Difret

Difret chronicles a legal-precedent setting court case that outlawed an Ethiopian tradition. The story starts when Hirut (Tizita Hagere) (Fictional name), a 14-year-old girl from a small rural village, is abducted by a group of horsemen. One of them wants Hirut to marry him. He rapes her. If she becomes pregnant, he will then marry her. Hirut tries to escape and shoot her rapist with his own shotgun. Hirut is brought to the police and charged with murder. This could mean the death penalty. Lawyer Meaza Ashenafi (Meron Getnet) (Real name) from Adinet Women’s Lawyers Association is called to defend Hirut. But Ashenafi has to deal with the local police an uncooperative district attorney. We can feel the lawyer’s frustrations as she tries to help her client as best she can. Meanwhile at the village, a tribunal of men have exiled Hirut, forbidden her to go there. And the family of the man she killed are threatening to kill her if she goes back home. Although this is a fiction film and some of the facts may have been changed. One example: Time is compressed. The case started in 1996 and lasted 8 years. The young girl was 22 when it was over. In Difret, she remains a teenager throughout the film. Except for a few professional actors (Meron Getnet among them), most are non-professional. It looks and sounds real and authentic. Getnet and Hagere are particularly touching in scenes of Hirut sleeping at the lawyer’s apartment. The young girl seems surprised to see that a woman can be independent and without a husband. I understand that there is disputes about the importance given to lawyer Ashenafi in the film, but this is such an important film to see. The law has changed but this is still happening in some area of Ethiopia. Bravo to director Zeresenay Mehari for this first feature film and to executive producer Angelina Jolie.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Difret

Directed by:
Zeresenay Mehari

Screenplay by:
Zeresenay Mehari

Starring:
Meron Getnet
Tizita Hagere
Haregewine Assefa

99 min.

RatedParental Guidance

In Amharic with English subtitles

 

Une nouvelle amie (The new girlfriend)

François Ozon is my favorite French director. His characters are so complex, which contrasts with Ozon’s campy aesthetics. Une nouvelle amie is François Ozon by way of Pedro Almodóvar. Claire (Anaïs Demoustier) and Laura (Isild Le Besco) have been friends since childhood. When Laura meets and marries David (Romain Duris), you can see that Claire wishes she was in David’s place. Then Claire falls in love with Gilles (Raphaël Personnaz). When Laura dies, David is left alone to raise his baby daughter. On an impromptu visit Claire walks in on David in full drag with his baby daughter in his arm. Claire is at first shocked and even calls David a “pervert”, but she promises to not tell anyone. David is not gay, she learns. Like most male to female crossdressers, David is straight. She tells Gilles she made a new friend: Virginia. On another day Claire and Virginia go shopping to buy new clothes for Virginia. They also go to a drag queen show together. David shares the same secret with Claire he shared with Laura. And after the lost of Laura, Claire has now found a new girlfriend. Every one has secrets in this film, and there is a hint that Gilles also leads a double life. From the instant you see Romain Duris, you know that something is askew. His David seems so androgynous. Ozon does that consciously. For most of Une nouvelle amie, Ozon shows us Claire and David/Virginia’s awkwardness as they grapple with conflicting issues: sexual attraction or friendship, male or female, gay or straight, crossdressing or transgenderism. And the director keeps them (and us) guessing until the last scenes where there is an affirmation of self and life. It’s like Duris plays on a tightrope. Does he play a man dressing as a woman, a woman or a man slowly becoming a woman? But Demoustier has the best moment in the film when she sings an a capella version of Nicole Croisille’s Une femme avec toi.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Une nouvelle amie (The new girlfriend)

Directed by:
François Ozon

Screenplay by:
François Ozon
Based on a short story by Ruth Rendell

Starring:
Romain Duris
Anaïs Demoustier
Raphaël Personnaz
Isild Le Besco
Aurore Clément

108 min.

