THEY SAY IT CAN’T BE DONE – Review by Liz Braun

They Say It Can’t Be Done is a fascinating new documentary that just might renew your faith in human ingenuity. The film features a handful of people working on brilliant solutions to such major global problems as climate change and food shortages. What’s involved are things such as lab-grown human organs for life-saving transplant, real chicken nuggets made without harming an animal and a gizmo that looks a bit like your gran’s old drying rack that sucks harmful carbon out of the air. To most laypeople it’s the stuff of science fiction, but it’s all real and happening now.

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NINA WU – Review by Liz Braun

It’s possible to admire a film without particularly liking it. Filmmaker Midi Z’s Nina Wu concerns an actress mistreated by the film industry, a disturbing tale of debasement that implicates all involved, including the viewer. It’s a film about filmmaking, and the hard reality that underpins all that fantasy. Expect to be uncomfortable. Ke-Xi Wu — who wrote and stars here — drew from her own experiences as an actor to create this vaguely hallucinogenic outing about a #MeToo work experience involving mental and physical exploitation.

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THE UNITED STATES VS BILLIE HOLIDAY – Review by Liz Braun

There was a lot of pain and conflict in Billie Holiday’s short life, all of it right there in the music. That music is the saving grace of The United States vs. Billie Holiday, a new biopic about the legendary jazz singer that stars Andra Day and is directed by Lee Daniels, with a screenplay by Suzan-Lori Parks. It’s an uneven and often melodramatic undertaking, suffering from what looks like an inability to leave anything out. The United States vs. Billie Holiday won’t tell you anything new about Billie Holiday but it functions as lovely window dressing for Andra Day’s extraordinary singing talent.

It’s an uneven and often melodramatic undertaking, suffering from what looks like an inability to leave anything out

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RUTH – JUSTICE GINSBERG IN HER OWN WORDS – Review by Liz Braun

Ruth – Justice Ginsburg In Her Own Words is yet another look at the diminutive woman who became a giant of jurisprudence. It seems impossible that any new material about Ruth Bader Ginsburg is still out there, but this film from Freida Lee Mock uses Ginsburg’s own words to both outline the professional and offer a glimpse of the personal.

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YALDA, A NIGHT FOR FORGIVENESS – Review by Liz Braun

Maryam has been imprisoned for the murder of her much older husband. Luckily, she has a chance to escape the death penalty by appearing on a reality TV show where she can beg her late husband’s family for forgiveness. This is the surreal setting for filmmaker Massoud Bakhshi’s feminist drama about contemporary Iranian life — the most surreal element being that such a reality TV show actually exists. Whatever passes for forgiveness or compassion here is mostly about money, and when the talk show host says, “There’s divine mercy in forgiveness,” you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

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HONEY BEE – Review by Liz Braun

Honey Bee is an affecting drama about a trafficked teenage girl who gets a chance at self-discovery. Every element of the film involves clear-eyed storytelling, and not a single sound or sight has anything showy or extraneous about it. There’s nothing standing in the way of complete emotional investment.

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KINDRED – Review by Liz Braun

Kindred is a psychological thriller, but not exactly as advertised. The film is about a pregnant, grieving woman trapped in the house of her malevolent in-laws; for scary material, ‘pregnant’ would have covered it. All the horror hallmarks are here — ominous ravens, isolated locations, keening string music — but the dark heart of the story is maternal instinct.

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MOST WANTED – Review by Liz Braun

A sordid chapter in Canadian law enforcement history provides the material for Most Wanted, a new crime thriller from Quebec director Daniel Robby. Bad cops, petty criminals and drug smuggling are the landscape here, with a junkie named Daniel Leger at the centre of the story. It happened 30 years ago, when investigative journalism still existed and the internet did not. The story would never have been told but for the work of award-winning reporter Victor Malarek, the key character in the film.

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SPOTLIGHT October 2020: Joana Vicente, TIFF-Maker, Indie Producer and Film Activist

Joana Vicente’s first year as co-head of the Toronto International Film Festival was a triumph. The transplanted New Yorker oversaw a TIFF that had all the bases covered: superb films, A-list movie stars in attendance, initiatives in place to level the playing field for filmmakers (and journalists) and all the razzle dazzle required to make the festival a magnet for industry, audience and tourism dollars. Her second TIFF happened in a pandemic. It too was a triumph.

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OLIVER SACKS: HIS OWN LIFE -Review by Liz Braun

Oliver Sacks: His Own Life is an engaging and moving account of a truly extraordinary life. And you need know nothing about the revered British neurologist and prolific author to be completely engaged by Ric Burns’ fine documentary. It does seem safe to predict a sudden increase in sales of Sacks’ books after the documentary is released.

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