Saturday, August 20, 2011

The "Final List" Draft 1, while waiting on Discovery and Masters

On Tuesday, the final slate of remaining film programming will be announced by TIFF and I will be on a cottage island. These two things are facts. Therefore, I will have to wait until next weekend to touch base with what has emerged. While I will be very happy to be where I am going, I will have not-a-small desire for random WIFI, especially when I realize that I am also missing out on having the Industry-Public combined screening schedule, frankly one of the greatest rewards of having this pass. It is invaluable for being able to plan when to avoid certain screening rooms because of likely crushing crowds, and when also to run to those same venues for that last possible screening of that film that was a top seed.

So I cannot possibly put together a final "list" because we are still waiting on Discovery and most of Masters. Assuming there will be some late-breaking heavy-hitters among them, I am going to list only 33 of what will eventually be (next weekend) the top 50 picks. (Yeah, I know - those Wavelengths and Short Cuts Canada entries look like five and four - meaning nine screenings, not 2!) The ranking is entirely subjective --- and is not a reflection of what I think will be the "best" films. They are just the most anticipated. And they are linked to the TIFF online page. I'm hoping that the full programme book descriptions will also land on these linked pages on Tuesday, as they have in years past. Don't let us down, TIFF!

Where Do We Go Now?
This is Not a Film
This Side of Resurrection
Cardboard Village
The Lady
1, 2, 3, 4, 5
A Simple Life (pictured)
Martha Marcy May Marlene
In My Mother's Arms
Last Days in Jerusalem
Monsieur Lazhare
Pink Ribbons Inc.
In Darkness
Last Call at the Oasis
Oslo, August 31
Woman in the Fifth
Albert Nobbs
Chicken with Plums
The Deep Blue Sea
Short Cuts Canada
2, 4, 5, 6
Romeo Eleven
A Separation
Story of Film
Wuthering Heights
Future Lasts Forever
Last Winter

More next week!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Almost there: CWC, Wavelengths, Future Projections, Visions and some Galas and Special Presentations

One of my most excited moments in Festival prep comes with the announcement of the Wavelengths line-up, which often includes the smaller masterpieces of the masters of many genres of filmmaking, besides just the experimental genre. The wit of programmer Andréa Picard is part of why she is one of TIFF's best programmers. Consider this example, in the description of Wavelengths Programme 1: "As celluloid threatens to disappear altogether, Wavelengths launches with a celebratory and elegiac programme comprised of doomed desire, vanishing worlds and a love of analogue." Alongside Wavelengths, TIFF made significant programming annoucements including all the Visions and Future Projectons titles, as well as some additional selections in the Galas and Special Presentations. Here is a rundown.

(Films are grouped by TIFF into five screenings)
WL1: Analogue Arcadia (wins the programme title of the year award) As usual, the curating of the Wavelengths programmes brings forward a nuanced sensibility for the ways in which films speak to each other across form and format. I am drawn to all seven shorts in this first night of screenings: Loutra/Baths - Nick Collins' "mesmerizing study" of an ancient Roman bath; Edwin Parker, Tacita Dean's portrait of Cy Twombly, one of my most favourte contemporary aritsts (pictured above). Renowned Vietnamese filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who was discovered and launched at TIFF during this past decade with remarkable feature films, offers Empire, a "beguiling miniature of an enchanted grotto". Also looking forward to Joshua Bonnetta's American Colour about the glories and demise of Kodachrome film stock."Vibrant ecology" is featured in the next of Rose Lowder's bouquet series: Bouquets 11-20. The North African bosphorous is conveyed in Jonathan Schwartz' Preface to Red. T. Marie (whom I always find exciting) is back with Optra Field VII-IX, described by the alliterating Picard as "pixel paintings for perceiving perception, and moiré to the max."

WL2: James Benning's Twenty Cigarettes is about the same pack of ciggies being shared by twenty people from around the world. That's enough smoking to make up its own entire screening night!

