Film Review: L'Employee du Mois

L’EMPLOYEE DU MOIS (Employee of the Month)(Belgium 2021) ***
Directed by Veronique Jadin


The film’s setting is the office of a company selling cleaners called EcoCleanPro.  Middle-aged Ines (Jasmine Douieb), the protagonist and staff at the company, is reliable and eager to please and is always at the beck and call of her boss Patrick.Ines is tasked with mentoring young trainee Melody (Laetitia Mampaka) - whose mother used to work at the company - and she embraces her mentoring role to the sarcastic, closed-off Melody.  However, while Ines treats her work seriously, her male co-workers and her boss Patrick (Peter Van den Begin) consistently belittle her, ordering her to do menial tasks.With her patience running out, Ines meets with Patrick to ask him for a raise, and he proceeds to not only disparage her request, but also grab her violently and assault her.  Ines pushes him away as Melody walks into the office, and an accidental violent incident is committed.  Melody is now complicit in Ines’ crime, and both women must decide how to cover their tracks and clean up their mess

The film clearly has an important message to bring across to employers of both big and small companies.  In the case of the film and of many companies in existence as well, the right idea has already been put forward for equal pay for the female staff and workers.  However, management just goes through the motions.  In the film, the corporate lady puts the responsibility for equal pay to Ines’s boss, Patrick who dismisses it with the reason of insufficient resources.  Yet other males in the company have got raises.  Lewd unacceptable behaviour (such as the sketching of male organs on Ines’s sketch pad during a meeting) is also dismissed as acceptable humour in the company.   The important message of pay equity is not compromised by its delivery with humour in her film.

Director Jadin ups the ante with the accidental murder of Patrick as perfumed by Meld and Ines.  This is the case where the females stick together in an otherwise male world.  This is the point where director Jadin has a bit too much on the plate to handle with the film faltering with the laughs lessening.  The film’s best moments are during the first third.

Director Jadin has a master’s degree in Languages and Literature and has worked in a company before diversifying into film directing.  Her first short film, EN FANFARE, was shown at about sixty festivals and received the Grand JuryAward and the interpretation award for Tsilla Chelton at the Brussels Short Film Festival, as well as the award for best short film at the Namur IFF.  EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH is her first feature length film.  She is clearly a director to watch for.  

L’EMPLOYEE DU MOIS is a small little film with a big message that is delivered through humour and with the added entertainment of an accident that has to be covered up.  From Belgium in French and a little English.  

The film is available via VOD and DVD on May the 12th.


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Hot Docs 2023


The 2023 Hot Docs Film Festival begins April the 27th.  Check the website at:


for the full schedule of films.


Special guests include Canada’s first female Jewish Supreme Court Judge Rosalie Abella; Indigo Girls’ Emily Saliers; Canadian YouTube pioneer, comedian, author, and television host Lilly Singh; bestselling author Gretchen Rubin; pioneering Black model and activist Bethann Hardison; trailblazing chef, food writer and editor Ruth Reichl; legendary journalist and podcaster Kara Swisher; prominent Greenlandic Inuk lawyer Aaju Peter; members of Canadian alt-rock band July Talk; and more. The Festival will also host over 186 of the world’s top documentary filmmakers to introduce their films and participate in post-screening audience Q&As.

The guests will be present at one or more screenings.

Keep checking thos article for more capsule reviews of Hot Docs.



Directed by Ken August Meyer


In the documentary ANGEL APPLICANT, filmmaker and protagonist Ken Meyer turns the camera on himself, offering viewers a sensitive and beautiful glimpse into the experience of living with a rare autoimmune disease called systemic scleroderma. The film opens with Meyer sharing his diagnosis, which he shares with celebrated Swiss-German artist and Bauhaus teacher Paul Klee. Throughout the film, Meyer draws connections between his own corporeal experiences and Klee's expressive artwork, using his skills as a commercial art director to create stunning images that deepen our understanding of both the art and the illness.  The result is an earnest and vulnerable memoir, disease diary, research project, and artist portrait all in one. Despite its focus on illness and suffering, the documentary is full of unexpected magic and uplift, making it a rare feel-good film. Meyer finds comfort in Klee's art, which he sees as a strange language of cryptic code meant just for him, sent by an empathetic messenger showing him a defiant way forward through the pain.  Klee's paintings are worth the price of admission alone, and demonstrate that not everything needs to be explained to be understood. Overall, ANGEL APPLICANT is a moving and inspiring testament to the power of art and the human spirit in the face of adversity.

