Rachel Lambert talks SOMETIMES I THINK ABOUT DYING – Rachel West Interviews

After debuting at the Sundance Film Festival in 2023, director Rachel Lambert’s Sometimes I Think About Dying is opening in theatres this week. The film follows Fran (Daisy Ridley), a woman who likes to think about dying. Finding an unexpected connection with a new colleague at work (Dave Merheje), Fran explores her idea of identity and loneliness as she finds new modes of human connection. AWFJ’s Rachel West spoke with Lambert about her new film, working with Daisy Ridley, and how three women came together to not only get the film made, but have it play the opening night of Sundance.

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WE WILL BE BRAVE – Review by Rachel West

Centering the story on racialized men, non-binary persons, and LGBTQ+ men in Toronto, documentarian Crisann Hessing gets up close and personal with her subjects as they explore their masculinity through the local Good Guise collective. For Good Guise, it’s all about healing by sparking healthy conversations about modern masculinity through art, connecting to one’s inner emotions and cultural history through a variety of artistic expressions whether that’s the breathwork involved in beatboxing or channelling frustration and anger into poetry or finding meditation to soothe years of shame and guilt over sexual identity. Above all, the men in the film eschew the perpetually damaging idea that men must face their struggles alone to conform to their masculine identity.

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LEE (TIFF 2023) – Review by Rachel West

Once an artist’s muse, Lee Miller revolutionized the way the world looked at wartime photography. Now, first-time director Ellen Kuras is telling her story in the compelling portrait, Lee, featuring another awards-worthy performance by Kate Winslet. Lee sets out to tell a straightforward story of Miller’s life and it does it quite well. Kuras makes sure that Miller’s story is front and centre at all times. It is her journey we are meant to follow as viewers are guided through her photographs, including her infamous portrait in Hitler’s bathtub.

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LA CHIMERA (TIFF 2023) – Review by Rachel West

Move over, Indiana Jones, there’s a new tomb-raiding archaeologist in town in Alice Rohrwacher’s madcap Italian tragi-comedy, La Chimera. Rohrwacher imbues the film with her unique style that feels loose and luxurious. Like the mythical chimera composed of incongruous body parts, the film is a gorgeous blend of style and substance. The story clips along with fast-motion sequences and silent film techniques which paint a truly original picture. Director of Photography Hélène Louvart plays with visuals and aspect ratios using 35mm, 16mm and Super 16 while editor Nelly Quettier brings further oddball energy to the the screen with jump cuts against a soundtrack of infectious Italian rock, folk, and electro-pop.

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SWAN SONG (TIFF 2023) – Review by Rachel West

Director Chelsea McMullan takes the camera backstage of the National Ballet of Canada’s 2022 production of Swan Lake, choreographed for the first time by Artistic Director Karen Kain. Kain, who famously debuted in the ballet in 1971, is not only one of Canada’s most famous dancers but is recognized around the world. Now, after over 50 years with the company, Swan Lake is her, well, swan song, as she gracefully faces retirement with one last meaningful artistic vision: a Swan Lake that will resonate with contemporary audiences. Swan Song offers an intimate look at the National Ballet of Canada like we have never seen before. With outstanding visuals and gorgeous production, by the time the final curtain falls, it is impossible not to have a deeper appreciation and love of ballet. It is not to be missed.

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Sara Margrethe Oskal on THE TUNDRA WITHIN ME (TIFF 2023) – Rachel West interviews

In her first directorial debut feature, Sara Margrethe Oskal turned to her homeland for inspiration. A former reindeer herder, Oskal left her Sámi community in northern Norway to venture south where she is a successful artist and writer. Now, it’s her past that is giving inspiration for her first film, The Tundra Within Me. Some of the conversation in the film revolves around female reindeer herders who don’t wish to be singled out for doing the same jobs as men. It’s an interesting dichotomy and one that is echoed well beyond the borders of northern Norway.

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THE TUNDRA WITHIN ME (TIFF 2023) – Review by Rachel West

In her debut directorial feature film, writer-director Sara Margrethe Oskal paints a vividly loving portrait of the Sámi community in northern Norway in the semi-autobiographical The Tundra Within Me Exploring the universal themes of belonging, love, and forgiveness, The Tundra Within Me is truly a love letter to Sámi people bridging their own traditions with the pressures of the modern world. It succeeds on so many levels, it is nearly impossible to single out just one highlight. It’s truly a must-see.

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WOODLAND (TIFF 2023) – Review by Rachel West

A naked woman tilts her head back and screams into the sky in the opening frames of Elisabeth Scharang’s Woodland. It’s a compelling and bold way to begin a film that will quietly tell a story filled with anger, fear, trauma, forgiveness, and, ultimately, healing. Woodland is inspired by Doris Knecht’s novel Wald and Scharang’s personal experience witnessing a 2020 terrorist attack by a shooter in Vienna which left four people dead and 23 others injured. A soul-searching drama, Woodland is an appropriately moody and healing experience that should resonate with audiences.

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SEAGRASS (TIFF 2023) – Review by Rachel West

In her debut directorial feature film Seagrass, writer-director Meredith Hama-Brown explores complex themes of identity and feminism drawn from her own personal experiences growing up in a mixed-race household. Hama-Brown manages to pack a lot of themes into Seagrass but the film never feels overstuffed. There are uncomfortable moments as marriages and relationships are challenged, but the dynamic between the four leading adults is expertly captured on-screen. A fragmented family remains fragmented, but perhaps they’re each more aware of the roles they play.

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Meredith Hama-Brown on SEAGRASS (TIFF 2023) – Rachel West interviews

Meredith Hama-Brown makes her directorial feature film debut with the assured Seagrass, premiering at TIFF. Partly drawing inspiration from her own experience, the film is set over a summer getaway at a family couples’ retreat where Japanese-Canadian Judith (a radiant Ally Maki) and her white husband Steve (Luke Roberts) can work on their strained marriage while their young daughters Stephanie (Nyha Breitkreuz) and Emmy (Remy Marthaller) explore the retreat’s Pacific coastline. Here, they meet another mixed-race couple Pat (Chris Pang) and Carol (Sarah Gadon) who seem to have the perfect relationship. Still reeling from the death of her mother, Judith confronts her own identity as a wife, mother, and woman of mixed heritage while her daughters’ experience their own coming-of-age journeys.

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