It’s that time again for the Yellowknife International Film Festival (YIFF) and I’m the man reviewing the films previewed at this festival. This time, I got a chance to pre-screen the films so I can post the reviews before showtime. From a satirical take on the Standing Rock protests to a documentary of the Tragically Hip’s final concert, we got a wide variety of films this year. We get that variety in our first screening with two hour-long films that couldn’t be more different. Journeys to Adaka is a documentary about a festival dedicated to Indigenous artists. The Last Walk is a collection of short films sharing a premise of a sister’s journey to forgive her exiled sister.
10) EVIL DEAD: THE MUSICAL
And so, we begin the wacky musical adaptation of the Evil Dead trilogy and let’s just say there was a reason it sold out every night.
While the songs aren’t the catchiest, they serve the plot well and do parody the musical genre. Stephen Allred is excellent as Ash, blending both the characters heroism and idiocy. While limited in its budget, the musical still manages to deliver some neat special effects, especially with the talking furniture. It also pokes fun at the plot holes of the film. There also hilarious gags, including one character who can never get a word in edgewise, even when turned into a deadite or a dead who can’t stop using puns.
If you want some extra fun, sit in the splash zone.
9) THE BEST OF THE BOMBS: AN EXPLORATION OF BROADWAY’S BIGGEST FLOPS
There can be redeeming qualities even in the worst materials. The Best of the Bombs showcases the redeeming qualities of musicals that have flopped commercially (and in most cases, critically) on Broadway. While audience dined on the Sawmill’s buffet, actors Dustin Berube, Andrea Graham, Kevin Mason, Julio Mateo, Kayla Papaianni and Meghan Schritt performed the best songs from these failed musicals. We get some great performances, including Lovesick from Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and This Isn’t The End from Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.
Before each number, the actors deliver a brief introduction explaining the reasons for each musical’s failure, whether it’s an overblown budget (Spider-Man), bad timing (The Visit) or terrible ideas (Carrie: The Musical). They even read us a few scathing reviews. The funniest were the ones for Bloody, Bloody, Andrew Jackson, which unintentionally parallels Trump’s Presidency.
If you are curious to watch these short, you can rent them in the following link.
BEST ANIMATED SHORTS:
And so, we start with the first Canadian import.
Vaysha was born with two sights. With her left eye, she sees the past. With her right eye, she sees the future. Everyone she meets is both a child and an elder, which proves a problem when suitors try to court her. This creates a sense of blindness for Vaysha, walking into trees because she can only see it as a seedling and a stump. Her double vision also makes it hard to sleep when her dreams consists of both the dawn of man and the apocalypse. It’s up to 3 medicine women to bring her eyes into the present.
This must be a horrifying way to live. Vaysha’s unable to live in the present, seeing only what was and what will be. It gets so unbearable that Vaysha considers gouging one of her eyes out. Too bad each eye presents its own problems. If she takes out her left eye, she sees only a bleak world. If she takes out her right eye, it’s going to be awkward to see her parents as infants. Either way, she’s still not living in the present.
The animation takes on the style of an old wood cut art style, fitting with the folk tale storytelling. You get lots of beautiful images, including the scene of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. The animation also exaggerates movements, especially with character’s stretching their necks. Adding to the folksy tale is the narration by Caroline Dhavernas.
In a way, this feels like a folk tale, the kind cultures would tell to teach children a lesson. This lesson: “Today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.” It sure gets the message across with its excellent animation.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:
- EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT
From Colombia comes a tale of Karamakate, the last survivor of his tribe.
The film focuses on two journeys he made with scientists. His first journey takes place in 1909, when Karamakate (NIlbio Torres) helps the infected Dr. Theodore Koch-Grunberg (Jan Bijvoet) find a cure in the form of the rare sacred plant the yakruna. The second journey takes place in 1940s, when a now elder Karamakate (Antonio Bolivar) helps American doctor Richard Evan Schults (Brionne Davis) find the yakruna using Koch-Grunberg’s journal.
This film seems to go for a more Apocalypse Now style of storytelling. It takes more artistic liberties to examine the psychology of the characters. The film also has a look at the effects of colonialism on native tribes.
From Turkey comes a dark tale of the need for independence in a world of religious fundamentalism.
After an innocent fling with some boys on a beach escalates into scandal, 5 orphan girls are imprisoned by their religious fundamentalist guardians determined to force them into arranged marriages. All of these sisters have a need for freedom and find ways to get around their oppressive existence. At the centre of the film is their attempts to escape their religious fundamentalist parents.
- SON OF SAUL
For his directorial debut, Poland’s Laszlo Nemes shows a heartbreaking fight for humanity in a world with none.
Saul is a prisoner in Auschwitz, who works the job of disposing of corpses in a gas chamber. When one child survives only to die a few minute later, Saul decides to give the kid a proper burial
From Jordan is a coming of age tale of a boy growing up in the wake of World War One.
Set in 1916 Wadi Rum desert, Theeb (Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat) is an orphan boy descended from a family of pilgrim guides. He survives in the desert thanks to his older brother Hussein (Hussein Salameh Al-Sweihiyeen). One night, they encounter Edward (Jack Fox), an English officer and his Arab guide Marji. They hire Hussein to guide them across the pilgrim trail to a well close to the ottoman track. Despite objections, Theeb follows them.
At first, the mischevious Theeb tries to find out what’s in Edward’s box. But when they come under threat of raiders, Theeb’s forced to grow up too early in order to survive.
- A WAR
From Denmark comes a tale of a soldiers battles in Afghanistan and his family’s journey at home. When Claus M. Pedersen returns from the battlefield, he finds himself on trial for war crimes. Is he guilty of said crime? Did he have no choice?
The film also focuses on his wife’s struggles keeping her family together. She’s especially challenged when Claus’ on trial.
Who Will Win?
It’s Son of Saul.
If there’s anything the academy loves, it’s a holocaust movie. By that, I mean a really good Holocaust movie. There’s a reason they didn’t give any awards to Jacob the Liar and The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas. It still has to deliver on the goods.
And for a directorial debut from Laszlo Nemes delivers big time on goods, not only is it getting critical appraisal and is the surefire favorite for this category, but it also one the Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix; the most highly regarded movie award ever.