ENEMIES OF THE STATE (TIFF20) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Investigative journalist and filmmaker Sonia Kennebeck has released her third documentary, Enemies of the State, a confidently executed film that voices a fundamental lack of confidence in the very concept of the ‘truth’ itself when it comes to human beings, their strengths, their passions and their very real darknesses. The film follows the tight-knit DeHart family, devout Christians whose lives were turned upside down when their home was raided in 2010 by the FBI on the grounds that adult son Matt had solicited child pornography.

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SHADOW IN THE CLOUD (TIFF20) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

A woman in extremely difficult circumstances fights to survive and have her professional expertise recognized on her merits in an industry where disgusting, violent sexual predators rise to the top. Shadow in the Cloud is a satisfying genre ride that barrels along at a cracking pace, never sacrificing its thrills for her unwavering focus on gender politics, power, abuse and the perils of being a woman in a male-dominated workplace.

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QUO VADIS, AIDA? (TIFF20) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Quo Vadis, Aida? is a devastating, urgent and brilliant film about the Srebrenica genocide, immersing us deeply in a world of bureaucratic chaos where the human cost of a complete administrative failure is made explicit. Bosnian filmmaker Jasmila Žbanic treads a careful line between not shying away from the precise horrors of what happened, but not exploiting or sensationalizing them, either.

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ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI (TIFF 2020) – Review by Alexandra Heller Nicholas

As early as Lois Weber and Ida Lupino, women have shifted professionally from acting to directing. This is no generalized segue to Regina King and her directorial debut, One Night in Miami: as a director, she is that talented, that important, that pioneering. In 2020 we can save ourselves enormous energy and drama by just handing King and One Night in Miami all the major awards now and save ourselves the circus of pretending any film this year will better it.

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BEANS (TIFF 2020) – Review by Leslie Combemale

Framed by a challenging era in Canadian history, Beans is a good film for mothers and daughters to watch and discuss. Friendship, family, and standing your ground, as complicated as that can, are amplified from a female lens, and from the voice of a woman director who knows the story from personal experience. We could use more of these films to help guide girls through their self discovery, and help families support them on their journey.

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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.

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UNDER THE OPEN SKY (TIFF20) – Review by Alaxendra Heller-Nicholas

This film is unambiguous in its status as a social issues melodrama, with all the pros and cons that combination implies. But at its heart is Koji Yakusho’s moving performance. Under the Open Sky may not be the most original film of the year, but it is undeniably touching, due in large part to the combination of director Miwa Nishikawa and actor Kôji Yakusho’s empathy for complex characters.

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HOLLER (TIFF 2020) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Nicole Riegel’s debut feature Holler is precisely the kind of low-key jewel one attends film festivals for. Playing as part of the TIFF’s Industry Selects program, it may lack the gloss, glitz and red carpet appeal of some bigger name films, but Holler is an almost inexpressibly genuine film that with grace, confidence, empathy and compassion speaks to the present moment in ways far more profound – and moving – than many of its bigger budgeted peers.

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PREPARATIONS TO BE TOGETHER FOR AN UNKNOWN PERIOD OF TIME (TIFF20) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Plot-wise, Preparations to Be Together For an Unknown Period of Time is a film almost temptingly easy to reveal too much about, which in a movie where the process of discovery is the central point would significantly remove many of the elements that make it so intriguing. Eschewing typical cliches, what we discover here instead is a neurological exploration of the crush-turned-romantic-obsession that pivots around the subjectivity of falling in love

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VIOLATION (TIFF20) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

The depth of intelligence, sensitivity, ethical clarity and good old fashioned moxie that filmmakers Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli employ here is quite unlike anything I have ever seen before. Violation is the best film of the year, and demands we rethink questions of consent, virtue, subjectivity and the fantasy of justice to a degree that we are very rarely encouraged to.

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