Monday, 30 August 2010

Toronto After Dark Film Festival Winners

Toronto After Dark Film Festival is thrilled to announce the Award Winners of its 2010 edition. A record over 4,300 votes were cast by festival-goers this year to determine this year’s Audience Award Winners!


The Vision Awards are given out by the Festival in recognition of outstanding independent genre feature filmmaking.



New for 2010: Over 100 Festival All-Access Pass Buyers were polled in the week after the festival to select the winners in a range of different film categories. Here are the winners of Toronto After Dark’s inaugural FANS’ CHOICE AWARDS:

The Last Exorcism



High School

I Spit On Your Grave (Steven R. Monroe)

The Last Exorcism (Huck Botko & Andrew Gurland)

The Last Exorcism (Patrick Fabian)

I Spit On Your Grave (Sarah Butler)

Doghouse, High School (Tie)

Cargo, RoboGeisha (Tie)


High School

Alien Vs Ninja

I Spit On Your Grave

The Last Exorcism


I Spit On Your Grave



Source: Toronto After Dark Film Festival

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Toronto After Dark Film Festival: Phobia 2 and All About Evil

I went to the Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TADFF) last night. By myself. I know, I know. What is a self-confessed scardy cat doing at TADFF by herself? Well, I’m not one to hold back on going somewhere just because my friends have other plans. Besides, no one is ever really alone at TADFF; there’s a theatre full of horror/cult/zombie fans to share the experience with you. If a film is scary, there is someone there to jump with you. I’m always surprised that however scared I am, there is always a couple of people squeaking and jumping when I am calm. And, when I do squeak and jump, others are with me, too.

PHOBIA 2Having said all that, I must say, though, that I was nervous about seeing the Thai film, Phobia 2. I can’t take really intense horror, and I had no idea where Phobia 2 fell on the scare-ometre. I hadn’t seen Phobia!, so I had no frame of reference. The film is also made up of five short films, each of which could be any range of scary. I decide to skip the popcorn (didn’t want to choke or get queasy from eating grease on a tense stomach), and opt for lemon-ginger tea (to be sipped only in moments of dialogue to avoid burns).

Thank you TADFF for programming a variety of films to meet the needs of genre audiences. Phobia 2 was just right for scardy cats like me who like a good scare without too much gore and violence. The first of the five stories (Novice) is a morality tale involving a recalcitrant teen in a Buddhist retreat dealing with guilt and the legend of the Hungry Ghosts. The scares in this one comes from very atmospheric music and scenes in a tropical forest at night. Ward was both scary and funny as we see the effects upon a young accident victim who has to share his hospital room with an old man on life support who may or may not be moving. I loved the way that one ended. In Backpackers, two Japanese tourists in Thailand encounter so much more than they bargained for when they hitch a ride with a trucker, his partner, and their cargo. I really enjoyed the way modern elements are included in this story to give the subplot some basis in reality. In Salvage, a woman who deals in restoring and passing off wrecks as “quality” vehicles gets her comeuppance in a horrifying and heartbreaking way. Creepy moments in this film comes from the fact that she is "alone" at night at the dealership. In the End is a much needed palate cleanser of comedy, providing plenty of laughs with life imitating art when a cast member’s ghost reappears on the film set to finish her final scene. This was my favourite of the five. Now that I have seen Phobia 2, I am going to look for Phobia! on DVD and have a marathon of the two films. Maybe I’ll throw in the filmmakers other film, Alone and challenge myself further by watching them on a dark and stormy night.

I knew I’d be okay on my own for All About Evil because it was listed as “cult horror black comedy” and I’m good with those; horror comedies are my faves. The film is about a mousy librarian, Deborah, (played by Natasha Lyonne)who gives it all up to carry on her dead father’s dream of packing an old movie house every night. Deborah (rhymes with Gomorrah) Tennis (rhymes with Denise) fulfills her father’s dream by directing and starring in her own brand of cinema verité horror shorts with titles such as The Maiming of the Shrew and The Scarlet Leper (she is, after all, a librarian). Drunk with her own success, and channeling the voice of a 1940’s bombshell, Deborah’s films become progressively disturbing as her audience builds and her celebrity status grows. Assisted by an assortment of like-minded crewmembers (a pair of icy, insane twins, a sociopath and a besotted aging projectionist), Deborah thinks she is unstoppable until her most faithful fan realizes just how real her films are. But, will he be able to bring her deeds to light before its curtains for him? The film does drag a bit in the beginning, but spurting blood, drag queens, teen queens, cinematic lust (and some great designed-for-the-film movie posters) makes this cult horror comedy an over the top treat.

What are you doing After Dark?
See what else is showing at TADF:
Tickets: $13 more for galas

Toronto After Dark Film Festival: Game Night, Anyone?

