Just as the real Jesse James defied death many times, his legend resists oblivion. Now the mid-19th-century gunslinger, whose story has been told in more than two dozen films, is back in American Outlaws. After James (Colin Farrell, who won acclaim in last year’s Tigerland) returns from the Civil War, where he fought as a Confederate raider, he must defend his home town of Liberty, Mo., from a railway baron trying to coerce ranchers into selling their land cheap so it can be used for a cross-country railway. James and another Civil War veteran, Cole Younger (Scott Caan), form the James-Younger Gang, which—in a plot based loosely on real events—commits a series of Robin Hood-like bank robberies to steal rail company money. They have a formidable nemesis in detective Allan Pinkerton (Timothy Dalton).
This incarnation of Jesse is pretty tame compared with some of its predecessors—he and his fellow gang members seldom
swear and the fight scenes, while well-executed, are devoid of blood. So 14-year-olds are allowed to see the movie unaccompanied by an adult, but the movie has enough authentic Western flavour to keep grown-ups engaged. The ending hints at a sequel; Jesse, it seems, just will not go gentle into that good cinematic night. John Intim
Mining graves for evidence
Dr. Peter Markesteyn holds the shattered skull of a 90-yearold Kosovar woman in his latexgloved hands. She was shot in the back of the head, execution-style. As chief medical examiner for Manitoba Justice in Winnipeg, Markesteyn is a pro. But uncovering Kosovo’s grisly secrets is upsetting. “Somebody has to speak for the dead," he says, near tears. “That’s all we can do.” Markesteyn is among nine Canadian police officers and pathologists portrayed in Shadows of War, an hour-long documentary (VisionTV, Aug. 28 and 30, 9 p.m.) that chronicles
their work in the farming village of Vlastica in 1999, following the 78-day NATO bombing campaign that forced Serbia’s capitulation. Yugoslavia’s attempt to “cleanse” its southern province of ethnic Albanians left the countryside littered with shallow graves and unidentified remains; the Canadian team exhumed 56 dead Kosovars, identifying 55 of them. The team’s main purpose was to gather evidence for the prosecution of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic at the UN international war crimes tribunal in a few months. But the film also shows how the Canadians gave family members of the slain a small measure of peace.
Only in TV-land: Pasadena, B.C.
For more than a decade, Vancouver and its surrounding area have stood in for various American locales in feature films, movies-of-the-week and television series. But it would appear that trying to look like the California city of Pasadena, home of the Rose Bowl football game, is going too far. Hollywood film and TV unions and the City of Pasadena are up in arms about the new Fox prime-time soap Pasadena, starring Dana Delany, being filmed in Vancouver. “Pasadena is a very unique place,” explains the city’s filming and special events manager, Ariel Penn. “I just don’t see how it could possibly be duplicated somewhere else. It’s ironic that it’s called Pasadena, but isn’t filmed here.” In fact, union officials have latched on to that irony as a prime example of the problem of “runaway production,” an issue that has pitted the U.S. film and television industry against its Canadian counterpart for several years. California filmmakers argue that Canada is stealing their business with tax incentives and the weak Canadian dollar.
But B.C. Film Commission director Mark DesRochers calls the Pasadena debacle “a tempest in a teapot.” He cites statistics showing that while revenues for the production industry in his province reached $1.2 billion last year, California enjoyed $43 billion. As for Vancouver dressing up as other cities, DesRochers laughs: “B.C. has been made up to look like a lot of places—even Mars. We’ve got a lot of talent, and they can turn a location into anywhere you need it to be.”
Greatness in a kilt
Sir Alexander Graham Bell, David Hume, Robert Burns, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, David Livingstone. They all had a major impact on the world, and they were all Scottish. When Scotland Ruled the World: The Story of the Golden Age of Genius, Creativity and Exploration (HarperCollins) is essentially an encyclopedia of Scottish luminaries—most of whom, like Canadian rebel William Lyon Mackenzie, made their mark away from home. Author Stewart Lamont, a journalist and biographer, contends that since the middle of the 18th century, Scotland “has demonstrated an amazing ability to produce thinkers, writers, scientists, physicians and leaders far out of proportion to its size as a nation” (now less than 10 per cent of the entire British population). This he attributes to a drive and adventurous spirit that is quintessentially Scottish.
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