Photo C/O Women’s Adventure Film Tour

The Women’s Adventure Film Tour first premiered to a sold-out crowd in Sydney, Australia in May 2017. Since then, the film tour has left its home country and toured across Asia, Europe and North America. This spring, it is coming to Eastern Canada with a stop at Hamilton’s historic Playhouse Cinema on March 21.

The tour celebrates the extraordinary adventures of women by putting on a selection of short films. It is the result of a partnership between Australian company Adventure Film Tours and women-centred outdoors community She Went Wild. The Hamilton screening is open to all and will be two hours long with a short intermission. There will be also be raffle and door prizes offered.

Eastern Canada tour organizer, Benoit Brunet-Poirier got involved with the tour when he met Adventure Film Tours owner Toby Ryston-Pratt on a trip to Australia last year. At the time, Ryston-Pratt had been thinking about expanding to Canada. Brunet-Poirier discussed the opportunity with his partner Jamie Stewart and the two decided to take on the challenge of bringing the film tour home.

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Adventure is important for the couple, who met while rock-climbing. The tour also combines their respective industries as Brunet-Poirier works in the entertainment industry and Stewart works for an outdoors retailer.

By showing women-centred films, the tour is helping break down barriers in the outdoors industry. Brunet-Poirier noted that women are historically thought of as individuals to be protected and this series of short films challenges that notion.

“So I really like the idea of having a woman-focused film tour just because… although women are starting to be represented more in adventure stores and in the media and in film, I do think that there still is a misrepresentation or underrepresentation of women. And so this film tour is just putting… the spotlight on women,” Stewart said.

The couple did their first screening for the film tour in Ottawa last fall. They are taking the feedback from that event on the road by increasing the number of films in order to show a few shorter ones and playing well-received flicks.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DE3F336tVQ[/embedyt]

One such film, titled Finding the Line, follows professional skiers and sisters Anna and Nat Segal across Canada, France and the United States. While the film’s humour and thrilling 80 degree slopes make it an exciting watch, it is one of Stewart’s personal favourites because of its narratives of overcoming fear and sisterly bonding. It is these narratives that Stewart and Brunet-Poirier feel will resonate with audiences.

“We let go of some films that were focused on physical achievement to give room to films that are focused on the psychological or social achievement of other women. So there are films about BASE jumping and extreme sports, but there are also films that are more accessible,” said Brunet-Poirier.

In this way, the films should provide something that appeals to everyone, regardless of activity level or interest in extreme sports. The couple hopes that the pictures inspire audiences of all ages to attempt new things or take on a challenge that frightens them.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcWXn_Ydxuc[/embedyt]

Stewart and Brunet-Poirier also focused on ensuring that the films showcases diversity. From a film about an older, blind woman learning to swim for the first time to another about the challenges a lesbian couple faces in a mountain biking community when they open a pizza shop, the films capture a range of identities.

The films were selected from Adventure Films Tours’ global database. While the couple chose some films based in North America in order to be more local, their priority on diversity led them to select films from around the world.

“I am a Chinese woman here in Canada and… we really wanted to showcase diversity and acceptance of everyone… [T]hat's the root of our cause. [We] really try to reach as many people as we can and showing representation in adventure sports of all types of people,” said Stewart.

By centring the diversity of women, Women’s Adventure Film Tour pushes back against the perception of the outdoors community as male-dominated or predominantly white. The films aim to be a comprehensive show of the physical and mental strength of women.

 

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By: Joe Jodoin

As the first movie from Disney Animation since 2014’s Big Hero Six, Zootopia is a welcome return for the studio. The film possesses many of the same qualities as Disney’s other classics: top-notch animation, lovable characters and a powerful message for children and adults alike.

The film takes place in a world of anthropomorphic animals, and follows a young bunny named Judy Hopps. Judy has wanted to be a police officer her whole life, but after finally getting accepted to the force, she faces discrimination and exclusion from all her coworkers for being nothing but a cute little bunny. To prove herself a worthy cop, she sets out to solve a conspiracy involving 14 missing mammals, and enlists the help of a con artist fox named Nick Wilde to help her solve the case.

