Fantasia Film Festival 2021: Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror (2021)

Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched (2021)

Director: Kier-La Janisse

WOODLANDS DARK AND DAYS BEWITCHED explores the folk horror phenomenon from its beginnings in a trilogy of films – Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General (1968), Piers Haggard’s Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973) – through its proliferation on British television in the 1970s and its culturally specific manifestations in American, Asian, Australian and European horror, to the genre’s revival over the last decade.  – IMDB

Running at over 3 hours, Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched is a documentary that talks about the history of folk horror in an extensive format. The documentary breaks down into six chapters going through about 200 films that contribute to the folk horror genre from its start as what is known as the unholy trinity in British folk horror to American folk horror to folk horror around the world concluding with a look at the future of folk horror. In reality, folk horror feels very much like an unexplored territory. With film offerings that possibly aren’t vey often however this documentary brings to light is the diversity of the subject on hand much like how it concludes with specifying that its possibly not so much a horror subgenre but more of a mode revolving around certain key points whether in history regarding society, beliefs and the shift from old to new creating resistance to change.

For someone like me that is still very much learning about the horror genre especially when it comes to the horror films of the 60s to 80s, this film features a lot of unexplored territory. The folk horror genre while having some interesting offerings in the past few years (and some of them even being presented at past Fantasia Film Festival), it is still one that has the impression of having not such a long history that could be worthy of 3 hours at first, however as the subject as discussed more and the history starts being explored through over 50 interviewees throughout the documentary and as it expands from different countries and how it differs in approach, the documentary doesn’t lose its appeal at all. In fact, its presented in an intriguing and educational way presenting not only an extensive list of movies to better dive into the subject but also even showing many books that also have covered this subject.

As much as the documentary focuses on the past, its main takeaway is that folk horror isn’t quite as expected that its based on folklore but rather that its a much wider look at the society and beliefs. It links itself to resistance to change through society whether its in history when its about a shift in belief with the church facing modernization of society or the Indigenous people or other populations towards white settlers in their lands or even how the symbol of witchcraft and the witch is actually a bigger look at fear of society towards women in power, which is actually a rather surprising discovery overall. Of course, as it expands around the world, the folklore is based much more on more spiritual figures and their own countries issues and beliefs. What makes folk horror stand out is the basic conclusion that this style of film and the stories it tells is very much rooted in a pessimism in society much like how in recent years, there is a slight rise of folk horror being created contributing a lot to how history is cycling through its own dark times yet again.

Overall, Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched is a very thorough look at the history of folk horror. There is a great amount of information here whether its about its movies spanning many countries but also a lot of interesting point of views about the subject. Folk horror is a fascinating subject whether its considered as a subgenre, a mode or simply a film style or storytelling method. It embodies so many different elements in films whether its witchcraft, Indigenous people, folklore, history, religion, society, feminism, good and evil, psychogeography and environment etc. Its no wonder that the documentary needs over 3 hours to cover all the material. It might be lengthy but it only gets more interesting as folk horror is explored further into each chapter. The execution and breakdown is done incredibly well. Definitely worth a watch!

Fantasia Film Festival 2021: Satoshi Kon, The Illusionist (2021)

Satoshi Kon, The Illusionist (2021)

Director: Pascal-Alex Vincent

A look at the life and work of Japanese animator Satoshi Kon. – IMDB

Satoshi Kon, The Illusionist is a documentary that takes a look back at Satoshi Kon’s film and TV work one by one and the influence and collaborators along the way and their impression of both his person, career and imagination. Telling the story of his beginnings and inspirations from Akira that lead him to creating manga in the start that were greatly influenced his art style to this later projects that charted a new direction for adult animation as he both directed and wrote stories that blended reality and imagination.

