2019 TIFF Movie Review: THERE IS SOMETHING IN THE WATER (Canada 2019) ****

There's Something in the Water Poster
The injustices and injuries caused by environmental racism in her home province, in this urgent documentary on Indigenous and African Nova Scotian women fighting to protect their communities, their land, and their futures.


Ian DanielEllen Page

Born and raised in Nova Scotia, JUNO star Ellen Page does right to bring audiences to the awareness of environmental racism in her home province in this urgent documentary on Indigenous and African Nova Scotian women fighting to project their communities, their land, and their futures. Based on Ingrid Waldron’s incendiary study, the film follows Page as she travels to rural areas of the province that are plagued by toxic fallout from industrial development.

  She interviews Ingrid, Louise Shelburne and Michele, other activists in Nova Scotia.  The devastation of places such as Boat Harbour, once a sanctuary for Indigenous people, now plagued by toxins spewed by a pulp and paper mill is recorded in images and on drawings on screen.  Page tackles the problem head on but simply and effectively.  

The film includes segments where the government and companies talk but do nothing.  There is a clip of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just saying: “Thank you for telling us your problem.”  A remarkable simple and extremely powerful documentary.  I did not expect not expect to be moved to tears.

Trailer: (unavailable)

Film Review: WINDOW HORSES (Canada 2016) ***1/2

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window_horses.jpgDirector: Ann Marie Fleming
Writers: Ann Marie Fleming (screenplay), Maryam Najafi (Cultural Script Consultant)
Stars: Shohreh Aghdashloo, Ellen Page, Sandra Oh

Review by Gilbert Seah

WINDOW HORSES is an animated film about poetry. And one about a protagonist travelling to a poetry conference in the city of Shiraz in Iran. The subject would be enough to scare away audiences. But one of the best films last year was about a bus driver poet entitled PATERSON with Adam Driver, a tremendously moving film. So WINDOW HORSES, another film about poets, is a film that should be given a chance – for it is in its own terms, an equally awesome film – original, cute and with eye-catching animation.

I met writer/director Ann Marie Fleming last year at the Toronto International Film Festival. Humble, quiet and shy, I had heard that she had a film playing called WINDOW HORSES. I was dead curious what her animated movie would be like, after a fellow critic praised her film. Fleming is of mixed race, like her film’s protagonist.

The film begins with a horse observed through a window. The person at the window is young 20-something poet wannabe Rosie Ming (voice of Emmy Winner Sandra Oh) of mixed Chinese/Persian parents) who lives with her loving grandparents (drawn to look especially Chinese) in Vancouver, Canada. Rose publishes her own poems in book called “My Eye Full” by a poet who has never been to Paris.

One thing that stands out about WINDOW HORSES is its charm. The charm is ever present from the film’s characters to the stories right down to the details in the animation. The film is inherently funny with keen observations to family relationships, growing-up, the artistic scene and a whole lot of other issues.

Sandra Oh, who serves as the film’s executive producer lends her talent as the voice (immediately recognizable) of Rosie. Oh has been friends with Fleming for over 20 years and she agreed to do the voice despite her very busy schedule. Besides Oh, the film is filled with other talents such as other Canadian actors Don McKellar (as the German poet) and Ellen Page as Rosie’s funny chatty friend. But the best is old veteran actress, Nancy Kwan (of the Roger and Hammerstein’s FLOWER DRUM SONG and LOVE IS A MANY SPLENDORED THING) as the voice of Rosie’s grandmother.

Fleming’s animation is not super stupendous, but it is colourful (her favourite colour appears to be pink), original, eye-catching and different. While her characters are etched with proper limbs, she give Rosie stick arms and legs. She even pokes fun at her own animation with a watch she wears dangling from her (stick) wrist.

Fleming’s film is also deep in its subject matter. Fleming knows her material and it is clear form her film that she has done sufficient research on Iran and on her poetry. One wonders if the story of her protagonist is biographical.

WINDOW HORSES is a celebration of different cultures, of art, tolerance and the wonders of life. Fleming is clearly an important emerging talent in cinema.

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/155891239


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