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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NORTH OF NORMAL – Review by Liz Braun

North of Normal is a coming-of-age drama based on the 2014 bestselling memoir of the same name by Cea Sunrise Person. It is the story of childhood in a wildly dysfunctional family and of complicated relationships in general, and filmmaker Carly Stone offers a sensitive take on the tale with a compassionate look at all its characters and terrific performances bringing those characters to life. It’s an intimate and heartfelt portrait of one woman’s journey to security and self-reliance

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Carly Stone on NORTH OF NORMAL, Motherhood and Telefilm Canada – Interview by Liz Braun

Carly Stone was at the American Film Institute in the screenwriting program when she decided to become a writer-director — and that’s exactly what she did. The Toronto native began by volunteering to write The New Romantic (2018). After she’d proved she could write it, she said she thought she could direct it, too. So she did, creating a delightful rom-com about growing up, female ambition, and the brave new world of relationships. The film won her Special Jury Recognition for First Feature at SXSW 2018, and drew a lot of attention to her potential. It didn’t hurt that Telefilm, a Canadian government body that fosters the arts, championed Stone’s work. The certain knowledge that it’s possible to make independent movies in Canada because of Telefilm is one of the reasons Stone moved back to Canada from the U.S.

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ALL MY PUNY SORROWS – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

If you’ve lost someone to suicide, All My Puny Sorrows is not a film to watch. I mean no disrespect to writer/director Michael McGowan or the talented cast. The performances are strong all around, especially from Alison Pill as a woman painfully and poignantly trying to convince her sister that life is worthwhile. Some viewers will nonetheless find this too much to endure.

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AWFJ Movie of the Week, Feb. 23-March 1: MAPS TO THE STARS

Opening Feb. 27, AWFJ’s Movie of the Week is Maps to the Stars, director David Cronenberg’s descent into the dark heart of the film industry. Mia Wasikowska takes the role of Agatha, a new arrival in Hollywood, who finds herself working as a personal assistant to the unhinged actress Havana (Julianne Moore), who is haunted by the ghost of her dead mother and never far away from a complete breakdown. Read on…

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Women Rule Whistler Film Festival – Literally! – Katherine Brodsky reports

Whistler Film Festival (WFF) was founded some 14 years ago by Shauna Hardy Mishaw, who is currently its executive director. WFF, a significant player within the Canadian film fest circuit,i known for its intimate, casual environment, Mishaw’s loyal and tireless admin team consists largely of women, most of whom have been with the festival for years, supporting WFF and setting the stage for film-centric hospitality through which filmmakers and industry honchos mingle, and deals are made not only via scheduled one-on-one meetings, but also in the hot tub or on the ski slopes. Read on…

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