Path Alias: 

Our Man in Tehran

(2013, 85 mins, DCP)
FEATURING Bob Anders, Joe Clark, Tony Mendez, William Daugherty, Ken Taylor


"Sometimes, the truth can be more entertaining than fiction. If Argo, last year’s winner of the best-picture Oscar, was a high-stakes political thriller about the 1980 exfiltration of six Americans from the clutches of Ayatollah Khomaini’s minions, it was also a simplistic and escapist escape movie about the power of Hollywood to defeat evil. So now, in typically earnest fashion, we Canadians respond with a documentary to reclaim our true story.

The result is consistently engaging, as co-directors Larry Weinstein (Inside Hana’s Suitcase) and Drew Taylor call on eyewitnesses – then-Prime Minister Joe Clark, Secretary of State for External Affairs Flora MacDonald, the U.S. National Security Adviser Gary Sick, and others – to bring to intimate life the era’s jittery nature and the heroism of Ken Taylor, the Canadian ambassador to Iran who was dubbed by U.S. President Jimmy Carter “our man in Tehran” after overseeing the Americans’ escape." 3 stars out of 4, Simon Houpt, Globe & Mail

"An intelligent, complex and tension-filled story that breathes life into historical events that are fast fading from our collective memory.

In doing so, the co-directors give Taylor (the diplomat) and many others their due and give Canadians at large a reason to feel rightly proud." Bruce DeMara, Toronto Star


(2013, 81 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
In Dutch, English with English subtitles
FEATURING Laura Dekker
Classification: Classified: PG, Youth under 18 may attend all screenings



When 14-year-old Laura Dekker announced her intention to become the youngest woman ever to sail around the world single-handedly there was an uproar. The child welfare authorities in her native Holland even applied to block her trip on legal grounds. But their case was rejected, and Laura set off soon afterwards on her beloved boat Guppy, with no safety boat or backup, but a video camera to record her odyssey.

This film is the result of that impulse - a first-person mariner’s eye-view of a vast blue world most of us have only seen glimpses of. Unlike most record-seekers, Laura is determined to stop off and get a taste of the places she visits: St Maarten, the Galapagos Islands, French Polynesia. Along the way we begin to learn not just what motivated her to undertake this two-year voyage , but also what made her uniquely equipped for the challenge. And she grows up before our eyes.

IFF: Amarcord

(1973, 123 mins, 35mm)
In Italian with English subtitles
CAST Bruno Zanin, Pupella Maggio, Armando Brancia


Shortly after turning 50 and at the height of his career, Federico Fellini returned to the seaside town of Rimini, where he grew up, to make Amarcord (a neologism that suggests "mi ricordo" in the Emiliano-Romagnolo dialect: I remember).

Set in the 1930s, the film has the free-wheeling form that became one of Fellini’s hallmarks. It allows him to swing back and forth between ribald comedy, fantasy and melancholy.

"Amarcord is the least grandiose and most immediate of the maestro’s later films and deserves to be rated among the finest screen memoirs of the 20th century. It offers an extraordinarily lyrical and vivid succession of vignettes, inside the most subtly rigorous narrative structure of Fellini’s career. […] Although the figure of the boy Titta is obviously his alter ego, Fellini builds a generously fractured mosaic that belongs to no one central character or even the on-screen narrator… Like many autobiographical tales written or filmed, this one weaves the innocent, limited viewpoint of children into its wider social context, which here heralds the reign of fascism in Italy in the 30s. Poignant indeed is the gap, gradually revealed to the viewer, between the hints of violence and social exclusion to come (especially in relation to the Jewish population), and the life-affirming antics of youth. […] Fellini’s comedy, refreshingly, goes to the outer limits of vulgarity in a number of hilarious scenes. His style is streamlined here into a pure, exalted poetry of mist, flowing camera movements, pastel colours, and lightly artificial set design. A triumph of artistic form, its emotions are direct and affecting." Adrian Martin

With: Federico of the Spirits

DIR Antonello Sarno / Italy, 2013, 20 min.

Federico Fellini died on October 31, 1993. After two days of lying in state in “his” Theater 5 at Cinecittà, crowded with friends from cinema and ordinary people, his solemn funeral was celebrated in the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels in Rome, by Cardinal Achille Silvestrini.

