Review: Below Her Mouth

[embed][/embed] If you are looking for a movie that takes a subtle approach to female sexuality, Below Her Mouth is not for you. This film takes an all-or-nothing approach to female empowerment and fully explores the journey of self-discovery.

The film is centered on Jasmine (Natalie Krill), a seemingly straight and engaged female discovering her sexuality with Dallas (Erika Linder), a troubled, detached female incapable of maintaining a relationship. It takes you from heartache to heartbreak and the entire spectrum of human emotion in between.

Below Her Mouth leaves nothing out and nothing to the imagination. It draws the viewer in emotionally with the love between Dallas and Jasmine. The raw emotion displayed in both these actresses is truly amazing. Linder is reminiscent of Kristen Stewart both in her appearance and her edgy, nonchalant acting style.

However, where the indie flick excels in emotional content, it lacks in plot development and character background. Dallas’s past is similar to many we’ve heard before: a mother who disapproves of her career choice and sexuality. Jasmine’s past is that of a suppressed female whose strict parents prevented her from exploring her sexuality fully. These stories have been portrayed many times before, in many different ways, and that lack of foundation takes away from the characters.

When I say the movie leaves nothing out, I am being very literal. This movie is definitely not PG. Below Her Mouth takes gratuitous sex to a whole new level. Sex in film has the ability to deepen character connection and create raw emotion, but Below Her Mouth loses this effect with non-stop full-on sex scenes.

Nevertheless, the heartbreak the movie creates leave you breathless. The actresses and actors have talent when it comes to portraying real emotion with their faces, expressions and body language. You forget that it is all pretend because it looks so genuine.

With an all-female cast (save for a few minor characters), Below Her Mouth makes a statement about females in film. It speaks to the underrepresentation of women in film and production. The movie was also produced by the female director April Mullen, and female executive producers and writers, proving that women have the ability to make their own voices heard in such a powerful way.

Below Her Mouth succeeds on many levels as an indie film and all elements, in the end, work together to create a truly unique experience.


This piece was edited by Luke Elisio, Film Editor of CanCulture.

Movie-Goers Pay Tribute To Late Director, But Not Admission Fees

[embed][/embed] In honour of the late director Rob Stewart, Cineplex Odeon theatres across Canada screened his award-winning documentary Sharkwater on Feb. 25.

Rob Stewart passed away Feb. 3 during a deep dive off the coast of Key Largo, FL. He was 37 years-old. Stewart was a Toronto-born activist, biologist and documentary film-maker.

His 2006 documentary Sharkwater addresses the common misconceptions of sharks and casts a spotlight on the corruptive industry of shark fin fishing.

As a tribute to Stewart, theatres screened Sharkwater in exchange for donations to the World Widlife Fund  (WWF) Canada. Donations will help to continue the work Stewart was doing in the conservation and protection of sharks.

Pat Burnet, a retired social worker, came to the event after hearing about the death of the director and to support WWF. Burnet said the film was impactful and eye-opening.

“I said to myself, ‘is this who we’ve become?’ just thinking about all the horrible things today that we are doing to the planet. But it was also hopeful. I thought he did a brilliant job on the film and getting the message across. I was quite impressed,” said Burnet.

The death of the director has been a shock to many Canadians and Toronto locals in attendance.

Soumen Karmakar is an IT consultant involved in animal activism with various organizations. He heard about the event through Facebook.

“It’s very sad that he died. He brought a lot of publicity to the act of shark killing. It’s just sad because he was a local too. He did a lot for sharks and hopefully it doesn’t end there,” said Karmakar.

Stewart studied at the University of Western Ontario to earn his biology major. After his studies, he worked as an underwater photographer for a number of years before embarking on his journey to create the film, joining Paul Watson and the Sea Shepard Conservation Society. They worked together with governments to prevent the illegal long-line fishing of sharks in places such as the Galapagos Islands and Costa Rica.

President of the Peoples Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), Kimberly Heys, was in attendance. PAWS is a charity dedicated to helping abandoned and abused animals.

“I met Rob years ago and supported all of his work including the fight for the Bala falls. I think (this event) is incredible and absolutely necessary,” said Heys.

A public funeral was held in Toronto for Stewart on Feb 18. to allow all who loved Stewart a chance to say their final farewells.

Prior to his death, Stewart was working on a sequel to Sharkwater called Sharkwater: Extinction. Currently production is paused, but the crew is still accepting donations on Indiegogo to help finish the documentary and carry on Stewart’s vision and legacy.

The work Stewart has done as an advocate for the conservation of sharks has set the stage for many documentaries to come. Even after his death, Stewart’s work continues to be an inspiration for many.

“It’s world changing,” said Heys, “not just life changing.”

This piece was edited by Luke Elisio, Film Editor of CanCulture.

Canadian Drama Combines Entertainment With Education

[embed][/embed] Taking a stab at the Canadian fur trade, Discovery Canada’s first scripted television series attempts to mix education with entertainment while exploring the bloody and violent past that made the Hudson’s Bay Company what it is today.

Frontier is based in the 1700s and follows Declan Harp (Jason Momoa), a Cree-Irish man who turned to violent measures against the Hudson’s Bay Company when they started trading on “disputed land”.

“It is your traditional action-adventure drama. There are turns and twists. There are characters in jeopardy who are rescued. It has the elements of traditional gripping drama that if it doesn’t take you to the edge of your seat, then it certainly engaged and gripped a part of what is going on,” said John Doyle, television critic for the Globe and Mail.

The show has finished airing its six-episode season, but even after episode one Doyle believed the show had potential. “I think it already is a success. I think it’s done well with viewers in Canada. It got pretty good, positive attention”.  With more than half a million viewers on premiere night, Doyle’s statements hold true.

