October 2012 films

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United States (2011), 100 minutes. Rated: PG
Director: Lauren Greenfield
Directing Award, U.S. Documentary, 2012 Sundance Film Festival

“Grade A! Succulently entertaining. The next big documentary-as-cultural touchstone.” – Entertainment Weekly

Sharply observed and deliciously funny, this Sundance award winner is a timely, engaging and richly-drawn portrait of the fascinating and just slightly loveable Siegel family. Meet Jackie and David. He is a self-made billionaire in his early 70s, the owner of Westgate Resorts – the world’s largest timeshare company. “I got George Bush elected … it may not necessarily have been legal,” he says. She is 30 years younger, a former Mrs. Florida – and, by turns, ridiculous and compelling, shallow and shrewd, tough and generous, farcical and fun. We meet them as they embark on the construction of a 90,000 square foot mansion that is one part Versailles, and several parts Vegas. Then the economic downturn begins to bite. His business dries up, construction stops – and now Jackie takes the stretch limo … to McDonald’s. This is an entertaining riches-to-rags tale of the American family writ absurdly large.



United States (2012) 90 minutes. Rated: R
Director: Alison Klayman
English and Mandarin with English subtitles
Special Jury Prize, 2012 Sundance Film Festival

A new-style profile in 21st-century courage.” – Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor

Named by ArtReviewas the most powerful artist in the world, courageous and charismatic Ai Weiwei is China’s most celebrated contemporary artist, and its most outspoken domestic critic. In April 2011, when Ai disappeared into police custody for three months, he quickly became China’s most famous missing person. Ai Weiwei’s critiques of China’s repressive regime have ranged from playful photographs of his raised middle finger in front of Tiananmen Square to searing memorials of the more than 5,000 schoolchildren who died in shoddy government construction in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. This insightful, engaging and inspirational documentary, winner of a Special Jury Prize at Sundance, is the inside story of a passionate dissident for the digital age, a highly original man who inspires global audiences and blurs the boundaries of art and politics. Strong language.





Canada (2012), 90 minutes. Rated: PG
Director: Nisha Pahuja
English and Hindi with English subtitles
Best Documentary, 2012 Tribeca Film Festival

“Beautiful and poignant.” – Filmmaker Magazine

This brilliant film, an award winner at Tribeca and Hot Docs, captures the choices and contradictions facing young women in India today. Twenty young women from across India arrive for an intense, month-long beauty boot camp – they are the hand- picked contestants for the Miss India pageant. Winning the coveted title means instant stardom, a lucrative career path and freedom from the constraints of a patriarchal society. In another corner of India is a camp for young girls run by the militant fundamentalist movement. Through lectures and physical combat training, the girls learn what it means to be good Hindu women. Moving between the transformative action at the camps, and the characters’ private lives, the film creates a lively, provocative portrait of the world’s largest democracy at a critical transitional moment.


8.30 p.m. – THE IMPOSTER

United Kingdom (2012) 99 minutes. Rated: R
Director: Bart Layton
Grand Jury Prize, 2012 Miami Film Festival

“A mesmerising psychological thriller.” – The Hollywood Reporter

Documentary meets film noir in this riveting jaw-dropper, a true story that has the twists and turns of a thriller. In 1994 a 13-year-old boy disappears without a trace from San Antonio, Texas. Three and a half years later he is found alive, thousands of miles away in a village in southern Spain with a story of kidnap and torture. His family is overjoyed to bring him home. But all is not quite as it seems. The boy bears many of the same distinguishing marks he always had, but why does he now have a strange accent? Why does he look so different? And why doesn’t the family seem to notice these glaring inconsistencies? It’s only when an investigator starts asking questions that this strange tale takes an even stranger turn. This dazzling film is an exciting, edge-of-your-seat experience, an astonishing story that gets more outrageous with each revelation. This is one of the year’s most provocative films. Adult language and content.




2:00 p.m. – BITTER SEEDS

United States (2011), 88 minutes, Rated: TBA
Director: Micha Peled
English and Hindi with English subtitles
Global Justice Award, Oxfam

“A tragedy for our times, beautifully told and deeply disturbing.” – Author Michael Pollan

Monsanto, the company that brought us DDT and Agent Orange, is the world’s largest producer of genetically modified (GM) crops. Tracing Monsanto’s sizable footprint on an agrarian community in central India, where renewable seeds have been phased out by genetically- modified, non-renewable seeds, with catastrophic results for local farmers, the filmmaker puts a face on the victims of the industrial agriculture chain by following a farmer from sowing to harvest. He also follows a teenage girl who is taking her first steps to become a journalist and give a voice to the powerless. This affecting film, an indictment of the agricultural biotech industry tightly wrapped within a gripping character-based narrative, is the final film in Micha Peled’s globalisation trilogy, following the award-winning China Blue and Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town.


