With the real world being such an awful nightmare, you might ask yourself, what’s the point in watching a movie about real life? Well, first off, some documentaries can provide some much needed hope and joy, or some valuable context to the world around us. Whether they tackle history or the modern day, discuss animals or people, here are five of the best documentaries of this year:
Directed by Brett Morgan, this film tells the story Jane Goodall, her life and her work in the wild with chimpanzees, using interviews with her today and old footage taken in the earlier years of her work. In addition to being an empowering look at Goodall’s work and resilience, it also gives us a narrative of the chimp colony she studied.
2) I Am Not Your Negro
This incredible film, directed by Raoul Peck, mixes archival footage of James Baldwin, Malcolm X, and Martin LutherKing. Samuel L. Jackson narrates the words of James Baldwin, written so long ago but frighteningly relevant to today’s black experience, over footage of black America’s struggles and protests today.
For hundreds of years, thousands of stray cats have roamed the streets of Istanbul, playing, hunting, living, and interacting with the humans around them. Director Ceyda Torun follows around seven of these cats, each with their own names and personalities. This movie is so lovely and gentle, and, for once, shows us a positive, uplifting relationship between people and animals.
4) City of Ghosts
Directed by the award winner Matthew Heinema, this doc is about the citizen journalist group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently (RIBSS), who are attempting, in the most dangerous of conditions, to report on the brutality of ISIS in Syria and the lack of response from the international community. The film also addresses the necessity of journalism and reporting and the many dangers that come with them.
5) One of Us
This intense film on Netflix was co-directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, who you may recognize as the team behind Jesus Camp. The two take on ultra-religious communities once again, telling the story of three former Hasidic Jews who choose to leave their communities as they attempt to find their way in the “real” world and weather the intense backlash from the Hasidic world.
On June 9th, Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott of the New York Times published ‘The 25 Best Films of the 21st Century,‘ a list of films that are “destined to be the classics of the future.” Because I read almost every review the two write, I went through the list and noted down films I haven’t seen that I’d like to see now that they’re meant for even more greatness. A few hours later, the marketing team at TIFF reached out with news of a new Summer-long complete retrospective — the first in 15 years — of the French master, Olivier Assayas whose 2008 film, Summer Hours, graced number #9 on NYT’s list and on top of my to-watch list. What are the chances!
Not all coincidences, it is said, are interesting. Considering that Assayas has long been synonymous with post-1968 generation of French cinema that deal with adolescence, political dissent, terrorism, and globalization, and that Summer Hours won numerous critics’ award around the world, perhaps this particular coincidence falls into the not very interesting category. Yet, it is, nevertheless, a fortuitous one, as I now have the chance to spread the news on TIFF’s ‘Something in the Air: The Cinema of Olivier Assayas.‘
Olivier Assays was a film-critic for France’s Cahiers du cinéma, the prominent film magazine founded by André Bazin, before he became a director. Though he worked both as a director and screenwriter for numerous short and feature-length films alongside film giants like André Téchiné starting in 1978, Cold Water, released in 1994, is considered to be his breakthrough film as it was screened at that year’s Cannes Film Festival. Assayas has since established himself as a distinguished voice among contemporary filmmakers.
Assayas’s oeuvre is marked by the variety of genres. His 1996 satire Irma Vep about an actress (Maggie Cheung) and a failing director who wants to recreate Louis Feuillade’s 1915 classic Les Vampires is a strange and fascinating homage to the filmmaker and Hong Kong cinema. Sentimental Destinies (2000) is a costume drama set in the earl 20th centuries, concerning a Protestant minister. And with Demonlover (2002) and Boarding Gate (2007), Assayays forayed into noir and thriller. More recently, with Carlos (2010), Clouds of Sils Maria (2014), and Personal Shopper (2016), which won the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, Assayas has become a globetrotter. With each genre, however, it is easy to see Assayas’s search for his vision. Encompassing his oeuvre is his rumination on films, film history, and issues of identity in the face of larger disorienting cultural, economic, and political forces.
Summer Hours is interesting in that, for many who’ve come to know Assayas through Carlos and Personal Shopper, it offers a quieter and lyrical side of his oeuvre. The film begins with the 75th birthday of Helene (Édith Scob). Her three children, Frederic (Charles Berling), Adrienne (Juliette Binoche), and Jeremie (Jérémie Renier) gather in Helene’s home outside Paris to celebrate. Soon, Helene dies and leaves the house and her all-important art-nouveau furniture along with her inheritance from her famous artist uncle to her children. What ensues is a series of scenes and dealings with practical matters in which what holds a family together becomes increasingly vague; what was once thought to be a common ground — the house, both literally and figuratively — becomes a point of tension as money, emotions, and personal histories come into play. The center, however contentious and insufficient it had been prior to Helene’s death, does not hold once she is gone. Jeremie moves permanently to Shanghai and Adrienne to New York. Frederic, the only one left in France, struggles to realign himself as the new, albeit reluctant, center of his family of four.
