MLK/FBI – Review by Pam Grady

Filmmaker Sam Pollard doesn’t just bring history to life, but Dr. Martin Luther King himself. There he is: living, breathing, changing hearts, minds, and society. MLK/FBI serves as a timely reminder. Set in a past that is rapidly receding, it speaks directly to the era we are living through now with a politicized FBI and Justice Dept. Hoover was a villain who misused his office to persecute a man whose only crime was leading the fight for equal rights. Hoover’s heirs are still at it, with more sophisticated surveillance equipment and more targets, people who wear bullseyes on their backs simply for advocating for justice and change. It is institutional behavior that was and is the nation’s shame.

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WOLFWALKERS – Review by Martha Baker

In a time, not so far from our own, really, wolves were seen as Satanic and, per the Book of Genesis, Mother Nature was to be dominated. In that vein, the wondrous animated film, Wolfwalkers, commingles superstition and magic in an homage to red-haired girls with voice and vote — and moxie.

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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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WEEK IN WOMEN: Chloe Zhao’s NOMADLAND Update – Brandy McDonnell reports

Chloé Zhao’s acclaimed drama Nomadland, starring Oscar winner Frances McDormand, made its NY premiere on September 26 as the Centerpiece film at the 58th New York Film Festival, Earlier this month, the film was lauded with the Golden Lion this year at the 77th Venice International Film Festival and awarded the Grolsch People’s Choice Award at the 45th Toronto International Film Festival. It is the first film to hold both honors.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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TRUE MOTHERS (TIFF20) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

True Mothers is first and foremost a movie about feeling in every sense of the word. Naomi Kawase’s emphasis on ‘feeling’ is harmonized as physical and emotional; the film is punctuated by a steady stream of close ups of hands, highlighting their gestural capacity to communicate complex feelings without words, but also to connection with another person through touch.

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