Film reviews

VIFF 2020 – Highlights Reel

As Set The Tape’s coverage of VIFF 2020 wraps, we take a look at five more flicks worth keeping an eye out for.


Another Round

Turning to booze to solve your midlife crisis is not exactly a revolutionary idea. For Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) and his three high school teaching chums, however, there’s method to their madness. Justifying their actions in the name of science, they proceed to test Finn Skårderud’s theory that man’s functioning blood alcohol level is 0.05% too low.

Naturally, things get a tad rowdy from there, as Danish director Thomas Vinterberg (who worked with Mikkelsen on 2012’s The Hunt) crafts a tragically funny up and downward spiral of friendship, family, and a desperation to remain relevant to both yourself and the world around you. It’s always a pleasure to watch Mikkelsen literally make himself at home in his native Denmark, and as usual he turns in a fantastic performance.


Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President

For most politicians, getting on stage with rock stars to show that you’re down with the kids would be the ultimate cringe move. When Jimmy Carter did it, he was elected president. As a variety of living stars (Gregg Allman, Bob Dylan, and Willie Nelson to name but a few) attest to, Carter’s connection to rock ‘n’ roll (along with jazz and country) was genuine to the point that its major players not only became his friends, but went out of their way to push his candidacy over the top.

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Spanning his early life through his triumphant election and eventual downfall at the hands of the Iran hostage crisis, Mary Wharton’s up close and personal biography is a timely reminder of what could have been in the United States, and a testament to one of the world’s great humanitarians. The cherry on the cake is the participation of Carter himself, who at 96-years-young maintains both a sharp wit and a penchant for 60s vinyl.


Dancing Mary

Never one to do things the traditional way, prolific Japanese director SABU returns with a spunky, sweet, and sometimes outright bizarre love letter to the dead, as a junior civil servant finds himself overseeing the demolition of an old dance hall, which just happens to be haunted by a 1950s ghost known only as Dancing Mary.

With a psychic schoolgirl in tow, it doesn’t take long for us to cross into the land of the deceased, where deadpan lost souls wonder in search of redemption. As darkly amusing as it is head-scratching, Dancing Mary’s core story of hopeless supernatural romance succeeds, despite a wild second act shift in tone to a set of well shot, but ultimately out of step action set pieces. Stick with it, as the much needed emotional payoff does eventually come back around.


Mogul Mowgli

Having been struck down by a degenerative autoimmune disorder just weeks before the tour that could make or break his career, British-Pakistani rapper Zed (Riz Ahmed) has no option but to recuperate in the midst of his estranged London family.

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Made savagely raw by director Bassam Tariq, Mogul Mowgli takes us deep into Zed’s subconscious, where haunting memories begin to rise the surface and emotions are soon laid bare as he battles to become healthy through any means necessary. An aggressive juxtaposition  of personal ambition and cultural heritage filtered through a jarring character study, Mogul Mowgli once again showcases Riz Ahmed’s magnetic range as a leading man (complete with his real life rhyming skills) and takes us to places we all hope we’ll never have to face.


No Visible Trauma

When one thinks of fatal police shootings, Canada rarely comes to mind. Yet, in 2018, the city of Calgary saw more people killed by blue uniform gunfire than the usual high-crime hotspots of Chicago and New York.

As Marc Serpa Francoeur and Robinder Uppal’s documentary gets under the hood of the Calgary Police Service, local victims of police brutality help expose a culture rife with corruption, racism, and, ultimately, violence. To the casual viewer, the findings quickly jump from unexpected to shocking, but for those closer to home, it is clear that this is a story that has long needed to be told. Thankfully, that time has come, and it is told both effectively and with dignity.

All our reviews and interviews from VIFF 2020 can be found here.

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