The brilliance of this premise is that it contains so much potential. It can work as an amalgamation of crime drama tropes, a parody of modern lifestyles in an anthropomorphized world and explore serious discrimination problems that people face in the real world. For the most part, Zootopia achieves all of these things, but also bites off more than it can chew.

The voice cast is incredible, featuring the voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J. K. Simmons and Alan Tudyk among others. Goodwin is the voice of Judy Hopps, and has a vast majority of the dialogue in the movie. She does an incredible job, and it’s almost impossible to imagine anyone else as the voice of Judy. The film definitely would not have been nearly as good if it wasn’t for her incredible vocal performance, in scenes that are both heart-wrenching and heart-warming.

The story is definitely more about what it takes to overcome discrimination, and the importance of treating everyone as equals, than it is about a conspiracy. The film satirizes racism with incredibly strong parallels between how different species of animals treat each other and how people of different skin colors treat each other. It also tackles sexism and stereotypes, arguing that a woman can do anything that a man can do. In the film’s third act, it goes even further, and shows how people can be discriminatory against a certain group without even realizing it because of how engrained stereotypes are in our collective consciousness. The way it confronts real world issues in such a blunt and powerful way is the main reason this film could go down in history as a Disney classic.

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Furthermore, the attention to detail in Zootopia is astonishing. When Judy goes to a neighbourhood of mice, she looks like a giant relative to all the buildings. However, she looks tiny when at the police station, since everyone there is a larger animal like a rhino or elephant. The way the movie works with scale and environment is very clever. More highlights include scenes from the trailers, such as the sloth scene at the DMV, the godfather parody scene and a fox committing a con with popsicles and a fake baby.

Sadly, due to the film’s incredible scope and amount of potential, it can feel disjointed and jumbled, moving from one place to another every few minutes. It is normally a good thing when a film has a fast pace, but Zootopia moves so fast that it stumbles often. Some scenes will be working very well, but then will move onto the next scene too quickly. This takes away from some of the emotional impact that the film aimed to have, and also made it less funny as it was almost exhausting keeping up with everything that was going on. To put this in perspective, the villain isn’t even revealed until the last 15 minutes of the movie, and the whole climax, denouement and conclusion all occur incredibly fast. It would definitely have been more enjoyable if it was over two hours long, but that’s not the worst complaint to have about a movie.

Overall, Zootopia is a fun and original addition to the Disney cannon, and is almost impossible not to like. It has a great message that all kids should hear, tons of pop-culture references and a balance of character and heart. However, the whole isn’t quite as strong as the sum of its parts, making it feel like a minor disappointment.

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Porch Stories

Saturday, Oct. 17 at 9 p.m. @ Mills Hardware - Runtime: 73 min. - Rating: 14A  |  Drama

From the director of acclaimed 2004 Hot Docs prizewinning documentary Army of One, Toronto filmmaker Sarah Goodman displays a sure hand with her first narrative feature. Porch Stories captures the intersecting lives of three people. With a strolling camera and beautiful black-and-white cinematography, Goodman perfectly portrays the web of events and overheard conversations that make up the city’s soundscape.

Court

Monday, Oct. 19 at 1 p.m. @ Ancaster SilverCity Cinemas - Runtime: 116 min. - Rating: PG  |  Drama

Winner of top prizes at the Venice and Mumbai film festivals, Court is a quietly devastating, absurdist portrait of injustice, caste prejudice, and venal politics in contemporary India. An elderly folk singer and grassroots organizer, dubbed the “people’s poet,” is arrested on a trumped-up charge of inciting a sewage worker to commit suicide. What truly distinguishes Court is the brilliant cast of professional and nonprofessional actors; an affecting mixture of comedy and tragedy; and the naturalist approach to the characters and to Indian society as a whole, rich with complexity and contradiction.