Made as a tenth year anniversary remembrance of Satoshi Kon’s passing in 2010, Satoshi Kon, The Illusionist is a great overview of his work and a fantastic homage to an animator that brought a different angle to Japanese animation with the stories that he told. Having only seen one film of Satoshi Kon, Paprika was my starting point which happened to be his last feature film released. However, the documentary does a great job at making sure that even those who aren’t thoroughly familiar with the filmography can still be able to be engaged as it talks about each project’s meaning to Kon and where his inspirations came but also how these films marked its place in Japanese animation, adding the intrigue to check out any missed filmography.

The documentary focuses on his career which starts off from his beginnings as a manga artist and gradually the opportunities that lead him to his first notable project, Perfect Blue which was anything from perfect when looking at the box office which incurred a loss and how the company wanted to prove others wrong and took another chance with him. Satoshi Kon’s films in discussion are rather multifaceted which on one hand discusses a societal issue, usually relevant to the Japanese population whether its idol group formations to films and actress to the underbelly population of Japan. At the same time, the main characters always held a part of himself as well while also revealing that Kon’s current projects sometimes even reflected ideas of his next project.

The execution of the documentary is pretty good. The layout of going from one project to the next and having different people involved being part of the interviews and sharing their experiences to tell their analysis or the actual progression of the projects shed a lot of light from behind the scenes. At the same time, the influence of Satoshi Kon was better emphasized as the interviewees expanded to people from the film industry outside of Japan including Darren Aronofsky who talks about how he asked Kon for permission to use one of his scenes in Requiem For A Dream and how director Rodney Rothman aspired to make Spiderman: Into the Spider Verse comparable to the experience of Kon’s films as two examples, moving to interviews from animators, voice actresses, producers, and others from USA, UK , Japan and France that crafts a good picture of Kon.

As the film ends with a quick look at what’s known about his unfinished final project, Dreaming Machine that didn’t end up being released, it further emphasizes the loss of a talent who was about to move away from his normal themes in his previous films and chart another path with his limitless imagination in family animation films. Plus, it has a final note from praise that other people in the industry interviewed throughout who either drew influence from his work or was able to work with or be acquainted with him during his career. Well-rounded, respectful and thorough: Satoshi Kon, The Illusionist is a great journey through this acclaimed Japanese animator’s career.

*Satoshi Kon, The Illusionist is available on demand on Fantasia’s virtual platform throughout the festival running from August 5th to 25th, 2021. Check out more info here.*

Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir (2021)

Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir (2021)

Director: James Redford

A look at the life and work of author Amy Tan. – IMDB

Being best known as the author of 1989’s novel The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan has grown to become a fiction novelist who writes stories about Chinese immigrant stories and Chinese mother-daughter relationships along with their different experiences. This documentary recounts her biography as well as her writing career and how she came into writing and the inspirations behind the novels that she’s written. Using both old photos and videos as well as interviews with family members and other authors and publishers and interviews with Amy Tan herself, it forms a look at how her career started as well the inspirations from her real life as she learned more about her mother over the years of their dramatic relationship together as well as her past that crafted her into that the author that she is today. At the same time, it also pulls footage from The Joy Luck Club movie to draw certain relatable scenes.

Its hard to say whether a documentary like this is more appealing for those familiar with Amy Tan’s work and yet for myself, I’ve only ever read The Joy Luck Club and watched the film adaptation, making me not exactly knowledgeable about Amy Tan’s work either but doesn’t detract from the fact that her debut fiction novel which were quite revolutionary as a reading experience as it was relatable to a certain extent in terms of being a Chinese daughter and the relationship as well as having a family history that might seem like it was crafted as a film but actually may have been the reality for some people from the previous generations. That didn’t hinder the fact that this documentary shared much more than just her biography but through it also shared a person who found herself as an author and the consequences of her fame and the controversy of how people viewed her portrayal of both Chinese people, culture and how much of it felt like stereotypes that stemmed over the years.