Just next to the adult world of lawyers and contracts, Helene’s grandchildren lead, mostly unseen, entirely different lives. Shown Corot’s works nonchalantly hanging in his grandmother’s house, Frederic’s eldest son responds, “Well, it’s another era.” When Frederic is in the middle of closing a deal with regards to Helene’s furniture, his daughter, Sylvie, is caught shoplifting. That the film ends not in the adult world but with the children speaks to Assayas’s brilliance and vision. The movie that began with Helene and the art or artifacts of her life turns to one concerned with the disorder inherent in a family and becomes one about generations and youth, continuity and the lack thereof in families, cultures, and societies.
As with all great themes in film, family and adolescence and identity are materials that are visited without every really exhausting them. And Assayas’s continually revisits them from unexpected avenues.
As part of TIFF’s ‘Something in the Air: The Cinema of Olivier Assayas,’ Assayas will make four in-person appearances to introduce four of his films: Cold Water, Clean, Le Diable Probablement, and Le Pélican. It is also a chance to see 35mm prints of many of his films, including Summer Hours, Clouds of Sils Maria, and Something in the Air. Finally, it is also a chance to see HHH — Portrait de Hou Hsiao-hsien, Assayas’s documentary of the great Taiwanese director (A Time to Live and a Time to Die by Hou Hsiao-hsien is also a part of the retrospective). The retrospective begins on June 22nd and runs through August 20th.
You can find more information on the retrospective and its schedule here. And continue following our arts & culture coverage on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Movies and costume design go hand in hand. They work with one another to create a fantasy world that neither could create alone. It’s a partnership built on understanding and trust. Like a carefully orchestrated waltz, movies and costume stand together making sure that the landscape that one lays out is mirrored in beauty by the fantasy the other brings to life. Many of the films on this list have actually won their costume designers Academy Awards for best costume design, showing the world that it doesn’t just take beautiful cinematography, a beautiful score, or a very well written script to make an award-winning movie. It takes effort from everyone, including the costume department, to create a cinematic masterpiece.
No article related to costume design in films would be complete without Sofia Coppola‘s modern retelling of the infamous queen of France’s tragic short life. Costume designer Milena Canonero won the Oscar for best costume design for her brilliant work. What sets Marie Antoinette‘s costumes apart from other period dramas is the modernization of the costumes. Even though the gowns were created to look traditionally rococo in appearance, the costumes themselves were based on colour schemes one would find on a delicious dessert tray. Every pastel colour imaginable is spun into frothy gowns trimmed with ostrich feathers and luxurious furs. Even the men’s ensembles were given a glamorously sugary appearance throughout the film.
The Curse of the Golden Flower
Chinese cinema has a plethora of stunning cinematic costumes. Movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, House of Flying Daggers, Hero, and the Great Wall wall are all perfect examples of the lengths Chinese costume designers go to in order to create the perfect wardrobe for a cinematic epic. In The Curse of the Golden Flower, designer Yee Chung-Man took the opulence and over the top extravagance of the Tang Dynasty and weaved them into some of the most intricate and jaw-dropping costumes seen in a very long time. With the backdrop of Forbidden City and its brilliant jewel tone decor, the lavish gold gowns and costumes create the ultimate look of luxury for a movie hellbent on showing its viewers the beauty of colour in film.
Beauty and the Beast
Although this year’s theatrical release of Beauty and the Beast had everyone gawking at Emma Watson’s beautiful yellow gown, the real winner of the Beauty and the Beast costume battle has to be France’s 2014 venture into the iconic Disney fairytale. Designed by Pierre-Yves Gayraud, 2014’s Beauty and the Beast remake took the beauty of the surreal and fused it with traditional fairytales. Giving the movie its traditional fairytale period piece feel while injecting the movie with a fresh and modern ideas.
Memoirs of a Geisha
Colleen Atwood is a costume design heavyweight in Hollywood. Like many of her contemporaries, Colleen’s career is sprinkled with work that has garnered her attention and awards from different cinematic agencies around the world. However, her work on Memoirs of aGeisha proved to be her most fruitful venture thus far, earning her a best costume design Oscar. It took Atwood and her team a total of five months to create the various stunning hand painted kimonos seen throughout the film. One of the most interesting aspects of the film’s costumes is how it shows the characters’ transitions through life. Going from simple and dark, to completely extravagant and stunning.
Belle tells the story of Dido Belle Lindsay, the daughter of a British admiral who is taken from her life of poverty and given the life that any child born of someone high ranking in England would have. Unlike other period dramas on the list, this one deals heavily with racial inequality in aristocratic England. Now, most period dramas are already expected to have stunning wardrobes, but what sets Belle apart from other costume dramas is the detail that goes into the wardrobe’s “personalities.” While watching Belle for the first time you may not notice the subtle changes in wardrobe colour, but on second viewing, one might notice that costume designer Anushia Nieradzik changes the colour of the female characters’ clothing as their characters become more complex and opinionated. Giving the film an extra yet subtle layer for all costume aficionados to feast their eyes one.
