Category Archives: Canadian

Cheer Up – CIFF 2016

cheer-up-jpg-size-custom-crop-1086x612Cheer Up

86 minutes

4.75

This documentary is about the Arctic Circle Spirit Cheerleaders, also known as the Ice Queens, and their competitive journey in Finland. At the beginning of the film we see that they have always finished in last place. Through the stories of cheerleaders Patu and Aino, and their coach Miia, we discover just how hard it is to be a cheerleader.

I have to say, I had some really low expectations for this film. First of all, it’s about cheerleading. Second of all, it’s a documentary about cheerleading. Lastly, it’s a documentary about cheerleading in Finland! It sounded so strange that I had to see it. I assumed it would be a Finnish version of Bring it On – I was wrong.

I loved how this film didn’t just focus on cheerleading, but also on the lives of the cheerleaders and how tough a sport it is to do competitively. You can tell how much they want to be the best! By the end, the whole team is  gritting their teeth because they can almost taste the championship. The one who wants it the most is the coach Miia; you feel for her because you can see that she knows her team isn’t very good, but she loves them anyways, she makes them work so hard so that they can win.

This documentary is really relateable. It shows the cheerleading team working hard (they practiced everyday for two hours) trying to get better. Their hard work is rewarded with eyelashes falling out and broken noses. Still, they never give up through all of the curveballs life throws at this team, they keep practicing. I think that is so inspirational. They love what they’re doing so they are working so incredibly hard at it, in the sheer hopes of getting better.  

The only thing that I didn’t really like was that the beginning was a little slow. Nothing really happened until 20-30 minutes into the film. During the Q & A that happened after the screening, Christy Garland (the director) talked about how the cheerleaders were very shy around her for the first bit of shooting. I can only assume that’s why things heated up only after the first bit. That is such a minor thing though, so I can barely fault the film for it.

I brought my friend Satchi to the screening because she is in competitive violin with me and we both could relate so much to the emotions they all felt. We understood how they felt when they got last place, how they felt when they practiced everyday for two hours, when they hurt their bodies from practicing so hard. We understood it all.

All in all, this movie was great. It was engaging, it was captivating and it wasn’t just any movie about cheerleading. I really recommend this film and it’s playing again on Saturday October 1st at 11:15am at Eau Claire for CIFF 2016. I highly suggest everyone go and see it.

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Hello Destroyer

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Hello Destroyer

Director: Kevan Funk

Tyson Burr: Jared Abrahamson

3/5

Hello Destroyer was the first movie that I saw the Calgary International Film Festival.

Tyson Burr (Abrahamson) is a rookie member of the Prince George Warriors hockey team, but one day he gets into a terrible hockey fight that escalates quickly and ends in someone getting hospitalized. Tyson’s career ends abruptly when he is found responsible for the hockey players injuries and falls into a pit of despair and depression.

This movie caught the whole audience off guard and everyone was at the edge of their seat. We were all incredibly invested in Tyson and wanted to help him or at least give him a hug. I found it pretty hard not to yell at the screen and offer words of encouragement. This film definitely makes you feel uncomfortable that a lot of films don’t have the courage to make you feel and it’s all because of how invested you become with the characters.

I thought that it took too long for the plot to really get started. It was all about the fight that Tyson gets into, except that doesn’t happen until the middle of the film. There’s a lot of character development that is almost unnecessary for example; Tyson’s relationship with the mother of the family he’s living with? Do they need to have some love tension? She’s not a single mom.

At close to two hours, this film  goes on longer than it probably needed to, there’s quite a few unnecessary scenes or repetitive scenes, like when Tyson’s working in the slaughter house, you can show him  few times at the slaughterhouse, but how many times do you need to get your point across? Also, some scenes went on for too long, like some of the scenes where you see Tyson working out, we get it, he’s a hockey player and needs to keep in shape, do we need to see him jump rope for five minutes? Maybe not.

I don’t recommend this film for kids, it had tons of profanity and some nudity, I only looked at the synopsis of the film in the festival program and that didn’t mention any nudity or colourful language. I thought it would be about a young adult getting punishment for getting into a fight at hockey, but the kind of punishment one of my friends would get. Not getting banned from the league and getting kicked out their house.

This film was very quiet and inner-directed. I really liked the lack of dialogue. Since this was all about Tyson’s state of mind, there was a lot of close up shots no soundtrack and little dialogue. I enjoyed that. I really felt like I was feeling what Tyson was feeling and could understand what he was going through. It also got the point across that he was being alienated very well.

