Establishing Shots: Feb 26-Mar 4, 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 February winds to a close, readers have seven more days to catch this year’s Black History Month program: Everywhere We Are.

Amongst the offerings is the recently rediscovered full cut of Nationtime. Helmed by pioneering Black filmmaker William Greaves, the piece covers the 1972 National Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana. Originally aired on television at a truncated 60 minutes, this 80-minute version does justice to this galvanizing gathering of Black politicians, activists and artists.

(For those eager to see more of Greaves’ work: you can watch one of his earliest films, Emergency Ward, for free courtesy of the ever-generous NFB.)

Rounding out the program is Elizabeth Topp & Alex Deverteuil’s 70: Remembering a Revolution, which delves the Black Power Revolution in Trinidad and Tobago and explores how Canadian racism sparked political action in the Caribbean.

Reminiscent of the enthralling Searching for Sugar Man, Daniel Vernon’s The Changin’ Times of Ike White is another tale of a colossal musical talent who captured listeners’ imaginations only to suddenly disappear completely from sight. As Frank Sheck writes in his Hollywood Reporter review, “But his music, as good as it is (you can hear the album in its entirety on YouTube) pales in comparison to his story, unearthed in this endlessly fascinating film.”

Speaking to The Guardian’s Ammar Kalia, Vernon shares, “Ike was quite surprised when he got the call from us, but he was also very welcoming – it felt like he had been waiting for someone to tell his story…” And what a story it is.

Adopting a more kaleidoscopic approach, Yann-Arthus Bertrand and Anastasia Mikova’s Woman transports us to 50 countries in order to share the disparate stories of 100 women. (The directors conducted 2,000 interviews to ensure the had a wealth of material to draw from.) In an interview with Screen’s Melanie Goodfellow, Mikova shares, “We’d go to remote places where they’d never seen a camera. The men would be eager to share their stories while the women were often initially suspicious of our presence. But once they were in front of the camera they would totally open up. It seemed like it was the moment they had been waiting for all their lives.”

With the Berlinale about to get underway, we’re sharing Wang Lina’s A First Farewell, which scored Best Film in the Generation Kplus section at that festival’s 2018 edition. In his Variety review of this “outstanding debut feature”, Richard Kuipers notes, “Beautifully photographed and performed by amazingly talented non-professional child actors, Wang’s film is an emotionally rewarding glimpse into challenges faced by [the Uighur] Muslim minority.”

Premiering at the 2020 edition of Sundance, Fernanda Valadez’s Identifying Features returned home with both the Audience Award and Best Screenplay prize in the World Cinema – Dramatic competition. There was no shortage of critical praise either. In his effusive review for The A.V. Club, Carlos Aguilar comments, “Some movies wound us so profoundly that once darkness has consumed their final frame we are incapable of shaking off the heartache. That’s the power of Identifying Features, which is as painfully intimate as it is unsparing in its indictment of a country ravaged by a corrosive, entrenched evil. Making her feature debut, Mexican writer-director Fernanda Valadez finds a personal tragedy within a national one—the murder or disappearance of thousands of people, the mass collateral damage of the ongoing drug war. She’s made a humanitarian lament by way of a slow-burn thriller.”

As always, we close out this entry by detailing the latest decorated films to join our VIFF Connect collection available exclusively for our members: Patricio Guzmán’s The Pearl Button (Best Screenplay at Berlin ’15) and Chaitanya Tamhane’s Court (Best Debut Film at Venice ’14).

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