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Showing posts from May, 2010

Shorter is Better @ Worldwide Short Film Festival (June 1 - 6)

The CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival (WWSFF) kicks off on Tuesday, June 1 and runs until June 6. The best thing about this festival? Shorter is Better. With short films, if you like something it will make you yearn for more, and if you don't like what you are seeing you only have to wait a few minutes before it's on to the next one. Lucky for you, the programmers at WWSFF do an excellent job of bringing you short films from around the world that spark the imagination, generate humour, and creep you out. There is something for everyone at this festival with the programme book divided into sections with headings and brief descriptions that will help you decide whether or not that section of films will suit your taste--Slap 'N Tickle anyone? WSFF even has an iphone app to help you organize your schedule.

AWARD WINNERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD. Tuesday, June 1st, 7PM, Bloor Cinema. Sunday, June 6th, 9:30PM. Cumberland Cinema.
TUNGIJUQ is just one of the films screening at the Open…

Last Chance Weekend for These Gems

Some great events are wrapping up this weekend. Here are some links to consider.
LA SAGOUINE (English Version) of the best performances I have seen--ever! If you are a refugee, live in a country that doesn't recognize your culture/language, your are poor, and politicians don't really count your vote then this is the play for you. Oh, and if you have a gandmother or an elder in your life whose stories you love(d) this play is for you, too. Viola Leger is indeed a treasure in this one woman show about a scrub woman reflecting humourously and seriously about her life as an Acadian. Berkeley Street Theatre. 8pm. Until May 29th. French Version May 31-June 5th.

DANCE IMMERSION SHOWCASE variety of dance companies take to the stage to showcase their talents in this celebration of dance immersion's 16th year of supporting dances from the African Diaspora. Until May 29th. 8pm Fleck Dance Theatre (inside Harbourfront Ter…

Inside Out: Thank you for LEONERA

It's been a couple of days since I saw Lion's Den (LEONERA) at Inside Out and I still cannot get the film out of my mind. I was going to write a review of the film, but while looking on line for additional material I found this review from the film's screening at Cannes in 2008. Reading it, I felt as if I reporter James Rocchi had invaded my mind. Read on and be sure to check out some of the other stellar films that Inside Out has to offer during it's 20th year celebration.

CANNES REVIEW: Leonera (Lion's Den) by James Rocchi, May 17, 2008

Julia (Martina Guzman) wakes up, and it's clear things aren't right; there's blood on her hand, bruises on her body. She showers, dresses, goes to school, comes back home ... and realizes just how wrong things are, with a dead man on the floor of her kitchen and another badly-wounded man near death. She's arrested. Taken to prison. The charge is murder. She's alone. She's frightened. She's pregnant. She&…

Inside Out 2010: A Piece of Work

A Frozen Flower (Ssang-hwa-jeom) was my first film at Inside Out 2010, and I couldn't have chosen a better film to kick of the festival. Written and directed by Ha Yu, this sumptuous soap opera about a King (Jin-mo Joo), his Queen (Ji-hyo Song) and his lover (In-sung Jo) features stunningly decorated imperial sets and sword-slashing action. Set in Korea's Goryeo Dynasty amidst a backdrop of political intrigue, A Frozen Flower, depicts a love triangle of epic proportions. Unable to touch a woman intimately, and threatened by the takeover of his kingdom for lack of an heir, the King wields his power over his lover, Hong Lim, and demands that he impregnate the Queen. The royal heir must be of the same complexion as the King, and Hong Lim is the King's trusted companion as well as the Chief of his body guards. The Queen and Hong Lim, both of whom have no choice in the matter, perform the consummation acts with little pleasure until a spark is lit and the two find themselves in…

Inside Out 2010: Oy Vey! My Son is Gay!

Oy Vey! My Son is Gay! opens with a clever animation that establishes the plot: parents Shirley and Martin (Lainie Kazan and Saul Rubinek) trying to fix up their son Nelson (John Lloyd Young), with a nice Jewish girl. Little do they know though, that Nelson is gay and in a relationship with Angelo (Jai Rodriguez), and complications arise when Shirley misinterprets a situation and thinks that her son is involved with his neighbour Sybil (Carmen Electra).

Nelson eventually comes out to his parents sending them into shock and acceptance (of sorts). In an attempt to understand their son, Shirley urges Martin to go to a gay bar, they both go see an “expert” on homosexuality, Shirley invites a couple from a gay organization home to learn about their lives…all of this sounds extremely funny, but the scenes were frustratingly stilted. The inclusions of mock television news commentary on gay life were baffling and contrived, and the story wrapped so quickly that I couldn’t understand the way ti…

Inside Out 2010: So What's a Straight Girl Like You...

