VIFF Closing Film: Broker

BROKER, the closing film from the Vancouver International Film Festival, is about a baby adoption scam gone wild.

There might be a loose theme to Japanese film director, producer & screenwriter Hirokazu Koreeda’s movies.  He won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018 for the crime drama Shoplifters, about a family that relies on shoplifting to cope with a life of poverty. It could almost be a present day theme as well. A line from “Shoplifters” that ties in with his new movie “Broker” –

“Sometimes it’s better to choose your own family.”

Broker is about broken people trying to make a living making all the wrong choices – but with heart. It was purposefully written so viewers would end up not hating the offenders and maybe give more thought to what makes people do what they do – good and bad. Along with feeling contempt for the situation and the characters in this film, there is a glimmer of hope and love among the desperation.

This film was not what I expected. To be fair; I wasn’t completely sure what I expected, but I thought this movie would be more of a comedy.  While it had comedic moments in it for sure, for the most part it was more about human behaviour and what can transpire when you are given and not given choices.  It’s a judgement call when you don’t have all the missing pieces of the puzzle.  When you do and you start putting them together it makes more sense. 

I’ll leave you with the intro from the VIFF programme:

Working for the first time in South Korea, long-term festival favourite Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters) has come up with a sprawling crime story about a baby adoption scam. But in characteristic Kore-eda style, the tone is predominantly compassionate and melancholic—even the cops warm to the perpetrators. It helps of course that the baby broker, Sang-hyeon, is played by Song Kang-ho, the charismatic star of ParasiteMemories of MurderThe Host, and so many others (Song was named Best Actor at Cannes for this performance). His scheme involves intercepting infants abandoned at a church baby box, but things get messy when a young mom (Lee Ji-eun) changes her mind and discovers his racket. She decides to go along with him to meet the the baby’s prospective buyers—actually cops in a sting operation.

Kore-eda fashions plenty of twists and turns as Sang-hyeon, his accomplice (Gang Dong-won), and the girl try to evade the law and find a safe home for the child, but as always, he’s more invested in character than plot mechanics, and the truths we learn about this thrown-together family are revealed in simple, telling gestures, looks, and shadings.

Miraculous in its sensitivity, asking questions about issues of ethics, of choice, of money, and murder, and family, and how to find love in all this sorry mess.”—Ella Kemp, Indiewire

 Best Actor (Song Kang Ho), Cannes 2022

The power of Film

It’s that time of year again. The time where movie theaters start to fill up as Fall approaches.  And of course; the film festivals start up.  Toronto International Film Festival (better known as TIFF) is on now until the 18th followed by the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF for short) which begins on September 29th

Film is a powerful tool for so many reasons.  There’s times I don’t want to think and only want to laugh, however; the three highlighted here help to get a message across with a not so gentle reminder of what good and bad we humans are capable of.  This is the true power of film. Comedy and Tragedy, like life itself. Previews of what’s to come…

If you liked My Octopus Teacher…

Blueback

Blueback: photo + description taken from TIFF website

A story about an intimate mother–daughter relationship, forged by the women’s keen desire to protect the inhabitants of the pristine blue oceans on the Australian coast where they live.

With images of beautiful blue vistas demanding to be seen on the big screen, Robert Connolly (Balibo, TIFF ’09; Paper Planes, TIFF ’14) returns to the Festival with a story about a young woman’s connection to the ocean and an inherited mission of environmental advocacy.

A teenager named Abby and her mom maintains a bond with a groper fish (In Australia, “groper” is used instead of “grouper” ) affectionately named Blueback, who becomes a reminder of all the wonders the ocean has to offer and a path to healing a rift between Abby and her mother.

Sidenote from Girl who would be King: as a former scuba diver where at 19, my very first dive was in the Bahamas with a team from National Geographic no less,  I personally came into contact with Grouper fish among sea turtles and many other remarkable sea creatures.  I visited Cayman Islands too where turtle stew is considered the national dish. This trailer pulled on my heartstrings.  

Grouper and snapper are still the mainstays in the Bahamas, however, with the former being the “Rolls Royce of fish” according to Ben Simmons, owner and operator of Harbour Island’s Ocean View Club.

Bones of Crows

Bones of Crows: photo + description taken from VIFF website.

An epic account of the life of Cree matriarch Aline Spears that spans generations, Marie Clements’ Bones of Crows is a powerful indictment of the abuse of Indigenous peoples as well as a stirring story of resilience and resistance.

752 Is Not A Number

752 is Not a Number: photo + description taken from TIFF website.

On January 8, 2020, Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 went down as it was leaving Iranian air space. All 176 people on board were killed, many of them Iranian Canadians. For weeks Iranian authorities vociferously denied responsibility, but foreign governments and agencies were certain the plane was shot down by Iranian military, a fact Iran’s government eventually admitted. There were no answers as to why the plane was fired on or even why it was allowed to take off, since hostilities had broken out in the region in preceding days.

This tragedy is the subject of the documentary. The focus is one man’s dogged fight for the truth. Hamed Esmaeilion, a dentist in Newmarket, Ontario, lost his wife and his young daughter in the incident. Determined not to let the Iranian government exploit their memories, Hamed took a harrowing journey to Iran to claim the remains, then embarked on a quest for justice for all the victims in this atrocity.

Happy Film Going (and some not so happy film going) but we all learn something and become more mindful in the process.

Have a great weekend (a long weekend in most provinces in Canada due to the passing of Queen Elizabeth II).  RIP our longest reigning monarch.