Al Purdy Was Here

Saturday, Oct. 24 at 1 p.m. @ Mills Hardware - Runtime: 95 min. - Rating: PG  |  Documentary

The story of Al Purdy, Canada’s leading poet, and the A-frame cabin that he built, now being restored as a writers’ retreat. Featuring interviews and performances by artists including Leonard Cohen, Bruce Cockburn, Gord Downie, Gordon Pinsent, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Sarah Harmer, Tanya Tagaq and Joseph Boyden, the film moves between Purdy’s story and the compelling characters bound up in his legacy. Purdy has been called the last, best and most Canadian poet.

Amy

Sunday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. @ Landmark Cinemas 6 Jackson Square - Runtime: 90 min. - Rating: 14A  |  Documentary / Biography

With a voice oft-described as a combination of Billy Holiday, Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan, Amy Winehouse was a pop star with soul, a once in two generational musical talent whose appeal crossed cultural and demographic boundaries. As riveting as it is sad, Amy is a powerfully honest look at the twisted relationship between art and celebrity — and the lethal spiral of addiction.

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3. Mommy (review by: Michelle Yeung)

Xavier Dolan’s Mommy follows Diane “Die” Despres (Anne Dorval), a single mother trying to make ends meet. Her teenage son, Steve (Antoine Olivier Pilon), has ADHD and is emotionally unstable; one moment he is sweet-natured and the next he is violent. Along with Kyla (Susanne Clément), a quiet neighbour with an idiopathic stutter and her own troubles, the three form an unusual friendship in hopes that their broken pieces will somehow form a whole.

The performances of Dorval, Pilon, and Clément are operatic in scale, with all three turning in tremendous work. The decision to shoot the film in a 1:1 aspect ratio also augments the film, emphasizing how characters in the story are all confined to some form of a boundary.

Mommy is raw, carnal, and positively engrossing. Like Steve, the film is menacingly incandescent, with heavy scenes of violence and grief punctuated by bursts of humour and the warmth of a mother’s irrefutable, almost desperate, love. Equal measures heartfelt and heartbreaking, Mommy is one of the dearest films in 2014, and will tug at your heartstrings without remorse.

2. Top Five (review by: Tobi Abdul)

The blunt, raunchy, but insightful nature of Chris Rock’s stand-up lends itself brilliantly to Top Five, arguably Rock’s smartest feature to date. The semi-autobiographical film follows Andre Allen (Rock), a sell-out comedian hoping to be taken seriously, and Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson), a Times reporter, through a day of self-discovery wrapped up in not-so-subtle chemistry that ultimately satisfies. During the day-long interview, the pair pose the question, “who are your top five all-time favourite rappers” repeatedly to those Allen interacts with. Allen is reminiscent of comedians like Adam Sandler, who once made genuinely funny movies only to fall from grace and continuously make offensively bad movies.

Top Five allows for the exploration into the precariousness of celebrity, selling out, family, and comedy. The movie, which features cameos from Hollywood’s top comedians, strays from the formulaic nature of the modern blockbuster and ostensibly takes us back to a time where movies attempted, not only to entertain, but to also say something.

1. Birdman (review by: Shane Madill)

A star-studded cast, brilliant cinematography, a script that allows for both unforgettable monologues and snappy back-and-forth dialogue across nearly any combination of characters involved, and a total package of a film that demands repeat watches all make for what could very well be the ceiling of what modern cinema is capable of.

Riggan, played by Michael Keaton, is a washed up actor who used to play in a series of superhero movies. His attempt to reclaim legitimacy comes in the form of a stage production of Raymond Carver’s short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” This short plot description does not do the film nearly enough justice given the complexity of Riggan’s situation and mental state, how well developed all of the secondary characters are as individuals, and the vastly different relationships that each of these characters have with one another.

Much of the preview and basic media coverage revolves around how the film is set up to look like one long-take, basically that it has minimal cuts or transitions, that most film fan boys enjoy in any usage for how well these shots are usually framed, what climax or point they attempt to build up to, and the requirements and complexity required by the actors in the scene. While Birdman does follow these conventions, the main purpose is to add emphasis to the parallels between the main characters and their roles within the play performed within the movie – this also spills over with the script in self-referential elements such as Michael Keaton’s own experiences with the Batman franchise or Edward Norton being notoriously difficult to work with on set. While the fine line between losing yourself within the universe of the story and these meta components of reminding the watcher of real life events could very easily backfire, it works for the most part in continuing to blur lines between who they are in real life, who they are in the movie, and the parts they play within the play in the movie.

