As we are all well past the halfway mark, I am certainly hoping that film fans are checking out as many of the movies on the roster at Whistler Film Festival this year. I have been so excited to share the lineup this year featuring movies from all walks of life, and it feels like as movies slowly get added to the virtual streaming service that it just keeps getting better and better.
Two new movies begin on the virtual Whistler Film Festival today, both city stories. One of which is a New York-based indie feature and another that gets right into the thick of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side.
A Shot Through The Wall (United States, dir. Aimee Long)
A tense and dramatic New York cop story that I don’t feel that we see much anymore, Aimee Long’s feature is about Mike Tan (Kenny Leu), an Asian-American cop who chases after a runaway suspect in the opening moments. When the suspect is followed into an apartment complex, his gun accidentally discharges and flies through an apartment wall, accidentally killing a young black man. As they investigate, another person films the interaction on his phone. At first, the police union seemed to get under control but then the video goes viral, attracting public scrutiny.
I knew A SHOT THROUGH THE WALL was working on me as I was deeply caring about Mike’s situation and got incredibly angered when the walls kept closing in on him. How personal opinions, feelings and social media outrage can now completely end the career, and possibly even the life, of a person is something that infuriates me and this movie gets that premise across VERY well. Throughout it’s a serious topic and Long handles it with realism and with respect for both sides, and Kenny Leu is outstanding as the conflicted lead. I was also surprised to see actor Dan Lauria (any fans of the TV show THE WONDER YEARS would remember him as Jack, Arnold’s dad…yes I dated myself here) in a strong role as a police union rep.
Rating: ***½ out of ****
The Decline (Canada, dir. Sean Patrick Shaul)
I feel like I have seen so many news stories and short films about the infamous Downtown Eastside of Vancouver; that area near Main St. and Hastings that has even garnered national attention that the idea of a feature documentary seemed a bit overkill to me. But no; Sean Patrick Shaul’s absolutely necessary and immediate look at many sides of the opioid crisis shows many of the struggling parts of the city and its inhabitants, but it ALSO shows a positive and hopeful group of people in that area that are doing everything they can to work with the community and try to bring change, as much as the odds are against them.
One aspect I liked is that it showed many sides of the DTES community; not just from the drugs and despair to the people who live there; a journalist lives on an apartment and loves how he can’t even walk a block without running into someone he knows, and the owner of the Rickshaw Theatre who is very open and candid about his surroundings, but still loves what he does. There is also a section on safe injection sites which was the subject of a Nettie Wild documentary from MANY years ago and it is depicted in the doc respectfully, no matter what side of the issue that you are on.
This is a rich and inspiring doc experience that is certainly a difficult watch at times, but I’m glad it’s here and I hope its message spreads. Another welcome aspect of THE DECLINE are the people behind it; Sean Shaul (who did an excellent Uwe Boll documentary which showed at WFF a few years back) directed, and Boll himself came on as a producer. Both of whom live and work in the area and it shows.
Rating: ***½ out of ****
Both A SHOT IN THE WALL and THE DECLINE are now available to stream on the WFF virtual site! As always, thank you to Jive PR for sending along advance copies of the movies for review.
#WFF20 is here! Join in celebrating cinematic excellence with 97 fresh films, including 30 features and 67 shorts, premiering through December 20th and available to Canadian audiences online until December 31. Once you order a film, you have 24 hours to watch it. (We at Get Reel Movies recommend the TV streaming box Apple TV or even the Roku app, both of which I use to stream titles this year.) Plus, WFF has pledged to share net online proceeds on a 50/50 basis directly with the filmmakers or Canadian rights holders.
For more information, visit www.whistlerfilmfestival.com!