I brought my dad to this film because he used to play hockey and I thought he might like it. He said that this scene (below), when the coach was yelling at his players, brought back a lot of memories!

hellodestroyer_01

At the end of the film there was a Q and A with director/screenwriter Kevan Funk and actor Jared Abrahamson (who plays Tyson Burr). Here are some of the questions and answers!

 

Q: Was the film completely scripted or did you guys work on the mood and lines together?

A: J: Kevan wrote a good script, it was solid from beginning to end, but we did blend in a little improv, ad libbing within it. But mostly you have to give Kevan props, he’s a great writer and a great director he put this thing together. For four years he’s been working on this bad boy. With our improv’s, it was nothing without the blueprint.

 

Q: How did you become your character?

 

A: J: For me it was a mix between playing the hockey player and playing the man, you know, I grew up in a town where everybody played hockey so for me it was about finding the balance between being the guy on the team and the guy not on the team, and that’s what Tyson is. [For the record, Jared Abrahamson grew up in Flin Flon, Manitoba, hometown of famed, hard-nosed Philadelphia Flyer Bobby Clarke]

 

When asked about the resemblance to Fort Mcmurray, this is what Kevan Funk and Jared Abrahamson said.

 

K: I have a deep appreciation for this part of the country which I think is super under represented in the media. In the last five years of my work I’ve been interested in the shorts and the features, in actually looking in Canadian identity because I have an issue with especially English Canadian film that is almost terrified to embrace our identity and I think that leads to a lot of the problems when we talk about our inability to really articulate Canadian identity. I think it’s because we don’t spend very much time actually exploring it. So it’s a core interest in terms of the work I make.

J: This film is for Fort Mcmurray, it’s for Flin Flon, it’s for Thomson, it’s for Prince George, for Fort St. John. This is for all of rural Canada. We represent the part of Canada that doesn’t get shown on film often. Usually you see Toronto, you see Vancouver, this is for everybody that comes from places that don’t get a lot of attention. We’re trying to capture that for all you guys.

 

Q: What inspired you to make a film based on this topic?

 

A: K: The initial inspiration was actually this Errol Morris documentary called Standard Operating Procedure that is about the prison guards who tortured prisoners and it’s a fascinating film that you start looking at these people like they’re these awful human beings for the things that they did and it holds them responsible morally for the actions that they took part in, but it also shows how much they are a victim of the systemic violence and that was what was super interesting to me. It is looking at these systemic issues of violence in our culture and looking at the cultivation of the bad guy, or the evil particularly around violence. I think that us looking at a sense of cultural culpability is really important and the only reason it really ended up being hockey is not to due with the violence in hockey per say, it was more that hockey just happens to be our largest cultural institution in this country. I mean if I made this film in the U.S. it would probably be about the military or football.

 

Q: What other films influenced you?

 

A: Formally; there’s this film by Todd Haynes which is probably my favourite film of all time called Safe which is astoundingly good and criminally under seen, I rip off Safe all the time in this movie in terms of sound design. I’m very interested in a movie like that that also has a pretty quiet introspective character and is using the formal qualities that exists in the medium to sort of shape it.

 

Q: You used a lot of close up and obstructed shots during the movie, what inspired that?

K: I mean I work with an incredibly talented cinematographer who I’ve worked with for a long time and he’s an incredible creative partner, it goes back to what I was talking about with sound design. When you have a character and I give Jared a ton of credit for such a difficult role to play, because you don’t have a lot language to use other than physical language and then as a filmmaker on top of that you then have to articulate a lot of ideas that you can’t do through dialogue so a big part of this sort claustrophobic shooting style with the way we approach looking at Jared is to kind of create this weight that there is this sort of physicality to the image that you feel is on top of him throughout a lot of the film.  If he’s not going to sit down and say “oh I’m so sad, I’m so depressed, everything’s wrong in my life” you need to be able to communicate that and that is the sort of balance that you find in making something like this where the real sort of personal tragedy of this character is his inability to communicate and he is really only able to express himself tough violence. That’s what he’s learned and so then you have a responsibility as a filmmaker to still make sure that you’re communicating the ideas even if your character is not doing anything in such a deliberate way. I think Jared’s performance tells you so much of that through a lot these smaller moments but that’s why you need to shoot it in a way that you can catch the nuance of a performance because otherwise I think a lot of that emotion and story telling is lost.

 

All in all, even if this film wasn’t made for my age group or personality, this film left me with a lot to think about, and a good film always does.