Native truths

Here's a sampling of reviews from the eclectic ImagineNATIVE Film Fest

IMAGINENATIVE FILM + MEDIA ARTS FESTIVAL through October 20, various locations. $7-$10, passes available. For venues and times, see listings.

Atayal tale

THE CRYING BAMBOO FOREST (Umin Boya). 78 minutes. Subtitled. Screens today (Thursday, October 17), 12:30 pm, at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3. Rating: NNN

Ghosts of the Old World mix uneasily with New World people and customs in Umin Boya’s debut feature set mostly in the lush green forests of Taiwan.

When Fa’aye and his young grandson Zhiqi are caught taking bamboo shoots in state-owned property that once belonged to their Atayal culture, the old man is arrested while the boy escapes. Meanwhile, Fa’aye’s harried bureaucrat son (and Zhiqi’s father) tries to deal with the incident.

Boya maintains a quiet, contemplative tone that occasionally feels monotonous, and he gets unsubtle performances from his actors. But the locations are stunning, and the juxtaposition of two radically different ways of life provides stunning tableaux, especially in the amusing final shot.


River rerun

LA NOUVELLE RUPERT (Nicolas Renaud). 67 minutes. Subtitled. Sunday (October 20), 10:30 am, at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3. Rating: NN

It’s unfortunate that Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky’s Watermark is currently out in theatres. That film deals with modern industry’s influence on natural waterways much more effectively than Nicolas Renaud’s La Nouvelle Rupert.

Since the 1970s, rivers in the James Bay region have been dammed for hydropower, creating short-term jobs for some of the region’s indigenous people but altering the waterways (in many cases rivers have almost dried up) and the supply of fish they’re used to catching and eating.

Renaud’s doc is dull, repetitive and lacks a talking head compelling enough to hold our interest. Photographer Ian Diamond, son of Waskaganish Cree Grand Chief Billy Diamond, documented the effects of the hydroelectric projects for years, but Renaud doesn’t use the photos effectively or shape Diamond’s statements into anything with momentum.

The biggest human interest comes from a cafeteria worker who knows all the workers’ names.


Decaying Meat

FRESH MEAT (Danny Mulheron, New Zealand). 91 minutes. Friday (October 18), 11:15 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2. Rating: NN

This year’s Witching Hour entry, Kiwi movie Fresh Meat unfolds over one long day. A gang of outlaws on the run from the police take refuge in the home of an academic (Temuera Morrison) and a celebrity chef (Nicola Kawana) – who also happen to be cannibals – just as their daughter (Hanna Tevita) comes home from college. Considerable carnage follows.

Director Danny Mulheron, who cut his teeth as a performer and co-writer on Peter Jackson’s Meet The Feebles, grabs a number of grindhouse tropes – cannibals, cults, criminals and a little same-sex attraction between Tevita and Kate Elliott’s shotgun-toting femme fatale – and throws them all at the wall to see what sticks.

Most of it winds up on the metaphorical floor in a slimy, goopy mess, but I suspect that’s kind of the point.


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