This is the free version of our weekly newsletter. The premium version has 23 excellent recommendations, on top of these, of what to watch at festivals, virtual cinemas, VOD, and via streaming. We also spotlight several virtual film festivals worldwide, featuring films we love that have yet to secure distribution (so this may be your only chance to see them!). It's virtual film festival season in Canada and the US so there are ton of films we're recommending to members that are only streaming for a limited time. A selection of these is included here in the free edition of the newsletter.
In our premium newsletter for members this week, we recommend more virtual film festival screenings, plus additional VOD, virtual cinema, and streaming recommendations. If you become a member now, shoot us an email, and we'll be happy to send you these recommendations, too!
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Worldwide, Chris Elena's wonderful short Audio Guide is now streaming free, and Ontarians can catch up with the great doc Call Me Human this weekend. No Ordinary Man hits VOD in the US (it was already available in Canada). The Great Darkened Days is on Mubi Canada, and My Brother the Devil is streaming on Prime in the UK/Ireland.
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Streaming free worldwide
We've been beating the drum for Chris Elena's short flim Audio Guide since its world premiere last year, and we're excited that it's now free to view online!
Here's an excerpt from the intro to Orla's interview with Elena:
Set in real time as a young art student’s entire perception of reality falls apart, Chris Elena’s short film Audio Guide is a thrilling work of high concept, low budget filmmaking. Audrey (Emma Wright) peruses a small art gallery, pointing her audio guide at various works of art. The regal voice on the device (Nyx Calder) does as it should, for a while, recounting facts about the artworks in the gallery. Everything changes when Audrey points the device at another person, and the voice tells us everything about them, including when and how they will die. Over the next ten minutes, we watch Audrey realise that everything she thought she knew about the world is wrong. She tests the device’s limits, but she’s putting off the ultimate revelation: pointing it at herself.
This interview comes with a disclaimer: the film’s director is a personal friend. It’s been a joy to watch Chris flourish as a filmmaker over the past few years, and Audio Guide
is certainly his most accomplished film yet. While I can’t claim impartiality (but I implore you to seek out the short yourself), I can say that getting to speak with Chris in-depth about his filmmaking process was fascinating and invaluable as an aspiring filmmaker myself. How do you make a film when you’ve got no funding, no backing? It’s difficult, sure, but not impossible. How and why do you shoot it on film? None of it is easy, but films made on the creator’s own terms are often the most creative, inspired, and uncompromised. That’s especially true when it comes to the diversity of who we see (or hear) on screen: Chris has expressed a desire to always include trans and non-binary actors in his films, such as the brilliant Nyx Calder who voices the audio guide in this film and starred in Chris’ previous short, Can You Dig It?
Read the full interview.
Click here to watch free on YouTube.
Free screening of Call Me Human - Ontario only - September 26 all day - 1am - 11:30pm EST
One of our readers tipped us off that the Aurora Public Library will be screning one of the best films of 2020 free across Ontario on Sunday!! If you're outside Ontario in Canada, the film is available on VOD.
Here's an excerpt from my intro to my interview with director Kim O'Bomsawin:
Through telling the story of renowned Innu poet Joséphine Bacon with her documentary Call Me Human (Je m’appelle humain in the original French), Abenaki filmmaker Kim O’Bomsawin is actually telling a very personal story to her. That’s not just because she adores Bacon and her work, an affection we instantly share as soon as we meet Bacon in the film. It’s because, like Bacon, O’Bomsawin’s sense of identity is split between two places: Montreal, where she lives, and her home territory. While Bacon was divorced from her land, her language, and her family because she spent fourteen years in a residential school, O’Bomsawin shares similar intergenerational scars because, as a Residential School Survivor, her grandfather never shared his culture with her, including the language.
In Call Me Human, O’Bomsawin and Bacon take us on a tour of the lands that are dear to Bacon: the streets in Montreal, and the Innu territory that she adores. In each place, Bacon talks to O’Bomsawin by looking into the lens or to a friend who is also on camera, narrating her connection to the land. Bacon’s own stories are complemented by archival footage of each of the places she visits, which includes footage of Innu people on the land from the time when she was growing up.
Just as Bacon splits her time between her two homes, structurally, the film moves back and forth between Montreal and Pessamit, Natashquan, and the tundra. By doing so, O’Bomsawin makes us constantly aware of a sense of displacement; of being torn from the land yet finding a beautiful home elsewhere, too. That’s something that O’Bomsawin understands deeply, having never lived on a reserve.
Read the full interview.
Click here to register for the screening.
There will also be a post-film discussion facilitated by Nelia Pacheco, Chair/Programmer, Aurora Film Circuit.
Monday, September 27, 7:00 pm | Register at bit.ly/3d1piKy
Now on VOD
No Ordinary Man - US and Canada
One of the best docs of the year is now on VOD in both the US and Canada. The co-directors of the film were our guests at the 2021 Creative Nonfiction Workshop in the summer, and you can now get tickets to watch back our discussion.