The show appears to be educational through its airing on Discovery, a channel known for its educational content, and its integration of historical dates and setting.  However, Frontier may not be as historically accurate as it appears and falls short in terms of its educational value.

Dr. Patricia McCormack, who has a doctorate in anthropology, is a retired professor from the University of Alberta. Her research while part of the faculty of native studies was focused in northern Canadian fur trade. She has also worked as a curator of ethnology at the Royal Museum of Alberta.  McCormack says that Frontier does not adhere to the facts of the time in which the story is set.

“You can look at this as a frontier-related drama, but it has little to do with the realities of Canadian history of the fur trade. Yet again we have a T.V. program that purports to be based in facts of Canadian history and yet distorts them, plays on stereotypes, and genuinely misrepresents things,” McCormack said.

From costumes and setting to relations among the First Nations and the English, there are many historical misrepresentations as noted by McCormack. The violence in the show is gratuitous, and the violent killing of Declan Harp’s family that spurred his savagery against the British and the Hudson's Bay Company is unlikely to have ever happened in history.

“It’s hard to understand what the backstory is there because the HBC did not go out normally and kill families of native people. They relied on Native people to provide furs for them, and they did their best to maintain some harmony, ” said McCormack.

However, Declan Harps role does provide the story to what would otherwise be a non-fiction documentary. An imaginative backstory is necessary to bring in the element of drama.

Another major flaw, as mentioned by McCormack, is the presence of English soldiers and lords on the frontier. There was never a reason for them to be there, and the only people that travelled to Canada at the time were fur traders from the HBC. Lord Benton would definitely never be bothered to travel to the land that made his fortune over in England.

One point of favour for Frontier, as Doyle mentioned, is the presence of strong female characters.  Although the show succeeded in “beefing-up its female roles”, it is again a historical inaccuracy to assume that there were women around in the first-place.

“On the frontier, or what they are calling the frontier, there would have only been native women. There were not any English women in Hudson’s Bay, only English men.  Native women in the fur trade usually had far different roles such as taking care of children and elders, “ said McCormack.

“Yet again we have a T.V. program that purports to be based in facts of Canadian history and yet distorts them, plays on stereotypes, and genuinely misrepresents things,” McCormack said.

Nevertheless, Frontier may spark interest to the historical period in general, and shift audience focus back on Canadian history. What it lacks in historical accuracy it makes up for by providing an international recognition of Canada’s media landscape.The show will be on Netflix, which means the show will attract a much larger, international audience.

Frontier will begin streaming on Netflix starting January 20.


This piece was edited by Luke Elisio, Film Editor of CanCulture. 

Flashback Films: Silent Hill Silent Hill is everything you would expect from a video game-based movie: a compelling idea overshadowed by a crowded plot attempting to fulfill every element of game-play in a short span of two hours. In short, it’s kind of a disappointment.   

Directed by Christopher Gans, and written by Roger Avary and Nicolas Boukhrief, the film is about a woman named Rose (Radha Mitchell) who takes her daughter to the abandoned ghost town that haunts her dreams every night—Silent Hill. Her daughter, Sharon (Jodelle Ferland), is kidnapped in Silent Hill and Rose must go after her. After that, the plot gets lost in a whirlwind of ideas and doesn’t settle on just one. At the beginning, it appears to be like your typical creepy child horror film, until we are introduced to witches, reapers, cults, a crazed killer, rapists, and not to mention, strange zombie-like creatures that are supposed to be the victims of the fire that took place in Silent Hill 30 years ago.  

The movie, based on the Japanese video game of the same title, attempts to mimic the stylings of game-play through fade-to-black cut-scenes, clues and maps that the protagonist picks up to lead her to her daughter, and a non-playable character that comes in the form of the police officer Cybil Bennet (Laurie Holden).  

For most of the movie, the dialogue is completely lacking. The writers chose the most standard phrases of speech simply to connect the horror scenes. The amount of times the protagonist repeats the phrase “my daughter is lost, I need to find her” is borderline excessive. We get it, she’s lost. We gain more information about what is going on from the flashback monologue provided by Sharon’s evil twin.  Rose’s professed love for her daughter was not convincing, either. Mitchell’s acting comes off as unbelievable. The words are there, but there is no emotion or passion to back the script up making her words seem forced. Even when comforting Officer Bennett after a near-death experience with the typical line “hey, it’s going to be OK”, Mitchell’s voice is so level and monotone that she fails to bring life to the already boring script.

That being said the film is definitely horrifying. It is not for the faint of heart or the weak-stomached, for that matter. Not only are the deaths gruesome (I’m talking barbed wire being used in ways you could never imagine) but the actual beings that haunt Silent Hill are best described as weird contorted humans, each one unique and evil in its own way. The creatures are not horrifying in the sense that they are large, dark and menacing, but more so that each one possesses a terrifying quality. Child zombies roam the underground bowling rink, gray human-figures spew corrosive puss, a contorted janitor creates tree branches from his finger-tips, and a massive giant storms the hall of the school.  It could be compared to a Lord of the Rings movie, but instead of humble tree giants, elves, and hobbits, you have these deadly creatures.

Just when the movie comes to a close and you have made as much sense as you could from the cluttered plot and lack of dialogue, you are robbed from the one thing you were waiting 125 minutes for—closure. The ending leaves you more confused than before as you realize Rose and her daughter are trapped in limbo. They never really return home, and we never really get an ending. Lack of closure is the most unsettling part of the film.  

If you are looking for a horror film to watch during a night-in, this movie will deliver on the jump-scare and gore factor. If you’re looking for something a little more developed, with a clear plot, at-par dialogue, and at least a single element of realism, I would steer clear of Silent Hill.  


This piece was edited by Luke Elisio,  film editor of CanCulture.