What makes Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir quite a great watching experience perhaps is that Amy Tan herself is a fascinating person to watch. Her life experiences and her recounts of her relationship with her family to the discoveries that she makes as she dives into her mother’s recollection of her own experiences all opens up something new. She feels like such a down to earth person whether its her approach of how she started writing or being clear on how to not deviate from her path as an author and what she is writing. As the documentary dives between her family history and how each of these life elements come into play and how each of her published books come to view, its a great reminder that Amy Tan is much more than just her debut fiction novel The Joy Luck Club and that there’s so much more to discover.

Overall, Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir is quite a decent watch whether or not you are familiar to her work (in my opinion). Her experiences and her life is one that is full of drama and once the realization that a lot of her work is inspired by her mother’s life, it brings on a whole different meaning as she shares a bit of her own family’s history and experiences. A well-rounded documentary taking it on a biographical angle but also look at writing and the point of view of an author.

Double Feature: My Beautiful Broken Brain (2014) & Why Did You Kill Me? (2021)

Welcome to the next documentary double feature! Documentaries are definitely a little more frequently showing up here as I’ve been interested in checking out more of these especially the ones related to crimes and such. The first is 2014’s The Beautiful Broken Brain is not crime-related but a personal journey and the second is this year’s Why Did You Kill Me about a family’s journey to hunt down the killer of their family member after her death in a drive-by shooting.

Let’s check it out!

My Beautiful Broken Brain (2014)

Director: Sophie Robinson & Lotje Sodderland

MY BEAUTIFUL BROKEN BRAIN is 34 year old Lotje Sodderland’s personal voyage into the complexity, fragility and wonder of her own brain following a life changing hemorrhagic stroke. Regaining consciousness to an alien world – Lotje was thrown into a new existence of distorted reality where words held no meaning and where her sensory perception had changed beyond recognition. This a story of pioneering scientific research to see if her brain might recover – with outcomes that no one could have predicted. It is a film about hope, transformation and the limitless power of the human mind. – IMDB

Documentaries like My Beautiful Broken Brain is not usually my go to however, the premise of this documentary is quite fascinating to watch as it shows the sudden changes that can happen in terms of health to anyone and how her journey is different as she has to embrace a changed world and her path of recovery. For a documentary about a girl who loses quite a bit due to the hemorrhagic stroke, its actually executed in a fairly positive way and sends out a positive message about how we should view our own life whether its about hope or not taking things for granted.

The execution of the film is done a good portion with videos filmed by Lotje Sodderland which builds up on her personal journey through her own recovery from her own feelings and the different steps she takes in order to embrace this “distorted reality”. Its truly hard to imagine what she went through especially when the most basic abilities are striped away through on incident. The execution builds from the start of how Sodderland ends up the way she is described from herself and her family and the reality that she now faces, outlining the effects the stroke had on her brain. As she moves forward, she compares her world to David Lynch’s work and hence her will to document what has happened to her and the journey of her recovery to eventually meet him. In the world of medicine and science, there isn’t really a lot of guarantees especially facing anything with the brain and perhaps that’s the takeaway here as this is a never seen before (or at least rarely seen) especially hard to watch when it gets into the neurological experiment bit.

In some ways, My Beautiful Broken Brain reminded me in premise of 2005’s Japanese TV series 1 Litre of Tears that was based on the true story of Aya Kito who suffered a rare brain degenerative disease and had documented it in her own diary. Where that one brings forth a lot of sorrow, My Beautiful Broken Brain has a lot of heart-wrenching moments but it makes the supposedly successes truly shine through. Its a little scary to watch that the senses and abilities that we use everyday is diminished to being unrecognizable. Overall, The Beautiful Broken Brain is decently executed and offers up a lot of information and a very personal journey that shares both a positive message about hope but also reminds us how lucky we all are to be able to do everyday things like reading and writing.

Why Did You Kill Me? (2021)

Director: Fredrick Munk

The line between justice and revenge blurs when a devastated family uses social media to track down the people who killed 24-year-old Crystal Theobald. – IMDB

Social media and technology has been a huge basis on how crimes are solved on a lot of the recent Netflix crime documentaries. In some ways, perhaps Why Did You Kill Me feels a little lesser in terms of the depth of the case itself as it somehow loses the depth of the topics that it can go. This one focuses primarily on the case on hand and following the footsteps of finding who is involved and why it happened. It also is one of the few where for the most part, the ending is relatively resolved and not exactly some form of call for action.

