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Porcupine Lake

Life for 13-year-old Bea (Charlotte Salisbury) is in a state of transition. Living with her mom Ally (Delphine Roussel) in Toronto, the two head north to Parry Sound, Ontario to spend time with her father Scotty (Christopher Bolton).  Her parents are separated and on the brink of divorce but take the summer to re-evaluate their marriage. Scotty runs a diner, the Snack Shack, the central hub for the small community. It’s there that Bea meets Kate (Lucinda Armstrong Hall), another girl her age. The two lock eyes and instantly connect. They’re as opposite as they come. Bea is awkward, quiet, thoughtful and  Kate is outspoken, self-assured, abrupt. They both come from broken homes but where Bea has caring parents, Kate has a strung out mother, angry sister and mentally disturbed brother. Bea and Kate quickly develop a bond that goes deeper than just friendship. On the cusp of womanhood, these two sort through their feelings for each other and must deal with the escalating dramas in their respective families. Bea and Kate’s story is one of love and friendship told over one glorious summer.

Bea and Kate

Hair

Porcupine Lake was written, produced and directed by Canadian filmmaker Ingrid Veninger, founder of pUNK films. In an interview Veninger said about the film: “Porcupine Lake is a story I’ve wanted to tell for years.”  The idea came to her while she was in a writing workshop led by actress Melissa Leo. Veninger goes on to say,

“All of my films have been personal — not autobiographical but always a combination of fiction and real experience. When I was 12, my father managed a roadside snack bar in northern Ontario. I spent many endless summers wanting a best friend so badly, but mostly I was left alone to be with my boredom and solitude, and ultimately, my imagination.”

The film was shot on location in Parry Sound and the surrounding area. During production another movie, a behind-the scenes documentary called The Other Side of Porcupine Lake, was film simultaneously.

Over 50 girls auditioned for the parts of Bea and Kate. Veninger was looking for young actresses who were natural in their instincts but could also be true to the characters. She found two gems with Salisbury and Hall.

Porcupine Lake is a sensitive portrayal of two young girls on the precipice of change. It brilliantly depicts the attraction between two people who are totally captivated by each other. It also does a fantastic job exploring family dynamics and capturing small town life. The lead actresses were totally convincing. I was drawn in by the story so much that I was already craving a sequel by the end. It’s like a quieter Heavenly Creatures (1994) without the tragic intensity.

If you’re looking for a good coming-of-age LGBT story, look no further than Porcupine Lake.

Porcupine Lake is distributed by Breaking Glass Pictures and will be available on DVD and digital on August 14th. The DVD includes the behind-the-scenes documentary.

Amazon

En el Séptimo Día

Representation matters.

En el Séptimo Día (On the Seventh Day) tells the story of José (Fernando Cardona) a Mexican immigrant working and living in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. He lives in an overcrowded apartment with his friends. Every day they work at a local restaurant, washing dishes, delivering food and bussing tables. Others sell cotton candy on the street, work construction jobs, etc. On the seventh day, Sunday, they’re free to do what they love the most: play soccer. The story follows José and his friends during one week which starts with a semi-final tournament and ends with the much anticipated final game. The problem is José’s boss, who considers him the most valued employee among the immigrant workers at the restaurant, needs him to work on Sunday for a private event. But this means José, who is also the most valued player on his soccer team, will have to miss the game. With each new day we are exposed to aspects of José’s life including his coworkers, his friends, the blue collar workers he meets on his delivery route as well as the pregnant wife waiting for him in Mexico. In the end, José has to chose between the work that feeds him and the joy that sustains him.

 

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“I don’t see any other way. Either we get slaughtered or I get fired.” – José

En el Séptimo Día is a poignant drama about an underrepresented group of individuals who are an important part of the fabric of American society. This quiet film is about finding small joys in a life filled with endless work. You just don’t see stories about Hispanic immigrants. Perhaps first and second generation Latino Americans but not immigrants who are starting a new life in America. And in a time where ICE reigns and our nation is plagued with fear mongering, a humane story about Mexican immigrants adds some empathy and understanding where it was lacking before.