WL3: Serial Rhythms
Nine films participate in this series. Of these, highlights include legendary Canadian visual artist Joyce Wieland offering Sailboat, a "vaguely ominous haiku on the high waters." Similarly, John Pride's Sea Series #10 looks like it considers visually the way we perceive oceans after disasters like Fukushima. Alina Rudnitskaya's I Will Forget This Day is a black & white meditation on waiting. This film may be a good example of the crossover values of Wavelengths and Visions, especially as Picard this year takes over the entire Visions programming (including Future Projections, assessed below).

WL4: Space is the Place
Six films participate in this screening slot, including Mark Lewis' Black Mirror at the National Gallery which experiments with Dutch landscape painting and the interacting roles of camera, mirror and artist. Blair Williams' Coorow-Latham Road (pictured) takes on Google Streetview and its ways of conveying perception of space. Austria, Algeria and Japan are the settings of three remaining films by Ute Aurand, Neil Beloufa and Eriko Sonodo.

WL5: The Return/Aberration of Light
This final programme focusses on only two films. A master of the form, Nathaniel Dorsky's The Return meditates on life and memory. In Aberration of Light: Dark Chamber Disclosure, Sandra Gibson, Luis Recoder and composer Olivia Block collaborate on an "improvised live cinema performance." Not sure just yet what that will entail but is worth trying on spec.

Future Projections
As a teacher of film and new media, the Future Projections programme offers a terrific richness of ways to see the increasingly indelible blend of these two forms of expression. This year's slate shows much possibility for provocative critical thinking. Here are some highlights:

Of the 11 programmed events, none will be more controversial than that of Mr. Brainwash, the film documentarian and Banksy sidekick turned modern visual artist. Exit Through the Gift Shop takes a satiric look at MB's opus, often criticized as well by others for its slapdash, unconceptually developed forms. I am not sure what the programmers are up to here, but a first glance at his pervasive presence might suggest that the marketing end of TIFF (increasingly aggressive and in danger of trivializing that which TIFF seeks to preserve, the 'essence' of cinema) may have had some input here. MB is apparently going to assist in the fall curation of the Grace Kelly retrospective in a "unique" way, and his spray cans will be outside RTH. This feels to me like marketing and exploitation of the media presence MB has enjoyed since the film came out. And his installation, which remains untitled (not surprising given how last minute his work is according to ETGS) has been defined so far as only "multiple piece". There's a big "we'll see' next to all this, in my mind. The installation will be at Gallery One, 121 Scollard.

Much more exciting fare awaits in Peter Lynch's Buffalo Days, which looks at how European colonization impacted the Native North American aesthetic sensibility, in a video and environmental sound installation. At the ROM's Institute of Contemporary Culture, 100 Queens Park.

James Franco and Gus Van Sant's Memories of Idaho, is essentially two films presented sequentially that reflect back on the making of My Own Private Idaho as a seminal moment in Van Sant's career and life. The films are entitled My Own Private River and Idaho, one focussing on River Pheonix and the other a Super 8 tribute to his original conception for the film. To be screened at TIFF Lightbox.

Some Canadian artists come into the foreground in these installations with impressive projects.
David Rokeby's Plot Against Time will show, in the words of the press release, "gannets swooping off the coast of Newfoundland. Brilliantly suggesting abstract-expressionist precedents from Whistler to Pollock, Plot Against Time’s interest in kinesis is as sociological and technological as it is philosophical and painterly." I couldn't have said it better myself. At the Drake Hotel, 1150 Queen West. Nicholas and Sheila Pye (whose film The Encounter is also being screened in the Short Cuts Canada programme) will present Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board, inspired by the children's game. At Birch Libralato, 129 Tecumseth. Eve Sussman/Rufus Corporation's whiteonwhite:algorithmicnoir (2009-2011) takes its cue from 'paranoic sci-fi noir' and particularly Tarkovsky and Godard. At the NFB Mediatheque 150 John.