Here's an excerpt from Orla's intro to her interview with the directors:
How do you shoulder the responsibility of creating the first moving image representations of a person who is no longer with us? What’s more, in the case of trans jazz musician Billy Tipton, how do you make a documentary about a figure whose legacy has been distorted by mainstream media for decades after their death? It’s a responsibility that co-directors Aisling Chin-Yee and Chase Joynt didn’t take lightly.
The story No Ordinary Man tells is one of lost transgender history that’s finally being reclaimed. The film’s subject is Billy Tipton, an influential jazz musician who worked between the 1930s and 1970s. It wasn’t until 1989, when Tipton died in the arms of his son, Billy Jr., that Tipton’s family and the public discovered that he was assigned female at birth. After his death, Tipton’s story was twisted: Tipton was unequivocally a trans man, but the cis-dominated media presented him as a woman who dressed as a man in order to get a foot in the door in the music industry. Even the most cited text about Tipton’s life, Suits Me: The Double Life of Billy Tipton by Dianne Middlebrook, framed his story around this harmful narrative.
In Chin-Yee and Joynt’s hands, No Ordinary Man is no ordinary biographical documentary. They go way beyond the standard archival footage and talking head interview approach to tell Tipton’s story. Joynt explained that “understanding that there was no moving image footage of Tipton was both a restriction and an opportunity for us to immediately start thinking creatively beyond the bounds of reenactment and other ways that biopics tend to be created.” The film features photos and audio recordings of Tipton, as well as his music, and his life story is told through the words of talking-head experts, most of whom are trans. But another huge part of the film are “auditions” where the filmmakers invite a whole host of diverse transmasculine actors to act out and then dissect scripted scenes from Tipton’s life.
Read the full interview.
The Great Darkened Days - Mubi Canada; VOD in Canada/Belgium/France/Switzerland
This gorgeous and whimsical satire of American capitalism is finally streaming in Canada. It features a fantastic central performance from Martin Dubreuil and beautiful cinematography from Sara Mishara.
Here's Elena Lazic on the film, an excerpt from the intro to her interview with director Maxime Giroux:
An absurdist and atemporal fable about the rot and corruption of capitalism, Maxime Giroux
’s The Great Darkened Days
represents a radical departure from his work in his previous effort, Félix and Meira
. Following the burgeoning romance between a married Orthodox Jewish woman and a man who does not belong to that faith, the latter was firmly rooted in social-realism. But the two films do not appear simply different; they are diametrically opposed: the quietness and subtlety of Félix and Meira
are swapped for chaos and violence in The Great Darkened Days
; the beige tones for bright colours; the tenderness for cruelty.
Like Félix and Meira, The Great Darkened Days focuses on a lonely character who longs for connection. In the middle of the desert, somewhere in America, Philippe (the phenomenal Martin Dubreuil) is a stranded Québécois actor trying to get home. Like Meira, whose religion discourages contact with the outside world, Philippe tentatively approaches strangers who lend him a hand. Unlike her, he is repeatedly betrayed by those people, who quickly prove to be unscrupulously evil.
Soon, Philippe finds himself embroiled in a violent conflict that is all the more terrifying for the way its nature, its cause, and its purpose remain as vague and undefined as the time and place the story unfolds in. To both Philippe and the audience, the enemies shooting at him are unseen, and the reason why so many people want Philippe to suffer are unclear. In this general sense of confusion and danger, Philippe’s innocence and persistent empathy pierces the fog of cruelty and despair, and anchors this elaborate fantasy in our reality.
Read the full interview.
My Brother the Devil - Prime UK/Ireland/Austria/Germany, BFI Player UK, realeyz US
This beautiful story of two brothers dealing with different forms of prejudice in Hackney, London, has flown too much under the radar. Catch up with it now.
Here's an excerpt from the intro to my interview with director Sally El Hosaini:
Sally El Hosaini’s directorial debut, My Brother the Devil, is a touching and sensitive story of two Arab brothers in Hackney, London. The eldest, Rashid (James Floyd) is already ensconced in gang life, and he wants desperately to keep he younger brother Mo (Fady Elsayed), who idolizes him, from making the same mistake. Just when you think you’ve got the film nailed as a crime drama, it zags into a coming out and coming of-age story — an examination of the performance of masculinity. As the film progresses, which brother is “the devil” of the title is constantly shifting and changing. Prejudice is deeply culturally ingrained, but we wonder if the bonds of family and the need to be true to yourself will be able to prevail when Mo discovers Rashid is having an affair with another man. It’s a story told up-close, in a verité style, to get you in the headspace of the two brothers.
Read the interview.
Alex Heeney, Editor-in-Chief
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The Seventh Row newsletter is a free weekly newsletter featuring streaming recommendations, primarily for Canada, the US, UK, and Australia, but always features at least one worldwide streaming recommendation. We also offer occasional giveaways of free downloads of our favourite films and other benefits! Questions? Comments? Reply to this email, or find us on Twitter @SeventhRow. If you're reading this because someone forwarded this email to you, consider that helpful button to become a regular subscriber.
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