Film Review: RIVER & OAK, Documentary

Played at the March 2017 DOCUMENTARY Festival

  MOVIE POSTERRIVER & OAK, 13min, Canada
Directed by James Malekzadeh

As Toronto’s Regent Park Housing project is demolished and rebuilt for the second time in its history, two women reflect on the complicated past of their neighbourhood. Through archival footage, the past is brought to the present and the audience is left to decide whether the current revitalization is the best solution for the residents of this often overlooked community.

Review by Kierston Drier:

This Canadian gem, directed by James Malekzadeh, speaks closely to anyone who has ever been affected by urban sprawl. River and Oak follows the lives of a handful of honest, hard working humans who lived and loved Regent Park before the area’s housing project was demolished to make way for upscale (and highly priced) replacement housing.

The interwoven stories of two women show their connection to the place and the people, now pushed out of their historical homes.

Gentrification is a hot topic anywhere that housing is at a premium. While it may boost economy and local real estate, the human displacement is another issue. A population linked to the city by employment, family or any other necessity must remain in the area but where do they go?

River and Oak can not give us an answer to that question. All it can give us is a human look at real people who remind us that your postal code does not reflect the content of your character.

Passionate, strong and hitting-close-to-home, River and Oak reminds us what it means to be neighbours and what forgetting that can cost.

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Film Review: THE GENTLEMAN NEXT DOOR, Documentary

Played at the March 2017 DOCUMENTARY Festival

  MOVIE POSTERTHE GENTLEMAN NEXT DOOR, 16min, USA
Directed by John Mollison

Sometimes the old man next door turns out to also be a young man of a different, violent age.

Review by Kierston Drier:

 “When a man dies a library is burned”. That may very well be the theme of John Mollison’s documentary The Gentleman Next Door, a heart wrenching and touching look at one man’s journey through World War Two. To many he is simply the sweet, always giggling elderly neighbour, slight of build and frequently smiling.

But behind his gentle British accent and kind eyes is a tale of service in the name of his country during one of the most horrific wars of the 20th century. John Wilkinson was just a boy when he entered the war to be a pilot, and was exceptionally good at his job. He kept meticulous records, and took great care his equipment, items that are now considered priceless antiques.

John Wilkinson is impossible to not love. You hear him speak and you feel as if you have always known him. His disposition is bright, cheerful, and he talks almost fondly of his time in the service. A keen eye though, will see him change topics when asked to discuss the darker bits of his work. The keen eye will see his smile flicker, and a shadow dim his eyes when he talks of watching concentration camp liberations at the end of the war.

John Wilkinson, no doubt, was part of a generation taught that war was noble, honest, just and filled with glory. That generation lived those words, and many paid a dear price to uphold them. Today, many of us see war in a less than glorified light. But the shifting public opinion does not change the sacrifices made by so many. Untold numbers lost their lives, and some, like John, lost their youth and innocence.

What makes John’s story beautiful, touching, and unforgettable is his bright and sunny disposition. It is hard to believe a person so gentle has seen and been part of so many horrors and when asked, he brushes those horrors aside. John Wilkinson’s story, is a story of courage and bravery. It is never more noticed, than how effectively he can mask those tragedies behind a genuine smile. No one will tell you war is a good thing, but good people fight in them. John Wilkinson is one.

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Film Review: THE BODY I LIVE IN, Documentary

Played at the March 2017 DOCUMENTARY Festival

  MOVIE POSTERTHE BODY I LIVE IN, 7min, USA
Directed by Sam Davis-Boyd

A personal-narrative documentary that follows Sam Boyd on her journey of self-love and acceptance, in a world that tells fat women they don’t deserve it. There is a large cultural narrative about female attractiveness, especially fat woman’s attractiveness (or lack thereof) that pervades fat women from feeling like they deserve to be loved, respected and wanted by another human being in a romantic way.

Review by Kierston Drier:

 Exceptionally strong and unwaveringly brave The Body I Live In directed by Sam Davis-Boyd, follows the narrative story of an American woman on the journey of love. Not romantic love, she’s found that, by means of a caring and supportive fiance.

But the love for herself is another story entirely. Despite being a beautiful, funny, inspiring woman, Sam is plus size. She grapples with the emotional and social repercussions of this everyday.

In Sam’s journey, we see her family, her partner and herself talking openly and honestly about what it means to live in their bodies and how it is to see Sam in hers.

This director should be commended for the honesty she puts into her work, and the very real world she puts the audience in. More importantly, this film leaves no easy answers, but still manages to show us unbreakable positivity. Sam has a rich full life, lacking in nothing sweet, loving or wonderful, and she knows it. For those watching The Body I Live In, there is much to love.

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Film Review: INTO THE DARK (2017)

Played at the January 2017 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film Festival

  MOVIE POSTERINTO THE DARK, 14min, USA, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Directed by Lukas Hassel

Sometime in the future, two men strapped in back to back, on a journey from Moon to Earth. Real Justice. Just Reality.

Review by Kierston Drier

 Director and main actor Lukas Hassel, brings to us the intense drama that is Into The Dark. A film that starts with no easy explanation, we open on our hero in a two person ship jetting through space. He is strapped in a pod, which is pressed back to back with his traveling partner, a slightly more optimistic fellow, we never see, but do hear. The discourse the two share is a fascinating breakdown of two people with completely different goals. Our hero’s counterpart seems to want to make a friend during this journey, and yet our hero seems bent on controlling what little he can, including the conversation. What is uncovered is that both our characters are in the process of paying the ultimate price for wrong doings we never learn about. The twist? It’s being live broadcast from space to the general public for entertainment and as a guard against other potential wrongdoers.

