CJRU STAFF PICKS: What to Stream in July 2021

13 July 2021 / by Monique Vigneault

Stuck on what to stream this summer? CJRU's staff runs through the best in streaming this month! 


Summer of Soul (2021)

Dir. Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson

Where to Stream: Disney+

For a first-time filmmaker, The Roots founder Questlove has a clear command of screen editing and the power of montage. Working with editor Joshua L. Pearson, the pair revive long forgotten footage of the Harlem Cultural Festival which took place over multiple weekends in the tumultuous summer of 1969. The festival, which never quite reached the historical stature of Woodstock, featured Black artists from across genres including Stevie Wonder, Sly & The Family Stone, Sonny Sharrock, Hugh Masekela, B.B. King and Nina Simone, among others. While each performance is magical in their own way, the filmmakers use archival footage of the moon landing, the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X, as well as modern day interviews with festival attendees, to contextualize the importance of the festival and highlight why it’s unrestrained celebration of Black pride and heritage remains so radical.

– Alex Ramsay, News Coordinator


Becoming Nakuset (2021)

Dir. Victoria Anderson-Gardner

Where to Stream: CBC Gem, CBC Docs on YouTube 

Ryerson film grad Victoria Anderson-Gardner’s harrowing documentary short Becoming Nakuset traces Nakuset’s journey back to her Indigenous roots. Nakuset, a Sixties Scoop survivor, was forcibly taken from her home in Thompson, Manitoba, and adopted into an affluent Jewish family in Montreal. Despite its runtime, which is just shy of thirteen minutes, every second of Nakuset’s story is heart-wrenching. The film cycles through her experience of abuse and the erasure of her Indigenous identity. Gardner’s film and Nakuset’s story is absolutely crucial to watch in understanding Canada’s present and historical abuses against the Indigenous peoples of Canada. 

–  Monique Vigneault, Film Editor


Family Romance, LLC (2019)

Dir. Werner Herzog

Where to Stream: MUBI

There exists a unique agency in Japan that hires out actors. This talented cast can perform any role. They are cast as parents, as friends, as colleagues. However, their art depends on an ability to act where there is no camera, in real life. These people act in place of real parents who are absent, lottery representatives presenting winnings, co-workers to take the fall. Werner Herzog’s film, Family Romance LLC, might as well be a documentary, albeit lacking his typical narrative timbre. Despite being a work of fiction, it is based on real events, much of the film seems to be unscripted, and actors in the film are the actual employees of said agency. The result is an intensely delicate and beautiful introspection as to what ratio we are surrounded by the real and the artificial.

–  Sean Warkentine, Program Director


Downtown ‘81 (2000)

Dir. Edo Bertoglio

Where to Watch: Kanopy

Lo-fi, virtually plotless, and with questionable dubbing on nearly half of the dialogue, Downtown 81 could be a forgettable experience were it not for its central figure and setting: artist Jean Michel-Basquiat playing himself, as he crosses path with various figures in the post-punk scene of early 1980s New York. The film is best watched as a snapshot of a particular subculture at a particular time in the city’s history: scenes of a rehearsal for noise band DNA are intercut with Basquiat attempting to sell a painting in time to pay rent, as noted poet Saul Williams provides his interior monologue via voiceover. Later, Blondie vocalist Debbie Harry appears as Basquiat’s fairy godmother. Even with a clearly shoestring budget and wooden acting, the sheer earnestness and love that is demonstrated for an arts scene that in just a few years would lose one of its most gifted talents to a heroin overdose makes this worth seeking out. 

– Alex Ramsay, News Coordinator

Undine (2020) 

Dir. Christian Petzold

Where to Watch: Metro Cinema Marquee, MUBI (Select locations)

Transit and Phoenix director Christian Petzold experiments with a German myth about a nymph, transcending it into a modern-day love story set in Berlin. Undine (Paula Beer) is a freelance historian on the rebound who meets Christoph (Franz Rogowski), a deep diver. With an unoriginal but highly effective use of Bach’s Concerto in D Minor, this beautiful romantic tragedy is great for a boring summer day.  While it’s not as clean-cut as his previous works, fans of the kaleidoscopic Transit and overlong museum tours about [German] architecture will find themselves enraptured by the latest from the auteur. 

–  Monique Vigneault, Film Editor


The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)

Dir. Joel Coen

Where to Watch: Youtube, Google Play, Apple TV

This lesser-known Coen Brothers film, co-written by Sam Raimi, is a lighthearted comedy about an ambitious young entrepreneur patsy, Norville Barnes, put in charge of a large corporate manufacturer, Hudsucker Industries, which is meant to fail to the benefit of the board members. However, Norville’s ingenious invention, a circle (you know, for kids!), finds the company unable to dissolve. While battling unwavering press, the menacing corporate board, his unsophisticated romantic instincts, and his enlarged ego, the main character, played by Tim Robbins, unwittingly flounders straight to the pinnacle of the American dream, only to plummet back down through to inevitable ruin. As a Coen Brothers film, you can expect the unexpected, but enjoy the smooth dialogue of the fast-talking New Yorkers. An overlooked classic in their incredible catalogue.

–  Sean Warkentine, Program Director

Funeral Parade of Roses (1969)

Dir. Toshio Matsumoto

Where to Watch: Kanopy, The Criterion Channel

With Funeral Parade of Roses, experimental Japanese filmmaker Toshio Matsumoto combines French New Wave’s formal playfulness, Brechtian meta elements, punk aesthetics, and a dizzying non-linear structure into a masterpiece of queer cinema. The film follows Eddie, a transgender woman in Tokyo, as she navigates the underground counter-culture of the 1960s. Amidst the chaos of Matsumoto’s formal approach, there are repeated sequences of interviews with the cast and with actual trans sex workers which highlight how the film is, at its most basic, a deeply empathetic portrayal of life on the fringes of Japanese society at the time.

– Alex Ramsay, News Coordinator


Shiva Baby (2020) 

Dir. Emma Seligman

Where to Stream: MUBI

Find yourself missing the stifling awkwardness of a family gathering? Look no further than Shiva Baby, the feature debut from Canadian filmmaker Emma Seligman. Danielle (Rachel Sennott) a college student at Columbia University attends the Shiva for a family member, and in the process, stumbles not only into her ex-girlfriend, but her sugar daddy, and his intimidating wife (Diana Agron), all while navigating the small-talk and expectations of distant relatives. Filled with pangs of second-hand embarrassment and laughable candour, Shiva Baby is uproarious. 

–  Monique Vigneault, Film Editor 


The Wailing (2016)  

Dir. Na Hong-jin

Where to Stream: Amazon Prime

There’s a certain amount of naivety in small countryside towns. Most things move slower, but certainly not the mind trying to understand incomprehensible events nor fantastic rumours from these rationalizations. This certainly is the case through the slow-burn pacing of the Korean horror film, The Wailing. Director, Na Hong-jin, presents a police chief of the town Gokseong, attempting to verify, chase, and evade whatever predator is hunting his community and his family, employing every small-town device at his disposal — evidential, hearsay, religious, traditional, and vengeful means. For a film about… zombies? …ghosts? …demons? …the culprit is completely obscured, leaving any sense of security always with a certain amount of doubt. It’s only in the disturbing dialogue-based ending that things become clear, that this film has a maturity few films in the genre can stand up to.

–  Sean Warkentine, Program Director