Synchronized swimming and scampi. Money and misdemeanours. A selection of lifeystyle films with a twist.

Cassandro the Exotico! (2018)

Known as the “Liberace of Lucha Libre,” Saul Armendariz, aka Cassandro, is both fabulous and ferocious. An openly gay champion of Mexican wrestling’s exotico subgenre, in which fighters dress in drag and put on an action-packed show filled with punches, pile-drivers and high camp, the 47-year-old luchador is winding down his long career with plenty of ice packs and memories of his triumphs in the ring. In the lively documentary Cassandro the Exotico!, director Marie Losier (The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jay, [HIFF 2011]) chronicles the wrestler’s twilight years with affection, humor and gravitas, revealing a man who built his hard-knock success across several frontiers: the geographical one between the U.S. and Mexico; the sexual one by practicing a macho, and often brutal, entertainment sport while wearing lady’s spandex, makeup and wonderfully blown-out hair; and the physiological one by wavering between periods of sobriety and addiction as he deals
Screenings

Chef Flynn (2018)

There’s a different, darker film lurking beneath the lusciously edible Food Network surface of Chef Flynn, and when director Cameron Yates lets it peek out from the gastroporn, like little chips of charcoal in a white chocolate mousse, you feel a slight jab in your gut. A largely celebratory portrait of one of the most wondrous wunderkinds ever to hit the American culinary scene, self-taught teenage chef Flynn McGarry, Yates’ film gives viewers every reason to believe the hype built up by glossy media profiles over the years – and lets them feel the sting of an online backlash that would get under the skin of even the most dauntless adolescent. But it’s as an ambiguous study of parenting a prodigy that the film lingers on the palate, as McGarry’s mother Meg documents and manages his evolution to an obsessive, gradually oppressive degree. As a simple showcase of his bewilderingly
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During the most spontaneous sequence in Five Seasons, the accomplished garden designer Piet Oudolf is driving through Texas Hill Country to see the wildflowers, and gobsmacked by their beauty. “Just like paintings,” he enthuses. The same could be said of his influential work, although his preference is for perennials that aren’t conventionally pretty, and palettes that consider grays and browns colors too – a wabi-sabi approach to gardens that embraces not just bright blossoms but decay. As he follows Oudolf’s travels through Europe and the States to completed projects and works-in-progress, director Thomas Piper illuminates the striking, seemingly rough-hewn beauty of his subject’s landscapes. […] Piper opens the film, intriguingly, with the scratch of markers on drafting paper as Oudolf sketches a new garden plan. His multihued drawings are a delightful cross of simplicity and sophistication (and the eventual subject of an exhibition), and Piper effectively connects the studio work
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Gangsta (2017)

Antwerp, the Kiel district. Adamo, twenty, stylishly wanders the streets […] with his crew, Badia, Younès and Volt. Making money from the odd job here and there, the foursome has a dream: to become Tony Montana, the legendary gangster. So, when an opportunity arises to work for Orlando, the local drug dealer, they jump at the chance – even if it means getting in slightly over their heads. Adamo and his crew dive headfirst into a career that is way beyond them, as if the port of Antwerp were the setting for a life-size video game, where you always get a second chance. The directors play on this attitude by adopting a very marked aesthetic, which is largely inspired by video games, from the presentation of the characters, to trickery with neon and stroboscope lighting, which flashes throughout the film. Life becomes a (deadly) fight […]. The soundtrack is just
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Generation Wealth (2018)

Photographer and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield has made a career out of documenting the culture of conspicuous consumption and the commodification of all things – including the human body. In her 2006 feature documentary debut, Thin, about women with eating disorders, and the 2012 The Queen of Versailles, about a wealthy couple’s attempt to build a house in Florida modeled after the French royal palace, Greenfield has turned her camera on an America obsessed with the superficial. It’s an obsession that has fascinated her for 25 years, ever since Greenfield found the first expression of her artistic voice in photographs of teenagers in Los Angeles […]. Greenfield’s latest documentary, Generation Wealth, is both a continuation of that obsession and a reflection upon it. In a sense, the film is a kind of double portrait, one in which the Los Angeles-bred artist and armchair anthropologist sees herself reflected in the mirror of
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Sink Or Swim (2018)

Sink Or Swim [is] a surefooted crowdpleaser with enough warmth and the committed talents of a stellar ensemble cast to fend off any sense of predictability. […] Sink Or Swim […] has a likeable charm and sneaks up on the viewer in its more reflective, emotional moments. Under the indulgent tutelage of coach Delphine (Virginie Efira), the team starts to train regularly and the sessions in the pool prove as valuable as the time spent bonding over drinks in the pub or relaxing in the sauna. Every one of them has a problem of some kind from businessman Marcus (Benoit Poelvoorde) teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, to glowering uptight Laurent (Guillaume Canet) and an aging rocker (Jean-Hugues Anglade) who still nurtures dreams of stardom after 17 albums and no hit records. Sink Or Swim works because of a screenplay with some genuinely funny moments and a jaunty, confident approach
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Time Trial (2017)

As a sport, cycling has experienced the ups and downs that come with increased drugs testing, with some athletes falling victim to the adoption of punishments of greater severity. Only through hard work and determination will you truly achieve your goals, and this motto is prevalent in the life and training of an athlete, none more so than a professional cyclist. One such contender who experienced the strains and successes of the sport is David Millar, a Scottish former professional road racing cyclist known for his Tour de France achievements and his ban after using performance-enhancing drugs. Time Trial documents the sportsman’s return to the roads […]. Through the use of “in your face” photography and very little soundtrack other than ringing undertones, director Finlay Pretsell creates a therapeutic auditory and visual experience, in which Millar’s competitive struggles are ingrained into every pocket of the screen, maintaining a tone that
Screenings