amazon falls

Director Katrin Bowen on set
Director Katrin Bowen on set

This first feature by Vancouver, Canada director Katrin Bowen, follows April Telek as Jana, a struggling B-movie actress in Los Angelese. Jana is still waiting for that big break, and yet optimistic, cheerful and likeable as she deals with rejection, her ‘day’ job in a seedy cocktail lounge, and a gorgeous but unreliable boyfriend. At a Q&A after the Vancouver premiere, Telek told the audience that her agent described this as a make or break role and she delivers a note perfect performance as the former beauty queen and “Amazon” star on the days approaching her 40th birthday. However, like a Russian short story, this film does not arc, and continues its way to a depressing end. [canada, 2010]

eve and the firehorse

If Jesus dances with Buddha, who leads? This is one of the images and questions that will stick with you after seeing Vancouverite Julia Kwan’s first feature and Sundance hit. A mix of magic realism, 70s nostalgia, death and religion, the story is told by a nine-year-old Chinese-Canadian born in the year of the fire horse (babies born in this damned year were typically drowned in the river). After a string of bad luck, the Buddhist sisters turn to Catholicism to secure some everlasting glory for the family. But when the two young sisters shoot for sainthood to “save” the family, it takes them down a path that irrevocably changes their family. [canada, 2006]

suspicious river

Molly Parker gives another eerie performance for Canadian director Lynne Stopkewich (Kissed). This time she’s as a small-town girl who’s fresh complexion belies her shattered inside. In a tale worthy of David Lynch, Molly plays a squeaky clean married gal who works the front desk of the local motel while turning rough tricks in the ragged bedrooms. It’s not long before a sadistic but charismatic creep is guiding her towards her inevitable soul-crushing destruction. Tough to take. [canada, 2000]

touched

A bitter booze-soaked widow is slowly transformed after she hooks up with a young sensuous wanderer who adores her from the inside out. It’s a gritty and magical look at life on a First Nations reserve and the “beauty and the beast” of mental illness. The film provides Lynn Redgrave with a complex role where she reveals the strength and fragility of an aging woman facing life’s demons head-on. [canada, 1999]

i’ve heard the mermaids singing

The heroine of this independent Canadian film is such a wallflower that a receptionist job at a small art gallery is the height of success for her. Her overactive dream life has her flying over the skyscrapers of Toronto, yet blissfully unaware of facts in her own life. The slow realization that her boss is a lesbian is enough to rock her world. Quirky and sweet. [canada, 1987]

parsley days

This quirky look at 20-something life begins where most movies end: with the perfect relationship. Here, secretly pregnant Kate, a bike mechanic, is living with Ollie, a man so endearing her lesbian friends claim he’s a lesbian trapped in a man’s body. The movie follows Kate as she struggles over whether to breakup with Ollie, while simultaneously attempting to induce abortion by eating massive amounts of parsley. Kate is surrounded by neat friends, a herbalist, a performance artist, a pair of 70-something lovebirds, and a lot of bicycle enthusiasts. And like any good Canadian movie, the canoe is a character unto itself. [canada, 2001]

margaret’s museum

A wacky but haunting piece of East Coast Canadiana. The cast of eccentric characters includes Margaret, the snotty nosed whore, a sharp-tongued mother, a dust-infested grand-father who needs a regular thumping, and a bagpipe blowing love interest. It may be bizarre, but it’s also a bracingly original and emotionally compelling portrait of a mining town yoked to its death traps like an alcoholic to his bottle. [canada, 1995]

paris was a woman

Much has been made of Hemingway and Joyce’s shenanigans in Paris during the 1920s, but this film focuses specifically on the lesbian women who formed an artistic community in Paris attracted by cheap digs and a liberal atmosphere. Through archival snippets, we get a taste of the wacky literary salons hosted by Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. [canada, 1995]

fire

The rich amber hues of this film slowly reveal the burgeoning relationship between two mistreated sister-in-laws in modern India. The young and rebellious Sita is trapped in an arranged marriage with a sometimes abusive husband who is having an affair. Her barren sister-in-law is punished by a husband converted to celibacy since “they can’t have children anyway.” The two women begin a covert affair, and fall in love. Surprisingly, despite indications to the contrary, the film has an uplifting ending. This film by Deepa Meeta is the first in a series based on the four elements, Fire, Earth, Air, and Water. (Earth has also been made into a film.) [canada, 1996]

lost and delirious

This well-acted teenage love story is loosely based on the novel “The Wives of Bath” by Susan Swan. Polly and Tori are best friends, roommates, and lovers in a small girls boarding school. The story is told by their new roommate Mouse, which provides some distance and perspective. As with most young love, and especially lesbian love depicted in the movies, things do not run smoothly-Tori starts dating a boy, and Polly faces her own obsession. Featuring Canadian favorites Grahame Greene as the sage gardener and Jackie Burroughs as the compassionate, but slightly ineffectual headmistress. Also notable for featuring our faves Ani DeFranco and Meshell Ndegйocelloon the soundtrack. [canada, 2001]