodomized hundreds of boys and girls aged nine months through adolescence, and one adolescent victim’s mother, over the course of 20 years.

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