American photographer Gregory Crewdson's Sanctuary roams the empty ruins of the great Cinecitta studios where Fellini and Scorcese and others have shot films. At CONTACT gallery, 80 Spadina. UK Director Duane Hopkins' Sunday takes us back to the West Midlands of his chldhood in what is promised to "capture the ennui, sadness and beauty of isolated adolescence in painterly tones and colors that recall the British Romantics, while twinning and reconceptualizing his landscapes to evoke the brooding, twitchy surrealism of the ever-encroaching contemporary world." At MOCCA, 952 Queen West. Ben Rivers' Slow Action takes four real locations and imagines them as futuristic communities. At TPW, 56 Ossington. And David Lamelas' Time as Activity (Buenos Aires) meditates on how we conceive time while looking at the landmark Plaza Congreso in Buenos Aires. It is billed as having "tranquil elegance, economy and ostensible simplicity". Programmers are unendingly adept at this kind of prose!

Of all the installations, however, I am most drawn to and excited by Elle Flanders and Tamira Sawatzky's Road Movie, which looks at Palestinian life in the West Bank in a six-sided installation at O'Born Contemporary, 51 Wolseley. (pictured)

The last of the three programmes grouped under the heading "Visions" is the actual Visions programme itself. Of the 20 titles announced here, here are my picks. Looking very much forward to Joaquim Sapinho's This Side of Resurrection (pictured), which looks at "sibling love and faith" when a young woman discovers that the brother she thought was backpacking around the world has in fact become a monk. Helvecio Marins Jr. Clarissa Campolina's Swirl profiles an 80 year old woman tackling the ultimate questions in life after the death of her husband in the beautiful landscape of northern Brazil. I want to be excited about Jan Zabell's The River Used to be a Man, but the description has a vagueness that worries me, despite my interest in its themes of 'divination, memory and traditional belief'. It is perhaps the 'existential fog' of the main character that sounds like this work may be more puzzling than satisfying. Similarly, Debbie Tucker Green's Random about a Black British woman on a day of family violence, sounds like it has a powerful premise, but its monologue structure has me cautious. The "shot entirely in long shot" is equally a caution about Ruben Östlund's Play, which is "based on an actual incident in Gothenburg where a group of black kids manipulated other teenagers, mostly from "ethnic" backgrounds, into surrendering their valuables", but here I am more willing to take the risk. You see how subjective film selection is!

Matias Mayer's The Last Christeros offers a theme of enduring commitment to Christian faith that appeals to me, even if the story and landscape otherwise don't. Christian themes also lace Adolfo Borinaga Alix Jr.'s Fable of the Fish, which examines the mixture of belief systems that constitues the faith life of many Filipinos. Also from the Phillippines and also dealing in part with contemporary Christianity is Lav Diaz's Century of Birthing which follows two stories, one a filmmaker's attempt to complete his work, and the other an Evangelical leader's challenges in a rural region. Christian Petzold, Dominik Graf and Christoph Hochhäusler, all German filmmakers, participate in a three-part film series, each with the preliminary title Dreileben which follows an escaped murderer from three different angles. From the country that gave us Run Lola Run.

To the already much discussed line-up of galas, is added Christophe Honoré's Beloved (pictured) with Chiara Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve. It presents a mother/daughter adventure in love from the 1960s to the present day. I confess I will take this in if I can, at the very least to quietly enjoy the divine loveliness of the two leading ladies. Tanya Wexler's Hysteria starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Hugh Dancy about the invention of the vibrator looks like it could either be eccentric and frivolous or funny and pithy - though of course it may also be neither! Page Eight, David Hare's latest film focuses on a British agent who faces down the compromises of the government, with Rachel Weisz in tow. (Is there a film being released in 2011 that does not have Rachel Weisz? She seems to be everywhere, including at least three films at TIFF.) Jennifer Hudson takes the title role in Darrell Roodt's film Winnie which tells the story of Winnie Mandela, with Terrence Howard.