It was November 3. Just a little over 20 years ago. Three intense, extraordinary days transformed into the first great media event (approximately one hundred television networks present) centered on the demise of an Italian show business figure. A particularly moving event in which Italy, and the world, gave a last affectionate farewell to one of the greatest, universally recognized geniuses in its history (Fellini is the only Italian director to have 5 Oscars) through images filmed between Cinecittà, airports (to interview the great names in cinema in arrival from abroad like Mastroianni, Chabrol and many others) and, lastly Piazza della Republica in Rome, where the funeral rites were held before a veritable ocean of people while the church was packed with all the great stars of Italian filmmaking. But beyond its images, the documentary narrates those three incredible days which by now have become movie history, through the memories of those who were there: Vincenzo Mollica, Pupi Avati, Paolo Villaggio, Sergio Rubini, Sandra Milo, Ettore Scola, Lina Wertmuller, Dante Ferretti, Giuseppe Tornatore, Carlo Verdone, Claudio Amendola as well as many other friends and colleagues of the deceased director.

The Rocket

(2013, 96 mins, DCP)
CAST Sitthiphon Disamoe, Loungnam Kaosainam, Thep Phongam, Bunsri Yindi, Sumrit Warin


Sun 19, 4:45pm (Classified PG)
Sat 25, 3pm (Classified PG)


An audience favourite at VIFF, Australia’s submission to the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film (a co-production with Laos and Thailand) is both a rapturous crowdpleasing comedy and a surprisingly resonant, tough little movie about the tensions between the traditional way of life of indigineous peoples and the energy development imperatives of government and industry.

According to Laotian tradition, ten-year-old Ahio is cursed by virtue of being born a twin - though only his mother and his grandmother know it, having covered up the death of his brother in childbirth. When a succession of tragedies befall his village and his family, though, his granny can’t keep it a secret any longer. Could he really be to blame for the dam project that forces them off their ancestral land? And everything else besides? The irrepressible Ahio refuses to believe it, but even his dad harbours doubts as the mischievous, enterprising lad keeps landing in hot water. Only an orphaned playmate and her alcoholic uncle - a Vietnam war veteran who models himself after US singer James Brown - accept the boy for who he is. But when a home-made rocket-building competition offers a chance of redemption, everyone’s trust will be pressed to the limit…

Desert Runners

(2013, 91 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
Classification: PG, Youth under 18 may attend


The power, intensity and drama of desert ultramarathon racing is impressively conveyed in Jennifer Steinman’s documentary. Somehow keeping pace with the rare breed of athletes willing to tackle the 4 Deserts race series—which encompasses the Atacama, the Gobi, the Sahara and the Antarctic—the film is a compelling look at what motivates these extraordinary competitors to brave four grueling 250km treks across such inhospitable—but wholly cinematic—landscapes.

Steinman illustrates the distinct perils presented by each of these deserts—they represent the driest, windiest, hottest and coldest places on Earth—and examines the disparate motivations that guide these non-professional athletes. While one competitor is honouring the memory of his late wife, another is celebrating surviving a recent health scare. Thanks to the intimate bond that’s created with the intrepid racers, we watch with bated breath as they push themselves to—and frequently beyond—their breaking points.

The Wagner Files

(2013, 90 mins)
In German & English with English subtitles
FEATURING Katharina Wagner, Philippe Jordan, Laurence Dreyfus, Oliver Hilmes, Eva Rieger, Samuel Finzi, Pegah Ferydoni


Few composers inspire such extremes of love and revulsion as Richard Wagner, and few classical music documentaries go the extremes of this astounding German-made feature, which includes stylized, modern-dress reenactments of key moments in Wagner’s tumultuous life and digital animated graphics alongside more traditional expert testimony from the likes of Simone Young (conductor and music director of the Hamburg State Opera), Philippe Jordan (conductor and music director of the Paris Opera), Katharina Wagner (great-grandchild of Richard Wagner and director of the Bayreuth Festival) and Laurence Dreyfus (Professor of music at Magdalen College, Oxford).

With an audacity Wagner himself would surely have appreciated, the filmmakers don’t exactly shy away from their subject’s more dubious traits: his fraudulent financial transactions with "mad king" Ludwig of Bavaria (among many others); his scandalous love life - which included a passionate love affair with his best friend’s wife; his fetish for pink, feminine gowns… and of course his abhorrent anti-Semitic views, which would make him a cultural talisman for the Nazis.

At the same time, the movie revels in Wagner’s triumphant artistry. No composer before or since had such a grandiose vision for what opera could be.

Director’s Bio

Born in Brandenburg, Germany in 1967, Ralf Pleger studied music, art history and Italian in Berlin and Milan before freelancing as a dramaturge in opera and as a writer and director for radio and TV. His documentaries, dealing largely with musical subjects, include: A MUSICAL TOUR OF KRAKOW (1999), MUSIC IN ISTANBUL (2001), ANNE-SOPHIE MUTTER (2007), HANDEL: LIFE OF A POP ICON (2008), MADRID - ZEST FOR LIFE (2011), JOYCE DIDONATO, DRAMA QUEENS (2012), THE BEETHOVEN FILE (2013), VOCAL BATTLE ON THE HIGH SEAS (2013).