The film was written, produced and directed by Jim McKay, best known for his stories about average folks including Girls Town (1996), Our Song (2000) and Everyday People (2004). According to an interview on the Cinema Guild website, McKay’s inspiration for the film came from a variety of sources including his own work on Our Song and Everyday People, his wife’s documentary La Boda, and his own experience working in a restaurant alongside Mexician immigrant workers from the Yucatan. The biggest source was Mexican New York by Robert Smith, a book profiling a community of immigrants from Puebla, Mexico who had settled in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

The majority of the cast members, including the star Fernando Cardona, are non-actors. McKay said, “the film is about Mexican immigrants and I was determined to make it with Mexican immigrants.” He sought out not only Mexicans but ones based in Sunset Park where the story takes place. However in the interview McKay makes it clear that the actors are playing characters and not themselves. The film was shot over 19 days in June and July of 2016 in Sunset Park, Park Slope and Gowanus in Brooklyn, NY. A few scenes were shot on a rainy day on October. McKay injects as much realism in his film which watches like a hybrid feature film/documentary.

The movie is primarily in Spanish with several conversations in English. It adds authenticity to the story. McKay and his team did a great job casting the variety of players especially Fernando Cardona who delivers a fine performance and is just captivating to watch on screen. I fell in love with this movie and its characters and was rooting on for José. I particularly enjoyed one scene when José is waiting outside a building where he’s going to make a delivery. He meets a blue collar worker who speaks Spanish and they chat about their mutual love for soccer. It’s a brilliant moment when commonality brings together two people from seemingly very different worlds.

En el Séptimo Día stole my heart. This is one you won’t want to miss.

 

 

En el Séptimo Día is showing in theaters across the country through August and September. Visit the Cinema Guild website for details.

Alt-Right: Age of Rage

 

A couple of years ago I started following a white nationalist online. Based in England but very much involved in American politics, this woman, whom I shall not name, started a website/podcast that quickly became popular among extremists. It was there and on social media where she discussed her thoughts on the creation of a white ethno-state, her opposition to homosexuality, miscegenation, and immigration, her research on IQ and race, her hatred for SJWs and the growth of the alt-right movement. My personal ideologies were the complete opposite of hers on every point. So why would I, an independent liberal with a Bernie Sanders-style brand of politics, keep tabs on someone who in my mind was so full of ill-begotten information and was spouting dangerous ideologies? As senior fellow of The Sikh Coalition Simran Jeet Singh says regarding the alt-right:

“If we don’t even know what their arguments are how are we going to address them?”

Director Adam Bhala Lough’s new documentary Alt-Right: Age of Rage tells the story of right wing extremists, and the antifa activists who fight their every move, in the events leading up to the August 2017 Charlottesville, VA car attack. The film focuses on four key figures. On the far right there is Richard Spencer, white separatists and alt-right leader and Jared Taylor, white nationalist and founder of the American Renaissance. On the far left there is antifa activist and founder of One People’s Project Daryle Lamont Jenkins and Southern Poverty Law Center’s expert on extremism Mark Potok. Other figures including antifa activists and right-wing provocateurs.

Richard Spencer coined the term “alt-right” in 2008 in response to a call for an “alternative right”. The alt-right movement was born from a resistance to a baby boomer generation who allowed for interracial marriage and non-white immigration and who were frustrated with mainstream conservatives. Spencer created a website that helped catapult the movement that came to a critical point during the election of President Trump. The internet has been the biggest breeding ground for the alt-right and YouTube in particular has become one of the primary ways for alt-righters to disseminate information. In response to alt-right, the antifa activist movement, which Potok argues is not the extreme radical leftist movement the alt-right perceives them to be, protests the alt-right’s every move making it harder and harder for them to demonstrate and hold meetings. The biggest threat to alt-righters is doxxing, the practice of exposing individual’s identities online. For alt-righters this puts their reputation and livelihoods in jeopardy. Antifa activists are also gravely concerned with their privacy. The punch heard round the world, an incident between Richard Spencer and an antifa activist, is still shrouded with mystery. No one has identified the man who delivered the punch and the people who do know aren’t talking.

It’s impossible to watch this without some bias but Lough does a marvelous job delivering a very even-handed film. Alternating views are spliced together, one on top of the other. The heart of the documentary is these four key figures. The film profiles these subjects, digs into their backgrounds and tries to unearth their motivations. Their stories are told through the events surrounding the Unite the Right rally and the violent car attack in Charlottesville, VA during August 2017. This was a culmination of much fervor in the alt-right movement, a strong opposition from protesters and delay in the authorities stepping in to break up the violence. This maelstrom is captured with a lot of very difficult to watch footage include the attack itself which left protester Heather Heyer dead. It’s also difficult to watch David Duke making anti-Semitic remarks, watching Jenkins suffer from a pepper spray attack, and to hear Spencer poking fun at Jenkins’ weight.

