Friday, 30 October 2009

Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival : Nov. 11th - 15th

The October 13th Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival Press Launch @ the Japan Foundation. I love this year's promotional image. It really captures the vibrancy and kick-ass nature of RA. The pan-Asian festival has really come into its own over the past 13 years.

This year's Opening Night Gala is the film OVERHEARD starring Louis Koo (what a hottie!) and produced by the team that brought us the Infernal Affairs trilogy. YES! RA fave, Lesley Loksi Chan, and Serena Lee's work LIVE LONG AND PROSPER will jump start the evening.

(L-R) Director, Randall Okita (Fish in Barrel), actor Bobby del Rio (Unlocked) and director, Mio Adilman (Unlocked); RA Exectutive Director, Sonia Sakamoto-Jog.

(L-R) RA Artistic Director, Heather Keung; RA International Programmer, Raymond Phathanavirangoon

(L-R) RA Pitch This competition winners; An assembling of some of the filmmakers and talent that will be in attendance at RA '09


Thursday, 29 October 2009

Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival: Sense of Wonder

Images from films, FISH in BARREL by Randall Okita and FOUND by Paramita Nath. Both films are part of the Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival's SENSE OF WONDER short programme which screens on Friday, November 13th, 6:15 pm at Innes Town Hall on the U of T Campus.

One of the things I love about doing TmTm is the fact that I get to directly question the creators of various works of art. On Saturday, Oct. 24th, I had the chance to ask director, Randall Okita about his work Fish in Barrel, a short film that I had seen at TIFF '09 and that many people will get an opportunity to see at Reel Asian. I had screened Fish in Barrel several times at home, and found it interesting and puzzling at the same time. The film is dark in lighting and in theme, so asking Randall, the "what were you thinking" questions was something I was looking forward to. Well, turns out, that like dance or abstract paintings, Randall's work is all about communicating emotions rather than a putting forth a linear plot. He painstakingly worked with his crew and cast (including, Jet's brother, Li a Raven playing a crow) to get the tone and the images to match his original vision. So, I did get it. What I also get from his film is something new every time I watch it, and that's what great art is about.

Sharing studio time with Randall was poet, Souvankham Thammavongsa, the author of Small Arguments and Found. It is her book of poety that director, Paramita Nath, used in her screenplay of Found. Randall was very interested in asking Souvankham about her experience as the subject of the film (which is based on her life from refugee camp baby to Toronto resident) and acting as herself. He and I both learned about Souvankham's difficulty with doing something as rudimentary as walking on screen, how that basic act made her self-conscious and how uncomfortable she felt seeing and hearing herself on screen (she narrates the film). She also shared with us her extreme pleasure at Paramita's success in transforming the art of poetry into the art of film.

Several of the directors (including Randall and poet Souvankham) will be in attendance at the SENSE OF WONDER screening. The programme which celebrates the best in Canadian short films will also feature works by Leslie Supnet (A Small Misunderstanding), Jong Wook Choi (Irma Vep), Yung Chang (Ali Shan), Lydia Fu (Permute), Victoria Cheong (Nocturne for Fireflies), and a collaboration with the directing trio of Richard Fung, John Greyson and Ali Kazimi (Rex Vs Singh).

Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival (November 11 -15)
Tickets are on sale now.

Photo Credit: photos courtesy of Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival.
Above left: Randall used various camera speeds and pecise lighting to deliver shots of flowing water in Fish in Barrel. Above right: an image of the book that inspired both the book and the film, Found.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

ImagineNative Film & Media Arts Festival: On the Road Again

BARKING WATER Review by TmTm Member, Gord (photo at left)

This was my first time going to a screening at ImagineNative and I am so glad I got to see Barking Water. Although this picture is nothing new (I'm very familiar with the road movie genre) it introduced me to two wonderful actors: Casey Camp-Horinek and Richard Ray Whitman, and a very good young director Sterlin Harjo.

The plot is minimal: Frankie (Whitman) is dying and wants to go home, Irene (Camp-Horinek), his old flame, breaks him out of the hospital and drives him to his destination. The beauty of the film is the journey itself; we see via flashbacks the turbulent relationship between Frankie and Irene, lovers for years who just never got it right. In the present, we see through many quiet and contemplative scenes the regret and ultimate forgiveness between the two leads. I liked the quiet moments and the close-ups of the actors and their lived-in faces.

This film reminded me of the movies they used to make in the 70’s. Like those films, the outcome of Barking Water is not as important as the journey itself. I would say that my only complaint with the film was the music. Yes, it was great to have all these independent artist represented but it was just too much music for such a contemplative film.

I’m really glad I got a chance to experience this film, and I am thankful that we have a festival like ImagineNative that can bring these small films to us. I can’t wait till next year.