So, what’s a straight girl like me doing at a gay and lesbian film festival? Seeing some great films and some not so great films, the way I do at all other film festivals. With Inside Out though, I get to see films with a particular audience culture that you can’t get at any other festivals. Since I tend to go. to a lot of male-oriented films at Inside Out, I’m usually with a lot of gay men. With gay men, you always get cruising. Necks swivel at a pace that would put Wimbledon to shame! So, I check out who’s cruising whom, and I also check to see who’s on a first date—the young ones are so cute together, holding hands (because they can! —they’re in a safe environment) and trying to act like they have been together forever instead of just two days. Then there are the older men, who are there with long time partners. They’re the ones that barely talk to each other in line (why should they, they see each other everyday), except when they run into other couples, then they spark up l…

Where's My Money, Frankenstein?

I'm no theatre snob; I'll go see a play in someone's apartment, sitting on mismatched chairs and be just as engrossed as I would sitting in a permanent theatre house. It's the strength of the writing and the skills of the actors that make a play worth seeing in any venue. Well, last week I had the chance to see two plays that were at opposite ends of the theatre scale and both were equally refreshing and satisfying: WHERE'S MY MONEY and FRANKENSTEIN.

Written by Academy Award-winner, John Patrick Shanley (MOONSTRUCK—he also wrote DOUBT), and directed by Dora Award-winner David Perry (THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT), Where’s My Money deconstructs marital relationships while asking the question, “Do you believe in ghosts?” The dialogue is funny, ugly, and ironic, a feast for actors, and a delight for audiences.

You can read this play and enjoy the experience on your own, but it takes a strong cast to speak lines that with the wrong timing and delivery would be excruci…

Hot Docs Audience Award Goes To...

A MESSAGE FROM HOT DOCS: "After the final screening yesterday, votes were tallied for the Hot Docs Audience Award. The winner is THUNDER SOUL (D: Mark Landsman, USA), chronicling the reunion of the Kashmere High School Band – 35 years after their initial success – in honour of their mentor, Conrad "Prof" Johnson."

The top ten audience favourites as determined by audience vote are:

1.THUNDER SOUL (D: Mark Landsman; USA)

2.A DRUMMER'S DREAM (D: John Walker; Canada)

3.MY LIFE WITH CARLOS (D: German Berger; Chile, Spain, Germany)

4.AUTUMN GOLD (D: Jan Tenhaven; Austria, Germany)

5.LEAVE THEM LAUGHING (D: John Zaritsky; Canada, USA)

6.RUSH: BEYOND THE LIGHTED STAGE (D: Scot McFadyen, Sam Dunn; Canada)

7.LISTEN TO THIS (D: Juan Baquero; Canada)

8.A SMALL ACT (D: Jennifer Arnold; USA)

9.WASTE LAND (D: Lucy Walker; UK, Brazil)

10.MARWENCOL (D: Jeff Malmberg; USA)

Hot Docs 2010 Award Winners


Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival capped off a week of industry programming and film screenings with its 2010 Awards Presentation, held Friday, May 7, at the Isabel Bader Theatre in downtown Toronto. Ten awards and over $72,000 in cash prizes were presented to local and international filmmakers, including awards for Festival films in competition and those recognizing emerging and established filmmakers. The Hot Docs Awards Presentation was hosted by Jian Ghomeshi, host of Q on CBC Radio One.

The Festival's top honour for international films in competition, the Best International Feature Award was presented to A FILM UNFINISHED (D: Yael Hersonski; P: Noemi Schory, Itay Ken Tor; Israel), a haunting visual essay that masterfully deconstructs a now-infamous, unfinished Nazi propaganda film about Jewish life in the Warsaw Ghetto. Jury statement: "Yael Hersonski’s…

Negro Girl Withdrawn From UT Opera Cast

The above headline was from 1956, and the subject is Barbara Smith Conrad. I had the pleasure of learning more about the mezzo-soprano in Mat Hames' documentary WHEN I RISE. An added bonus for us in the audience tonight was being introduced to the woman who, as a girl, stood steadfast in the midst of blatant racism and later became a respected Opera star on the world stage. Let me just say that we went "nuts" when she took the stage to answer questions about the film that documents a very trying moment in her life. Please tune in at 1PM on CIUT 89.5 FM or listen live to my interview with Mat Hames and Barbara Smith Conrad.