Why Did You Kill Me takes the angle of a family that wants to find the killer and using the help of a young cousin on Myspace to reach out to different gang members of the suspected gang involved and finding the clues to narrow down who it is and what happened after showing signs of not trusting the police. As much as the documentary is about solving the crime, its more about the line between justice and revenge.

Between interviews and crime scene restructures with minimized scenes, the whole crime is shown in a good detail as it goes from its suspect to exploring the involvement of family members and their own backstory. The crime documentary starts off rather solid because it focuses on the whole early days of Myspace and how eventually it turned into a very extreme way of using the victim’s picture to build the online profile which does end up attracting the person involved. The whole investigation circles around a lot of the same motions and that’s where the pacing of the documentary does feel sometimes like it lacks the content as a full length feature. Its not saying that this case isn’t worth shining light on as the final note on justice and revenge is pretty decent.

Double Feature: Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel (2021) & Don’t F*ck With Cats (2019)

Welcome to the next double feature! This time is a little different as I get the reviews for documentary mini-series out of the way. Being mini-series, it technically should be in its own segment as TV binges but Letterboxd categorized them as movies so here we are! The first is Crime Scene: The Vanishing at Cecil Hotel which is rather new as its a 2021 Netflix documentary and the other is Don’t F*ck With Cats: Hunting Down an Internet Killer from 2019, also a Netflix documentary. Let’s check it out!

Crime Scene: The Vanishing at The Cecil Hotel (Mini-series, 2021)

College student and tourist Elisa Lam vanishes, leaving behind all of her possessions in her hotel room. The Cecil Hotel grows in infamy. – IMDB

*Originally posted on Friday Film Club on Movies and Tea*

Crime Scene: The Vanishing At The Cecil Hotel is a 2021 American docu-series about the vanishing and death of Elisa Lam at the Cecil Hotel. Separated into 4 episodes, it takes a look at the beginning, progression and finale of Elisa Lam’s vanishing and what happens. At the same time, its not only about the mystery but also about the investigation process and the involvement of web sleuths after the elevator surveillance tape was released online as well as the history of the Cecil Hotel from its early days until the present.

The documentary itself definitely has some good and bad elements. On one hand, the history of the Cecil Hotel and the area that it resides it adds a lot of knowledge. As the case builds from the one event, it digs up the horrors of the hotel and the dangerous people that lived there and how the hotel ended up with these residents. Through the interviews of the past manager, the past residents and the investigators of the case, it adds in a lot of perspective that feels like tangents to the mystery the the documentary focuses around but actually gives it a lot of foundation.

The mystery itself is done well enough. In some ways, it actually feels like the historical information about the hotel actually sometimes outshines the case itself mostly because the case itself uses a narrator as a voice-over reading Elisa Lam’s online entries and thoughts and plays it out in a blurry image while also adding in some of the real footage from the news and the investigation. The case is rather mysterious especially with the elevator surveillance tape that gets released and web sleuths who try to decipher this footage and all the questions that it raises. Ever since Don’t F*ck With Cats docu-series was released, web sleuths seems to be a hot commodity to add into mysteries, perhaps more pushed forward by the fact that Unsolved Mysteries have been revived on Netflix as well.

For this docu-series, where it does falls short is that it never really pinpoints a solid direction in execution and sometimes feels like it wants to touch on too many different issues from online bullying, mental illness, Cecil Hotel, who is at fault, etc. All these issues are big things to talk about and yet, the big points of mental illness, which should have been the focus didn’t have as much time to dive into, since that should have been the big takeaway from this one. However, at the end of the day, for those unfamiliar with Elisa Lam’s case and the Cecil Hotel, it is a rather fascinating one in terms of the information that it offers.

