Saturday, 23 May 2015

Banksy Does New York

With the recent Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now's The Time exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario, it's very timely indeed that Mongrel Media has released Chris Moukarbel's "Banksy Does New York" this week-end (check your local cinema). Graffiti-style guerrilla art continues to be the rage on the art scene, whether some art critics approve or not: street art is hot.  In a world where social media has become a sure-fire way to fuel excitement in the now, the furor over British artist Banksy is heightened by the fact that he/she/they continue to remain anonymous.

"Banksy Does New York"  is not so much about the artist as it is about the artist's work and his impact on the public.  In October 2013, Banksy announced a one month residency in New York. Artwork appeared all over the five boroughs, each one announced via social media and followed by New Yorkers eager to spot a Banksy before the work was stolen, painted over or removed by owners who saw the art as an act of vandalism. 

Moukarbel's pacing of the film aptly captures the hunt for the pieces as excitement builds with each siting. Who is Banksy? Where will the next piece be? Interviews with Banksy followers, some of whom are just in it for the chase, add to the film's treatise about Art and the perpetual conflict between its intangible and tangible value. On the one hand, you have the general public interested in art that has not been foisted upon them by the usual authorities, and, on the other, you have those who see Banksy as an opportunist lacking in talent whose work will not stand the test of time. Whichever side you are on, "Banksy Does New York" is a spirited film that will leave you thinking the inevitable: could I do that?  The answer for most of us will be a realistic, "no".

Photos/trailer courtesy of Mongrel Media

Friday, 1 May 2015

Hot Docs 15: Around the World in 50 Concerts

I am filled with bliss absolute after seeing Heddy Honigmann's Around the World in 50 Concerts!  Not  only was I treated to beautiful music by the Netherlands' Royal Concertbouw
Orchestra, I was also filled with the infectious joy of music lovers talking about how the art form fuels their everyday lives. From an Argentinian  taxi driver (left) sharing how classical music is a panacea to the vulgarity of his 12 hour days, to Soweto girls talking about how being part of a marimba band transports them away from a world where schoolgirls get raped, to a Russian man, who survived Stalin and Hitler, sharing how his mother passed on to him his existing love if music, Honigmann's film is a testimony to the importance of music to all levels of society.

The talented director, also takes us onto the stage of these talented orchestra members, with snapshots of their personal lives (hotel life, being away from family, and futbol passions), as well as chats about their love if their individual instruments and being part of a family of musicians. Brava, Heddy!

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Hot Docs 15: The 100 Year Show, A Sinner in Mecca, Speed Sisters

There is a hidden gem of a film called The 100 Year Show. It plays with It's Me Hilary: the Man Who Drew Eloise and the teaming of the two short docs is perfect: two artists in their seniors years, one 99 and the other 88 expressing their thoughts about their work. Carmen Herrera, who will be 100 years old on May 15, is a discovery to me, just as she was to the larger art world in the early 2000s. A Latin American woman, whose body of work was finally acknowledged publicly in her 90's, her work should have been known decades ago. As one person in the docs says, she should have been celebrated with other hard-edged painters such as  Frank Stella and Ellesworth Kelly.

It's Me Hilary: the Man Who Drew Eloise delightfully amuse bouche of a doc because its subject Hilary Knight, the illustrator who drew the 6 year-old character created by author Kay Thompson. Both Thompson and Knight are larger than life which is probably why a severing of the ways lead to Knight not being permitted to draw Eloise until after Thompson died. Through questions from actor Lena Dunham, who sports an Eloise tattoo, and direction by Matt Wolf, what emerges from this doc the portrait of an incredibly talented  man who lives in his own illustrated world, where  life is fantasy.

I credit director, Parvez Sharma for taking us along on his personal journey as a gay Muslim man making his pilgrimage to Mecca, but his doc, A Sinner in Mecca, needs to be tightened up.  I was very interested in how a Muslim man negotiates faith and sexuality, and I applaud his courage as a gay man going behind the scenes to document the hajj, (where filming is forbidden); however, too many unnecessary shots slow down the pace of his internal and external voyage of discovery. His is a story that needs to be shared, and I am hoping that beyond Hot Docs the film gets edited so that the personal story is strengthened.

Do not pre-judge! Speed Sisters is not about cuties in cars. Director, Amber Fares, documents the story of Palestinian women involved in the racing circuit. Marah, Noor, Mona, Betty, and Maysoon (team captain) are all fascinating individuals which makes for a interesting look at how they each  juggle social expectations ( like marriage) while expressing their personal reasons for racing cars. For some, its a release from the stress of living in an occupied territory, for others its the speed, and for all it is for the pride of their country and respective home towns. Despite arbitrary rules (there is no official federation), these women show commitment to their sport as they  drift, drive, and extend the boundaries of femininity.