In French with English subtitles

 

How to change the world

How to change the world is an engrossing documentary about the beginning of what is known today as the Greenpeace organization. It started in 1969 when a group of Vancouver hippies went to the Amchitka island in Alaska to stop an underground nuclear detonation. Back then they called themselves the “Don’t make a wave committee”. They did not succeed, but they went back in 1971 to stop an even bigger nuclear test. The archival footage of that detonation is scary. When you treat the earth this way, there surely must be an impact. In 1975 journalist Bob Hunter led an expedition against the Soviet whaling fleet. Once again there are films (some of it never seen before) showing the Russians harpoon and killing whales and they are extremely hard to watch. There was other battles, like the seal hunters and their meeting with French actress Brigitte Bardot. Today, Greenpeace has gone international, to the disapproval of some of the founding members. Others have left to start their own, more radical environmental group. And one is now an outspoken proponent of nuclear energy and skeptical of human responsibilities for climate change. Who would’ve thunk?

Rémi-Serge Gratton

How to change the world

Directed by:
Jerry Rothwell

Screenplay by:
Jerry Rothwell

111 min.

RatedParental Guidance

 

She’s beautiful when she’s angry

She’s beautiful when she’s angry is Mary Dore’s documentary about the rise of feminism of the 1960s and early 1970s. These days, “feminist” has become a dirty word for some young women who feel they don’t need to bother because they already have everything they need. With perfect timing this film shows us what life was like then, what the American women’s movement did about it and points towards what else has to be changed. Betty Friedan’s 1963 book The feminine mystique radicalized most women. You hear about “consciousness raising” where women would share their collective problems and together find ways to fight for equality. The abortion debate was a very hot and controversial topic at the time. Author Rita Mae Brown came out of the closet as did a lot of women. It was time for experimentation. Tired of the cat-calls they would get from men, young women took to the streets to give the men a taste of their own medicine. This is all shown through archival footage and interviews with women. This is a fun film that covers the beginning of this very important movement. But there is still a lot of work to be done.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

She’s beautiful when she’s angry

Directed by:
Mary Dore

92 min.

Rated Parental Guidance

 

The diary of a teenage girl

I was initially shocked by The diary of a teenage girl, and then I was won over by its gutsy unconventional story and the main cast. Bel Powley stars as 15-year-old Minnie Goetze. We are in 1970s and she is living in San Francisco with her mother, Charlotte (Kristen Wiig). Minnie seems to thinking about sex all the time. With the sexual revolution and drugs, it’s only normal for a young person to want to experiment. She grabs a tape recorder (Ah! The 70s) and start recording her diary. We learn how she seduced her mother’s boyfriend, Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård). Of course Monroe is a willing participant and responds to her taunts in kind and they end up having sex. This goes on for a long time as Monroe and Minnie are addicted to one another and they don’t seem to recognize how unhealthy and abusive this relation is. Boys Minnie’s age find her sexual appetite intimidating and too intense. Based on the graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner, the film occasionally inserts Sara Gunnarsdottir’s animation to illustrate Minnie’s love of drawing and of cartoonist Aline Kominsky. The film grew on me. The chemistry between Powley (what a find!) and Skarsgård is effective, especially in the more dramatic moments. And SNL alumni Kristen Wiig is also remarkable in a subtle and understated performance. Some will find The diary of a teenage girl shocking, others will be titillated, either way it is a film that is worth a look.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

The diary of a teenage girl

Directed by:
Marielle Heller

Screenplay by:
Marielle Heller
Based on the graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner

Starring:
Bel Powley
Alexander Skarsgård
Kristen Wiig
Madeleine Waters
Christopher Meloni

102 min.

