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Showing posts from May, 2008

Please support the people of Myanmar by attending this fundraising screening of Mystic Ball at the Bloor Cinema on June 4th, 7:00 pm ($10)

I interviewed Greg Hamilton a few years ago when he first made this documentary,Mystic Ball. Greg visited Myanmar (Burma) and learned the non-competitive, highly challenging game of Chinlone, an ancient game that looks like a blend of soccer and a traditional Asian dance. Even though Greg had studied Martial Arts and was in great shape, he found himself outdone by the locals.Chinlone is played by men, women, and children and is a game that brings community together to celebrate the skill and beauty of the athlete. Greg was welcomed by the Burmese, who admired his attempt to learn their game and to learn from them. Now he is doing what he can out of respect and love of the Burmese people. "Tapandancing", the solo performance aspect of Chinlone, is only performed by women.
The making of the Chinlone (cane ball)
Photos courtesy of
I could feel Cleo Parker Robinson's personality beaming through the phone lines during my interview with her on Saturday, May 24th. If you were listening to the show, I hope you that you, too, could feel her openness. This accomplished dance, choreographer, and award-winner shared her experiences growing up in Denver, Colorado where the artistic exchanges among people of various backgrounds flourished despite the presence of the KuKlux Klan. From forming her dance ensemble and school, to assisting legendary, Katherine Dunham during the last years of her life (when it seemed she had been forgotten by the dance world), to her experiences with dancers Donald Mackayle and Alvin Ailey, Cleo Parker Robinson is a woman who had dedicated her life to dance. Through her master classes, countless others will benefit from those she has learned from as well as her original ideas about dance.

The Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble will be performing at Harbourfront Centre'sEnwave Theatr…

The Lute Player Was a Spy! John Edwards on the Musicians in Ordinary

Musicians in Ordinary
Who knew that the world of lutenists had a history of espionage. John Edwards hasn't been investigated by CSIS, but he does play a mean lute. Edwards and soprano Hallie Fishel are Musicians in Ordinary (MIO). John was on the May 10th show to promote MIO's concert on Sat. May 17th (A Defence of Ryme: Poetry by Thomas Campion and Samuel Daniel).

During the course of our conversation, it was revealed that a couple of lutenists were suspected spies--Alfonso Ferrabosco and Nicholas Lanier. Because musicians in ordinary (lutenists and vocalists) were allowed into very private places, they were privy to very confidential information! Learn more about the rivalry between Campion and Daniel and hear some saucy lyrics at this concert at the Heliconian Hall,35 Hazelton Ave. (near Bay Subway) at 8PM, Single tickets $20 / $15 students & seniors.

Foresight: Speculative Fiction in Canada

Thanks to my second guest, Wendy Banks, Communications Officer for the Toronto Publ…

Donna's Hot Docs

Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai
Letter to Anna-The Story of Journalist Politkovskaya's Death
In one night I saw two documentaries about two very courageous women, Kenya's Wangari Maathai, Founder of the Green Belt Movement and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, and Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, winner of the 2004 Olof Palme Prize for human rights work. Wangari went from being under the government radar, helping women plant trees so that they could feed their children, to being beaten into a coma for speaking publicly about the insidious link between political oppression and environmental issues.

Anna's work as a war correspondent took her into dangerous territories. Her hard-hitting articles criticizing the Kremlin and chronicling human rights abuses by Russian troops in Chechnya lead to her being poisoned by a mysterious substance in 2004, and being gunned down in her apartment building in 2006. Both films succeed in bringing us into the lives a…

Hot Docs Continued...

My Hot Docs postings got interrupted by life, and even though the festival is now over, I still want to share with you some of the films I saw. I had also asked my friend Jason Charters (Riddle Films) to share his thoughts as we both saw completely different films.

Jason's Hot Docs
The English Surgeon
A simply told and beautifully shot film with an amazing subject. This is a case of a wonderful subject to follow and incredible access. Not for the squeamish however.

Man on Wire
Phillipe Petit's story is like something out of a Mamet play. This is a fascinating story of an unlikely group of people pulling off an incredible stunt: high wire walking between the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center in 1974. A bittersweet, funny and suspenseful film.

Dear Zachary
An undeniably moving and powerful movie. It's impossible not to be profoundly affected by this story, however it did call into question for me what makes a good documentary film. As a film, I'm not sure tha…

The Show Must Go On

Dedicated volunteer programmer that I am, the Toronto Transit strike did not prevent me from walking for an hour to get to 91 St. George Street. Thankfully it was a nice day. My guests for that April 26th show were Jason Charters of Riddle Films, and Bill O'Meara, a piano accompanist for silent films and the Artitstic Director of Oganix, a pipe organ festival.

Talk about two interesting jobs! We had such a great conversation in front of the station that when it was time to go in and start the show, I decided that the conversation might as well continue on air. So, that hour we all discussed improvising music for a film that you may see only a few days before the screening (Bill was playing for the Von Sternberg series at Cinematheque Ontario), some of the tricks of the trade for silent film piano playing (like using phone numbers as musical notes to get out of a jam), the pipe organ that you can walk into, and Hot Docs--documentary content and the filmmaking process. It was a very …