Final Screening at Hot Docs 2010: WHEN I RISE, Sunday, May 9, 4:00pm, Cumberland Cinemas
Click Here for details

A SMALL ACT: My Favourite Film at Hot Docs 2010

In the '70s Hilde Back sent $15 a month to sponsor a child in Kenya. That child, Chris Mburu, would not have been able to afford secondary school without this money. Even though he was a brilliant student, his family was just too poor to afford this dream. Thanks to that small amount of money, Chris was able to go on to Harvard, and a job at the United Nations. Wanting to help other bright children in his village, Chris began a fund in Kenya to provide scholarships to local children who were smart but poor.

Education is the key to a future in Kenya, and an educated population will not be easily swayed by corrupt influences. Chris named the fund after Hilde Back, a Swedish woman, who did not have much, but shared what little she could. As Chris' sister says in the film, when you are in need there is no such thing a "too little". My favourite film of the festival. Please go see this. It will inspire you and reinforce the value of education as you watch 3 children attemp…

Are Finnish Men Sissies? FREETIME MACHOS (Hot Docs 2010) Director Answers the Question

FREETIME MACHOS director, Mika Ronkainen (left) wasn't able to make it to Hot Docs 2010 for the screening of his film, but he was kind enough to share his thoughts on the film with me via email. As you know, I love this film (see review).

donna g: Was the Oulu rugby team the inspiration for the film or were you looking for a way to explore Finnish masculinity and decided to use the team as your subject?

Mika:The team was definitely the inspiration for me. I heard about the team, went to see them play, and fell in love with them. Of course, I'd been interested in this modern phenomena of machismo which had become mainstream in Finland. But I didn't have that in mind when I went to see them. Things just connected.

donna g: How pervasive is this feeling of "castration" among hetorosexual Finnish males? Are you able to comment on how homosexual men feel? Are they confused by their "public" roles as well? I ask because on of the characters in the film is gay.


Finnish Reserve @ Hot Docs 2010

We've heard of "British Reserve", but "Finnish Reserve"? Well, with Finnish documentaries STEAM OF LIFE and FREETIME MACHOS screening at Hot Docs 2010, I'm finding out that men in Finland really have a hard time expressing their feelings. STEAM LIFE directorsJoonas Berghäll and Mika Hotakainen think this reserve is a consequence of the war years (see interview). I'm glad that the Finnish males are breaking their silence and expressing their feelings the way women did during the Feminist revolution.

With FREETIME MACHOS I expected locker room scenes, bawdy man talk, and beer, and that's half of what I got; the other half were scenes of men in various stages of life talking about parenthood and marriage, friendship, being rejected by their workplace (Nokia plays a big role here), and poetic thoughts about manhood and its frustrating, sometimes contradictory expectations (especially expectations from women). Men aren't supposed to lose at rugby and …

"Steam of Life" Exposes Finnish Men @ Hot Docs 2010

Below is my interview with STEAM OF LIFE directors, Joonas Berghäll(right) and Mika Hotakainen(left). The documentary is part of the Breaking The Machismo Myth series of films that are screening at Hot Docs 2010. Other films in the series are Ito-Diary of an Urban Priest, Freetime Machos, and Portrait of a Man. STEAM OF LIFE documents intimate life stories told by men as they sit in a variety of saunas throughout Finland. Men are often praised for their physical strength, but I want to praise the men in this film for having the courage to share their emotions with us. I love this film. Monday, May 3, 7:00pm, Isabel Bader Theatre. Wednesday, May 5, 4:00pm, The ROM

donna g: The title “Steam of Life” probably refers to more than one element of the film, but I am curious to know if one of the reasons behind the title is the fact that Finnish women used to give birth in saunas.

Joonas and Mika:It is true that Finnish women used to give birth in saunas and, of course, …

Breaking the Machismo Myth: Finnish Films at Hot Docs

The Y-Chromosome Exposed. Several films out of Finland are revealing men in ways we don't often see in film. The films are screening at Hot Docs 2010 (April 29th - May 9th)

ITO-DIARY OF AN URBAN PRIEST is the story of Fujioka, a young boxer turned Buddhist priest and bar owner. This Japanese film by award-winning Finnish director Pirjo Honkasalo is a contemplative study of Fujioka's search for meaning in his life, even as he councils those in his role as priest. Being a Pure Land Buddhist in Japan, Fujioka sometimes encounters those who do not recognize him as a "real" priest. He also has to deal with living in a society that follows some religious traditions (the funereal, for example) but seems to have no mass religious consciousness. A serious eye injury seems to have sparked Fujioka's personal journey of loss, leading him to consider the impact of a mother absent from his childhood and the death of the grandmother who raised him. I enjoyed most of this documen…