Here are two highlights from the festival devoted to indie women filmmakers
THE FEMALE EYE FILM FESTIVAL through June 25 at the Fox (2236 Queen East). $10, pass $125. femaleeyefilmfestival.com.
THE BABUSHKAS OF CHERNOBYL (Holly Norris, U.S.). 106 minutes (includes Q&A). Sunday (June 25), noon. Rating: NNNN
In their seemingly beautiful villages, where gardens burst with raspberries and apples and the forests give up plump mushrooms, elderly women happily subsist in a community of small houses. Thing is, these villages are in the Exclusion Zone near Chernobyl, where after the 1986 nuclear reactor accident nobody is supposed to live. The earth is laced with life-threatening radiation.
Holly Norris’s documentary sheds light on Russian scientists’ attempts to monitor the effects of radiation, the fascination of ghost towns and the authorities’ surprisingly tender support of women determined to live independently. But the ingenious elders are the stars, gloriously philosophical and loving to one another.
CAN HITLER HAPPEN HERE? (Sarah Rifkin, U.S.). 74 minutes. Sunday (June 25), 7 pm. Rating: NNN
The flawed film chosen for the closing gala is worth checking out for its terrific lead performance and gorgeous look. Seventy-something reclusive artist Miriam Kohen (Laura Esterman), who lives in a fabulous New York brownstone, is pissing off the neighbours because she’s obviously not taking care of her house and is not exactly social, to put it mildly.
Director Sarah Rifkin wants to create an intriguing dilemma. Are the neighbours – and Miriam’s son – conspiring to get their hands on Miriam’s property, or is she just paranoid? But the film winds up feeling muddled and chaotic. If we’re supposed to sympathize with Miriam, why does she fantasize that all her male enemies are closeted queers? And the title comes close to being an offensive stretch.
Still, Esterman is riveting as a vulnerable woman fighting authority. And the film, shot in black-and-white, looks wonderful.