4:15 p.m.  –  VENUS AND SERENA

United States-United Kingdom (2012), 100 minutes. Rated: PG
Directors: Michelle Major, Maiken Baird
World Premiere, Toronto International Film Festival

“A story of victory and resilience in the face of adversity.” – The Hollywood Reporter

The tennis-playing Williams sisters burst out of Compton, California and took the sporting world by storm. Today, they are among the most successful players ever. This intimate documentary takes us inside their lives during a year when debilitating injuries and a life-threatening illness threatened to take them out of the game. Drawing strength from each other and with help from their inner circle, they demonstrated the fighting spirit, self-discipline and unrelenting work ethic that have propelled them to the very pinnacle of their sport. The funny, fiercely competitive – but mutually supportive – twosome reflect on their history of breaking barriers and defying odds, as well as the important roles played by their parents, Richard and Oracene. The film ends with the London Olympic Games as the sisters demonstrate that they are back at the top of their game.


6:45 p.m. – BEWARE OF MR. BAKER

United States (2012), 92 minutes. Rated: R.
Director: Jay Bulger
Grand Jury Award, 2012 SXSW Film Festival

“A rollicking, dangerous and ultimately transcendent ride.” – Indiewire

This is the hilarious and harrowing portrait of one of the greatest masters of rock, the legendary drummer Ginger Baker. Very few films begin with the main character breaking the director’s nose with a metal cane, but Ginger Baker is a man to approach with caution. Hailed by some as the inventor of rock ‘n’ roll drumming, this genius and madman is best known for his time with Cream and Blind Faith. He is found by filmmaker Jay Bulger, living on a compound in South Africa with his fourth wife and 39 polo ponies, desperate for cash and paying the price for a life of excess. Featuring interviews with his ex-wives, children and fellow musicians – including Eric Clapton, Charlie Watts, Stewart Copeland, Neil Peart, Lars Ulrich and Carlos Santana – this is a revealing portrait of one of rock’s greatest characters. Adult language and content. 



United States (2012), 89 minutes. Rated: A
Director: Brian Knappenberger
Official Selection, 2012 Slamdance Film Festival

“If there’s an ounce of civil disobedience in your body, this documentary is for you.” – Slug Magazine

This enormously entertaining film takes us inside the world of Anonymous, the radical “hacktivist” collective that has redefined civil disobedience for the digital age. Fast- paced and funny, the film lays down hacker history in appealing fashion, tracing Anonymous’ evolution from merry Internet pranksters to a full- blown activist movement with a global reach. Through interviews with current members, people recently returned from prison or facing trial, writers, academics, activists and major players in various “raids”, we see the development of the group from their early days taking on racist radio hosts, corporate targets and the Church of Scientology to their role in the Arab Spring. Strong language. 





Italy-Germany (2011), 75 minutes. Rated: A
Directors: Luca Ragazzi, Gustav Hofer
English and Italian with English subtitles
Audience Awards, Milan and Thessaloniki Film Festivals

“A breath-taking, stunning and poetic road movie.” – Der Spiegel

Food, wine, art, architecture … Italy defines la dolce vita – the good life – like no other place, making it the country of many a romantic fantasy. But as filmmakers Luca Ragazzi and Gustav Hofer discover in this entertaining, playful and often hilarious film, there is another side to Italy – corrupt politics, social inertia, degraded morality, and environmental neglect – and that has resulted in several of their disenchanted friends leaving the country. Setting out in a vintage Fiat Uno, the charming twosome set off on a zigzagging tour of Italy, focusing on the beautiful – including a visit to George Clooney’s home on the shores of Lake Como — and weighing it against the less savoury, and ultimately deciding whether they should love Italy, or leave it. Brief nudity. 



Kenya-Germany-Nigeria (2011), 79 minutes. Rated: TBA
Director: Branwen Okpako
English, and German, Swahili and Lao with English subtitles
Best Diaspora Documentary, 2012 African Movie Academy Awards

“A positive study in female African achievement.” – Variety

This is a captivating and intimate portrait of U.S. President Barack Obama’s charismatic and inspirational older half-sister, Auma. She studied linguistics and contemporary dance in Heidelberg, Germany before enrolling in film school in Berlin. Now teaching in Kenya, she is seeking to inspire the future generation of politically and socially-engaged activists who will guide the country. Like her half- brother, Auma Obama is following in the footsteps of their politically-minded father, Barack Sr., who was active politically in Kenya until his death in a car accident. Featuring fascinating home movie footage of a visit to Kenya by the future President and his now- wife Michelle, this is a rare glimpse into the African roots of the Obama family.



United States (2012), 120 minutes. Rated: 15
Director: Julien Temple

“An astonishing film … a rousing, powerful portrait of a city.” – Time Out London

A swooning love letter to one of the world’s greatest cities, this rousing, unofficial history of London is legendary director Julien Temple’s epic time-travelling voyage to the heart of his hometown. From musicians, writers and artists to dangerous thinkers, political radicals and above all ordinary people, this is the brilliant and exhaustive story of London’s vitality, diversity and irrepressible energy from the early 20th century to the present. The story unfolds through film archive and the voices of Londoners past and present, powered by the popular music across the century, which enhances the film’s compelling imagery. This people’s history of the capital ends in the summer of 2012, as London prepared to welcome the world to the Olympic Games. Drug use.