Fascinating as the concept alone is, Into The Dark has much to unpack for its short fourteen minutes. A prediction on the future of reality television? Maybe. A commentary on justice and the nature of punishment? Possibly. But what really hits this piece out of the park, as a piece of cinematic entertainment, is the acting. Hassel is our main character, and due to the nature of the film, nearly the entire piece is a close up on him, almost completely unmoving, in a tiny space. This is a dangerous and daring choice in filmmaking. It runs the risk of creating visual stagnation. Yet every moment in this piece is riveting. This is testament to intense and dramatic filmmaking, that is utterly simple, and that indicates incredible story telling.

A classic science-fiction in its form and function, Into The Dark nevertheless fails to entertain with dramatic and exceptionally engaging characters, story and twist.

 
Watch the Audience Feedback Video of the Short Film:


 

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Movie Review: 20:15 (2016)

  MOVIE POSTER20:15, 12min., Canada, Sci-Fi/Thriller
Directed by Marc-Andre Morissette

20:15 is a drama-mystery, sci-fi thriller in which we follow the lives of a mysterious man and a loving couple. Their lives will forever be changed once their two worlds collide.

Shown at the September 2016 Sci-Fi/Fantasy FEEDBACK Film Festival

Movie Review by Kierston Drier

 20:15 from Canadian director Marc-Andre Morisette is a dramatic and impassioned piece played out with almost no dialogue. A stylistic choice that nevertheless heightens the tension of the story. After the horrific loss of his partner by an unknown gunman, our hero becomes obsessed on a machine, hell bent on using his present to somehow fix his past.

Full of graceful shots, excellent camera work and beautiful muted tones, this piece is poetically beautiful to watch. The story is engaging and the twist is satisfying, with a thought provoking ending that is sure to be a conversation starter.

Morisette’s choice to limit the diegetic sound in his piece gives this film a distinctive avant-garde tone. It changes the cinematic experience for the audience. A more traditional film may create the feeling that you are immersed in a real-life story, perhaps not even aware that you are watching a film at all, and instead standing invisible observing the lives of the characters.

20:15’s stylized choices give the distinct feeling that you are watching a piece of Art, where the stylistic choices are equal to the plot of the piece itself. Morisette’s movie has a mysterious tone, with notes of Film Noir. It is a film that feels like it provides cultural capitol as well as entertainment.

Lovely devices tie the story together and thoughtfully composed music and sound composition elevate the piece to a more refined level. A film that may not be everyones’ preference, but certainly an enjoyable watch.

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Movie Review: A SHADOW OF DARA (2016)

  MOVIE POSTERA SHADOW OF DARA, 14min., Bulgaria, Sci-Fi
Directed by Kirill Proskura

A leader of a rebellion risks everything to find a powerful commander of an alien world who’s been captured by enemies and put into a fabricated reality for the extraction of valuable information.

Shown at the September 2016 Sci-Fi/Fantasy FEEDBACK Film Festival

Movie Review by Kierston Drier

Science Fiction lovers are a tough crowd. Pleasing them requires so many things; a knock-out, often high-concept story, with an unbeatable twist, compelling and thematic world building and epic stakes. This is on top of the already compulsory requirements of good production value, solid performances and strong story elements.

Enter A Shadow Of Dara, directed by Kirill Proskura, an edge of your seat science fiction that boasts intensity, polish and turns to keep you guessing until the every last frame. Quickly paced and excellently performed, this is the tale of the chosen leader of an alien world who must fight against being trapped in an artificial reality, in order to not reveal important information to his enemies. Once he is able to break free from his false-reality changes, however, he must team up with members of another planet (coming to him from the future) to avoid loosing both worlds as they know it.

If there is any flaw to be had in this otherwise very well composed piece of sci-fi cinema, it is that it’s highly condensed manner can muddle the details and make it hard to follow. Conversely, the piece is strong enough to warrant a second watch. Full of details and gripping good versus evil, the piece has multiple twists and turns. The final moment in the film provides a great ending, and leaves the audience wanting more.

Hailing from Bulgaria, A Shadow Of Dara could be a proof on concept for an excellent feature, where its’ themes will make nods to well loved films like Inception and the entire evil-alien genre. Regardless anyone with an appetite for a good science fiction film would enjoy this film. It will keep you wanting more.

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Movie Review: JAILBREAK (2016)

  MOVIE POSTERJAILBREAK, 1min., USA, Animation/Crime
Directed by Alise Munson

Shot in black and white, “Jailbreak” follows the daring escape of a prisoner fleeing his cell and his quest for sweet punishment. The animated short from HouseSpecial Director Aaron Sorenson is a German Expressionist-inspired design mash-up of stop-motion and illustration with a decidedly adult twist.

Seen at the August 2016 ANIMATION FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto.

Movie Review by Kierston Drier

Jail Break coming to us from the USA and directed by Alise Munson is a delight for the senses.

The curious duet of stop-motion and art illusion is superb creating a reality and
otherworldliness that is both engaging and visually decadent.

The animation in this piece is detailed, lush and highly satisfying. The story packs of humourous punch for so short a film coming in at just under one minute in length. You can’t help but side with our hard bitten hero, a complex criminal with some choice eclectic tastes.

Jail Break follows our criminal hero as he escapes from prison, narrowly missing guards and various obstacles only to get himself chained up in another, more pleasureably sense.

Comic irony that adults will enjoy, and might just go over the heads of a young audience. (Hopefully.)

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