Special Presentations
Emmano Olmi's Cardboard Village is about a deconsecrated church and the new missional purpose it fulfills when immigrants find sanctuary within it. Very much looking forward to this. Nathan Morlando's Edwin Boyd about Canada's notorious bank robber set in post-war Toronto stars Scott Speedman. Gianni Amello's First Man recovers the steps of a French Algerian returning to his childhood home in this adaptation from a work-in-progress of Albert Camus before his death. Much ballyhoo will be made of the new Bollywood romance by Pankaj Kapur, Mausam, starring Sonam Kapoor and Shahid Kapur. Australian novelist Julia Leigh has made an adaptation of Sleeping Beauty which looks like an interesting contemporary adaptation that comments on some of the inherent preconceptions of the well-known fairy tale. And Emanuelle Crialese's Terraferma takes place in that southern part of Sicily that has seen a huge influx of North African immigrants.

However, of all the announced new SPs, most compelling to me is Agnieszka Holland's In Darkness, about holocaust Jews hiding in Polish sewer systems. Though she has made a number of films now about this era, her sharply observed sense of human drama offers always a fresh take. Equally exciting is Andrea Arnold's Wuthering Heights which looks to be brave and bold as only this Scottish auteur can be. Unknown cast and stark imagery are hallmarks of her work and would seem by the photographic evidence in full effect here.

Finally, in the I Need to Revisit a First Response Department: George Clooney's Ides of March now looks more fun than I thought it would be, with supporting actors like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Marisa Tomei offering likely opportunity for nuanced comedy and all around strong performances.
Coming soon: revised Top 50 film list.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Canada First, Short Cuts Canada and the rest of the Canadian programming line-up

When TIFF did away with the old Perspective Canada programme some time ago, they told us it was because Canadian cinema had come into its own and therefore could be integrated fully into all other programming. When many (including myself) protested that the festival must continue to underwrite and promote Canadian talent, as the only real venue for such widescale distribution exposure available, they consoled us by offering us two specialty mini-programs: Canada First and Short Cuts Canada. It is arguable that the festival has never lost sight of the Canadian short film and that most young filmmakers have found their greatest TIFF break through that format. On the other hand, the success of the feature film in this festival is still open to interpretation. Last year, the Canada First pickings were very low numbers. Though this year's CF will showcase 7 first features (there were truly only seven worth showing?) and 43 shorts, a further 19 films will be added to the Galas, Masters, Special Presentations and other programmes, joining Cronenberg's Dangerous Method and Polley's Take This Waltz, already previously announced. The idea of a fuller integration of the films into the programming seems to be happening, but I am not sure that focussing only on first features works as an idea to nurture domestic talent. I maintain that the Canadian film industry, and international film community, could benefit from a more exclusively showcased roster of Canadian films, in which masters and newcomers shine alongside each other in a clearer portrait of what this country has to offer.

That said, here's what looks promising in Canada First. A quick glance at these titles underlines an eternal truth about Canadian cinema: Quebec is where it's at. This is due in no small way to the greater esteem homegrown movies hold in their host province, and the greater funding resources available therein.

In this regard, Quebec director Anne Émond is a good example of a young filmmaker who cut her teeth in Short Cuts Canada, where her beautiful Sophie Lavoie was chosen one of the year's Top Ten in 2009. She returns with her first feature Nuit #1, a raw look at the one-night stand in all its compelling excitement and its complexity. Similarly, Guy Édoin has been impressing critics and filmgoers alike with his shorts trilogy, shown entirely at TIFF during recent years. He now brings forward Wetlands, a coming-of-age story shot entirely on his own farm in the Eastern townships. Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky take a "lyrical and unsettling" look at seniors and those living with disabilities in Patron Saints. It's described as being "laced with black humour" which could mean it avoids the subtleties of joy and suffering, or delights in them. We'll see which. I am more inclined, however, toward Ivan Grbovic's Romeo Eleven, which also looks at disability in a young man in Montreal's Lebanese community. Finally, Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas offer us another coming-of-age tale, Amy George, this time set in Toronto's Riverdale. Lewis and Thomas are also listed as producers, writers, cinematographers and editors, underlining the 'home grown auteur' aspect of many first films. The two films I have not discussed, Simon Davidson's The Odds and Sheldon Larry's Leave it on the Floor fill out the remainder of the seven films.

