The Final Member

Director: Jonah Bekhor, Zach Math

Program: Technology and Science

Running Time: 75 Minutes

Recommended? Yes, Strongly- Just on an empty stomach.

Torontonian filmmakers Jonah Bekhor and ad man turned director Zach Math’s The Final Member is all about penises, but there’s certainly no dicking around here. Sigurdur “Siggy” Hjartson is a sweet old man from the northern Icelandic town of Husavik who is creator and curator of the Icelandic Phallogical Museum (the only penis museum in the world). For Siggy, his dedication to collecting and educating about penises is a lifestyle too as he continually works to break worldwide phallus taboos. Nearing the end of his penis career, Siggy must acquire only one last type of penis to put an end to his forty year odyssey- the Homo Sapiens.

This may sound silly, but every moment of Bekhor and Math’s pristine footage amounts to the most dazzling symphonic voyage that unapologetically all about wangs. When a penis obsessed American who dubs his member ‘Elmo’, competes with an ageing Icelandic playboy to be the museum’s first human specimen the race to be The Final Member is on.

Welcome to the Machine

Director: Avi Weider

Program: Technology and Science

Running Time: 86 Minutes

Recommended? Yes, just don’t take any psychedelics before this one- it might make your head implode

As one of many technological theorists in Avi Weider’s Welcome to the Machine meekly asks us to “imagine if Beethoven was born in a time with no instruments?”, the weight of Weider’s documentary sinks in. Contemplative and at times frustratingly erudite, Welcome to the Machine makes us hyper aware of how our evolution as a species which has become intrinsically linked to its technological progress.

A blind gentleman undergoing experimental retina stimulation, USMC UAV operators, and even transcripts between Weider and technologically driven terrorist Ted Kacynski are all incorporated to shed light on the undeniable benefits and consequences which have, and could, come about because of rapid technological advancement.

Weider gets personal when he includes his wife’s struggle to give birth to triplets and their fight to raise this small army. When we find out the triplets were conceived through in vitro fertilization, Welcome to the Machine becomes a lyrical caution and praise for our species’ innate technological potential.

Where Heaven Meets Hell

Director: Sasha Friedlander

Program: Poverty

Running Time: 80 Minutes

Recommended?: Yes, Strongly

“Everybody who comes here says ‘oh it looks like hell!’, and I think to myself ‘but, this is my life”, says Indonesian sulphur miner Anto. Anto is just one of the hundreds of miners who trek up and down steep hills to get to Kawah Ijen, and active volcano in Indonesia. They lug hefty crates of sulphur on their shoulders, making barely enough money to support their families and loved ones living in surrounding rural villages. Director Sasha Friedlander’s Where Heaven Meets Hell intimately connects the thoughts of these miners who risk their lives for their families every day, and we find out these fearless men and women laugh and cry for many of the same reasons as us.

Often obscured by beaten up t-shirts and rags used in place of proper masks, the miners struggle to protect their lungs from the toxic clouds of sulphur smoke which have been especially bad in the last year. As we hear firsthand accounts from wives, daughters, and children of miners it becomes clear that many of them are still only boys and that sulphur mining’s low wages and dangerous environment  is not helping to better the lives of their young families. Where Heaven Meets Hell is a touching portrayal of endurance and hope; an investigation of how far people will go to give the ones they love a better chance.


El Huaso

Director: Carlo Guillermo Proto

Program: Canadian Spectrum

Running Time: 80 Minutes

Recommended? Strongly, especially if you’re having a bad day- kinda has a Chicken Soup for the Chilean Soul feel

Death comes as a surprise for many, but in Carlo Guillermo Proto’s El Huaso, Proto’s father Gustavo feels like he knows exactly when it will arrive. Gustavo is a beloved husband, father, and grandfather and yet he prepares his wife and now adult children for his suicide which he feels is the only option to avoid an inescapable fate. Gustavo moved with his family from Chile to Toronto years ago, but at 58 years of age Gustavo is haunted by memories of his father’s depression and suicide, and his mother’s deterioration from Alzheimer’s. In a documentary accented by truly stunning imagery, Carlo engages us in taboo topics like death and mental illness and asks heavy questions about the responsibilities of a parent, the morality of suicide, and the value of life.

