This is the free version of our weekly newsletter. The premium version has 22 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 worth catching worldwide, featuring films we love that have yet to secure distribution (so this may be your only chance to see them!).
In our premium newsletter for members this week, we recommend what to see at the New Directors/New Films festival in the US and HotDocs in Canada, plus additional streaming recommendations. If you become a member now, shoot us an email, and we'll be happy to send you these recommendations, too!
It's the final weekend of the HotDocs/opening weekend of DOXA virtual film festivals in Canada and the closing weekend of New Directors/New Films festival in the US. If you're in Canada, the must-see film of the weekend is Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers's doc Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning Of Empathy screening at both HotDocs and DOXA. If you're not watching this year's edition of ND/NF, we recommend three films to rent or stream from past editions.
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DOXA film festival - May 6 -16 - across Canada
Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning Of Empathy (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers)
This was one of the very best films we saw at HotDocs, where it's still playing until Sunday. It's also now begun its run at DOXA, where it will be available (and more cheaply) until May 16.
Here's Orla on the film:
Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers’s Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning Of Empathy is the rare “issue doc” that’s told from a deeply personal perspective. Tailfeathers, who recently impressed as both an actress and writer-director with The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, creates a portrait of the community where she grew up, the Kainai First Nation. Through exposition about statistics, meetings at institutions, and intimate personal portraits, Tailfeathers documents the drug epidemic eating away at the community.
Tailfeathers brilliantly balances individual stories with historical context, which connects the struggles of drug addicts on the reserve to centuries of colonial trauma, passed down from generation to generation. Through following her own mother, Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, who works directly with drug addicts, Tailfeathers illuminates the practices of harm reduction, and how funding for harm reduction programmes could go a long way to healing the community. Tailfeathers’s exceptionally moving, enraging film covers all the bases, both big and small picture, in informing the viewer about the crisis. It’s one of the most vital films of the year.
Stay tuned for Orla's interview with Tailfeathers on the site soon!
Highlights of past ND/NF editions
Not in the US or missed out on most of the ND/NF screenings? Revisit highlights from past editions via streaming or VOD. We've selected 15 of our favourites.
Clemency (2019) - Crave + Canada, Hulu US, SkyGo/Now UK
One of the best films of 2019, featuring two outstanding performances from Alfre Woodard and Aldis Hodge, was also the opening night film at ND/NF in 2019. It's still sadly underrated and underseen, but easily accessible to stream!
Here's an excerpt from Orla's review of the film:
Chinonye Chukwu’s Clemency, a harrowing death-row drama, won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize. At my TIFF press screenings, there were several walkouts — not for lack of quality, I’d guess, but because of how brutally hard it is to watch. The film begins with Alfre Woodard’s Bernadine Williams, a death-row prison warden, on the day of her eleventh execution. In uncomfortable detail, Chukwu presents the process of a modern day execution: the torturous waiting, the bureaucracy, strapping the prisoner down, finding a working vein, and everything that can go wrong in the process.
Woodard is excellent as Bernadine, and the film is primarily focused on the psychological effects of working her job: she’s a depressed insomniac who pushes away her loving husband and often drinks too much. She’s been doing her job for decades, and it’s evident that she’s very good at it: Bernadine follows protocol to a T, and she’s careful not to let sympathy for her prisoners get the better of her. She believes she treats them with respect, within the boundaries of what her job requires, but she’s still very much part of a system that oppresses them.
MS Slavic 7 (2019) - DAFilms.com UK/US/Canada
Here's Justine Smith on the film:
MS Slavic 7 opens on the scanned page of a book open on this poem. The pages are yellowed but crisp. The thin, semi-translucent pages hint at poems printed on the reverse side. On the left, Bohdanowiczowa’s poem is written in Polish, on the right the translated English. The spine is bound tightly in tiny, delicate loops. The delicate quality of the page does little to dull the intensity of the emotions they express.
The newest collaboration between Sofia Bohdanowicz and Deragh Campbell (who starred in Anne at 13,000 Feet) is a feature-length examination of letters written by Bohdanowicz’s grandmother, Zofia Bohdanowiczowa, to another Polish poet, Józef Wittlin. Set over three days, Campbell reprises her role as Audrey, a character who has already appeared in their previous collaborations Never Eat Alone and Veslemøy’s Song (currently streaming on Mubi). Audrey is something of an alter-ego created by both Campbell and Bohdanowicz, combining different elements of themselves.
The Guilty (2017) - Hulu US, Mubi Canada, VOD UK
Here's me on the film:
Set entirely inside an emergency response call centre in Copenhagen, The Guilty is a tense thriller bolstered by an intense performance from Jakob Cedergren. On Asger’s last day working at the call centre, where he was assigned as administrative punishment, he gets a phone call from a terrified woman who claims to have been kidnapped by her child’s father. Coming after weeks of built up resentment from being sat behind a desk rather than active on the ground, the event pushes the frustrated Asger to breach protocol in an attempt to help this woman — and all hell breaks loose.
Unfolding in real time, Gustav Möller’s feature debut follows Asger through this decision and its consequences. Just like the film’s hero, we are trapped at the call centre, and we share the stress of being a helpless witness — or perhaps the cause of something worse. Moller’s sound design vividly conjures a whole world outside, through what we and Asger hear on the phone.
As always, let us know what you watched and what you thought of them!
Alex Heeney, Editor-in-Chief
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