The scariest takeaway from Alt-Right: Age of Rage is how divided we are as a nation. Spencer doesn’t think the United States can continue as is and in the documentary he claims, “America is going to have to fragment for this new ideology to emerge.”

Captivating, thought-provoking, Alt-Right: Age of Rage gets under your skin. This documentary is a wake-up call to look at what’s really going on in America. A must-see.

Distributed by Gravitas Ventures, Alt-Right: Age of Rage hits theaters August 17th.

 

My Preliminary TIFF ’18 Picks

by Raquel Stecher

Anticipation is building for the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. The programmers released their full list of galas and special presentations last week and I dove into the list to single out the films I’m most interested in. But honestly all of them sound amazing. Once the full schedule comes out next month I’ll be combing through the final list making what I’m sure will be some very difficult decisions.

Here is the list of galas and special presentations that stood out to me.

Galas

 

BeautifulBoy

Beautiful Boy

  • directed by Felix van Groeningen
  • starring Steve Carrell, Timothee Chalamet
  • Trailer

Beautiful Boy is based on Nic Sheff’s memoir about his struggle with drug addiction and his father David Sheff’s own memoir response. It looks to be both a harrowing story about addiction and a touching story about the bond between a father and son. I predict this will be one of the top films to see at the festival and will be hard to get into. I’m not sure I’m ready for the emotional roller-coaster this film will send me on but I’d love to see Timothee Chalamet ( Call Me By Your Name changed my life) on the big screen again.

 

First Man

First Man

  • directed by Damien Chazelle
  • starring Ryan Gosling
  • Trailer

Biopic. check. Period drama. check. I loved La La Land  and I’m curious about this new film from Chazelle about the life and times of Neil Armstrong. It follows Armstrong’s journey from his early days at NASA to the historic moment when he landed on the moon in 1969. Next year is the 50th anniversary of the moon landing so this is a timely biopic that audiences will be ready for.

 

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Hidden Man

  • directed by Jiang Wen
  • starring Eddie Peng
  • Trailer

I was mesmerized by the trailer for this period thriller about a spy who goes home to seek revenge. Set in China, Hidden Man looks to be equal parts Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Kill Bill and I’m here for it. If I don’t get into this film screening, I wouldn’t mind watching Zhang Yimou’s Shadow which looks like a visual masterpiece.

 

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The Public

  • directed by Emilio Estevez
  • starring Emilio Estevez, Alec Baldwin, Taylor Schilling, Jena Malone etc.
  • Trailer

Estevez is a triple threat as The Public‘s director, writer and star. This urban drama follows a group of homeless library patrons who refuse to leave the library in the middle of winter because the city’s emergency shelters are full. The sit-in quickly escalates into a standoff with the authorities. I’m hoping this film delivers a poignant social message in the midst of the escalating drama.

 

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Red Joan

  • directed by Trevor Nunn
  • starring Judi Dench, Sophie Cookson

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I want to see this for one reason: Judi Dench. And if I see her in person at TIFF I might pass out. This is a reality. And it doesn’t hurt that this period drama about a British physicist turned KGB spy sounds super interesting. The story is inspired by the real life KGB spy Melita Norwood. This is theatre director Trevor Nunn’s return to film directing. His last film was Twelfth Night: Or What You Will (1996) which I watched as a teenager infatuated with period pieces and literary adaptations.

 

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A Star is Born

  • directed by Bradley Cooper
  • starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga
  • Trailer

As someone who loves classic movies, I’m curious about this fourth iteration of A Star is Born. The 1937 version starring Fredric March and Janet Gaynor is still the gold standard but I’m keeping an open mind for this one. Cooper’s directorial debut is a remake of the Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson 1976 version. The story follows musicians who fall in love but whose very different career trajectories put their relationship in jeopardy. The Lady Gaga documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two premiered at last year’s TIFF and I’m excited that she’ll be back at the festival.

 

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Widows

  • directed by Steve McQueen
  • starring Viola Davis, Daniel Kaluuya, Liam Neeson, Jacki Weaver, Colin Farrell, and Michelle Rodriguez
  • Trailer

This film looks so bad-ass! Four women are left widows when their criminal husbands are killed in a botched heist. Instead of allowing themselves to be victims of their circumstances, the women take action and set out to finish the job that their husbands started. I love the cast and the trailer had me on the edge of my seat.