Festival Screenings

Sunday May 2nd at 5:15 PM - At TIFF Bell Lightbox 

Wednesday, May 5 at 2:30 PM – At Scotia Bank


Directed by Laura Gabbert


The film takes a look across the United States at the agricultural and food industry down to individual restaurants and shops (example: Porridge and Puffs) at their troubles to the independent ranchers and growers, especially during the Pandemic,  It is revealed that many are fighters and will to let their business go down.  Everyone suffers from ranchers to restaurant owners.   Filmmaker Laura Gabbert (City of Gold) teams with Food critic/writer Reichl to tell an expansive history behind an ever-more consolidating food industry.  Reichl interviews a whole range of people with the camera moving down to their businesses across the U.S.  Though we might have heard a lot of what is told, it is very eye-opening to see the troubles faced first hand.  Recichi asks relevant questions like how the Pandemic or the election has affected each business.  The film covers a rich cultural spectrum, from fine dining rooms to farmlands, discovering passionate, inspirational change makers along the way.  The film transcends the health crisis, laying bare how America’s decades-old policy of producing cheap food at all costs hobbles purveyors who are striving to stay independent. What began as a journalistic endeavor blooms into a series of intimate friendships. As Reichl witnesses and follows intrepid characters puzzle through intractable circumstances, she takes stock of the path she’s traveled and the ideals she left behind. Through her eyes, the audience learns to understand the humanity and struggle behind the food they eat.  An interesting doc that poses many questions making it look unfocussed but a few solutions are offered giving a glimmer of hope for mankind.  A remarkable, informative and educational doc.

Saturday, April 29 at 11:15am
Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema

Sunday, May 7 at 11:00am
TIFF Bell Lightbox 3


I LOST MY MOM (J’ai Place Ma Mere) (Canada 2022) ***
Directed by Denys Desjardins


Canada’s  health care systems were put to the test during the Pandemic with old aged homes and old age care faring the worst.  The worst of the worst occurred in Quebec.  All this is brought to a  personal level in director Desjardins’ documentary that immerses the audience into  the personal experience of the filmmaker and his sister as they try to ensure their mother can end her days with dignity in the CHSLD system.  Amid the complex challenge, Denys Desjardins films his mother with incredible tenderness.   He communicates her vulnerability and warm personality from a place of love and respect.  A tad depressing which is understandable.   Filmed in French.

Festival Screenings: (with the director in presence)

Sunday May 2nd at 5:15 PM - At TIFF Bell Lightbox

Wednesday, May 5 at 2:30 PM – At Scotia Bank


LYNX MAN (Finland 2023) ***
Directed by  Juha Sam


LYNX MAN is a National Geographic type doc on man and the lynx, observing the relationship between one man, named Hannu and the animal.  Following divorce and a serious accident in which the man is not allowed to do any work for about 3 months, Hannu lives alone on his farm in the West of Finland.  An environment home to all kinds of wildlife – including the Eurasian lynx, a wildcat until recently almost extinct. When Hannu finds a dead lynx by the side of the road, it is like meeting an old friend: he realizes that the lynx who lived in the area during his childhood have returned.  Filled with renewed vigour and lust for life, Hannu sets up trail cameras all over his land.  Soon, 23 cameras are recording everything from moose to mice in daylight and in the dead of night. Hannu starts to get to know the lynx personally, learning their habits and habitats, relationships and individual characteristics. The spirit of the lynx permeates deeper and deeper into Hannu’s world as he becomes increasingly fascinated by theirs.  Lots of wild life are on display intros amazing doc, which brings audiences to appreciate wild life and nature in all ts glorious beauty.

Lynx Man is streaming online May 5-9. Streaming only available in Canada.