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival
April 23 - May 3, 2015
For all details about Hot Docs, visit:

Photos courtesy of

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

3 For You at Hot Docs '15: Leaving Africa, Milk, Love Between the Covers

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival is underway, and I hope that you have had a chance to see what a wide range of subjects fall under that documentary heading. If you haven't here are 3 films films for your consideration.

LEAVING AFRICA  is "a story about friendship and empowerment." Having met and interviewed subjects Riita and Kata, I can testify that these two women truly embody that statement. Their dedication to empowering girls and women through sexual education and gender equality lead to community elevation and change. When  jealous observers strive to halt, their progress, the two women find themselves in an unanticipated battle to reclaim their personal and professional reputations, and even more importantly, their program's funding. With so many negative stories coming out of Africa, it's so refreshing to see a film that documents real change and hope, and nowhere is that so aptly demonstrated that in the life of Daizy and her family. My interview with director, Iris Harma, reveals that she was drawn to Daizy from her active participation in the workshops, but she never dreamed that Daizy's development would unfold so naturally over the span of the year. What happens in Daizy's family (husband, 8 kids of her own, plus 5 adopted) is truly inspiring, especially as it pertains to the future of her daughters.

MILK was a surprise for me. Why? Because I didn't expect a documentary about breastfeeding and motherhood to reveal to me that there are countries in Africa that are ahead of so-called developed countries such as the United States and Canada in protecting mother and child. In Kenya, the nutritional and medicinal benefits of breast milk are protected by law. True, the sanctions that come with those laws need to enforced to a higher degree, but as a result of these laws, maternal health and child welfare are at the forefront of urban and rural Kenya. Why are billion dollar companies allowed to spend billions of dollars with cutesy, misleading advertising in areas where women do not have sanitized water to make formula? Where women who are capable of breastfeeding are given the impression that formula is best? Answer: the babies become malnourished, sickly from diarrhea, and in many cases they die. In western countries, why can't women breastfeed in public when billboards are "covered in tits"? Director, Noemi Weiss does an excellent job in contrasting mother/baby health in Brazil, the Philippines, France, Africa, the United States, and Canada and brings insight into the medicalization of the birthing process.

LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS is a documentary that I hope doesn't just preach to the converted. With the stigma that romance readers and writers endure, I wish that non-readers will take a chance and buy a ticket to this documentary. As a huge romance reader and fan of the genre, I have heard the dismissive tone and seen the "oh, you read those" looks in people's eyes. The romance genre outsells other fiction genres, but because it's written by, for, and about women, it doesn't get the respect it deserves. In talking to director, Laurie Kahn, I found that while she had read some romances in the past, it's her interest in making films about women's lives, that lead her to make the film. Kahn follows established writers such as Nora Roberts, Eloisa James, Beverly Jenkins and others (including a new writer) documenting their working styles, interactions with fans, and mentoring of young writers, and their viewpoints on the stigma surrounding the genre. Besides being a billion dollar industry, this industry is also at the forefront of revealing the public evolution of women's sexuality: from Amish to BDSM and everything in between, you will find in on the shelves.

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival
April 23 - May 3, 2015
For all details about Hot Docs, visit:

Photos courtesy of

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Become a member* of CIUT 89.5 FM and You Could Win Big

Become a member* of CIUT 89.5 FM to be entered into the
SIX Grand Prize Draws for the chance to win:
  • A $300 Gift Card for Steve’s Music
  • Festival Passes and Accommodation for two people for Summerfolk Music Festival
  • A $200 Gift Card for Alma Natural Spa
  • A $400 Gift Certificate for classes with The Guitar Building School
  • A Galaxy Note 4 with accessory case
  • Original artwork and photography from Herschel Stroyman (

$5 - $24 = special prize from me, donna g
$25* - $89.40 = CIUT 89. 5 Member, + tax receipt + quarterly newsletter + Entry into Grand Prize Draw
$89.50 = CIUT Membership discount card + same perks as $25 +

Lots of other Special Opportunities at various donations levels including guest co-hosting or even hosting/producing your own 2-hour radio show. Click link for details:

Want to donate on line using our secure server using Credit Card (Visa, MC, Amex or Paypal)? Click this link:

Want to call in during the show this Saturday, April 11, from 12noon  - 1:00 pm 416-946-7800 or Toll Free 1-888-204-8976

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Alucine Film Festival Shines Light on Cuban Filmmakers

Take another look at Cuba through the lens of Cuban filmmakers from across Canada and the diaspora at this year's Alucine Latin Fim + Media Festival. Celebrating its 15th year, the festival shines the spotlight on Cuba with a few short film programmes--one in conjunction with a photographic exhibition. All films will include English subtitles.

