Friday, 30 April 2010

What's Cooking at Hot Docs 2010

COOKING UP DREAMS introduced me to foods I had never even dreamed of: sweets, savories, mysteries...This unique mix of Peruvian flavours come together in a socially conscious film that will leave you curious, and wanting more--of the food and the culture. The chefs in the film want Peruvian food to be seen on par with French and Italian cuisine. They are not just interested in opening restaurants, they are hoping the development of Peruvian gastronomy will aid in the development of the Peruvian economy by providing food-related jobs to Peruvian people.

I have a lot of favourite scenes in this documentary that focuses on Peruvian restaurants and home cooking around the world, but I have to say the trip along the Amazon and the foods from the jungle made me want to jump on an airplane. The Amazon offers the world so much, and I hope seeing this film will make everyone realize that this is a special place that feeds us oxygen as well as food.
Friday, April 30, 6:30pm, Cumberland Cinema
Saturday, May 1, 1:30pm, Cumberland Cinema
Sunday, May 9, 9:30 pm Cumberland Cinema (added screening)

I still sometimes stumble upon independent stores that are cramped packed with "stuff". The owners are always extremely well-knowleged about their products, which is why if you find one of these stores you try to go back. For me it's a particular shoe repair shop where the owner can fix any and everything. He used to make shoes, but there's not much call for that in his store these days, just like there is no call for Jae-Gil's hardware store when the big box stores provide one stop shopping for all. SMALL WONDERS follows Jae-Gil, Norman, a photographer who has done over 15, 000 portraits and Peter a watch repairman. Jae-Gil, Norman and Peter know they are on borrowed time, as do we as we watch the film. You can't help but feel a bit of nostalgia for these fading business, and you grieve for them even as they live.
Friday, April 30, 9:30pm Cumberland Cinemas.
Sunday, May 2, 5:00pm Innes Town Hall

THE MIRROR was a bit of a disapointment for me. Yes, I was curious as to how the town of Viganella would bring "sunshine" to its courtyard via a huge mirror on a mountain, and that curiosity was satisfied, but the introduction of the "hippie" culture that lives on the mountain seems underdeveloped, as if they should have their own story instead of being inserted into this one. For 83 years the valley town of Viganella has lived in partial darkness. With the coming of the mirror, and the new interest in the town, will things change in this place where time seemed to have been stopped?
Monday, May 3, 7:30pm, Royal Cinema
Wednesday, May 5, 11;00am, ROM Theatre

Hot Docs (April 29th - May 9th)

Thursday, 29 April 2010

anitafrika! dub theatre's audre lorde festival Day 2

amanda parris, cassandra walker and kemba king answer questions at the end of Day 2 of antitafrika! dub theatre's audre lorde festival. April 28th - May 1st. 62 Fraser Avenue (2 blocks east of Dufferin, 1 block south of King). Doors: 7:30 pm; Performances: 8:00 pm. Pay-What-You-Can (suggested donation of $10). All funds to support anitafrika! dub theatre. 647-454-2097

amanda parris in "every day's another chance to get it right this time"

kemba king in "where the stories are told"
Kemba's words: "Where the stories are told explores how storytelling as a healing process via women moves in both a linear and simultaneous manner through the spirit world."

cassandra walker in "i"

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

anitafrika! dub theatre's audre lorde festival (april 28th - may 1st)

Six artists in residence take the stage at anitafrika! dub theatre's audre lorde festival. The works are a combination of theatrical practices: biomyth and dub. Founder d'bi young (left) named the festival in honour of audre lorde who created biomythology and continues to incorporate ahdri zhina mandiela's creation of dub theatre into her works. Through mythologized personal narratives each artist weaves tales that are deeply intimate yet universal in their ability to connect with the audience. The festival runs April 28th to May 1st, with three performances per night.

"medusa: the truth they neglected to tell you" performed by kalmplex

julie tesolin searches for a "safe haven" in her performance piece

natasha morris "itty bitty"

Question and Answer period after the show.
April 28th - May 1st. 62 Fraser Avenue (2 blocks east of Dufferin, 1 block south of King). Doors: 7:30 pm; Performances: 8:00 pm. Pay-What-You-Can (suggested donation of $10). All funds to support anitafrika! dub theatre. 647-454-2097

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Up Next at Théâtre Français de Toronto

IN HIS BRAND NEW PIECE, Fragments of Unnecessary Lies, Tremblay once again demonstrates his genius. He juxtaposes two eras, with his two protagonists mingling in parallel worlds — one in 1957 and the other in 2007. Two eras, two teens, Jean-Marc and Manu, living what they find to be an unbelievable experience. Both of them think they are the only one in their group like themselves, “and suddenly you were there to save me.” Tremblay paints a portrait of two boys who differ from society’s expectations, “little 15-year-old smart-alecks”. Nothing is taboo in the life and speech of these two boys. In turn, we witness their various romantic, dramatic, and enigmatic encounters and exchanges. Is “to love” a verb that conjugates in the imperative or the imperious?