GAME NIGHT(the filmmaking team).
TADFF supports Canadian filmmakers each night by showing a short film before each feature. Last night we, at the Bloor Cinema, had the delightful pleasure of watching friendship go down the tubes when playing an old VHS board game leads to dangerous revelations. Beware of clowns! Game Night was shot in 100 hours and was the recipient of the 2009 Film Racing Grand Prix. I hope this film plays at many festivals so that people can get a chance to see this deliciously funny short. It does what a short film should do: keep your script simple, keep the story focussed and get some good actors. It's 3 out of 3 for Game Night. Gspan style="font-weight:bold;">Game Night screened before Phobia 2 and The Pickles Shane (filmmakers not in attendance) screened prior to All About Evil.

What are you doing After Dark?
See what else is showing at TADF:
Tickets: $13 more for galas

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Toronto After Dark Film Festival Review: The Last Exorcism

The Last Exorcism is my kind of horror film; it’s not gore porn. I love good storytelling, and that is exactly what this film offers in addition to some good scares, and humour. Shot documentary-style, the film pulls you in from the first frame featuring the charismatic lead actor, Parick Fabian playing the equally charismatic character, Cotton Marcus. In the scene, Cotton, a successful preacher, explainins to the camera how he works his congregation. Indoctrinated as a child into the family business of preaching, Cotton is so persuasive that he could talk a lobster into a pot of boiling water. In one scene, he tells the documentary crew (a director and cameraman) that he could throw a banana bread recipe into his sermon and the congregation wouldn’t even notice. When he proves this oratory slight of hand, we are hooked. Cotton is preacher who works magic, but lacks faith in God; preaching is just a job to that allows him to provide for his family, and we want to know more about this mesmerist. The fact that the camera loves his face adds to the magnetic pull of Cotton Marcus.

Hitching a ride along with the documentary crew, we follow Cotton to Louisiana where he will perform an exorcism on 16 year-old Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell), whose father thinks she is possessed by the devil. Farm animals have been slaughtered at night and Nell's clothes are covered in blood that cannot be explained (she has no memory of leaving the house at night). Plunged into this domestic drama, we can’t help feeling suspicious about the family dynamics. We are continually questioning what we see and hear. Is this a case of a religious zealot trying to control his teenage daughter? What’s the fulminating, mysterious brother hiding? Does the daughter just need psychiatric treatment for psychotic episodes or is something truly unearthly going on?

What I love about The Last Exorcism, is that we see everything from the point of view of the camera; its lens is our eye. With present day reality shows and paparazzi chasing celebrities and fauxlebrities, we’ve become so used to cameras documenting everything (trying for the “money shot”) that we never question why the camera is still capturing certain scenes. We want to see everything. We need to see everything. Each time we think we have a logical explanation of what we see and/or hear, something happens that cannot be explained easily. We are kept off balance until the last unexpected scene where we all go, “Oh, my God!”

Actress, Ashley Bell is a treasure. Seeing her in person at the Toroto After Dark premiere wearing her short sexy dress, and her tresses tumbling down her back, it is hard to believe that she is the frumpy, shy, sweet teenager in the film. She inhabits the role of the naive Nell with a charm that it makes us feel protective towards her. Like the documentary director in the film, we want to scoop her up out of that house and get her some place where she can be helped and taken care of. Given the title, you can’t help but make comparisons with Linda Blair, but Ashley Bell has her own style down pat. This is not a remake and she is not channeling Linda Blair. Nothing about this movie is like the 1970’s version.

For those of you who like gore porn and slaher films, be warned: this is not a film for you. I mean it. Don’t go see it and then badmouth it on Facebook and Twitter because it wasn’t bloody enough. Let those of us who enjoy intelligent, creepy films have our chance to see something on the big screen that we can rave about. We who love the original Exorcist, The Amityville Horror and Poltergeist demand our share of the horror movie pie.

Thanks to producer Eli Roth and the filmmakers for allowing the Toronto After Dark fans a sneak peek at this film.

The Last Exorcism open in theatres August 27th. The film is directed by Daniel Stamm and produced by Eli Roth and written by Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland

What are you doing After Dark?
See what else is showing at TADF:

Toronto After Dark Film Festival: Eli Roth Premiere's The Last Exorcism in Toronto

I had a fantastic time at Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TADF)last night: Eli Roth (irresistibly funny and good looking, what a combo?) and the cast of The Last Exorcism, which Roth produced. Roth’s enthusiasm about the film was so expansive, I’m sure it reached beyond the balcony of the eight-hundred seat Bloor Cinema and out onto the streets. Roth is no stranger to Toronto or to genre films (he is the director of Hostel), so when Adam Lopez, founder of TADF, asked him to premiere the Toronto release of The Last Exorcism at the festival, Roth was eager to do so. Roth praised Toronto audiences for understanding and appreciating indie genre films, and urged us to spread the word about his film. He also promised to give oral sexual favours to all of us if we promoted his film—his two leads also gestured that they would do the same (it was that kind of night). Judging from the reactions last night, I don’t think Roth or the cast have to worry too much about negative comments on social networking sites (whether the sexual favours are granted or not).