Friday, April 3rd, 6:00pm – 7:45pm
Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)
317 Dundas St. West 
Films Followed by Q & A with the filmmakers
Pay What You Can

This selection of short films will eschew stereotypical views of "Cubanness" while entertaining and elucidating. 

Saturday April 4th, 2:30pm – 4:00pm
Theatre Direct / Artscape Wychwood Barns
601 Christie Street, Studio 170
Pay What You Can

Filmmakers, Patricia Pérez and Daniellis Hernandez, graduates of the International Film and Television School, document the lives of Cubans in the diaspora. Pérez's "Municipal Swimming Pool" illuminates the lives of multiple generations that work and visit a public pool in Coruña, Galicia. While Hernandez's "Extravio" reveals the struggles of a Black Cuban woman trying to find her place among people of colour in Manchester, England.

Saturday April 4th, 4:00pm – 5:15pm
Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)
317 Dundas St. West, Toronto, Ontario
56′ + Q & A following the film
Pay What You Can

Photographer and filmmaker, Hassan’s works have been exhibited in prestigious film festivals such Locarno and the Journée Suisse at Cannes, and the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. Her upcoming feature documentary "Portrait à l’encre" will be co-directed with long-term friend and collaborator Patricia Pérez (see above)

Alucine April 2 - 5, 2015
For complete details about the festival, please visit:

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Canadian Film Fest: Ben's At Home Director, Mars Horodyski

UPDATE: MARCH 27-Pacific Northwest Pictures announced today that they have acquired all Canadian rights to BEN'S AT HOME, the hilarious new relationship comedy from Canadian writer/director Mars Horodyski and writer/actor Dan Abramovici. PNP’s Emily Alden, Vice President, said, “We’re excited to be sharing this hilarious and heart-warming film with Canadian audiences. BEN'S AT HOME is the perfect film for lovers, best friends and comedy fans to enjoy together.”  The film will be released in theatres across Canada in May 2015 and on Video On Demand (VOD) platforms including iTunes, Shaw, Rogers and Bell in July 2015.
Source: PNP press release.

I first met Mars Horodyski  years ago through her involvement with First Weekend Club. The Canadian Film Centre alumnus has kept busy directing short films, documentaries, and series television. Her first feature film, "Ben's At Home", already the recipient of several awards, is screening at this year's Canadian Film Fest. The film stars, Dan Abramovici as Ben, a 30 year-old, recently single (okay, dumped) guy who has decided to give up on external social activities, and just stay home. I recently had a chance to interview Mars about directing the film, and the development of the script which she co-wrote with Abramovici.

donna g: I know you shot in Dan Abramovici's actual apartment. What were some of the benefits and challenges of shooting multi-camera in his apartment?

Mars Horodyski, Director, Ben’s At Home, Toronto, 2014
Mars Horodyski: Dan’s apartment is tiny so it was a challenge finding the best angles to shoot from and keeping the space interesting for the duration of the film. Shooting multi-cam made this even more challenging. I worked closely with our amazing DP Walter Pacifico on creating subtle lighting themes to reflect the character’s journey and add interest to each scene. One benefit of shooting on location was that Dan’s existing space worked perfectly for the character. We tried to work with what was there as much as possible with minor tweaks for colour and composition.

(L-R) Craig (Craig Brown) and Ben (Dan Abramovici) 
Ben’s At Home
Awkward Silence Productions & Cinemars, 
Toronto, 2014
donna g: Thirty is by no means old, but there is a distance in experience from being in your early twenties. Who gets writing credit for the hilarious but humiliating bar scene where Ben  is talking to those three barely-out-of-their teens young women--you or Dan?

Mars Horodyski: We both brought a bit to this scene having had experienced moments of uncertainty about turning thirty and feeling disconnected from the very plugged-in, social media-savvy millennial generation. Dan also drew from experiences of a recent break up and feeling pressure to start dating again.

donna g: Please tell me that "Foosball Girl", as I like to call her, is not based (even loosely) on a past dating situation that either you or Dan has had!

Mars Horodyski: This scene is actually based on combination of two real online dates that Dan went on. After we wrote the script we felt like there was a story beat missing where things didn’t go well for Ben. Dan ended up writing this scene and it’s one of my favourites. Inessa Frantowski (who plays Foosball Girl) is amazing.

donna g: Did you workshop the script first because the "guy" dialogue is bang on?

