An absurd moment in Canadian politics

Reviews of films screening today at RIDM including God Save Justin Trudeau — about an actual Liberal vs. Conservative boxing match.

Trudeau v. Brazeau
Justin Trudeau v. Patrick Brazeau
The Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal festival (RIDM) is on now. Here are two films screening today and Tuesday:

God Save Justin Trudeau

If you gave me the choice between having a beer with Justin Trudeau or disgraced senator Patrick Brazeau, I’d probably find a real good reason to head home early instead. Neither are particularly personable or charismatic; Trudeau seems like the plastic encapsulation of the nice young man I suppose my grandmother wants me to be, while Brazeau looks and talks like an extra from Road House. The fact that they both became important political players at a young age is interesting, but it’s not nearly as interesting as the boxing match they waged in 2012.

In hindsight, that boxing match (essentially a fundraiser for cancer research, but also a literal fistfight between Liberals and Conservatives) is a monumentally absurd affair; it got a ton of press at the time even though it wasn’t open to the public, but even now it seems like something you might have dreamt once between two smashes of the snooze button — it’s not. Guylaine Maroist and Eric Ruel captured it all for their documentary God Save Justin Trudeau, a frequently hilarious though hardly subtle portrait of the boy wonder’s (spoiler alert for a real life event you can read about extensively on the Internet) victory over Brazeau. The film explores the power of spin, showcasing Trudeau’s unflagging optimism over a fight everyone assumes he’s going to lose because he’s spoilt, rich and has luxurious wavy hair (there is plenty of archive footage of Ezra Levant bursting a blood vessel about the latter).

Maroist and Ruel have taken a supposedly non-partisan approach to the film by focusing their interviews entirely on Trudeau and Brazeau; no one else weighs in, and they generally avoid filming their subjects at home or doing anything unrelated to the fight. Of course, Trudeau sometimes says things with such silly conviction that it’s impossible not to think the filmmakers want to make him the butt of the joke, but it’s surprisingly rousing to see him triumph over constant jeers and cracks from the conservatives on the hill (Brazeau now claims he intentionally threw the match, but he’s also been suspended from senate for various transgressions). It’s not a particularly weighty political film, but as a chronicle of a straight-up absurd moment in Canadian politics, it’s very entertaining. (Alex Rose)

God Save Justin Trudeau screens at Amphithéâtre du Coeur des sciences de l’UQAM (200 Sherbrooke W.) today, Thursday, Nov. 20, 5:30 p.m., $11.50/$9.50 students/seniors
Brandy Burre


Brandy Burre, who had a small recurring role in The Wire (she was the mayor’s staffer/mistress in seasons three and four) is the subject of this doc by filmmaker Robert Greene. Burre put her acting career aside to raise a family in Beacon, a small town in upstate New York. As the film begins, she finds herself drawn to get back into the acting game—a decision that coincides with (or precipitates) the collapse of her marriage.

Clearly a labour of love for Greene, who shot and edited as well as directed the film, and completed it with a crowdfunding campaign, Actress is a brutally honest, emotionally raw portrait. The story will hit home, hard, with anyone trying to balance the responsibilities of family and adult life with the prerogatives of being an artist. And when Burre exclaims “This is exactly what I wanted, but now I actually have to do it” — in reference to her acting career, though it could just as easily have been about her family life — she touches on something deeply human. In its focus on day-to-day reality, the film sometimes seems like it’s made of the moments that would be cut out of a more conventional doc.

This everyday universality that makes the film so touching and real also means that in a sense, it could have been about anyone’s story, and as such it falls short of the uniqueness that makes a truly great doc. But like the best non-fiction, it’s powerful in its realism and its drama. (Malcolm Fraser)
Actress screens at Cinema du Parc (3575 Parc) tonight, Thursday, Nov. 20, 8 p.m., and at Amphithéâtre du Coeur des sciences de l’UQAM (200 Sherbrooke W.) on Saturday, Nov. 22, 1:30 p.m., $11.50/$9.50 students/seniors
The Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal festival (RIDM) runs through Nov. 23. See the complete program here.