BARKING WATER Review by donna g
I have to start this review with my state of mind: I had seen the hilarious aboriginal road movie, Stone Bros. Saturday night at ImagineNative, and wasn't so sure that I wanted to end my screenings at the festival with a movie about a dying man on a journey with his old sweetheart to see his daughter. I wanted to end my attendance at ImagineNative on a high note (no pun intended), and Stone Bros. was a trip I had enjoyed because of the mix of characters and because throughout the hilarity the film had something to say about identity and culture. From its description, Barking Waters seemed to promise a somber journey that I didn't want to take. Besides, I knew there would be flashbacks of the past relationship between Frankie and Irene, and so many directors don't know how to handle this motif.

Well, I am very happy to report that not only did director, Sterlin Harjo know how to handle the flashback sequences so that they flowed with the present-day scenes, he knew how to tell a life story using the road as its metaphor. In brief moments that are never interruptive of the narrative, he encapsulates the history of Frankie and Irene's past relationship though glimpses of the past coloured in rich honey or desaturated tones. We understand why Irene would break Frankie out of the hospital and why she would be the one to take him on this journey. Riding along with them in the car, we get to know this couple through their interactions with one another. Their conversations are not always serious, and everything is not smooth and easy. At one point in the film, Irene slams out of the car because Frankie is driving her crazy. People retain their personalities until they die and yes, they can tick you off.

In many road trips, the main characters often encounter people along the way that are there just to provoke a laugh from the audience, but who have nothing to add to the script. (Writers/directors often forget that Absurdist Humour does have a format.) The characters that Frankie and Irene meet along the way are friends and family, so they contribute to the script. The strangers they do meet also add to the story by revealing, through dialogue, aspects of Frankie and Irene's relationship. One half of a couple they meet has no dialogue, but his expression tells all in his very believable and funny reaction to something Irene confesses.

Barking Water is not the barrel of laughs that Stone Bros is, but it is as equally effective in its storytelling as the Australian comedy. Writer/Director, Sterlin Hajo (left) demonstrates an adeptness at blending drama and humour with his cinematic vision. The use of the Oklahoma landscape, his colour palette, and the extraordinary performances he elicits from his actors (activists who act on the side) make this road movie one of the best I have seen since The Straight Story.

Mvto (thank you) ImagineNative.

Monday, 19 October 2009

ImagNative Film & Media Arts Festival: Closing Night Images

ImagineNative Executive Director, Kerry Swanson; Barking Water director, Sterlin Harjo

Sterlin Harjo, director, Adam Garnet Jones (Wave a Red Flag) and Kerry Swanson

Imaginative Board/Events Team Member, Gail Maurice leads Closing Night Q & A. Gail is also a director/writer/producer; Sterlin Harjo, Adam Garnet Jones and Gail Maurice

Gail Maurice; Adam Garnet Jones and Gail

Closing Night performers wrap up ImagineNative on a great note.

Photo Credit: all photos by donna g. Location: Royal Cinema on College Street.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

ImagineNative Film & Media Arts Festival: Laughing Out Loud!

Canadian Keesic Douglas' short film F.A.S examines the "jean-etics" of demim while Australian Richard Frankland's feature Stone Bros takes us on a cannabis-filled road trip in search of culture and identity.

Director, Adam Garnet-Jones (Wave a Red Flag, Go Get Dad) and friend Scott outside the Al Green Theatre. Adam was a guest on TmTm along with Michael Corbiere (Sit By My Fire); Bon vivant, Christopher Pinheiro. Pin and I laughed often and loudly at the double bill of F.A.S. and Stone Bros.

Bear Witness dj and filmmaker and I had a quick chat in the lobby of the Miles Nadal JCC (location of Al Green Theatre). I had seen his short film Eyes in the experimental shorts program on Thursday.

Bear Witness and Sami journalist, Suvi West; Suvi West and I chatted about the Sami film festival. I also found out that she used to do radio and misses broadcasting.

Eileen Arandiga (ImagineNative) with directors, Keesic Douglas (F.A.S) and Richard Frankland (Stone Bros).

F.A.S. and Stone Bros. Q & A. This billing was a great pairing of very funny films that play with Native stereotypes. F.A.S is a term that is often used in reference with Native communities, while the "stone" in Stone Bros. refers to more than just the 187 joints in the film. Forgive the teenage text speak, but I LMAO at both these films:-)

ImagineNative ends tonight. Catch Adam Garnet-
Jones short Wave the Red Flag and Sterling Harjo's feature Barking Water at the Royal Cinema (608 College Street). Screening starts at 7PM, but I would get there early.
Tickets: 416-967-1528 or buy on line.

Photo Credit: all photos by donna g, except stills from F.A.S., Stone Bros and Barking Water.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

ImgagineNative Film & Arts Festival: What's in a Face?

Ran into director, Neil Diamond (left) at the Al Green Theatre today. We had a great conversation, not about his documentary, Reel Injun, but about glasses and contacts. While speaking with him a young Sami woman approached us. She was absolutely gorgeous, with a face that you could look at for ages.

