Every Wednesday until March 11th, you can catch an independent film at the Orchard Plaza Cineplex for $7 (plus a $1 membership fee). Each fall and winter, the Kelowna Film Society, a non-profit cultural organization operating since 2000, screens movies that we wouldn’t get to see otherwise. With only a few megaplexes, and no more small theatres, streaming services, the MCU hegemony, endless remakes, and predictable and dull Oscar-bait movies, the quaint old experience of catching some great stories and new perspectives on the screen is pretty much dead.
Martin Scorsese recently summed up the moment succinctly: “I don’t see them [superhero movies]. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema. Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.”
19 more superhero movies have been announced by Marvel alone to appear at megaplexes around the world within the next couple of years. Hollywood will continue to produce this lowest common denominator product since they aim to appeal to a vast global market whose shared language is VFX and childlike stanning.
The best we can hope for is that these big dumb juggernauts will help subsidize studios or at the very least actors to explore more interesting stories and characters (if they ever find the time, RIP Christian Bale – he was sucked up by the MCU this week for another Thor shit fest). Thankfully organizations like KFS are here to fill the gap and find the gems that the Sundances and A24s of the industry, and countries that still celebrate film, create for filmgoers in the cities cooler than ours.
Sure you can still stream the good stuff alone at home but some experiences just can’t be duplicated. That big screen and gorgeous sound, the films were shot and edited to be experienced that way. Hanging with your crew, whether actual buds or aesthetic mates, with buckets of neon theatre popcorn, absorbing new, arresting and beautiful images together in the dark of winter is a perfect escape from the daily slog. On demand streaming has become pretty routine itself, the specialness of appointment-viewing all but left for live events. So if you’re feeling a little snowed in and stuck in Kelowna, here are some special dates for you: this week you can visit France with film legend, Agnes Varda, and after that the vivid Spanish vibes of Antonio and Almodovar!
Varda Par Agnès, January 15th, 4 & 7pm
A film by famed French film director Agnès Varda takes the form of an illustrated lecture intended to explain some of her work and, in the process, make film making come alive for us the viewers. A semi-dramatized, autobiographical and auto-critical work using footage of her speaking at various events, with clips and playfully dramatized reconstructions looking back over her remarkable career, Varda talks about the three governing principles of film-making as “inspiration”, “creation” and “sharing”.
“She makes the business of film-making seem as magically straightforward as writing words on a page. Two hours in this director’s company is a pleasure.” – The Guardian
La Belle Époque, January 22nd, 4 & 7pm
A curmudgeonly cartoonist hires a virtual reality company to help save his marriage. How hard could that be when his wife Margot (Doria Tillier), in one of their “discussions”, says “I think you’ve been alive too long”? Deciding anything is worth a try, Victor (played by prolific actor/director/writer David Auteuil) contracts with Antoine (Guillaume Canet), who uses theatrical artifices and historical reconstruction to whisk his client back to 1974 Lyon where he first met and fell in love with Margot. A beautiful vérité dream, but what awaits after the fateful, inevitable return to real reality?
A classy French take on Groundhog Day and the films of Charlie Kaufman, this idiosyncratic comedy explores the past that made us what we are today. Go back in time ‘X’ years and take a second chance on life, love and the future.
Pain and Glory, January 29th, 4 & 7pm
Antonio Banderas plays a celebrated filmmaker, Salvador Mallo, who has not made a film in decades. Salvador’s body is falling apart: terrible back pain, horrible migraines, and terrifying panic attacks that make him choke. The source of this pain is unclear, but the medicine to ease it seems to be found in the artful arrangement of memories from a sensual childhood, full of light and desire. Or is it a nostalgic take on a life that was tainted by poverty and abandonment? Can fiction and imagination enchant life? Does making art – pictures, sounds, stories – take the misery away, like the heroin Salvador experiments with? From filmmaker Pedro Almodovár.
Sometimes, Always, Never, February 5th, 4 & 7pm
In Carl Hunter’s debut feature, Bill Nighy shines as Alan, an eccentric, retired tailor with a uniquely keen talent for Scrabble — and for hustling strangers in games. However, the pleasure he takes in Scrabble is tainted by the memory of his long-lost son, who stormed out while playing one night and was never seen again.
Shielding himself from the cruelties of the world with a cloak of quirky peculiarities and a gruff demeanor, Alan has made it his life’s work to locate his missing son. His efforts haven’t yielded much, except to effectively estrange him from his other son, Peter, whose feelings of being second-best aren’t much assuaged by his father’s obsessive quest.