Although the Short Cuts Canada programme is impossible to preview in its entirety, there are an unusually high number of promising entries this year. On my "short" list are Nicholas Pye's The Encounter, Matthew Rankin's Tabula Rasa, Sophie Goyette's La Ronde, Mike Maryniuk and John Scoles' The Yodeling Farmer, Alain Fournier's The Weight of Emptiness, Raha Shirazi's Water, Amaud Brisebois and Francis Leclerc's Trotteur, Miranda de Pencier's Throat Song, Mark Slutsky's Sorry, Rabbi, Xstine Cook and Jesse Gouchey's Spirit of the Bluebird, Phillippe Baylaucq's Ora, Mathieu Tremblay's Of Events, Ryan Flowers and Lisa Pham's No Words Came Down, Pedro Pires' Hope, Isaac Cravit's Good Boy, Kako sam Zapalio and Simona Bolivara's The Fuse: Or How I Burned Simon Bolivar and Chelsea McMullan's Derailments.

Of the remaining features filling out the other programming, there are a number of gems.

Again the French- Canadian fare seems the most compelling, with one exception. Guy Maddin is back, with his luminous muse Isabella Rossellini in Keyhole (pictured at top), a film whose narrative defies one-liners and so it should be with this master Canadian filmmaker. This moves into my top ten.

Since 1988, I have called Léa Pool my favourite Canadian filmmaker but it's not often I get to wax about her work as her films are fewer and farther between these days. The wonderful Maman est chez le coiffeur of a few years ago was exciting evidence that this wonderful Swiss-born director still has much to tell us. This year she offers her second documentary, Pink Ribbons (pictured above) which takes on the beast cancer fundraising "industry", and looks at some of its politics. Like the films of Thomas Riedelsheimer, you can count on this not being an average doc. This comes into the Top Fifteen for me.

It's wonderful to have another film by Phillippe Falardeau, whose C'est pas moi, je le jure was one of the critical favourites of the 2008 festival. He returns with Monsieur Lazhar, the story of an Algerian immigrant whose own tragic life story is raised when he is hired to take over a classroom of students grieving their teacher. Jean-Marc Vallée's Cafe de Flore follows a double narrative, one in Paris in 1969 involving the mother of a child with Down Syndrome, the other in contemporary Montreal as a DJ undergoes divorce. We will have to see the film to know how the lives intersect.

In the English language fare, Mike Clattenburg's Afghan Luke tells the story of a Canadian journalist searching out unseemly practices among soldiers fighting in Iraq. Bollywood meets Canada's national sport in Robert Lieberman's Breakaway, as an Indo-Canadian breaks many cultural taboos to become a national hockey player. Randall Cole's 388 Arletta Avenue bears such a descriptive similarity to Michael Haneke's Caché that is hard to imagine how it could be different enough to be interesting. A couple are under surveillance 24 hours a day, leading to manipulative and dangerous game-playing. It's nice to see that Eric Peterson and John Gray's Billy Bishop Goes to War has been brought to the screen from its long theatrical success by Barbara Willis Sweete. The ubiquitous Julian Richings, appearing in at least 3 films in the festival so far, is part of a cast filling out Bruce MacDonald's Hard Core Logo II, which follows up on the first film by pursuing a singer who claims to be channeling the spirit of Joe Dick. Predictably, the Canadian Open Vault selection this year is therefore Hard Core Logo I. I'm not a fan of this genre of movie, but there is no denying MacDonald's contribution to English language Canadian cinema.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