PURE UNKNOWN (Italy/Switz/Sweden 2023) ***

Directed by Valentia Cicogna and Mattia Colombo


The hero of the piece is Italian part-time professor and full time forensic pathologist Cristina Cattaneo.  But her most important work is fighting for the rights of  people who can no longer speak for themselves.  The dead deserve the right to be identified.  No country wants their audience in the comings and goings of Cattaneo’s lab in Milan. It is here where she encounters those she labels “pure unknowns”, the bodies of the dead - in the case of the film many killed attempting the treacherous sea crossing from Africa to Europe in the sunken vessel - who have no indication of identity beyond the clothes they stood up in and whatever is in their pockets. Though the film is occasionally slow moving and requires patience - just like Cattaneo’s work, what transpires on screen is nevertheless, without any doubt captivating.  The film runs through the time when the world is suffering from the Pandemic as the subjects on the screen are wearing masks - a time which makes the identification process even more difficult.  TRhe film's climax involving Cattaneo's speech is a moving powerhouse!!!

Festival Screenings:

Sat Apr 29  8 pm  (past)

Wed May 3, 11 am  (Scotiabank)


ROWDY GIRL (USA 2023) ***
Directed by Jason Goldman


Well meaning doc on proud vegan rcnhr nicknamed ROWDY GIRL because she used to do rodeo and eat meat till she decided to convert her and her husband’s ranch imto an animal sanctuary.    When their story goes viral, she realizes her true calling: to help farmers transition to plant-based and end their business of animal agriculture. ROWDY GIRL showcases the inspiring work of an animal activist who has been on both sides and proves that there is a common ground between farmers and vegans - a shared mission of compassion and sustainability.  The well meaning film however, runs out of material after letting Renee King-Sonnen have her say, which is quite preachy and showing off her animals.  The doc could have included other such cases around the country or in the world.  But who can resist the heart-warming scenes of loyal animals that include cows, horses and chicken showing their affection to human beings.  The doc is convincing enough to convert many to vegan or at least consider it.

Festival Screenings:

Saturday, April 29, 8:15 PM: Isabel Bader Theatre

Wednesday, May 3, 9:00 PM: TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 1


SEVEN WINTERS IN TEHRAN (Germany/France 2023) ***
Directed by Steffi Niederzoll


In Tehran, July 2007, Reyhaneh Jabbari, 19, had a business meeting with a new client. When he tries to rape her, she stabs him in self-defense.  Later that day, she is arrested for murder. Her trial results in a death penalty sentence which is also known as blood revenge in which the victims family get to decide on Reyhaneh’s fate. Thanks to personal and secretly recorded videos provided by Reyhaneh's family, their testimonies and the letters written by Reyhaneh in prison, the film retraces the fate of a woman who becomes a symbol of resistance and women's rights even beyond the borders of Iran.  Needless to say, the film and these letters are forbidden by the government and they face imprisonment and even death if discovered.  The film features interviews with Reyhaneh’s mother and sister and her ex-prison mate, now freed, who talks about Reyhaeh’s kindness in the prison.  The doc features Zar Amir Ebrahimi (HOLY SPIDER) as the additional voice of Reyhaneh.  A deeply harrowing account of hope in the face of tyranny and hopelessness in which everything one has is taken away.


MON MAY 01    01:45PM Isabel Bader Theatre     SUN MAY 07 03:15PM Scotiabank Theatre 7


SOMEONE LIVES HERE (Canada 2023) ***½

Directed by Zack Russell


An earnest documentary made by first time director/writer Zack Russell that began after he read a news article about a carpenter building wooden structures for homeless people in encampments around Toronto public parks.  There are 2 main subjects in the film  - the carpenter, Khaleel Seivwright and a homeless woman, Taka, who refused to have her face shown on screen, whose voice the audience only hears.  The big problem of homeless people is one with no immediate solution.  In one winter during the Pandemic, the homeless are turned away from overfull shelters, which in themselves are unsafe, dirty and dangerous to be in, to survive in the harsh cold.  Many end up putting up tens in public parks, or if fortunate get a wooden structure built by Khaleel.  Khaleel gets into big trouble with the Government who eventually force the man to put up any more structures.   SOMEONE LIVES HERE is truly insightful, disturbing and sad.  Everyone wants a beautiful Toronto with none of the unsightly tents around in public parks but there are consequences for the removal of the encampments, as the doc shows, including other insightful information.