Carlo accompanies Gustavo on many visits to doctors and specialists, and we see Gustavo desperately fight to gain control and insight on his beliefs of his own mental degeneration. With loving testimonies and footage of Gustavo’s compassionate family, El Huaso surprisingly acts more like a celebration of Gustavo’s reasons to live. It is by giving us access to Gustavo’s most candid thoughts and moments that Carlo involves us in the Proto’s toughest question of all: does Gustavo really have the right to choose when he dies?

Crimes Without Honour

Director: Raymonde Provencher

Program: Activism & Protest

Running TIme: 69 Minutes

Recommended? Yes, and strongly because this problem is both rampant in and relevant to Torontonians

Director Raymonde Provencher captures the brave stories behind the scars that many female survivors of honour crimes have to live with everyday; astoundingly, women from many different backgrounds and cultures. Honour crimes are brutal acts committed when a female shames the patriarch of a family, and much of the violence carried out against these shameful women is exacted by hierarchal sub-societies similar the systematized nature of organized crime.

Provencher gets testimonies from both female and male honour crimes victims and it becomes clear that many men are also very uncomfortable with arranged marriage and these abusive cultural laws. A large part of putting an end to this hushed up epidemic is linked to creating communities where this abuse is no longer tolerated ,but as we see honour crimes victims drink Tim Horton’s coffee and walk past TTC streetcars we are sadly reminded that this problem is much closer to home then we may think

Finding North

Director: Kristi Jacobson, Lori Silverbush

Program: Canadian Spectrum

Running Time: 84 Minutes

Recommended? Yes, Strongly

Since the 80’s, American’s have been promised an end to starvation. However, directing duo Kristi Jacobson and Lori Silverbush’s Finding North shows that 49 million Americans are waist deep in this highly unpublicized famine that attacks the nations’ very foundations: its youth.

Focusing on the stories of numerous hungry Americans, Finding Northalso closely follows what an adolescent girl and a young mother of 2 goes through to keep their families from starving. As it becomes clear that America’s obesity epidemic is systemically linked to the same tiresome cycle of malnourishment that troubles so many American’s, Finding North hits home with its sobering plea to a government that has shown it will not feed the impoverished.

Featuring an uplifting soundtrack by T-Bone Burnett and The Civil Wars, Finding Northis all about the hope that people in the toughest of situations battle to hold on to.

When the Trumpet Sounds

Director: Pablo Alvarez-Mesa

Program: Canadian Spectrum

Running Time: 16 Minutes

Recomended?: Yes. It is short, sweet and simple.

After watching Columbian native Pablo Alvarez-Mesa’ s When the Trumpet Sounds it is easy to forget that this documentary runs only 16 minutes. Following in the footsteps of sixteen-year-old aspiring bullfighter Alejandro, Alvarez-Mesa puts us in the arena as Alejandro trains to perfect this centuries old tradition. As Alejandro and other boys putter around the ring watching the slender veteran bullfighters narrowly dodge bulls, Alvarez-Mesa’s documentary acts like a meditation on bullfighting.

Dimly lit stands filled with patrons holding candles stand by in quiet contemplation as a small float adorned with wreaths, candles, and a polished porcelain figure glides into the centre of the arena.  We get firsthand experience of the sanctity of this spiritual ceremony, and with the film title alluding to the Corinthians 15:52 verse “the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible”, there is no doubt Alvarez- Mesa’s vision has much to say about the transcendental state and rigorous mental training that is essential to bullfighting. Alejandro tells us that “the Virgin of Macarena watches over all bullfighters”, and When the Trumpet Sounds makes sure to includes us in this incorporeal rite of passage where he and his friends transform from clumsy teenagers into nimble, cultural figures of grace.


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