“This film is a distinct, articulate pleasure.” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk, February 12th, 4 & 7pm
For decades Zacharias Kunuk has been one of the most exciting, dynamic, and innovative filmmakers in Canada. His movies ( Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner and Maliglatit ) combine myth, history, and folklore, elements that are present in this movie.
Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk, re-acts an actual 1961 encounter on spring sea ice between the title character, along with other community leaders, and a government agent who has come to ask them to relocate their families to permanent settlements and send their children to school. As the “interview” unfolds we see the agent’s paternalism clashing with Noah’s pride and common sense with the situation capturing the tensions between Inuit and the government that exist to this day.
Filmed on Baffin Island in a documentary-like style, we watch as a fellow Inuit translator tries in his choice of words to soften the harsh words that are spoken over the course of an hour.
It Must Be Heaven, February 19th, 4 & 7pm
In this his fifth feature, which won a Jury Special Mention at Cannes 2019 and is Palestine’s Oscar submission for Best International Feature Film, director Elia Suleiman, a famed figure in Palestinian cinema, explores the world with his trademark, wide-eyed wonder—one that belies an incisive critique of nationalism and identity. Suleiman stars in his own film, personally investigating the meanings of being in exile and in search of a home.
Filmed in Nazareth, Paris, and Montreal – masquerading as New York City – It Must Be Heaven, comprises comedic vignettes, some darker than others.
“Whimsical and wistful yet infused with a yearning for the stability of place, Heaven, will have gates opened throughout the European indie circuit and potentially further afield.” – Jay Weissbert, Variety
Arab Blues (Un Divan à Tunis), February 22nd, 4 & 7pm
Manele Labidi Labbe’s debut feature film tackles the themes of independence, community, traditional culture, and new beginnings. It is a comedy with a bit of a bite. After 10 years in Paris, Selma returns to Tunis to open a psychotherapy service on the roof of her extended family’s apartment building. In a culture where such therapy is unknown, unwelcome, and even haram (forbidden) when the therapist is a young woman, Selma has her problems. These are a less than welcoming family, which includes an alcoholic uncle, an angry aunt, and a rebellious cousin, an initially skeptical and resistant community, eventually patients with problems you wouldn’t believe, and a large local flic (cop) who has his eyes on Selma but not in a particularly kind way.
“Arab Blues is a refreshing and entertaining comedy that illustrates how integral humour is in Tunisian culture.” Sarah Clements, Exclaim!
The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open, March 4th, 4 & 7pm
Conceived by Canadian filmmakers Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (who also plays one of the leads), “The Body Remembers” centers on the spontaneous connection between two women, both of indigenous descent but hailing from very different social classes, who meet by chance at an East Vancouver bus stop. Prim and professionally dressed, Ália has just come from a gynecological exam when she notices blue-haired Rosie standing barefoot and panicked in the rain. Halfway down the block, Rosie’s boyfriend is shouting violent threats. As if by instinct, Ália intervenes, grabbing Rosie and rushing the two of them back to her apartment and over the course of the evening, the two women explore this traumatic event.
The second half of the film revolves around Aila’s attempt to get Rosie to a safe house, something Rosie is wary about – whether she wants to stay somewhere unfamiliar, whether she wants to leave her home, whether she wants to accept the help of others, etc.
“Don’t let its florid, mouthful of a title mislead you: “The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open” is a film that’s as urgent and unpretentious as it is remarkable.” – Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times
Cunningham, March 11th, 4 & 7pm
a documentary about Merce Cunningham, the revolutionary American choreographer whose decades of work changed the very nature of dance before he died a decade ago at age 90. His mid-20th century collaborations with composer John Cage (his lifelong partner) and visual artist Robert Rauschenberg were central to an era of transformation. Cunningham resisted “avant-garde” or any other label. “I don’t describe it. I do it,” he once said.
A believer in touring, Cunningham in the early days would cram a total of nine people, including himself and Cage, into a Volkswagen bus. Once, when they stopped in a rural outpost for gas and began to stretch, they were mistaken for comedians. “No”, Cage replied, “we’re from New York”.
A turning point for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company came in 1964, when they toured Europe for the first time. Though there were dissenters – Cunningham remembers wishing a thrown tomato was an apple because he was hungry – the response by audiences, especially in Britain, was overwhelmingly positive.
“A visual wonder that involves from start to finish.” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times