Just got out of a screening of Underground a couple hours ago, an Australian docu-drama documenting the rise of Julian Assange. Though the film doesn’t explain how he got into hacking in the first place, it does detail how he managed to cause quite a bit of trouble back when he was 17 to 19 years old by hacking into U.S. military databases at the onset of the Gulf War–and a couple years prior to the internet, at that. It also depicts his first sexual encounter–and no, he didn’t use a condom then, either. The film, set mostly in-between 1989 and 1991, is a nod to the vintage technology of the time; Commodore computers, dial-up modems and pay phones on every corner–to say nothing of the Adidas tracksuits and Midnight Oil. The casting director was able to find a young actor who looks a lot like Assange, while TV vet Anthony LaPaglia (“Without a Trace”) returns to his native country to play the detective on his tail. Obviously, they catch him in the end, but he’s let off with a slap on the wrist and a $2,100 fine because he and his family were chased across the country by a neo-nazi cult throughout his childhood. I kid you not!
On that note, modern-day technology plays a crucial role in what were probably the two best films I’ve seen at the festival this year. Both should be coming soon to a theatre near you–at least if you live in Quebec.
The one that will surely see a more widespread release is Disconnect, the first foray into directing fiction for Henry Alex Rubin, best known for the Oscar-nominated documentary Murderball. He’s assembled a large, talented ensemble cast including Alexander Skarsgård and Jason Bateman, who shines in a rare dramatic role. This film takes several narratives based on the real-life perils of the internet (cyber-bulling, credit-card fraud, webcams) and weaves them together, bringing everything to a head at the same time as the online world proves to have real-life consequences. A gripping, riveting film with great acting and all-too-believable storylines; this is Crash for the cyber-generation. Incidentally, Rubin was in attendance when that film won Best Picture in ’06. If Disconnect gets the right distribution, I can see it being a contender next year. According to IMDB, it opens April 12, 2013.
The other film might not win any awards (well, maybe a couple Jutras), but it won me over with its original, if somewhat implausible scenarios. Liverpool has nothing to do with England; rather, it’s the name of a bar in Montreal that plays the Renée Martel hit from the 60′s like it’s going out of style. (Suffice to say, the song features quite prominently in the movie’s soundtrack.) The first feature film in a decade from Québecoise director Manon Briand, it introduces us to a pair of brilliant young actors in Charles-Alexandre Dubé and Stéphanie Lapointe.
He’s a shy social-media guru and technology expert who reminds me of a younger François Létourneau in his most famous role as P.A. in Les Invincibles. (I think there’s even a bit of a resemblance between the two…) She’s a naive coat-check girl from up north with a child-like voice and a heart of gold, kind of a cross between Amélie Poulain and Zooey Deschanel, who gets more than she bargains for when she decides to bring a dead girl’s jacket back to the deceased’s hotel room. Together they stumble upon a vast international conspiracy that involves the Mafia, Big Business and even the Canadian government, but in the end, they show that social media can make a difference in this world, with a playful nod to Kony 2012. A charming, well-written adventure, even if you do have to suspend disbelief at times. Hopefully they’ll bring it back to the Lightbox or maybe the Cumberland sometime down the road…