Establishing Shots: Feb 19-25, 2021

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.

As we pass the midway point of February, we continue to highlight the films that make up this year’s Black History Month program: Everywhere We Are.

Premiering on the 2020 festival circuit, Sam Soko’s Softie picked up awards at both Sundance (Jury Award for Editing) and Encounters (Best Documentary). This portrait of Kenyan reporter turned political activist Boniface Mwangi has rightfully been declared “riveting” by Variety’s Guy Lodge. Meanwhile, Indiewire presents an interview with Soko and Mwangi that’s moderated by Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o. On the experience of having his life documented over the course of years, Mwangi concludes, “My take from this process is that you can tell a film with respect, with empathy, and that you can tell an African story with dignity.”

Meanwhile, director Christiaan Olwagen sat down with Rasha Hosny of Africa in Motion last fall to discuss how he approached his adaptation of Poppie Nongena, Elsa Joubert’s acclaimed 1978 novel. He suggests, “When I read the novel, I saw my other mother, on every page, in every prayer, scold, heartache and defiant gaze. My Poppie. Any reluctance to get on board was swept away when the film became my personal love-letter to her and all the ‘other’ mothers of South Africa.”

Our new first run titles this week include Josh Oppenheim’s Some Kind of Heaven, which deposits us in Florida’s largest retirement community and familiarizes us with its denizens. Drawing parallels between the documentary and the American surrealism of Blue Velvet, the A.V. Club’s A.A. Dowd writes, “Some Kind Of Heaven is no cutesy human-interest story, and it certainly doesn’t double as an advertisement for the community. Even when Oppenheim zeroes in on its most cheerful eccentricities, there’s an undercurrent of unease… Oppenheim and his gifted cinematographer, David Bolen, carefully arrange their subjects in the frame, with an eye towards symmetry and kitsch… This is surely one of the most gorgeously, strikingly shot documentaries in recent memory.”

Stanley Tucci and Colin Firth tenderly command the screen as the central longtime couple in Harry MacQueen’s Supernova. Writing for The New York Times, Glenn Kenny opines, “It’s rare to see a cinematic drama executed with such consistent care as Supernova… As performers, Tucci and Firth embody the best kind of masculinity, which has been missing from popular culture for so long that we’ve forgotten what it looks like. Their characters are men of passion but also men of integrity. And most important, they’re men who know what love is.”

Finally: Two documentaries that are likely better experienced than explained join our VIFF Connect collection this week: A Life in Dirty Movies and TickledBoth titles, along with many others, are available free to members.

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