Flick picks: Some Edmonton International Film Fest reviews to get you going

Finland’s Emilia Hoving in Conductivity, playing at Edmonton International Film Festival. Photo by supplied

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It’s Edmonton International Film Festival time again, thankfully including in-theatre screenings downtown as Landmark is finally reclaimed from the months-long NHL invasion to be of actual use to us locals again.

Running Oct. 1-10, EIFF as always is showing off a wide range of narrative fiction and documentaries, subjects ranging from Tiny Tim to teenage cults to Jimmy Carter’s loving relationship with music. The entire list is at edmontonfilmfest.com — no physical program this year — and worth a look as it’s seriously the best-looking design the festival has ever come up with.

Many of the fest’s 36 features will also be available for viewing on Super Channel FUSE (see program for screening details and how to hook up with the channel). There’s also a flock of shorts playing in EIFF’s Lunchbox Shorts program running every weekday at 12:10 p.m.; lunch is not included with the $5 ticket, but you are allowed to bring in your own food … just clean up after yourself, please!


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There are no passes this year, so if you want to see a film at the venue just head to Landmark Cinemas and purchase an individual ticket, or buy a $5 or $10 ticket online in advance at landmarkcinemas.com, simple as that.

Asking for recommendations from the fest and also sniffing the edges for my own, I watched three of the festival’s films to review to help you get started.

Banksy Most Wanted — 3:30 p.m. Friday; 1 p.m. Sunday; 6:30 p.m. Tuesday

Directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley — 90 mins

A fitting follow-up to the Banksy-friendly Exit Through the Gift Shop from a decade back, this film follows the seemingly impossible fact that, even in our creeping surveillance society, we still don’t know the true identity of the most famous living visual artist currently going — the artist and his team having twice as many followers on social media as the Louvre.

Opening with Banksy’s absolutely amazing hack of one of his famous pieces self-destructing in the Sotheby’s auction room seconds after being sold for millions, the film rewinds the clock to his initial work popping up all over Bristol in the ’90s, all the way up to his satirical horror theme park Dismaland, taking aim at our steady, seemingly unstoppable slide into dystopia.

But the core of the film amid the sorts of opportunistic art merchants who helped destroy Basquiat is three separate journalists and a forensic investigator fairly sure they’ve cracked Banksy’s true identity. Trouble is, it’s three different suspects — including a couple fairly world famous musicians who seem to be around at the same time and place as the work popping up over the years. But as one curator wisely notes of the artistic voice from nowhere, “Everybody wins with him not being known.” Just a beautiful doc, at times even critical of the art suffering under the artist’s (somewhat ironic) personal fame.

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Jasmine Road — 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Directed by Warren Sulatycky, 128 mins.

Often beautiful and certainly pushing a noble message of tolerance, this Alberta-shot drama nonetheless suffers as it increasingly feels like a didactic, two-hour One to Grow On TV PSA.

The story of two families colliding in just the darndest of circumstances in redneck country — that of rural Albertan Mac (Greg Ellwand) and Syrian refugee Layla (Aixa Kay) — almost any filmgoer will, first meeting the support characters, instantly go, “Ope, she’s going to die of cancer” and, “Bet he’ll be gay to increase the cultural tension,” speaking to the script’s wider predictability, not helped at all as its characters spend quite a lot of screen time saying and explaining who they are as much as just showing it, leading to the director’s clear question: “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Lost opportunity here to connect some interesting dots on extreme viewpoints and how we get to them — especially as Layla says she’s (understandably) consumed by hate, her husband’s fate a mystery thanks to war. Add to this a couple prongs of magic realism that at first work then really don’t in excess (whether there are angels about or a couple cases of mental illness, I seriously would have avoided the cartoon horse). All that said, there’s a way better, shorter film inside, and the acting alone — plus the back and forth of Arabic and country music — are worth your support as the fest’s opening night film.

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Conductivity — 1:30 p.m. Saturday; 11:30 a.m. Sunday

Directed by Anna-Karin Grönroos, 75 mins.

Following the story of three would-be conductors in their early 20s at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland, this documentary pulls back the curtain on that alluring mix of choreography and theatrical musical leadership that is the essence of the person waving the baton at all those musicians.

Taiwan’s I-Han Fu, Finland’s Emilia Hoving and France’s James Kahane are each sampled at various stages of their training, and — no spoilers — as they either rise into and inhabit more confident, believable leaders … or don’t. It’s interesting how every aspect of their general aura is hacked at by their instructors, down to eye contact and facial expressions in what is at least in part a completely impressionistic sort of ritualized choreography.

But as we learn in the film as the students are given opportunities to work with and talk to longtime professional orcs, the players rely on them as they can’t always tease out the subtleties of how the whole thing sounds from inside their own playing. With familiar works by Beethoven, Haydn, Stravinski and of course Sibelius taken apart like an antique on BBC’s The Repair Shop, you really get the sense of how a conductor’s choices and confidence effects the music.

Bonus: Europe is simply dripping with insistent art and architecture; especially note the concert hall using bare rock, absolutely beautiful in this film ultimately about teachers and their hopes for the next generation trying to outgrow them.




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