THE WATER MAN (TIFF20) – Review by Pam Grady

There was magic at the Toronto International Film Festival when actor David Oyelowo’s directing debut The Water Man made its world premiere. A family drama with a precocious young boy at its center, this Oprah Winfrey-executive produced film is full of equal parts of wonder, charm, and heart. Oyelowo has a sure touch with his actors, coaxing strong performances from all, but what is most impressive is his handling of The Water Man‘s visual elements.

Read more

MLK/FBI (TIFF20) – Review by Pam Grady

Filmmaker Sam Pollard eschews talking head interviews in favor of filling the frame with archival material. The Montgomery bus boycott, the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery, the signing of the Civil Rights Act into law, and other moments, earth-shaking and intimate, are the images that unfurl on screen. The effect is arresting. Pollard doesn’t just bring history to life, but King himself. There he is: living, breathing, changing hearts, minds, and society.

Read more

WOLFWALKERS (TIFF20) – Review by Pam Grady

Balancing a dark picture of the Middle Ages with moments of great humor and images of the magical world, the vintage animation style of this enchanting film perfectly fits its fantastic fable. Based on Irish mythology about wolves, Wolfwalkers is a film that will bewitch children and adults alike.

Read more

GOOD JOE BELL (TIFF20) – Review by Pam Grady

To call the truth-based film a disappointment is an understatement. What might have been a compelling story of a father’s quest for redemption is, instead, a flabby melodrama that plays like one of those old Afterschool Specials. Joe Bell and his family are reduced to symbols of problems that plague society. Flesh-and-blood people deserve better.

Read more

SPRING BLOSSOM (TIFF20) – Review by Pam Grady

Remember the name Suzanne Lindon. If her debut feature, Spring Blossom, is anything to go by, the precocious 20-year-old has a brilliant future ahead of her. Making its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, this smart, evocative coming-of-age drama reveals Lindon in her best light as a writer, director, and actor.

Read more

SHADOW IN THE CLOUD (TIFF20) – Review by Pam Grady

Shadow in the Cloud is like a big hit of dopamine, pure pleasure. Roseanne Liang keeps the tension high and the action flowing, but her ace is the fly girl in the turret. Chloë Grace Moretz inhabits this fearless woman with grace, athleticism, and elan. Ten years after Kick-Ass, she is still a superhero.

Read more

LIMBO (TIFF20) – Review by Pam Grady

A Syrian refugee awaits the deposition of his asylum request in a state of discombobulation on a remote, rural island in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides in writer/director Ben Sharrock’s low-key melancholy drama. This is a drama of observation, character, and mood. Sharrock turned to inspiration for his story to Syrian friends.

Read more

ANOTHER ROUND (TIFF20) – Review by Pam Grady

Though Another Round is an ensemble drama, Mads Mikkelsen stands out in the crowd, one of a quartet of high school teachers who decide to test the crazy theory that maintaining a .05 alcohol level leads to optimum mind and body function. Certainly, staying drunk leads to euphoria in the early going, but in scenes that veer between comedy and melodrama, reality has a way of deflating the buzz.

Read more

Tracey Deer on BEANS, a Personal Story – Pam Grady interviews

Tracey Deer draws from her own life in Beans. Rocks pelting a car she was riding in created a defining moment in Mohawk filmmaker Tracey Deer’s life. It was 1990 and Deer was just 12, a youngster growing up in the Kahnawake First Nations Reserve riding in a caravan of women, elders, and children when stones and racist invective rained down on the group as they crossed the Mercier Bridge.

Read more

Women-made Shorts at TIFF 2020 – Pam Grady reports

Feature films may draw the buzz at film festivals, but shorts are where plenty of gems that are just awaiting for an audience to find them reside. That is certainly true of the Toronto International Film Festival, which even in this pandemic-impacted year, has mounted an impressive slate of five shorts programs. These three, all made by women, are part of TIFF’s Shorts 5 program, described as “journey of discovery.” They certainly are that.

Read more