By David Baldwin
While the pandemic is far from over, one of the few wonderful things that has happened is the ease of access some film festivals have created for online audiences watching from home. We no longer need to physically be in certain cities in order to see great films — we just simply need to point and click. While some festivals demand the sacred in-person experience not be destroyed under any circumstance, others have pivoted to a welcome hybrid model of in-person screenings and online on-demand screenings. The Whistler Film Festival, running December 1-31, 2021, is one such festival and is available to online audiences across Canada (an in-person portion of the festival concluded this past Sunday in Whistler). Films are available daily and can be viewed at any time before December 31, which will certain make festival planning alongside family holiday events a whole lot easier.
I was given the opportunity to sample three films prior to their online screening date, and have included a few of my thoughts on these films that could not be any more different below:
A Wicked Eden is a documentary centred around Goddess Alexandra Snow, a dominatrix and fetish content creator. Alongside her femdom sex worker friends and creators, Snow has built an online following that is constantly at odds with laws and social taboos adverse to consensual BDSM content. The film jumps around various topics, interviews and behind-the-scenes footage covering everything you have ever wanted to know about femdom play but were afraid to ask or search for yourself. Though the nudity is blurred out, seeing some of the acts these creators take part in is not for the faint of heart, or at least not for anyone who is not sexually progressive. While I wish it was a bit more focused and honed in better on certain elements — not to mention made it clearer at the beginning the relationship all of these creators had to Snow — it still manages to be a genuinely eye-opening documentary about an underground subject too few of us know about and even more completely misunderstand. Hearing these women talk about their experiences, good, bad and downright disturbing, is more than a worthwhile experience. I just wish they were afforded the time to elaborate more on the types of feelings that have been silenced and minimized for far too long. And getting interviews from the male fans who watch and are sometimes involved in the videos is a fun touch, leading to more than a few “educational” moments.
A Wicked Eden is available to screen starting Saturday December 11, 2021.
Moon Manor is an inherently controversial and somewhat macabre portrayal of death. Jimmy (real life non-actor James “Jimmy” Carrozo) is an elderly gay man who has lived a long and fulfilling life whose Alzheimer’s is rapidly worsening. He decides to hold a “FUN-eral” celebration for family and friends, spending his day regaling his story to obit writer Andrew (Lou Taylor Pucci, from the Evil Dead remake, Spring and the recent AppleTV+ series, Physical) and preparing to die on his own terms later that night. And did I mention it is somewhat based on a true story? Not exactly the most uplifting kind of material, yet Moon Manor still manages to be funny, endearing and insightful in its examination of memory, nostalgia and being able to leave this mortal coil on your own terms. The film is at its best when we are watching Jimmy describe his life to Andrew, with a few choice cutaways to specific moments (alongside grainy home video footage capturing Jimmy in his heyday). Sadly though, there are a few too many supporting characters and an incredibly random cameo from Ricki Lake (who plays herself!) that bog the film down and take away from what makes it truly special. It left me wanting to see so much more from that life-affirming relationship between Jimmy and Andrew, and a lot less of the quirky characters orbiting around them.
Moon Manor is available to screen starting Thursday December 16, 2021.
Run Woman Run stars Dakota Ray Hebert as Beck, a single Mom living on the Six Nations reserve who has just been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. She knows she has been in a rut since her marriage fell apart and her mother died, but she does not know how to get out of it. Her family want to help (as does the recurring vision she has of legendary Onondaga runner Tom Longboat (Asivak Koostachin)), yet have come to a point where they are basically done with her. Wanting to prove them all wrong, Beck sets out to run a marathon. Writer/Director Zoe Leigh Hopkins’ first narrative feature is a crowd-pleaser about overcoming the odds set in front of you. It has the happy and sad moments you expect, and even a bit of romance and humour. What I wish it had more of was an understanding of Beck’s mental state and what she is going through because by the time we meet her, her family is refusing to even consider helping her — leading to some utterly cruel moments that nearly had me screaming at the TV screen in anger. The overall message is great, as are the naturalistic performances (including Corner Gas’ Lorne Cardinal playing Beck’s Dad Len), but the way it is delivered could have been better finessed in certain areas.
Run Woman Run is available to screen starting Saturday December 18, 2021.
The Whistler Film Festival runs online across Canada from December 1-31, 2021.
For more information about these titles and others screening during the festival,
please visit the WFF website.