Gone With The Wind
What’s an article on costume design without the sweeping Southern period piece that became recognized as one of the greatest novels ever written? Nothing. With the help of Hollywood golden age designer Walter Plunkett, Gone With The Wind set the standard for a romantic Hollywood blockbuster. The sweeping narrative mixed with larger than life characters had to be brought to life through a visual feast of some of the greatest costume work to have ever graced the silver screen. Now, some films may have beautiful costumes, but not many films have the power to etch a scene into your memories with just an image and a dress, yet Scarlet O’Hara’s iconic staircase scene is easily one of the most memorable and recognizable scenes in movie history.
Starring Kate Winslet as a talented designer who’s designed in every fashion capital around the world, The Dressmakertells the story of a woman who comes back home to find the answer to a burning question that would set her free from her past. Set in the glamour of the 1950’s, The Dressmaker sets itself apart from other movies based on the time period by placing stunning gowns among the harsh and bare Australian outback. Allowing designers Marion Boyce and Margot Wilson to create the illusion of placing life into a landscape that is stark and unwilling to change into anything other than what is is.
Anyone who’s ever referenced anything from the ’90s knows exactly the impact this movie had on future generations to come. Along with its cultural importance and trend making power, Clueless helped jumpstart the careers of Alicia Silverstone and Britney Murphy, making them household names overnight. But that isn’t the only reason why Clueless has become one of the most beloved and easily recognizable movies to date. It was also through designer Mona May’s astounding costuming for the movie that solidified its place in pop culture history. I mean, who could ever forget the iconic canary yellow skirt suit, the Calvin Klein mini dress, or the Alaia?
Easily heralded as one of the most visually stunning movies to have ever graced the silver screen, Moulin Rouge!was also a triumph for costume lovers around the world. Designers Catherine Martin and Angus Strathie took home the Academy Award for best costume design for their visually stunning work on Moulin Rouge! Mixing modern sexiness into old world Parisian cabaret, Moulin Rouge! presents a feast for the eyes in the form of costumes that pair perfectly with whatever musical number is playing on the screen at the time. Giving the film a heightened sense of pleasure and fantasy among an all too traditional and recognizable world.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Revered as the greatest triumph of modern day costume design, Elizabeth: The Golden Age’s is Alexandra Byrne’s an Oscar-winning cornucopia of opulence and excess. Everything about the grandiosity of Queen Elizabeth is presented beautifully through her vast wardrobe throughout the movie. Unlike other films on this list, Byrne’s costuming is so extensive and detailed that the clothing itself could stand alone and still command the attention of an entire room without question. Paired with Cate Blanchet’s extraordinary performance as England’s most legendary monarch fueled with a passion for her country and the tension brought on by an oncoming onslaught of Spanish warships. Elizabeth stands as the costume designer’s pearl draped and gold threaded magnum opus.
The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival (Reel Asian), presented by National Bank celebrates its 19th annual edition from November 5 – 15, 2015 with high-profile guests from around the world, screening venues in Toronto, North York, and Richmond Hill, and a special exhibition by acclaimed Canadian filmmaker and artist, Randall Okita. This year, Reel Asian will present 72 films from over 10 regions including Afghanistan, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Canada and the United States.
There is a great selection of films screening this year with more international guests in attendance including: David ‘Mas’ Masumoto (Changing Season: On the Masumoto Farm), Director Philip Yung (Port of Call), Director Benson Lee and Actress Rosalina Leigh (Seoul Searching), and many more including Indonesian cinematic film, Siti and Miss India America.
For more information and to purchase your tickets to the festival, visit: www.reelasian.com/festival
Enter promo code “orbit19” to receive 25% off regular tickets when you purchase online.
Attention all movie lovers. The fourth annual TIFF Next Wave Film Festival™ is on next week starting Friday, February 13th and will run until Sunday, February 15th. This film festival allows youth aged 14 to 18 to experience cinema from all over the world including films from Poland, France, Taiwan, Germany, Netherlands, Australia, United Kingdom, United States and Canada.
What makes this film festival incredibly unique is that the committee is formed of a voluntary advisory team of 12 young students who are passionate about film. The committee has carefully selected a roster of films that are transcendent to their generation discussing issues their peers deal with everyday. There are captivating films about breakdancing, gender identity, immigration and rock photography.
The opening night will feature Battle of the Scores, where six high school bands will perform their original soundtrack for a short film scene directed by Nate Wilson. Other events include the Talent Lab and the films from the winners of the 24-Hour Film Challengewill be screened on Sunday, February 15th. Plus special guests Hannah Murray (Game of Thrones and Skins) and Jessica Rothe will be in attendance for the world premiere of Lily & Kat.
Check out the list of films being screened at the film festival HERE.
But ticketstoday for a moving cinematic experience and explore important issues youth face. Free film screenings apply to high school students.