Everything in the film leads itself to brisk, constant action and sensory overload by constantly switching your expectations for the upcoming scene. Every moment is memorable and unique from every other in the film. This is a must-watch.

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7. Whiplash (review by: Rachel Katz)

Short, punchy, and at times anxiety-inducing, Whiplash is not a typical film. It centers on an aspiring jazz band drummer and the teacher who pushes him to the brink of insanity. J.K. Simmons is perfectly cast as the loud, abusive conductor, and in a much more subtle way, Miles Teller’s portrayal of the young drummer is just as well cast. From the film’s opening to its climax, their complex relationship plays out in a horrifyingly magnetic performance that stays with the audience hours after the film ends. The finale is satisfying, but unapologetically ambiguous in a way that respects the audience’s ability to imagine what could potentially follow the bizarre “happily ever after.”

Perhaps the most impressive element of the film is its runtime. Part of its effectiveness comes from the fact that an entire tumultuous year in the lives of the characters is played out in just over 100 minutes, leaving the viewer with the concise but undeniably disturbing feeling of whiplash.

6. We Are the Best (review by: Tomi Milos)

While Boyhood got all the credit this year, another coming-of-age film didn’t get the attention it deserved. We Are The Best! is a Swedish movie whose small release and the fact that it wasn’t shot over the span of 12 years probably worked against it. Lukas Moodysson focuses his astute lens on three pre-teen girls who make change rather than a fairly typical boy who passively watches as change sweeps him off his feet.

Bobo and Klara are two best friends who still cling to the notion that punk is not dead in 1980s Stockholm. Frustrated by their tumultuous home life, the two retreat to the community centre to do their homework but are stymied by the noise made by the loud (and horrible) practice of a band called Iron Fist.

Despite their lack of instruments, the two conspire to keep the disrespectful boys from practicing by reserving their own timeslot; thus, their own band is born. What follows is a heart-warming/breaking tale that sees them absorb another lonely girl into their midst and become a full-fledged badass punk unit.

5. Guardians of the Galaxy (review by: Michael Gallagher)

When I first saw the trailers for Guardians of the Galaxy I admit, I wasn’t very impressed. It looked like a rushed, cheesy film that would soon become indistinguishable from the countless other superhero movies that seem to be flooding movie theatres in the last five years. Worse still, I couldn’t help but question the fact that it had a talking raccoon, which – even now – is pretty damn weird.

Instead I found a movie with deep compelling characters, stunning visual effects, and witty dialogue at every turn that proved just how wrong my impressions were. While Guardians of the Galaxy may not be the movie of the year, it possesses a charm that left me laughing even after my first viewing, and is one superhero movie you just can’t miss.

4. Grand Budapest Hotel (review by: Chris Chiu)

The first thing you notice is the colours. Next, the gorgeous set design begins to permeate the senses. Long before you begin to even fathom the plot or the acting, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel already has you under his spell.

In a year where cinema seemed to be drowning in superheroes and dark storylines, Anderson’s witty and stylish film is a breath of fresh air reminding us that there’s more to the movies than just explosions and fight sequences. Beyond the vibrant plums and the electrifying fuchsias, Anderson weaves an elaborate cat-and-mouse tale that manages to explore the themes of love and unlikely friendships without ever taking itself too seriously.

Newcomer Tony Revolori holds his own as Zero Moustafa, and Ralph Fiennes’ shines as Monsieur Gustav H. (who knew Voldemort could be so adorable?) That said, the film is a constellation where all the stars create a spectacle much bigger than the individual parts.

The year is young and I’m sure you’ve made plenty of resolutions, but let me tell you something: The gym can wait, this film cannot. Make sure you see for yourself what all the buzz around Wes Anderson’s most recent masterpiece is before it gets buried in all of the treasures (fingers-crossed) 2015 has to offer.

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