Sept. 13, 6:30 p.m., Roy Thomson; Sept. 15, 11 a.m., Elgin
Carter Gunn, Ross McDonnell (Ireland)
Straight reportage at its purest. Colony tries to get a handle on the recent, very scary problem of disseminating bee populations in the United States. The real responsibility of bee colonies (and beekeepers) isn't honey making, it's in pollinating crops, such as vast fields of almond trees. Beekeepers truck these colonies to farms where they then do their busy work, flower by flower. Wonderfully photographed, the documentary shows how the bees are vital to our own existence. But it does so simply and with restraint. An intriguing, subtle parallel begins to emerge as we meet the beekeepers and scientists surrounding the underappreciated bee industry, as well as a spokesman from a major pesticide producer, which could be leading to the disappearance of bee colonies. It's about the structure and levers of society, how we interact and force our interests on each other. And all the while, there are other small, little understood societies swarming and flying among us. A brilliant, beautiful film. G.D.
Sept. 12, 12:30 p.m., AMC 2; Sept. 14, 9:30 p.m., Varsity 7; Sept. 19, 9:15 a.m., AMC 2
Cooking with Stella
Dilip Mehta (India/Canada)
If you had to sell this film in a hurry, you'd probably say something like: "It's a contemporary, globalized version of Upstairs, Downstairs crossed with The Sting." Don McKellar and Lisa Ray play husband and wife newly arrived at the Canadian high commission in Delhi. She's a diplomat (gorgeous), he's a chef (handsome, gullible) as well as Mr. Mom to their baby girl (adorable). The superb Seema Biswas is the resourceful, religious Stella who not only runs the household (with a kind of coy cunning that gives the film its narrative kick) but instructs McKellar in the finer points of Indian cuisine. The direction by Dilip Mehta (brother of Deepa - they share writing credits here) in this his feature-film debut, is at once relaxed and purposeful and never less than assured. It's sensual cinema, too: Film food hasn't looked this tantalizing since 1996's Big Night. J.A.
Sept. 16, 6:30 p.m. Roy Thomson; Sept. 18, 11:15 a.m., Scotiabank 2
Crab Trap (El Vuelco del Cangrejo)
Oscar Ruiz Navia (Colombia)
Films like Crab Trap are the real raison d'être of a festival with international pretensions. They offer the opportunity to "visit," however briefly, countries, cultures, communities the viewer would otherwise remain ignorant of or ignore. Crab Trap, the feature-film debut of Colombia's Oscar Ruiz Navia, is a glacially paced spellbinder about the mostly black residents of La Barra, a destitute, isolated village on Colombia's Pacific coast where the fishery's gone bust and the only economic hope is a madcap scheme by a local landowner to build a beach resort. A lanky, laconic stranger (Rodrigo Velez) shows up, looking to buy a boat that will take him from the coast and back, it seems, to the arms of an estranged lover. In the meantime, he spends his days in Sisyphean labour, cleaning the never-ending detritus that washes up on the village beach. It's a film of striking images, with an aesthetic seemingly beholden to those hypnotic, observational moments Terrence Malick puts in his features. J.A.
Sept. 13, 9:15 p.m., AMC 3; Sept. 14, 9:15 p.m., AMC 5; Sept. 19, 2:30 p.m., Varsity 6
Crackie Sherry White (Canada)
Crackie is a small masterpiece of Canadian realism. This feature debut by writer-director Sherry White is set in a bleak Newfoundland that might as well be Siberia, so remote is it from polite, middle-class Canada. Teen Mitsy (Meghan Greeley, in her first and astonishingly good performance) lives with grandmother Bride (Mary Walsh), having been abandoned by her drifting, drunken mother. She needs a home, hearth and love, the same needs as the dog, Sparky (a mutt, called a "crackie" in Newfoundland), she adopts. Mitsy wants to be a hairdresser but can barely keep her little life together. She falls hard for a predatory, moronic local lothario (Joel Hynes) and recognizes the bleakness of her existence. The only transcendence is in bonding, reluctantly, with Bride. (Mary Walsh gives her finest ever dramatic performance here.) Gorgeously made - some scenes are breathtakingly beautiful - this hushed, intelligent movie has no sentimentality and marks the arrival of a major filmmaking talent. John Doyle