Establishing Shots: Dec 4-10, 2020

Every week, Establishing Shots offers some further enlightenment on the films that will be screening in-cinema at the VIFF Centre and online through VIFF Connect.

While our theatres remain closed in compliance with the provincial health order, we’re launching three stellar documentaries on VIFF Connect this week.

Shot in Wuhan during the initial lockdown and dispensing with talking heads in favour of footage from the frontlines, 76 Days secured the Audience Award at AFI Fest and has subsequently scored universal acclaim from critics. Suggesting that its wide release is exceedingly timely, The Washington Post’s Ann Hornady concludes, “This is a film about courage, as well as empathy, professionalism and resilience — and it’s a film that embodies those values itself.”

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, director Hao Wu (who also helmed VIFF ’18 selection The People’s Republic of Desire) shares details on how this film – unsanctioned by the Chinese government and co-directed with collaborators Wu has never met – overcame considerable odds. He also acknowledges that it now faces another hurdle. “The reactions so far overall have been the same: Most people would say, ‘I have no interest in watching a film about COVID.’ But after they watched it, they were either shocked or incredibly moved. That reaction has been extremely common.”

David Osit’s Mayor also arrives on VIFF Connect with accolades in tow, having picked up the Grand Jury Award and the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. Trailing the Christian mayor of Ramallah Palestine for an entire year, the film offers uncommon insights into how bureaucracy functions in the face of occupation. In an interview with Filmmaker Magazine, Osit posits, “I feel as though Palestine may be the last bastion of American ignorance. It’s shocking to me how little people will find out about Palestine over the course of their otherwise robust global education.”

Finally, Queen of Hearts: Audrey Flack is comprehensive portrait of an iconoclast and provocateur who’s adopted many roles in her 89 years on Earth. As Leslie Combemale writes for the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, “Anyone who is interested in hearing and seeing first hand the experience of a woman breaking the artistic glass ceiling will find the film compelling, not least because her story comes directly from the source.”

In this piece for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s website, Carolyn Russo examines Flack’s 1973 photorealist piece Spitfires and surmises, “As a Jewish American artist, the atrocities of the Holocaust remained close to Flack’s heart, and her WWII related paintings have great depth beyond what is seen at first glance.”

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