Expedition to the End of the World
Part nature documentary and part existential exploration into man’s place in the world, the fascinating and gorgeously photographed Danish documentary Expedition to the End of the World follows a band of scientists and artists to one of the few places on Earth where humans haven’t set foot for hundreds of thousands of years (if at all).
With millions of years old ice parting to allow the Tkke Opmalt fjords of Northern Greenland to be reached for the first time, geologists, archaeologists, painters, doodlers, photographers, biologists, and other various researchers and artisans take a ship to study and chronicle this vast, untouched land. While there they discover new species, old fossils, stunning landscapes, possible evidence of a stone age human presence, and all of them question the impact the human race has had on the environment around them.
The trip chronicled by Daniel Dencik is a dangerous one, to be certain, with the crew having to deal with potentially antagonizing polar bears, the appearance of another crew that appears on behalf of big oil, and the potential psychological madness of being in a barren environment and dealing with some incredibly heady concepts and thoughts about the start and end of human existence. It’s not a documentary that’s specifically about the subjects and their interactions, but more about what drives the human need for answers (both about our world and ourselves) and the thrill of the unknown. It’s a positively giddy work of artistic and scientific discovery, but also one that asks the audience to consider questions they might not have considered otherwise from such a film.
Opens Friday, December 27th and runs to December 2nd
In 2010, Dutch teenager Laura Dekker set about to become the youngest person ever to sail around the world without any assistance. It sparked a slight controversy with the then 13 year old Dekker and her divorced parents coming under extreme scrutiny for allowing the voyage to happen (although there are no technical laws against it), but that’s not what Maidentrip is all about. It’s a somewhat distressingly bare bones account of Dekker’s journey with precious little to fill in a lot of missing gaps and a lot of personal details being glossed over entirely.
Largely shot on the trip by Dekker herself, director Jillian Schlesinger is almost a non-entity aside from paying lip service to the pre-trip controversy and Dekker’s strained relationships to her parents and her country (a sequence with a nosy Dutch journalist that comes to visit is easily the film’s dramatic high point). Even her encounters with friends or how cool she thinks learning about other cultures can be gets lost at sea in a film that seems to be racing towards the finish line rather than any sort of actual point. By 10 minutes into the film, Laura’s journey is already on its 103rd day and were no closer to really understanding Laura outside of her being a teen following her dream, nor will we ever get the sense that she’s more exceptional than that. Even the bit of sailing drama that’s saved for the end doesn’t amount to much because Laura’s just too good at what she does for it to even register.
I suppose that’s excusable for a film that really just wants to be about people doing what they love for a living, but Maidentrip is kind of a non-starter. Surely given the hype surrounding Laura’s voyage it was enough for a filmmaker to take note, but it seems like the real drama all occurred before she even set sail, leaving out almost everything that actually makes her accomplishments special in the first place.
Now playing through January 1st.
Also at The Bloor the rest of this month:
In case you missed it the last time we brought it up, today (Monday, December 23rd) The Bloor will be hosting not one, but four FREE screenings of Christmas themed classics before they close up shop for Christmas Eve (they’ll reopen on Christmas Day). White Christmas kicks off the day at 1:00pm, followed by A Christmas Story at 4:00pm, Home Alone at 6:30pm, and Die Hard at 9:00pm. They will also be accepting donations of healthy foods and money for The Stop Community Food Centre in the spirit of community giving. Also, The Bloor is licensed for booze, so there’s that extra bit of holiday cheer.
But if that holiday isn’t to your liking, The Bloor remounts their incredibly successful Dude’s New Year screening of The Big Lebowski on New Year’s Eve at 9:30pm. Tickets are $20 general and $17 for Bloor Members, with admission including one drink, a popcorn, and party favours. It’s sponsored this year by Kahlua, so there will definitely be White Russians aplenty, but after last year’s sell out, advance tickets would be a good idea.
In another bit of classic Bloor programming, Hot Docs brings back the always beloved holiday tradition of screening the Cannes Lion Award winning commercials, but this time for a week long run of shows instead of one or two screenings, starting on the 25th and running through January 2nd.
And if all of that wasn’t enough, The Bloor helps close out the year by offering screenings of Cinema Eye’s top ten nonfiction films of the year, meaning lots of repeat screenings of films that made waves earlier this year, and even a couple of sneak peeks at films that haven’t opened in Toronto just yet. The line-up includes Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell, Muscle Shoals, potential Oscar contenders The Crash Reel, The Act of Killing, The Square, 20 Feet From Stardom, and Blackfish. Each only screens once between the 25th and January 2nd, so check out the Bloor website for a full list of features and showtimes.
Oh, and we can’t forget about this month’s Rocky Horror Picture Show shadowcast on Friday, the 27th at 11:30pm. What better way to send the holidays out in style?