Thursday, 7 May 2009

Hot Docs 09: Questions Raised and (some) Answered

Acclaimed documentarian, Jean-Marie Teno, doesn't disappoint his fans with his this latest film. SACRED PLACES that tackles the subject of African film. Who are African directors making films for if the average African cannot afford to see the films in the theatre? Cine Clubs are popping up all over Africa, but the locals do not see a lot of recent African films because they are too expensive; instead, they are consuming the American action films and Bollywood movies. Like the Djembe and its griots, African cinema is supposed to spread the history of the Africa to successive generations, but how can it do this if Africans are not seeing themselves on screen? According to Jean-Marie, these questions are only the beginning of a dialogue that must occur.

SACRED PLACES has its final screening at the Cumberland on Saturday, May 9th @ 1:00 PM

Ticket line for The Jazz Baroness at the Isabel Bader Theatre began almost an hour early for the 1:45 screening of the film, while the rush line snaked down Charles Street heading towards Bay Street. I had first heard of Pannonica Rothschild (Nica) from Straight, No Chaser the documentary about Thelonius Monk. I knew they had a close relationship, but I didn't know if they were lovers or very close friends. All I knew was that she took care of him as she did with a lot of jazz greats at the time, including Charlie Parker (who died in her apartment).

I had always wanted to know more about this rich, white Jewish woman and her penchant for supporting Black jazz musicians at a time of racial segregation in the US. Nica grand-neice had the same curiosity as I did, which is why she made the film. No one in director, Hannah Rothschild's aristocratic British family openly discussed Nica, the rebel who had left her upper crust life to live in New York, so Hannah went digging. How did this zebra-rich (there is a shot carriage on the Rothschild estate that is being drawn by four zebras!) woman end up being intimes with a sharecropper's son from North Carolina? What did they have in common and what was the nature of the relationship? Just who was the real Pannonica?

There are no more screenings of this film at Hot Docs, but if it appears on a channel near you, it is more than worth seeing. You don't even have to be a jazz fan(although the music in the film is pretty fantastic) because the film includes elements of the European and American social issues of the time, World War Two, and human rights. Visit the official website for more details about this film:

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