 

Special Presentations

 

colette

Colette

  • directed by Wash Westmoreland
  • starring Keira Knightley
  • Trailer

If you know me, you know I’m not a fan of Keira Knightley but she always finds a way to be in movies I’m dying to see. This biopic about the provocative French writer Colette explores the struggle of early women writers and the sexual dynamics of turn-of-the-century Belle Epoque France all with a bit of gender-bending thrown in. I’m all over this one like a bad rash. With Colette, I’m hoping for a film celebrating female empowerment and independence.

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Can You Ever Forgive Me?

  • directed by Marielle Heller
  • starring Melissa McCarthy
  • Trailer

By day I work in book publishing so this biopic about author turned forger Lee Israel is right up my alley. Melissa McCarthy is one of my favorite actresses and I can’t wait to see her in this role. The TIFF website calls this film “charming” but I’m hoping Israel’s exploits will have be squirming in my seat. I love a good story about deception and the consequences of being caught red-handed.

 

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If Beale Street Could Talk

  • directed by Barry Jenkins
  • starring Kiki Layne, Stephan James, Regina King

I adored Jenkins’ Moonlight and Raoul Peck’s James Baldwin doc I Am Not Your Negro  so this seems like a natural fit. The racial tension in Baldwin’s novels are still so relevant today so I’m excited to see how Jenkins delivers this message to the big screen.

 

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Old Man and the Gun

  • directed by David Lowery
  • starring Robert Redford, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Elisabeth Moss, Casey Affleck
  • Trailer

Could this be Robert Redford’s swan song before he retires for good? If it is, I’m not about to miss it. Redford is joined by Sissy Spacek and an all-star cast in this tale of a professional bank robber who falls in love and is determined to live life on his own terms.

 

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Papi Chulo

  • directed by John Butler
  • starring Matt Bomer, Alejandro Patino

I was hoping for a good Latino/a story to pop up in the TIFF line-up and maybe this is it? No trailer yet but the synopsis looks intriguing. Set in Los Angeles, lonely weatherman hires a Latino immigrant to be his friend. I’m intrigued, tell me more!

 

sunset_0HERO

Sunset

  • directed by László Nemes
  • Trailer

Shot in 35mm for you film nerds out there, Hungarian director Nemes’ movie is about a young milliner who tries to work at her parents’ hat store but is turned away by the new owner. It looks to be a good period piece.

 

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The Wedding Guest

  • directed by Michael Winterbottom
  • starring Dev Patel

Michael Winterbottom’s Jude was one of the pivotal movies I saw in my youth. In this film, Dev Patel stars as a young British muslim man who treks across Pakistan and India. There’s no trailer and very limited information on the movie so I’m basing my interest on the director, star and basic concept.

 

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Where Hands Touch

  • directed by Amma Asante
  • starring Amandla Stenberg

This WWII drama tells the story of a young Black German teenager who falls in love with a member of the Hitler Youth. I’m here for the unusual twist on a coming-of-age romance and for the female directed period piece.

 

WIldlife

Wildlife

  • directed by Paul Dano
  • starring Ex Oxenbould, Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal

I’ve already heard a lot of buzz about Paul Dano’s directorial debut Wildlife. Set in the 1960s, it follows the story of a teenage boy as he deals with his parent’s divorce. You had me with the period aesthetics and the cast now all I need is a good story and I’ll be happy.

 

I’m hoping when TIFF releases the new schedule that there will be some more films directed by women and LGBTQ stories to add to my repertoire!

2018 Toronto International Film Festival

by Raquel Stecher

I’m very excited to announce that I will be attending this year’s Toronto International Film Festival as a member of the press! This will be my very first time attending TIFF and I can’t wait to bring you coverage here on Quelle Movies. I’ll also be writing and posting about TIFF on my Twitter, Instagram, on the Cine Suffragette blog, and over on DVD Netflix’s Inside the Envelope blog and on their Instagram. I hope to secure some more outlets in the coming weeks. While TIFF is a 10 day festival, I’ll only be able to attend the first five days. But I’m confident I’ll see lots great films in that time frame!

In light of the tragedy that occurred on Sunday in Toronto, TIFF decided to forego their annual Festival Press Conference. Today announced their big films in a press release instead. These movies will receive gala screenings, special presentations, press conferences and red carpet premieres. Here is the list of today’s announced films.