Don’t F*ck With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer (Mini-series, 2019)

A group of online justice seekers track down a guy who posted a video of himself killing kittens. – IMDB

Don’t F*ck With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer is a 4 episode mini docu-series on Netflix that highlights the trek of web sleuths tracing down a kitten killer after releasing a brutal video which leads to a bigger case which involved the killing of young man filmed and released to the public as well. Its hard to talk about Don’t F*ck With Cats being the main reason that it follows a case that is tracked down to a killer located in Montreal, a city that I personally grew up in. The places this killer frequented and lived are areas familiar to myself and for that, its one of the reasons that makes this documentary probably one that hits a lot harder especially the unsettling feeling that unspeakable things could be happening all around us and no one ever really knows. I’m not naive to believe that that isn’t that case, but watching something like this definitely brings that out.

With that said, Don’t F*ck With Cats on one hand is well-executed as a documentary. It starts off focusing heavily on web sleuths and the power of the Internet that pretty much using the right avenues, you can probably track down anything. Other than the very disturbing video of the kitten killings, the web sleuths part actually is an entertaining and intriguing as the community comes together but also leads up to a conclusive thought at the end that gives the viewers a final question to ponder on whether they were the push that caused the killer to elevate to bigger crimes. I’m getting ahead of myself but the idea of this hunt moving between the Internet killers and how it tracks from a single video to eventually being able to pinpoint a location by the end and eventually provide information to the police to hopefully help with their investigation is a fascinating sort of journey as it also parallels with the inevitable focus on the crimes of Luka Magnotta. There are also uses of videos from when the investigation was going on and such which always adds to documentaries.

To be honest, Don’t F*ck With Cats is a really good documentary. On one hand, its one to definitely watch as its focus on web sleuths and the power of Internet is quite intriguing and triumphant for the most part for what they were able to discover however, on the other hand, its also a disturbing case and one that should be highlighted but then as Luka Magnotta is still alive, it almost seems unfair to bring him that spotlight given the information even though the show does make a good point to give space for friends of his human victim to talk about this person whose life was ended so young. In some ways, while the case revolves around the killer and proves how the Internet is a powerful tool when used correctly. The biggest takeaway is that the Internet is great in some ways and also horrible in other ways. The openness of it brings on its own consequences and in the end, that message is shown clearly giving the documentary a good amount to ponder on.

FNC 2020: Caught in the Net (2020)

Caught in the Net (2020)

Directors: Vit Klusak & Barbora Chalupova

Three adult actresses posing as 12-year-old girls, three fake bedrooms, three cameras, three chat boxes with fake profiles. A social experiment on the sexual abuse of young people online conducted live on camera. An investigative documentary that plays out like a thriller as it probes how the sexual predators who live closer than you might think relentlessly manipulate their young victims. – FNC 2020

Caught in the Net is a Czech documentary about online sexual predators. The documentary starts off by showing how it chooses its three actresses who are all of age but looks younger and can pass as twelve year olds. From that process moving to how the set is created with their three rooms as well as the recording and monitoring of the activity right outside and how they bring some of their own younger pictures and create this fake profile for the three to interact with men who reach out to them. The have a specific code of conduct that was shown right before the online interaction started indicating that they could not initiate anything, in general. Its pretty much an experiment of seeing sexual predator behaviour which over the course of the 10 days of online interactions definitely felt like it truly was a scarring experience, and rightfully so because as much as the images and videos were genitalia was blurred out, its not hard to know what is going on. As it moved to extreme territories with blackmail, paying for their pictures (and more) and eventually, physical meeting at a spot, the documentary covers every phase.