Richard Wagner's  final masterpiece, PARSIFAL, screens January 26 and 29 direct from London's Royal Opera House.

Oil Sands Karaoke

(2013, 82 mins, DCP)
Filmmaker in attendance


Last September Neil Young spoke for many when he likened Fort McMurray to Hiroshima, "a wasteland". Local inhabitants were outraged, and at least one radio station banned Young from its playlist. Vancouver filmmaker Charles Wilkinson (Peace Out) treads a middle-ground with Oil Sands Karaoke, a portrait of the tar sands capital which includes both sobering vistas of massive environmental upheaval and an affectionate, non-judgmental look at the folks who live and work there, mostly when they’re letting their hair down at Bailey’s karaoke bar.

Among others, we meet Brandy Willier, a tiny driver of enormous trucks with a talent for tackling Britney Spears tunes, and Massey Whiteknife, an aboriginal entrepreneur better known on stage as Iceis Rain—a karaoke drag queen. Wilkinson applies the popular "Pop Idol" competition format to his own ends, here, to put a human face on what’s going on in our neighbouring province, and to draw in an audience that might be more inclined to listen to Sweet Home Alabama than another environmental sermon.

"Surprisingly sensitive… poignant, and beautifully shot." Marsha Lederman, Globe & Mail

Good Vibrations

(2012, 102 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
CAST Richard Dormer, Jodie Whittaker, Michael Colgan, Karl Johnson, Liam Cunningham


Forget the Troubles and get your "Teenage Kicks" instead! In 1970s Belfast, gregarious impresario Terri Hooley (Richard Dormer) opens his Good Vibrations record shop on the city’s most violent street. Confirming his terrible business sense, he next buys a seedy venue and launches a record label after pogoing his way through his first sweaty punk show. Signing local strugglers like Rudi, Outcasts and The Undertones—who go on to pen a single so catchy that legendary tastemaker John Peel is inclined to play it twice in a row—Terry comes to understand that Northern Irish punk is a tough sell.

Recalling Michael Winterbottom’s irreverent 24-Hour Party People, Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn’s wildly entertaining biopic plays loose with the facts, but nails the spirit of the era. As Hooley asserts: when it came to punk, New York had the haircuts, London had the trousers but Belfast had the reason. The seamless incorporation of archival footage lends a clear understanding of the chaos that had become commonplace. Consequently, we appreciate the catharsis such desperate, immediate music offered Belfast’s embattled youth. Likewise, we commiserate with Hooley when he suggests, "Victory doesn’t always look the way other people imagine it."

"An impasssioned, funny and monumentally likeable myth-making comedy." Time Out

The Summit

(2012, 100 mins, DCP)


In the summer of 2008, 24 climbers set out to make the final ascent to K2, the world’s second highest and arguably most dangerous mountain. Eleven never came back. It was a disaster in a sport accustomed to tragedy. And it was by no means clear what had gone wrong. About the only thing all the survivors agreed on: the weather had been perfect; bright, warm and clear.

Nick Ryan’s film—written by Mark Monroe, who structured such acclaimed documentaries as The Cove and The Tillman Story—draws on interviews with the remaining climbers, sherpas and bereaved relatives to piece together an idea of the fateful events from myriad perspectives. Mixing digital footage shot on the ascent with dramatic reconstructions à la Touching the Void, Ryan puts us in the climbers’ boots to show how the compulsion to reach the summit—married with the frighteningly volatile nature of K2 itself—combined to turn small misjudgments into fatal errors.

We will probably never know the full story behind this tragedy—the Korean climbing team’s leader refused to participate, and some of the survivors offer flatly contradictory testimony—The Summit will leave you in no doubt about how the majesty of this peak continues to entrance adventurers, and the enormous demands it makes of them. As one sign lower down the slopes puts it: “Respect the mountain.”

"Riveting. Gripping. Thrilling." Indiewire

"A gripping cliffhanger. A heart-throbbing experience." Hollywood Reporter

Woody Allen: Love & Death

(1975, 85 mins, DVD)
CAST Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Harold Gould, Jessica Harper


In his sixth film as director, Allen poked fun at his intellectual heroes, the heavyweight Russian novelists Tolstoy and Dostoevsky in particular, but also Chekov, Ingmar Bergman and Nabakov. At the same time this tale of a cowardly Russian philosopher caught up in the fight against Napoleon bows in the direction of Bob Hope and the Marx Brothers. It is one of Allen’s funniest movies.

In an interview with ’Esquire’ magazine, Allen recalled: "When good weather was needed, it rained. When rain was needed, it was sunny. The cameraman was Belgian, his crew French. The underlings were Hungarian, the extras were Russian. I speak only English - and not really that well. Each shot was chaos. By the time my directions were translated, what should have been a battle scene ended up as a dance marathon.".