Mars Horodyski: Since we wrote the script in about a month we didn’t have time to workshop any of the scenes. When writing we were really influenced by indie mumblecore films (Duplass Brothers, Lynn Shelton) and wanted the dialogue to have a very natural feel. Dan, being an actor, also has a great sense of real sounding dialogue so that contributed.

donna g: The film is very funny but there is a sad and lonely undercurrent in the fact of how easy it is to socially engage without leaving the house. Ben works at home, has meals delivered, and even dates online. As he says in the film, people come to him. Was it difficult balancing the comedic and realistic tones of the film?

Mars Horodyski: It was important to us that all of the humor felt grounded and came from a real place. While we were writing we were always questioning how the comedy fit tonally and making sure it was never too broad for the type of film we were making.

donna g:  Congratulations on Ben's At Home being optioned as a web-series. When do you start working on this new venture?

Mars Horodyski: We have partnered up with Back Alley Film Productions/Muse Entertainment ("Durham County", "Bomb Girls") and are currently applying for IPF funding. We are hoping to go into production this summer and are excited to explore the possibilities of the Ben’s at Home concept further. To see what’s in store check out our hilarious web series teaser here:

We also have a new feature film in development. “…You Have Feet in Your Shoes” was recently selected as a Top Ten Finalist at the Cinequest Screenwriting Competition and we are planning on shooting it this year.

Ben's At Home screens
Saturday, March 28, 3:45 pm.
The Royal, 608 College Street

2015 Canadian Film Fest
March 25 - 28

More About Ben's At Home/Mars/Dan
Ben's at Home website:
Ben's at Home trailer :

Mars Horodyski

Dan Abramovici: @dan_abramovici

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Toronto ComiCon Artist Profile: Amy Spaulding

In the second of my Toronto ComiCon artist profile, I decided to check out the work of Amy Spaulding, gal pal of my first profile artist, Deena Pagliarello.

donna g: A lot of your work has a retro/pin-up feel. Could you please comment on why this style appeals to you?
created by Amy Spaulding
Amy Spaulding: This developed from a great love of mid-century style. Whether it be pulp fiction covers, pinups, advertising and travel posters etc. I am also a huge fan of rockabilly music which has greatly effected my aesthetic. Even my cats are named Wanda and Jackson. I also really appreciate how kitsch works so effortlessly well with geek culture and allows me to explore some lighter, humorous moments.

donna g: What software do you use to create your pieces?

Amy Spaulding: I actually create a majority of my work in Sketch Book Pro. For me it was the most intuitive software.  I originally was an oil painter and stumbled around in Photoshop but really found my technique and work flow beginning in Sketch Book. That being said almost every piece has likely passed through at least two of the programs before going to print.  Especially if it is a more design driven piece.

created by Amy Spaulding
As a general rule my more painterly work is done in Sketch Book Pro, type in Illustrator and then finished off in Photoshop where I edit and apply textures.

donna g: I can imagine that it must take passion to go to a con and sit at a booth and sell your work. At what age did you become interested in art, and what spurred you to enter the world of comic conventions?

Amy Spaulding: I have always been interested in art and I have been lucky to have that supported and nurtured my whole life.  After high school I went to Queen's University for a Bachelor or Fine Arts where I studied painting.  I did not really have a direction I wanted to take it.  I went back to school for Illustration at Sheridan and that really started helping things take shape.  My good friend Deena Pagliarello asked me to share a table with her at Toronto FanExpo five years ago. Up to that point it had been off my radar. It was overwhelming at first but by the end of the weekend I was hooked and have been adding more conventions every year.

donna g: Many fans attend conventions to meet their idols. Have you ever had a "fangirl" moment where you met an artist that you really admired?

created by Amy Spaulding.
Check out the Zombie eyes in the sword!
Amy Spaulding: Usually my mantra is: "just be cool". The more I do conventions and events the more my idols become my peers which is really an amazing thing to be able to say.  One convention though, a few years back, sticks out. I am not an autograph collector by any means but I had my sad dog-eared and well read volume one of Swamp Thing signed by Yanick Paquette.  He took the time to make a little watercolour sketch for me even though he was in the middle of a commission.  I think I called him dude and I just drifted back to my own table just staring down at it and hoping the crowd parted for me.  

donna g: Do you have any other cons coming up?

Amy Spaulding: Yes! Toronto ComiCon kicks off my convention season.  In a couple of weeks I am in Anaheim for Wonder Con, which is my first convention in the states.  I am at Ottawa Comic Con in May, Montreal in July and I am hoping to be back for FanExpo in September.  More will likely get added along the way.
You can find Amy at booth A03 in the Artist Alley, right next to Deena. Stop by and say hello.
More about Amy Spaulding
Want to find out more about Amy's "fan girl" artist, Yanick Paquette?
MARCH 20 - 22