Rated 18A

 

A LEGO brickumentary

I have no idea who is the target audience for this documentary. The only people who might , will probably be, be interested in A LEGO brickumentary are the geeks that spend their week-ends building motorized life-sized jeeps made of Lego bricks. Well, to be fair, they are not all geeks…? I’m sure? Following the success of The Lego movie ($257.8 million in North America, and $210.3 million internationally, for a worldwide total of $468.1 million), it is fun to watch where it started, and are people doing around the world with the construction toys. For instance, there are stop-motion animation films being made. They are more difficult to make than The Lego movie who was computer animated. And also some artist building replicas of famous work of art, like the Mona Lisa or the Venus de Milo made of Lego. These, and others, are simply beautiful to watch. But not for a feature film documentary. And don’t worry. Hey, we’re all geeks. So if Lego are your things, you’ll like that film.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

A LEGO brickumentary

Directed by:

Kief Davidson

Daniel Junge

Screenplay by:

Davis Coombe

Kief Davidson

Daniel Junge

Narrated by Jason Bateman

90 min.

Rated General

 

 

Samba

Four years after the release of their international box-office sensation, Intouchables, writer-directors Olivier Nakache, Éric Toledano and actor Omar Sy release their new film, Samba. Sy plays Samba, a Senegalese immigrant. Without the proper papers it is hard for Samba to find a job, and there is the possibility he might be deported at any time. He then meets Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourg), the volunteer immigration co-ordinator assigned to his case. A long, tentative romantic courtship start. Alice, just recovering from a burn-out, is clumsy, nervous and shy. Samba is full of energy and certainly not shy. The film tries to navigate the waters between social drama and romantic comedy. Whatever drama there is not really compelling because the comedy gets in the way. There is a way to make a comedy work well with social elements, and Samba is not very convincing. As for the comedy, it feels forced, particularly from Gainsbourg. Most of the time I was annoyed, so I cannot recommend Samba.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Samba

Directed by:
Olivier Nakache
Eric Toledano

Screenplay by:
Olivier Nakache
Eric Toledano
Muriel Coulin
Based on the novel by Delphine Coulin

Starring:
Omar Sy
Charlotte Gainsbourg
Tahar Rahim

118 min.

Rated 14A

In French with English subtitles.

 

 

Testament of youth

Vera Brittain’s memoirs, Testament of youth, is one of the most celebrated account of the First World War from a woman’s perspective. Just before the war, young Vera (Swedish actress Alicia Vikander) is seen having an idyllic time bathing in a river with her brother, Edward (Taron Egerton), and their friends. They have youth, innocence and great hope for the future. Vera wants to study at Oxford, and after much discussion her father agrees to let her go. When war is declared, her brother, her fiancé, Roland Leighton (Kit Harington), and her friends, Victor Richardson (Colin Morgan) and Geoffrey Thurlow (Jonathan Bailey), enlist. She then decides to leave Oxford and join the war effort as a Voluntary aid detachment (V.A.D.) nurse. The First World War was particularly deadly. More than 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians died as a result of the war. None of the young men I’ve mentioned survived and Brittain found it difficult to see those she loved die. Everything in Testament of youth seems so right. Juliette Towhidi’s adaptation shows us what it was like to be a young lady in England at the time, like the chaperone following Vera and Roland everywhere they went. But Towhidi inserts the letters they all wrote to each other (published in 1998 as Letters from a lost generation), and some of the poems Roland Leighton wrote for Vera. Testament of youth is a poem. Alicia Vikander is in every scenes, but she does not always do the obvious thing with the part. As Vera’s story march towards the inevitable tragic outcome, Vikander let’s us see her vulnerability but also her strength and compassion. When I see a film I am looking for what will make this film stand out from other films. And that is Rob Hardy’s cinematography. Working with director James Kent, Hardy’s choices are brilliant. And everything has relevance because of those choices. Of course in a British period drama you’d expect costumes and sets to be of quality, and they are. There is a beauty of a Max Richter score that uses high pitch and low pitch tones against one another. Testament of youth is a beautiful anti-war poem.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Testament of youth

Directed by:
James Kent

Screenplay by:
Juliette Towhidi
Based on the autobiography of Vera Brittain

Starring:
Alicia Vikander
Kit Harington
Taron Egerton
Colin Morgan
Dominic West
Emily Watson
Miranda Richardson

129 min.

Rated Parental Guidance