THEATRE OF VIOLENCE (Denmark/Germany 2023) ***

Directed by Emil Langballe and Lukasz Konopa


The doc opens in a theatre of violence which is the International Criminal Court in the Hague.  The accused is Dominic Ongwen.  As a nine-year-old boy, Dominic Ongwen was abducted and conscripted into Joseph Kony's army of child soldiers.  Forced to become a child soldier and brainwashed to enact violent horrors, he eventually became a notorious rebel commander and perpetrator of numerous war crimes. It is some 30 years later, that this first former child soldier is indicted in the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes.   Seen through the eyes of his brilliant and flamboyant Ugandan defense lawyer, Krispus Ayena, who prepares Ongwen’s defense and bravely asks murky, irreconcilable questions about international law, colonialism, and ethical perspective.  The lawyer questions:  Is he a victim or a perpetuator?  Exactly when did he turn?   The doc however, achieves its purpose of informing the world of the atrocities of the war in Uganda.


Tuesday, May 2, 5:30pm - Scotiabank Theatre 7

Saturday, May 6, 11:15am - Scotiabank Theatre 6


TWICED COLONIZED (Canada/Denmark 2023) ***

Directed by Lin Alluna


TWICE COLONIZED has been chosen to ope  the 2023 Hot Docs in Toronto for many reasons, the more important wants being its timely subject matter, the film being Canadian and that the film is made by and concerns Indigenous people.  The film centres on Inuk activist Aaju Peterl and marks a Toronto homecoming for Peter after Angry Inuk, which chronicled her campaign to preserve the Inuit seal hunt, won the audience award at the 2016 fest. The doc follows Peter as she continues her fight for Inuit, Indigenous, and First Nations communities to have a say in discussions about their own affairs.  Warning:  It is a very angry film as cane witnessed int he film’s first 10 minutes as Peter lashes out her points of view on several key issues like the seal hunt and the mining while emphasizing theta the Inuits are children of ice, and all human beings are children of the sun. TWICE COLONIZED premiered in the World Cinema Competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Alluna and the director, Peter and other guests will be on hand at the Hot Docs premiere on April 27 ahead of Twice Colonized’s theatrical release on May 12.

Opening Night Screening: April 27, 6:30 PM



Directed by Joe Piscatella


The doc begins with Nathan Law declaring that there is a bounty on him and that he sin hiding.  He claims that as a kid, his mother had warned him never to mess with the Chinese government because he will never win.  But in the words of Law,  “I was too stubborn.”  The doc that premiered at Hot Docs 2023 in Toronto made headline news when Nathan Law was refused a visa to enter Canada to introduce and present his film.  This says a lot about Canada and democracy.  As a college freshman, shy Nathan Law discovers an identity in activism. As one of the organizers of a student strike demanding that Hong Kong be allowed to elect their own leader (something promised to them back in 1998), Nathan leads five days of student boycotts with a message of peaceful civil disobedience. When the strike suddenly becomes the Umbrella Revolution, Nathan is unexpectedly thrust into a leadership role that shuts down Hong Kong for 79 days and captures the attention of the world.  Law was included in Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2020 and was the winner of the reader's poll.   In the list Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, described him as "a typically brave representative of a generation whose spirit the Communist Party wants to stamp out.”  The doc tells the young hero’s point of view while praising his courage, determination and diligence in his beliefs.  A very watchable, informative and entertaining film!  “It takes years to build a democracy.  It only takes an instant to destroy it!”  Law’s important quote.


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Film Review: La Nuit du 12

LA NUIT DU 12 (The Night of the 12th) (Frame 2022) ****
Directed by Dominik Moll


THE NIGHT OF THE 12th (LA NUIT DU 12) has opened in the U.K. and has a limited American release in May in the U.S.    Detectives based in Grenoble, south-east France, investigate the death by burning of a young woman, Cara Royer (Lula Cotton-Frapier) walking home from a party. While there are suspects a-plenty, there’s no smoking gun or conclusive proof of guilt.  The case soon becomes an obsession for the newly appointed police captain, Yohan Vives (Bastien Boullion).  The film has already won 7 Cesars (the French equivalent of the Oscars) and won the most prestigious prizes of Best Film and Best Director for Dominik Moll.  Moll’s only film that have been released in Canada is HARRY, HE’S HERE TO HELP in 2000, his breakthrough film followed after 5 years by the Cannes opener LEMMING s brilliant sophisticated thriller that almost no one in Canada saw.  LA NUIT DU 12, based on a true crime book by Pauline Guéna, is a brilliant piece of filmmaking, sensitive, gripping, moody and taut from start to finish,   Hopefully some distributor will pick this film up for Canada.