Most black people look at other black people and try to guess what they are mixed with. We can see the Chinese, East Indian, White in every black person. We look at hair, skin colour, noses, lips for any indication as to a black person's heritage. Being a black person at ImagineNative is a feast for me, as I look at all the different facial features in the crowd. The one thing I don't dwell on is who is Native and who is not. Been there, done that in my own culture where some black people are thought of as not being "black enough" because they are too light/white.

I feel as comfortable at ImagineNative as I do at any other film festival. No one looks at me and wonders why I'm there. For one thing, I could be Native. (I'm not. Just an average Jamaican with the usual African, Scottish, Irish mix.) I've done papers on Black Crees, so I could bluff my way if I wanted to be a poser, but there's no call for that, so don't hold back from attending because you are a non-Native, add your face to the crowd. Go and enjoy the diversity of indigenous art on screen, on exhibit, and in the clubs.

ImagineNative Film & Media Arts Festival runs until October 18th

ImagineNative Film & Media Arts Festival: What are We Being Taught?

Filmmaker, Alanis Obomsawin's new documentary looks at education and how children are taught in our society. the subject of her new film PROFESSOR NORMAN CORNETT asks the question: "Since when do we divorce the right answer from an honest answer?" This award-winning (Governor General's award, Order of Canada) director, usually focuses her lens on Native peoples, but she turns the camera on Professor Cornett after his dismissal by McGill University. What is he teaching? Why was he dismissed? I'm going to find out. Why don't you.

Professor Norman Cornett
Thursday, October 15, 9:00 PM
Al Green Theatre
750 Spadina Avenue
Tickets: 416-967-1528 or try your luck 1 hour before screening time

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

10th Annual ImagineNative Film Festival

What better way to open the ImagineNative Film & Media Arts Festival than with a documentary about the depiction of Indians on film. A hesitant Neil Diamond was astounded that the line up for his documentary, REEL INJUN wrapped around the Bloor Cinema and that the film was being shown to a jam-packed audience of over 800 people. I've seen similar films about how minorities have historically been branded by American cinema, so this was not a ground-breaking film for me in terms of it's intent; instead, it is a welcome addition to the collective voices of oppressed peoples righting cinematic and historic wrongs and reclaiming their respective cultures. This collection of voices is not demanding to be seen as nobles or savages; they simply want to be seen on screen (and in life) as human beings.

TUNGIJUQ. This short film (which preceded Reel Injun) is absolutely breath-taking with it's frosty white images of the north punctuated by piercings of blood red. Spare and thought-provoking, we are taken on the shape-shifting journey of a powerful woman cloaked in the essence and elements of the North. Echoing the strength and movement of the woman, is the forceful and compelling talent of throat-singer, Tanya Tagaq. Exquisite.

Kicking off the opening night screenings was the gifted throat singer, Tanya Tagag. If you've never heard throat-sing live, it blows you away to hear the sounds that one person's body can make. I once asked Kahil El'Zabar how many instruments lived inside his body. I would love to find out how many instruments and how many voices live inside Tanya.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Toronto Theatre Scene: September '09

The thing I love about theatre is the fact that no two audiences will ever experience the same play. The actors and words will be the same, but the magic of the evening comes from the synergy that is created by the individuals that comprise the audience in which you sit. Unlike film that you now can rent on DVD or see at a second-run movie house, once a play's run has ended you can't always depend on a remount. Theatre is ephemeral, so my varied theatre experience for October 2009 rests solely in these pictures and in the wonderful memories I have of each. (Farley Flex and me at Secrets)

Secrets of a Black Boy Opening Night at the Danforth Music Hall

The t-shirst seen around Toronto all summer; playwright/actress, Trey Anthony sister of Secrets' playwright, Darren Anthony I love the new look of urban theatre that Darren has created with his play about 5 black men sharing their intimate thoughts.

Rowan Starr (Student Council President, Westview Centennial) and friend, Wendy Nash; my bad picture of a very beautiful woman, Gloria (mother of award-winning Blues singer, Shakura S'Aida)

Dora Award-winning actress, Alison Sealy-Smith of Obsidian Theatre Company. By the way, if you've never seen Alison in the Don Cheadle film, Talk to Me, you need to rent it. NOW.; actress, Kim Roberts

Alameda Theatre Company's, The Refugee Hotel

The cast takes a bow on the stage of Theatre Passe Muraille This must be a satisfying and cathartic moment from playing refugees fleeing Chile after the 1973 coupe d'etat. The play is a good mix of drama with comic elements brought about by language mix-ups and life itself.

Nursery School Musical

This social satire about the Mommy Mafia and entitled parents also raised funds for ALS. A draw is done at the end of the play. The winner donated the cash winnings and took home some toys instead.

Bobby del Rio's 3 Plays About Toronto Theatre

Multi-media artist/musician,Jamilah of Abstract Random poses on the set of 3 Plays (the stage is somebody's living/dining room/kitchen); 3 Plays author, Bobby del Rio poses in the kitchen that is sometimes a kitchen or a bar.

I was reviewing past coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and realized that as good as it is to use social media, I m...