A production by Théâtre français de Toronto
with Marie-Hélène FONTAINE · Christian LAURIN · Olivier L’ÉCUYER. Gisèle ROUSSEAU · Michel SÉGUIN and Jean-Simon TRAVERSY
direction Diana LEBLANC
Set Glen Charles LANDRY
Light Glenn DAVIDSON
Costumes Nina OKENS
Stage management Gabriel DUBÉ
Sound Claude NAUBERT

Info: 416.534.6604 Select performances presented with English surtitles.

Source: image/text from TFT website

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Who Decided That Adults Didn't Need Pictures in Their Books?

Big thanks to Ellie Skrow, curator of the Peoples of the Comic Book sidebar at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival. Thanks to Ellie, I had the opportunity to learn about comics and their Jewish creators. Who knew that Clark Kent/Superman’s work place, the Daily Planet was named after the Toronto Daily Star (previous name of the Toronto Star)? Hard core comic book readers probably knew, but I am a new fan of comic books so I knew nothing. Adding to my educational knowledge of comics were Ben Katchor, Harvey Pekar, Paul Buhle and Henry Mietkiewicz. Thanks to these wonderful guests I acknowledged the centuries-old elitism of the literary world in separating illustrations from text in adult literature; agreed with Harvey Pekar that the average person is as important as superheroes; thirsted for more information about the Who Framed Roger Rabbit and its references to the Blacklisting of Jews and the rise of unions; and wished I could have been a fly on the wall for Henry’s interview with Superman co-creator,Joe Shuster. (at left, a model illustration of what would become Lois Lane)

Ellie Skrow, curator Special Programs for TJFF; The Comic Art Forum with Ben Katchor, Paul Buhle and Harvey Pekar. Ben and Harvey had a good back and forth about drawing: Ben said anybody can draw and Harvey disagreed. I'm with Harvey on this one.

Paul Giamati in the Harvey Pekar bio pic, American Splendor; the real Harvey Pekar introducing American Splendor where he admits to messing up his pension (he was a government file clerk for 30 years) so badly that he has to continue working; Harvey and moderator at the Q & A where Harvey responds to the question, "do you have any siblings?" with the answer "I got a brother." followed by silence.

Former Toronto Star journalist, Henry Mietkiewicz introduces Last Son, the documentary about Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the creators of Superman. DC Comics fired the duo in 1948 and applied a gag order that forced them into legal silence about creating the super hero. Henry was the last person to interview Joe Shuster before his death. He got the interview because he promised not to ask about the lawsuit.

Writer/lecturer Paul Buhle introduces the screening of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I always saw a woman married to a rabbit; I never saw the political context of anti-semitism, blacklisting and the land grabs that turned LA into a city of freeways instead of communities.

My next project will be going to the library to check out some graphic novels. The Toronto Public Library had over 3 thousand in its collection. I think I'll be able to find something I like. How about you?

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Toronto Jewish Film Festival (April 17th - 25th) Mixes It Up!

The Toronto Jewish Film Festival has been around for 18 years, but I've only been attending for the past few years. When I first started going, I was surprised to see the variety of films offered--there were films with Black content! What a surprise that was to me, although, when I thought about it Black and Jewish cultures have been linked historically for centuries. I was also surprised at the international scope of the films. So, if you think there's nothing at this festival for you, think again. The Festival runs over two weeks at various venues with an extensive focus this year on Comic Book Creators (did you know many of them were Jewish?), FREE events and a variety of films to suit everyone's taste. I've screened a few films in advance, so if you don't know where to start have a read. I've ordered the films by screening date.

Each of us, at some point in our lives, has to deal with the issue of identity: who are we, and who are we in relation to those we call family. I’m used to seeing documentaries about children being raised by same-sex couples, and I have seen stories about Black children being raised by White families, but I have never seen a film where an adopted Black child is being raised by two White mothers in a Jewish home with another adopted Black child and a Korean child. Avery is the central focus of OFF AND RUNNING and she has to come to grips with the consequences of making contact with her birth mother. What does it mean to be a Black teenaged Jewish girl who doesn’t look like anybody in her family and who doesn’t naturally fit into her new world of attending a secular school high school with mostly Black, non-Jewish kids? I must commend Avery and her family for granting permission to director Nicole Parker to document their lives in such an open, intimate way. Avery obviously loves and is loved by her family, but no one can tell you who you are; you just have to figure that out for yourself and it is not always an easy road to travel. Bring lots of people with you when you see this, so you can have a great discussion brunch afterwards. Sunday, April 18th, 11:00AM, Bloor Cinema

GAYS DAYS (Hazman Havarod) is a capsule of Tel Aviv in the '80's when being openly gay was a very dangerous declaration. Back then, Poliana Frank (left) was in a punk band and sang songs about being in love with women. When she gave an interview with the only television channel in the city, she became the lesbian—everybody knew her. Through archival footage and present-day revelations by other gays and lesbians, we get an idea of how the gay revolution began and developed in Tel Aviv. With the depiction of any anti-oppression movement you are going to get scenes that you are already familiar with; however, the context of being gay in Israel brings to light some cultural differences that North American audiences may not be aware. A big revelation for me was how active an ally Yael Dayan (Moshe Dayan’s daughter) was in fighting for gay rights in Israel. This documentary is an interesting look back at a time that was about more than big hair and body glitter. Sunday, April 18th, 8:45 pm, Al Green Theatre (Bloor/Spadina)

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?