The film opens with the lines saying that every year, the French police open more than 800 murder cases with 20% going unsolved.  It then goes on to say that this film follows the case of one of them.  Two things are immediately to be noted by these lines.  Number one is that the film is going to be an intriguing one, and the other is that the case will remain unsolved with the killer unfound.

LA NUIT DU 12 (The Night of the 12th) is a French policier in the true sense of the word.  It doggedly follows the manhunt of a killer by the police.  But with a difference,  Director Moll is more interested in the emotions and reactions surrounding the murder from the victim’s parents, friends and acquaintances to the police investigators.  The whodunit element is still there but is secondary to how the murder investigation is taking place.  Unlike other policiers, there is little to no action, only clues that often lead nowhere.

The film effectively tackles the male dominated world of detective and police work.  Like the recent 2019 LES MISERABLES by Lady Ly, that film featured 3 male cops.  Yohan and his partner, a veteran of more years, Marceau (Bouli Lanners) are often angry.  Marceau is worse, bringing his marriage problems to his work that results in him beating up a prime suspect.  The victim, Clara Royer, the young girl is looked down upon as she has got many lovers, many disgusting older men and is not looked upon as a victim.  In the film’s most emotional point, her friend Stephanie tells Yohan she knows the reason Clara was murdered.  And the reason is that she was a girl.

The film is set in the south east mountain city of Grenoble.  From the scenes of Grenoble, it looks as if the industrialization and structures have marred to beauty of the mountains from which the city was built up - a cool reflection of the violation of nature just as the girl in the  story had been violated and her life lost by the perpetuator setting her on fire.

The film premieres at New York City’s Quad Cinema on May the 19th followed by additional markets.  No news on the  release in Canada yet.


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Film Review: Le Cinq Diables

LE CINQ DIABLES (The Five Devils) (France 2022) **½

Directed by Lea Mysius


Vicky (Sally Dramé), a strange and solitary little girl, has a magical gift: she can reproduce any scent she likes, and collects them in a series of carefully labeled jars. She has secretly captured the scent of Joanne (Adèle Exarchopoulos), her mother for whom she nurtures a wild, excessive love. When her father’s sister Julia (Swala Emati) bursts into their life, Vicky reproduces her smell and is transported into dark and archaic memories which lead her to uncover the secrets of her village, her family and her own existence.

Filmmakers appear to be fond of and quite frequently use pre-teen girls as their protagonist.  The recent and excellent Irish film THE QUIET GIRL, nominated for this year’s Oscar for Best International feature is the best of the lot with a very simple story of a young girl spending a summer at her aunt’s while her mother is pregnant about toggle birth.  THE FIVE DEVILS also sees a pre-teen, a precocious little child who learns too, about life in another coming-of-age story.  As Jesus said in the Bible: “And a child shall lead them.” But there is one huge difference. between these two films.  THE QUIET GIRL is simple but terribly effective making it one of the best films of the year. THE FIVE DEVILS, on the other hand, is an ambitious, in fact over ambitious project that the director takes many risks that does not always pay off.  The girl here has power, power to store and create smell and to invoke memories.  She does not always use her powers to good use.  The film also tackles a gay and bi-relationship the girl’s mother has.  Often too, the non chronological timeline of the film is confusing and disorientating, though one must give the director credit for trying, in her sophomore effort.

When the film works, it is beautiful, but when it is not the film can be quite annoying,

The best parts involve the director’s use of music.  Music with the lyrics bookends the film as a car is driven along a highway.  The Bonnie Tyler song “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, sung by the two women during a karaoke session also clearly gets the importance and point of their relationship across.

Director Mysius covers a lot of issues in her film from female and bi-relationships, coming-of-age, self discovery, bullying, racism, small town mentality, childhood fantasy among other minor ones.

THE FIVE DEVILS premiered last year at Cannes in the Director’s Fortnight in which stranger films get a showcase.  The film opens upon March the 24th at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.  Not an easy watch but the film does have its pleasures.


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