(Longer) short list so far

110 films have been announced to date, still not quite a third of the full slate of the festival (even keeping in mind that a good 60 - 70 of the remaining titles are likely to be shorts). The entire Contemporary World Cinema has not yet been released - which usually accounts for the lion's share of programming. Wavelengths, the rest of Special Presentations and Masters, Discovery, Visions, all of the Canadian programming including Short Cuts Canada, and the event programmes Mavericks and Future Projections are all yet to come.

That said, here is my (longer) shortlist so far. You will find summary descriptions in the three posts below.

This is Not a Film
Where Do We Go Now?
The Lady
In My Mother's Arms
Last Call at the Oasis
The Woman in the Fifth (pictured above)
Chicken with Plums
Albert Nobbs
Simple Life
The Deep Blue Sea
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Oslo, August 31
Habemus Papam
Happy Event
Dangerous Method
The Oranges
Love and Bruises
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Sarah Palin: You Betcha
Peace, Love and Misunderstanding
Gerhard Richter: Painting
Ten Year
Take this Waltz
Eye of the Storm
The Artist
11 Flowers
The Better Life
Crane World

I keep finding things I've missed along the way that look promising or fun pinch hit runners (ie, when scheduling precludes an A list pick). Of these I put at the top, Butter, the Hugh Jackman, Olivia Wilde comedy by Jim Field Smith, about the "hostile, high-stakes world of competitive butter carving". Another great tagline!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

TIFF '11: Docs and Buenos Aires

Without question, the two most exciting films named this past Tuesday did not belong to any of the programmes being released that day, but instead are two more in the Masters line-up still largely yet to come. Of these, I am thrilled that TIFF will give me the opportunity to see Wim Wenders biopic of German dance theatre genius Pina Bausch, in Pina. It boggles my mind to imagine the one aesthetic being brought to bear on the other but I am certain only pleasure awaits, especially since the film takes the excerpted dance works into the outdoor environment of Wuppertal, the town in Germany where Bausch's company lived and worked. A tremendously exciting entry. Equally compelling will be Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb's poignantly titled This is Not a Film which made me cry when I first saw it, alongside the first filmmaker's name. As most people are aware, Panahi has been under house arrest and banned from filmmaking in Iran for almost two years because of that country's disapproval of the subject matter of his films, which often break the taboo on showing adult relations and political realities in very powerful ways. Assisted here by Mirtahmasb, he has nonetheless brought another project into the world which both chronicles his own house arrest and profiles the current realities of Iranian cinema. These two films soar to the top of my list as absolute musts.

There are programmes that define the festival-goer. Among these, Midnight Madness offers a chance to live out the violent and surreal in sophisticated ways in films made by often master story tellers. Alas, however, it is not for me. I'm more of a Wavelengths girl myself - a programme which is usually the first out of the gate in the announcements, since its experimental and avant-garde context speaks perhaps to the smallest number of interested people. The festival press office doesn't create much buzz of suspense around what programer Andréa Picard has done each year, despite that her programme is held highly within the festival staff itself, and I often devote an entire blogpost to it.

Similarly, Vanguard, the edgy new programme that emerged in this last decade, offers films that challenge us to go outside our comfort zone. But aside from a handful that I have loved, I tend to find the real 'edginess' elsewhere. Comfort zones exist as much in our expectations of cinema as in the content of films. I find
The Tree of Life one of the edgiest films in recent times, because it defies almost all North American film conventions, pushing the poetic over the linear, the timeless over the sequential narrative, the impressionistic over the progressively logical. That is a very brave film in my mind, cast into the world without the director's presence anywhere nearby to lend a helping hand in understanding it. That said, this year's speight of Vanguard films do hold promising entries.