Its no doubt that Caught in the Net is meant to trigger some very negative feelings about these online predators. However, its also a bit of an education for people who don’t realize how these young girls are treated. Other than looking at selected conversations and interactions, they did bring in experts like sexologists, psychiatrists and lawyers which brought in the extra knowledge of what these actions were. These actresses are all of age so they have their own judgement but they also offer their view on the situation and the men that they interact with. It reflects on the effects these interactions could have on future perspectives of themselves, relationships as well as sex. While it is reflective of Czech laws, aside from the details, it does reflect on a knowledge of how illegal any of these actions are from these predators. It also expands on what the nature of pedophilia beyond what the general view of it is. All these things give this documentary a well-rounded sense as they also bring in people who deal with girls who have suffered from these situations like Crisis Line directors and such. Aside from exploring the predator psyche, it also explores why twelve year olds would accept this in the first place.

Caught in the Net is truly a shocking experience. Even if before you start the documentary up, its already expected, watching the online interactions and the different men and how some of them tell their own experiences, its a grueling experience to go through. What is shown is filtered quite a bit especially since the documentary ends explaining that these three girls over 10 days had over 2400 men contact them as well as some of the highlighted men having personal meetings with them. Even for the actresses, it starts feeling very personal especially when faced with men who have turned around and posted their pictures on social media to threaten her as well as having one central men that popped up on all three girls interactions who was known by one of the crew.

Overall, Caught in the Net is a very well-executed and thorough documentary. It was eye-opening and shocking and covered all bases from the young girls (even if it was actresses) to having thought of different outcomes to selecting a few men that seemed the most intriguing of the conversations to focus on while also have a very important moment happen where after all the bad men, there’s always one saving grace. The men are all blurred out and their private parts are all blurred out and yet, it still delivers its content with knowledge on the side of law and psychiatry. At the end, Caught in the Net does make a point to address that online predators don’t only target girls but boys and give a note to parents and also was asked to give in the content to police to revise. It really is killing two birds with one stone.

*Caught in the Net is showing virtually on Festival du Nouveau Cinema until October 31st, 2020*



Fantasia Festival 2020: You Cannot Kill David Arquette (2020)

You Cannot Kill David Arquette (2020)

Director: David Darg, Price James

Actor David Arquette attempts a rocky return to the sport that stalled his promising Hollywood career. – IMDB

You Cannot Kill David Arquette doesn’t seem like the typical film that I’d review here. First, I have minimal knowledge and interest with professional wrestling and never quite understood the appeal and second, let’s face it, documentaries aren’t exactly what I usually watch over here. But, David Arquette is an interesting focus point to talk about and especially in terms of his career or what he says caused its stall for the past decade. From the moment, you start up You Cannot Kill David Arquette, its an intense moment with wrestler Ken Anderson being angry about Arquette winning the WCW title in 2000 and it goes straight to wrestling fans making videos on Youtube about the sour taste it has left behind up to the present.

While David Arquette (to myself) is best known in his Scream role which stands out the most, the documentary gives us a layout of how his career started and what lead him to the point of winning the title to promote an upcoming film. However, the approach here is two-fold. On one hand, its about David Arquette as a person, a celebrity and a wrestling fan who is looking to get the rightful respect from a community that he love. On the other hand, its about a deep dive into the hard path of being a wrestler and how there are no shortcuts, no matter who you are. Its a look at his life behind the scenes from his home situation, both his physical and mental issues that he has to deal with and its what leads him on this rather unsuitable personal journey. There are interviews with his wife, his ex-wife and his family like Patricia Arquette that talks about him as a person and this seemingly ridiculous and unreasonable choice which is one that feels like its not good for his current physical situation. However, much like the title of this documentary, You Cannot Kill David Arquette is really about him taking control of his life in some ways. Its a look at David Arquette and also a reality check to show respect for the wrestling profession and the immense training that goes into it as well as the show that it is.

Call this a little education for myself and a look at this personal journey for David Arquette as he decides to make a rather dangerous decision after recovering from a heart attack to train to be a professional wrestler going from backyard matches to Mexico to a death match and more. That death match was some intense stuff. This journey is rather heart pounding and a heart wrenching in reality. For someone who had zero knowledge or interest in wrestling and didn’t particularly have a huge research of David Arquette, it definitely was an experience and makes you appreciate the professional wrestling sport a little more for what it is and understand it while also having this newfound respect for David Arquette since as crazy as the decision is at his physical state and age, its a courageous decision. Eye-opening and engaging; You Cannot Kill David Arquette is an awesome documentary.