GALAS

BeautifulBoy

Beautiful Boy (world premiere)
dir. Felix van Groeningen
Steve Carrell, Timothée Chalamet

Everybody Knows
dir. Asghar Farhadi
Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem

First Man
dir. Damien Chazelle
Ryan Goslin, Claire Foy

Galveston
dir. Mélanie Laurent
Elle Fanning, Ben Foster, Beau Bridges

THE HATE U GIVE

The Hate U Give (world premiere)
dir. George Tillman, Jr.
Amandla Stenberg, K.J. Apa, Regina Hall

Hidden Man
dir. Jiang We
Eddie Peng

High Life (world premiere)
dir. Claire Denis
Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Mia Goth, Andre Benjamin

Husband Material (world premiere)
dir. Anurag Kashyap
Vicky Kaushal, Abhishek Bachchan, Taapsee Pannu

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The Kindergarten Teacher
dir. Sara Colangelo
Maggie Gyllenhaal

The Land of Steady Habits (world premiere)
dir. Nicole Holofcener
Ben Mendelsohn, Edie Falco, Connie Britton

Life Itself (world premiere)
dir. Dan Fogelman
Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Annette Benning, Antonio Banderas

The Public (world premiere)
dir. Emilio Estevez
Alec Baldwin, Jena Malone, Gabrielle Union, Christian Slater

Red Joan (world premiere)
dir. Sir Trevor Nunn
Judi Dench, Sophie Cookson

Shadow
dir. Zhang Yimou

A_STAR_IS_BORN_MUSTUSE

A Star is Born
dir. Bradley Cooper
Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga

What They Had
dir. Elizabeth Chomko
Hilary Swank, Blythe Danner, Robert Forster, Michael Shannon

Widows (world premiere)
dir. Steve McQueen
Viola Davis, Liam Neeson, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez

SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS

Ben is Back (world premiere)
dir. Peter Hedges
Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges

Burning Lee
dir. Chang-dong

Can You Ever Forgive Me?
dir. Marielle Heller
Melissa McCarthy

Capernaum
dir. Nadine Labaki

Cold War
dir. Paweł Pawlikowski

colette

Colette
dir. Wash Westmoreland
Keira Knightley

Dogman
dir. Matteo Garrone

The Front Runner
dir. Jason Reitman
Hugh Jackman, Vera Fermiga, J.K. Simmons

Giant Little Ones
dir. Keith Behrman
Kyle MacLachlan, Maria Bello

Girls of the Sun
dir. Eva Husson

Hotel Mumbai (world premiere)
dir. Anthony Maras
Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Nazanin Boniadi, Anupam Kher

The Hummingbird Project (world premiere)
dir. Kim Nguyen
Jesse Eisenberg, Alexander Skarsgard, Salma Hayek

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If Beale Street Could Talk (world premiere)
dir. Barry Jenkins
Stephan James, Kiki Layne, Dave Franco, Pedro Pascal

Manto
dir. Nandita Das

Maya (world premiere)
dir. Mia Hansen-Løve

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Monsters and Men (opening film)
dir. Reinaldo Marcus Green

MOUTHPIECE (world premiere)
dir. Patricia Rozema

Non-Fiction
dir. Olivier Assayas
Juliette Binoche, Guillaume Canet

oldmanandthegun_02

The Old Man & The Gun
dir. David Lowery
Robert Redford, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Elizabeth Moss, Casey Affleck

Papi Chulo (world premiere)
dir. John Butler

Roma
dir. Alfonso Cuarón (closing film)

Shoplifters
dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda
Cannes Palme d’Or winner

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The Sisters Brothers
dir. Jacques Audiard
Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed

Sunset
dir. László Nemes

Through Black Spruce (world premiere)
dir. Don McKellar
Tantoo Cardinal, Brandon Oakes, Graham Greene, Tanaya Beatty

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The Wedding Guest (world premiere)
dir. Michael Winterbottom
Dev Patel

The Weekend (world premiere)
dir. Stella Meghie
Sasheer Zamata, Tone Bell, DeWanda Wise, Y’Lan Noel

Where Hands Touch (world premiere)
dir. Amma Asante
Amandla Stenberg

White Boy Rick
dir. Yann Demange
Matthew McConaughey, Bruce Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Eddie Marsan

Wildlife
dir. Paul Dano
Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal

See you in Toronto!

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