First of these is a film which at first glance strangely echoes events of recent weeks entitled Oslo, 31. August by Norwegian director Joachim Trier. A closer look, however, reveals a much more thoughtful and less violent film which chronicles a day in the life of a young drifter eerily named Anders as he attempts to reconcile his own past mistakes and future possibilities in a single night of encountering friends in the nation's capital. Lou Ye's Love and Bruises, has a title that hints at the crises in store for a young Chinese woman who falls in with a French youth in the suburbs when she moves to Paris. This newest work from a fascinating Chinese filmmaker may have interesting things to say about gender and sexuality when they are both located and dislocated from culture and community. Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Lelio offers a story set in the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami affecting that country last year, with The Year of the Tiger. A convict is both freed by these events and left to face their consequences to his own life.

Otherwise, of the films announced on Tuesday in the Vanguards, Midnight Madness, TIFF Kids, City to City and Real to Reel programmes, my remaining picks cull from the last two. The city being featured in this year's festival is Buenos Aires, likely to be a much less controversial choice than last year's Tel Aviv. The uniquely Argentinian street performance culture of Murga is featured in Alison Murray's Caprichosos de San Telmo which looks at the multi-cultural aspect of this new form. Pablo Trapero's Crane World looks interesting, about a man whose life as a crane operator in the city's construction industry promises a very different take on the city from its glamourized music and café traditions. Santiago Mitre's The Student is billed as a thriller set in the crumbling world of the University of Buenos Aires and uses a corrupt student political life as a model for the larger world around it. My strongest bet in this programme, however, is Nicolás Prividera's Fatherland, which explores the more recent history of Argentina through the voices of writers that emerge from Buenos Aires' Recoleta Cemetery.

In recent years, I have found the Real to Reel programming very disappointing, perhaps reflecting a trend in less innovative work being made. I am thrilled to be much more optimistic this year as emerging voices of the documentary form like Jessica Yu run alongside old festival favourites like Nick Broomfield. Broomfield's latest chronicles the obvious in Sarah Palin: You Betcha and there is much to look forward to and be on guard for here. I find Broomfield's style very strongly prejudiced (more so than even Michael Moore) without much room for nuance, but then it will be hard to resist seeing that brought to bear on the famous Tina Fey-mimicked politician. I'm not sure if I will make it through all of Mark Cousins' The Story of Film: an Odyssey which pulls together 15 hours of compiled footage on the history of film and includes rare and important interviews and clips from the films that have helped shape our film consciousness, around the world, - but I want to and should. Gary Hustwit's Urbanized completes his trilogy that observes the way cities integrate the innovative design of their leading architects and planners. Costa Botes has made a film about one man's attempt to save Eskimo dogs from extinction through private breeding and care in The Last Dogs of Winter. Corinna Belz's portrait of the famous artist in Gerhard Richter Painting sounds like it might be a poetic reflection not only the artist but on the paintings themselves and is billed as increasing our understanding of "the art of seeing". Jonathan Demme's I'm Carolyn Parker: the Good, the Mad and the Beautiful profiles a woman whose younger years in the civil rights movement gave her the voice and strength needed to lead the movement for the rights of those affected by Hurricane Katrina to return to their homes and rebuild when city officials had deemed it too dangerous and impossible. In a similar theme to Tree of Life, Ron Fricke's Samsara is a "non-verbal, guided meditation that spans the globe on a journey of the soul." I'm game for that journey.

My two top picks in this category, however, are Atia Al Daradji and Mohamed Al Daradji's In My Mother's Arms and Jessica Yu's Last Call at the Oasis. The former profiles Hasham, a man who rescued 32 children from warzones and has cared for them, who nonetheless is forced to find new lodgings with them when threatened with eviction. A rare opportunity to see behind the scenes on the Iraqi side of this ongoing war, it promises an important reality check on the true picture of civilian casualties caused by it. Jessica Yu's film explores how North Americans stay oblivious to the profound water crisis soon to affect us all.