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FIN’s top films

Wildhood 

Directed by Bretten Hannam 

Country: Canada 

Every year, FIN Atlantic International Film Festival is the best place for cinephiles in Atlantic Canada to discover new films from our backyards and film industries around the world.  

The programming team at FIN couldn’t have chosen a better film than Wildhood for its opening night gala. To its core, Bretten Hannam’s second feature is a film about someone finding a new culture, identity and community, in the province they’ve known their whole lives.  

The film is a revelation for its incorporation and empowerment of Mi’kmaq culture, despite the fact that Hannam fought for nearly a decade to bring it to the screen, he said at the post screening question period, serving as a reminder of the importance of and ongoing adversity facing Mi’kmaq stories in film.   

Written and directed by Hannam, an expansion of their 2019 short film Wildfire, the film is set in motion when Link – a two-spirit Mi’kmaq teenager living with his younger half-brother Travis and their abusive white father in rural Nova Scotia – discovers that his father has been lying to him his whole life and his mother is still alive.  

Then begins Hannam’s road movie. Shortly after leaving home, Link and Travis meet Pasmay, a travelling powwow dancer whom Link falls in love with as he teaches him about the culture he’s never known.  

The depiction of this culture and the characters who inhabit it are what makes the film so incredible. Mi’kmaq is spoken multiple times throughout the film and on Sept. 18, FIN showed a version of the film that was dubbed entirely in Mi’kmaq. The film provides seldom seen representation for those who are from the world it inhabits and an indispensable educational experience for those, such as my Torontonian self, who are not.  

That’s not to say Hannam’s film is more substance than style. Wildhood is as beautiful to look at as its story is to experience. The film is shot by cinematographer Guy Godfree – who also served as director of photography on the Ethan Hawke and Sally Hawkins led Maude Lewis biopic Maudie, released in 2016 – in a perpetual state of golden hour. The time of day constantly representing the time in Link’s life: a moment of change.  

The camerawork also seems to be largely handheld, which provides many scenes with a documentary feel that heightens Wildhood’s function as a portrait of an underrepresented community. A community that, as Wildhood demonstrates, has so much to give to the world of cinema. 

Lane Harrison 

Titane 

Directed by: Julia Ducournau  

Country: France 

Julia Ducournau first bit a chunk out of the big screen with her 2016 debut feature Raw, a coming-of-age story about craving flesh.   

Now, she is back in cinemas with another stomach-twisting, mind-bending, psychedelic joyride of a film, Titane. While the movie isn’t made for mainstream audiences due to its extreme violence and body horror, Ducournau showed the world that sometimes the best movies are the ones that makes us most uncomfortable when she won this year’s Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.    

So, what’s Titane even about? On the surface, the film follows a rather unhinged woman who goes into hiding as the long-missing and presumed dead son of a fire station chief, after she commits numerous murders.   

  However, when you watch Titane, all the grotesque murder scenes are the most mellow part of the experience. The film opens with the protagonist, Alexia, and her father, in a car. Two minutes in, it crashes and things only escalate from there.   

  Shot mostly in low angles and dim lighting, Titane makes itself an atmospheric experience more than anything else. The film has its own unique way of holding the audience’s attention, just like its predecessor, Raw.   

  Audiences can expect to be on the edge of their seat for the entire 108 minutes. Titane forces its audience try and understand what’s going on in the moment, while trying to guess what’s going to happen in the next. Each scene presents one hundred new possibilities as to where the plot can go, and somehow, every time, Titane goes that one hundred and first route. There’s a lot going on in this Cronenbergian film. Like RawTitane leaves its audience with more questions than answers.   

  The films body horror elements won’t be too extreme for fans of David Cronenberg, but any audience member who is new to the genre will see more than enough. Titane relies heavily on the main character’s fetishistic relationship with cars, which is where much of the body horror is derived. Each moment, no matter how disgusting or incredible, is supported perfectly by the film’s soundtrack.   

  Titane is a must see for any horror fan and would definitely be a palate cleanser for people bored of mainstream Hollywood movies.   

  The film will be released theatrically on Oct. 1 by Neon, who also handled North American distribution for the 2019 Oscar best picture winner Parasite, directed by Bong Joon-ho.   

Gokce On  

Memoria 

Directed by: Apichatpong Weerasethakul  

Country: Colombia, Thailand, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Mexico 

Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul has cemented himself as one of the greatest filmmakers to emerge from 21st-century cinema – from his debut narrative feature Blissfully Yours in 2002, through to his Palme D’Or win at Cannes for the 2015 release Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. His most recent release, Memoria, which screened at FIN Atlantic International Film Festival, leaves no doubt that Apichatpong will continue to hold that title as the century enters its third decade.  

Apichatpong is known for making films that are contemplative both in form and function, through motionless cameras that linger on their subjects for extended periods of time and narrative logic that forces audiences to deeply consider what they’re seeing. But the Colombia-set Memoria begins with a bang, literally. In Apichatpong’s first film shot outside his native Thailand and with a Hollywood actor, Jessica (played by Tilda Swinton) is awoken from a silent sleep by a mysterious, jarring noise.  

In its simplest form, Memoria’s narrative is about Jessica’s quest to find the source of the strange sound, which appears at random and only she can hear. She describes the sound as “a rumble from the core of the earth,” or “a ball of concrete hitting a metal wall surrounded by seawater.” The audience never discovers what the sound is. Instead, we and Jessica must hear it over and over again, sure that it’s the same sound but powerless to describe what it is. 

The confusion the sound creates for Jessica permeates every aspect of her life: a male character becomes much older without explanation; memories she thought she shared with others turn out to be only in her mind.  

As the film progresses, Jessica’s confusion leads to alienation. She stands still in many scenes, often standing with her back to the camera as the world moves and progresses around her. These scenes are beautifully composed by cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeepro, who also shot Uncle Boonmee, seemingly inspired by René Magritte’s late-career paintings of men in bowler hats with their backs turned.  

With the camera often static, Apichatpong borrows from Taiwanese New Wave master Edward Yang and allows all the activity to take place within the frame, while the camera steadily observes the life within its borders. He also evokes the work of Yang’s fellow Tai New Wave filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien. Like in Hou’s films, Memoria’s camera will remain motionless on its subjects for minutes at a time before the film cuts to another shot, forcing audiences to draw their own value from each frame after careful contemplation.   

In the film’s final act, Jessica ventures from Bogota to the Colombian countryside to accompany an archeological dig. In this act, the film offers a hint of an explanation for the mysterious bang, while also subverting its entire narrative with one CGI-powered twist.  

In the world of Memoria, very little can be explained in simple terms. But in this world, one thing is clear: Nobody is making films like Apichatpong Weerasethakul.  

Lane Harrison 

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