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 that will be of interest to many. I loved it when I saw it at Hot Docs las year and encourage you to see it if you can. Monday, April 19th, 2:45 PM, Al Green Theatre.

CINCO DIAN SIN NORA (NORA'S WILL) is a wonderful Spanish drama with just a touch of farce that keeps it from being maudlin. This film held my attention from the opening scene where a delicate bit of lace is revealed to be a tablecloth to the very last scene where things come to their natural conclusion. NORA'S WILL is a fine balance of the bitter with the sweet thanks to the economical script and direction of Maria Chenillo and the emotional nuances that actor Fernando Lujàn brings to the role of José. To everyone in the film, Nora is José’s wife; to José she is his ex-wife, she is dead so let’s bury her already. Under normal circumstances a quick burial would not be a problem, but the timing of Nora’s death (Passover) is complicated by Jewish laws and the fact that after 14 attempts, Nora has succeeded in committing suicide. This is all too much for José: he is in conflict with his son, he offends a very powerful Rabbi, he doesn’t want to eat any of the food Nora stocked in the fridge before her death, and he wants the young man sitting Shiva to leave so he can dig around in Nora’s things and find answers to her secret. Meanwhile, the maid is trying to Catholiize Nora’s dead body, the grandkids are scared of the body but not of the coffin in the living room, and the family has to wear winter coats because the apartment has to be kept cool. Including elements of farce in the story of a marriage marred by mental illness and separation could not have been easy for this director, even though she wrote the script. So much is still dependent on timing, tone, and performance. Chenillo manages to pull this off exceedingly well because of her experience as as editor. There are no wasted scenes in NORA'S WILL, just a well-told story that satisfies. Monday, April 19th, 1pm Bloor Cinema (Bloor/Bathurst); Tuesday, April 20th, 6pm, Richmond Hill

Usually a movie with entitled HEART OF STONE is not something I would flock to see; it just sounds too melodramatic. If you’re thinking the way I did, let me assure you that this documentary will bring you into a world that you probably have never entered before. The film could not be called anything else after you witness to determination of principal, Harold Stone to ensure that each and every one of his students graduate from high school and go on to college. How does he think he can turn around his gang-divided school community? Well, he is presiding over Weequahic High School (WHS) in Newark New Jersey, the school that once had more high school graduates that anywhere else in the United States. As a graduate of the school, Harold Stone and the WHS Alumni Association have the common goal of supporting the school and the students by providing scholarships and field trips and events that shows them another world besides the one in which they live. Watching this film, you want these adults to succeed in a community where kids getting shot is commonplace and where education is not as important as immediate money—what good is an education if you’re not going to live long enough to use it? What sets this documentary apart from other films I’ve seen on the same topic is the way in which Stone works with the families and the gang members to stress that education is the key to not only having a better life, but a different life. The police will not work with the gangs, but at WHS, Stone has Crips and Bloods in leadership positions that ironically enough, inspire other members of their respective gangs to study. A fascinating study about education and cross-cultural (Black, Jewish) collaboration of the WHS Alumni . I LOVE YOU, MR. STONE!  Monday, April 21st, 5:45 PM, Al Green Theatre. Director in attendance.

This movie about a Jewish woman whose boyfriend isn’t Jewish. When her family finds out she is dating, rather than deal with the repercussions, she tells them that he is Jewish. The premise sounds good on paper, but in the hands of director, Dirk Regal, OH, WHAT A MESS is summed up by its title. Unlike Nora’s Will (above), this movie lacks the pacing necessary to bring out the elements of humour and the depth to handle the dramatic issue of a Jewish woman dating a German man. I really wanted to like this because of actress Marianne Sagebrecht in the role of the aunt, but ended up being bored out of my mind. If you must: Wednesday, April 21st, 5:45 PM, Bloor Cinema; Thursday, April 22nd, 4:30 PM, Cineplex Odeon Sheppard Centre

It's unfortunate that a few of these films screen during the weekday afternoon, so look for them on DVD at indie video stores if you can't attend, and be sure to check out the full schedule on the website to find a film or two that suits your personality.

18th Toronto Jewish Film Festival
April 17th – 25th
(various venues)
Single tickets: $12
Senior/Student: $7 (with ID)
Weekday Matinees (before 5pm): $7
Services charges will apply.

For information about FREE films/events and schedule, please visit or call 416-967-1528

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...