Fantasia Festival 2020: Clapboard Jungle (2020)

Clapboard Jungle (2020)

Director: Justin McConnell

Following five years in the life and career of an independent filmmaker, supported by dozens of interviews, posing one question: how does an indie filmmaker survive in the current film business? – IMDB

Independent films might not exactly be on the radar for a lot of normal filmgoers but with the success of more and more of them, there are more people that are interested in looking up more of these low-budget independent films being produced. However, more than what gets to the front of the general public and released and distributed is all the hard work of getting one made. Justin McConnell takes us on his personal and arduous journey of getting a film made in Clapboard Jungle while calling this as a subtitle, Surviving the Independent Film Business.

For those interested in making their own independent film business, this might be a good starting point as McConnell not only shows his experience and the different routes he goes on to look for funding from investors but also interviews a lot of different key people involved in the independent film business from film festival administrators to fellow independent film directors and producers and more including some bigger names like George A. Romero and Guillermo Del Toro. Due to the span of this documentary, a few of these interviewees have already left this world however they did leave some great insight on this topic. The strength in this documentary does mainly go towards these various interviews spanning on the different hurdles that the independent film business brings along from its audience feedback in this current social media landscape and online accessibility addressing the keyboard warriors and their lack of respect. At the same time, also looking at the importance of social connections and the avenues to present a film concept like lookbooks as one example. Its rather educational and eye-opening to hear people in the business give their little insight and advice from their own experiences.

However, to say that McConnell’s journey isn’t interesting would be inaccurate. If anything, his journey proves to be one that might be a warning that perseverance is an important element as well as learning along the way. He starts off with one initial project and ends up creating multiple along the way from short films to getting another entirely different movie funded, Lifechanger (review) to add to his own portfolio. McConnell as the subject might not be such an interesting character to follow but he is representative of the everyday person chasing after a dream/passion but it shows a journey of growth as he expands his horizon by talking about the different avenues to present his project and the know-how from finances to creative elements that go into this process and on the social front such as presenting at the Frontieres Market and more.

Overall, Clapboard Jungle is a decent documentary that highlights the obstacles of being a filmmaker while giving both outside perspective and personal experience as a parallel. Its a rather educational sort of documentary and one that might make people reconsider the path of being a filmmaker or on the other hand, as an audience, how we should offer perspective and opinions on what might have been someone’s life for many years. However, the documentary does go a little in circles of things not going the right way so the beginning drags a little bit before things start moving forward. On a more personal level, perhaps its the fact that I’ve seen Lifechanger and enjoyed it quite a bit that seeing this documentary and McConnell’s journey feels much more fascinating. Especially as press and blogger that cover a few genre festivals throughout the year that show even more how much work has gone behind these projects that we see at these festivals and even more legitimate that its part of this year’s Fantasia Festival 2020.

TV Binge: Twogether (Season 1, 2020)

Twogether (Season 1, 2020)

twogether

Cast: Jasper Liu, Seung-gi Lee

Paired together for an unforgettable trip across Asia, stars Lee Seung Gi and Jasper Liu become buddies as they connect with fans and local cultures. – IMDB

For fans of Jasper Liu and Seung-Gi Lee, both stars now having their own Netflix Original series, this pair-up for the travel reality show with a little bit of challenges and games added in is a fairly fun adventure. Essentially, the concept is that these two go to different Asian countries, they land at night and choose which location to go that their fan from that country has recommended. At each location, if they beat their challenge, they get a clue which narrows down the location of where the fan lives. As they move through one location to the next, its a strategy to see where to go to maximize their time since before a certain time if they don’t find their fan, they need to catch the plane to the next location. Most of the fans don’t know that they are going to find them so its a surprise and the other surprise is that, they don’t know whose fan it is.

In the current world of when this is released, we can only find travel on Netflix. Yet again, a show that releases at a good time. To be fair, the travel element is there as a unique backdrop for the reality game show element. There is some education on the different places they visit and the landmarks in those countries from a local. However, the game show element is where the show has the most fun as the show’s structure: challenges, travel allowance budget and language barriers between the two at the beginning, plus any Asian game show viewers knows that the director/crew always has it out for the people involved to make things harder.

To be fair, I’m not a Jasper Liu or Seung-gi Lee fan mostly because I haven’t watched anything of theirs (but Jasper Liu’s Triad Princess is on my to-watch list). Call this Netflix’s big scheme to give their show some extra promotion, which it probably is but it worked for me since I definitely did bump up my priority to watch their works. Its mostly entertaining in a very Korean variety show style with the comments made in post-editing to the scene (at least from my memory since its been more than a decade that I haven’t watched Korean shows). These two get together well and they both are fairly chill people who have a lot of fun with each of their challenges. At the same time, this is a good concept to have and more places should implement it (when this whole pandemic hopefully/eventually ends) to give fans an opportunity to meet their idols. There are some moments that it is rather touching to watch. Especially with the global presence of Netflix, its great to see that shows like this has an outlet to combine these stars from different countries together and in reality, its really cross-promotion but still achieves its entertainment element while promoting some of these beautiful locations in Asia.

TV Binge: Unsolved Mysteries (Season 1, 2020)

Unsolved Mysteries (Season 1, 2020)

unsolved mysteries

Immersive, character-driven stories are rooted in the experiences of ordinary people who have lived the unthinkable. Families, detectives and journalists hope viewers hold the clues to solving these mysteries. – IMDB

Some revivals are incredibly welcome! Unsolved Mysteries is definitely one of those. Netflix has picked up a true gem with this one. Whether people are watching this because of nostalgia of the original show and looking forward to see what they do now or just finding out about it with this show because its on Netflix, anyone who enjoys this type of cold case will be intrigued by all the six cases presented in Season 1.

There’s a good variety in its case selections. There is an international case, a more familiar mystery like UFO and then a few different intriguing cases of missing people whether its the situation or the suspect. The setup of each one goes into detail from the witnesses to the family and friends involved. Each case is pieced together in the form of a timeline after a general introduction of the case at hand which feels thorough investigation and research has been done. There’s a lot of re-evaluation from the current information, knowledge, deduction at the time. Whether its missing pieces of the puzzle to figure out what actually happened  to missing key pieces of evidence that could lead to the suspected killers, each unsolved mystery has its own element of suspense. Its one thing to watch thrillers, suspense and mystery in a movie but Unsolved Mysteries brings up the fact of all these real life mysteries that hasn’t been solved which is a rather chilling feeling.

I don’t want to put any spoilers here so I’m going to avoid going into too much detail. While all the cases have incredible discussion value and for some, its initiated its reopening of cases and a lot of tips sent in online as well as forums where people are sharing their theories and investigations online which is a great way of motivating the general public to join into this. Its a very Zodiac sort of deal where sometimes the people outside of the case might have their own views and understandings. Whether the cases eventually get cracked or not, its definitely brought a few of these into a different light. When talking about specific cases, the one that was interesting to watch but not exactly a lot of further discussion value (for myself) would be the Berkshires UFO episode. The one that definitely got me the most was the first one, Mystery on the Rooftop for its cryptic evidence and the sheer amount of unanswered questions. The international case, The House of Terror has its value and shows the power of Netflix, diving into the international content and expanding its areas of investigation. Other than these ones, its seriously a lot of mind-boggling cases that stirs up a lot of deeper thinking of its possibilities that make Unsolved Mysteries so intriguing.

There’s so much to love about the revival of Unsolved Mysteries. Its executed well and Netflix has the international streaming platform and reach that can expand the possibilities and variety of cold case to investigate. I’m definitely looking forward to another season.