In photos: Adam Lopez; Adam and Eli Roth; Adam welcomes the leads of The Last Exorcism, Ashley Bell (Nell Sweetzer) and Patrick Fabian(Cotton Marcus)

Friday, 13 August 2010

SummerWorks Interview: Susana Vera, Costume Designer for The Haunted Hillbilly

donna g: I like to think of costumes as the silent ammunition in an actorís arsenal, but in The Haunted Hillbilly the costumes are at the forefront of the play because the lead character, Hyram Woodside (Matthew Raudsepp) is trying to establish his country music image. Could you please describe your progression in developing Hyramís style?

Susana Vera: Well, from the beginning of the process I was in direct communication with both Graham Cuthbertson(playwright) and Andrew Shaver(director) to understand the story they wanted to convey through the wardrobe. I was informed that Nudie (the vampire) was based off a real man: Nudie Cohn. He's known for designing crazy rhinestone covered suits for celebraties such as Elvis Presley and Gram Parsons. And I was directed to 50's western wear for the general. With this base I was able to play with with my own sewing past.... how I made clothes before and after I studied costume making.

Hyram's clothes were first made by his loving wife Audrey with her self-made talents--as mine when I was young. Then his wardrobe was "professionalized" into super stardom with Nudie's tailored suits which I made with my new tailoring expertise.

donna g: Another major character in the play, Nudie (Greg Kramer) is a couturier with his own atelier, not an occupation, or a workplace that I ever expected to see in a hillbilly musical. What were your first thoughts about the character of Nudie, and how did you decide on his look?

Susana Vera: Nudie was a lot of fun for me. A tailor who has been on this planet lurking for who knows how long. Who would he have tailored for? Who would have he been taught his trade by? I decided to take him back to the 17th Century where men were just as decorated as women. I tailored his suit as a modern version of an embelished 17th suit with "goth" embeshiments. I embroidered the flowers with deep blood red floss in the form of stitches...stitches for repairing a cut on flesh.

donna g: How did you arrive at the contrasting looks of Audrey Woodside (Gemma James-Smith) and Bobbi (Alexis Taylor)? The two women have such distinctive styles.

Susana Vera: I wanted to make Audrey look like a "homemaker" and "supporter" of her husband's plans, what ever they may be. To do this I choose a red gingham blouse embelished with green trim. Why? Well it just reminds me of the "How to" Singer sewing books that most housewifes worked from in the 70's. The inspiration for Bobbi was was Katy Keene a sexy bombshell from the comics of 1940's. Someone who looks better than her capacity or need to achieve anything.

donna g: In a festival such as SummerWorks, the play is sandwiched between other shows on a daily basis. Do you have to design the costumes based on the fact that The Haunted Hillbilly doesn't have a permanent home?

Susana Vera: The Haunted Hillbilly was created to work on it's own no matter where it's presented. It wouldn't matter what it is sandwiched between as the play brings you into it's own fantastical world of music and blood.

Susana Vera has been designing costumes for Montreal theatre and dance productions for the past five years. She is a recipient of a MECCA (Montreal English Critic Circle Award) for The Jungle Book (Geordie Productions). Recent credits include designing and constructing the flamenco show El12 by La Otra Orilla. Ohter credits include Death and the Maiden (Centaur), Swan Song of Maria (Black Theatre Workshop), Inherit the Wind (Segal Centre), and Dracula (Fallen Angel Production).


Friday, August 13, 8:00 PM
Sunday, August 15, 12:30 PM
Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace
(1 block east of Bathurst, 1 block north of Queen)

For complete details visit:
Box Office: 416-504-7529

All photos by donna g

Thursday, 12 August 2010

SummerWorks Review: Even Darkness is Made of Light

The aptly named, Even Darkness is Made of Light, is a one-woman dark comedy featuring the playwright herself, Edwige Jean-Pierre, as the teenage Carrie Edison, who develops depression following the death of Carlos, the object of her affection. The two used to hang out together in a favourite, but precarious spot, doing drugs and taking about homework and how life "sucks".

As a major Twilight fan, Carrie sees Carlos as her Edward but it is never quite clear whether or not Carlos sees Carrie as his Bella. We meet Carlos in flashbacks, but the whole performance is from Carrie's perspective, so we only have her words on the status of their relationship. The heightened emotions of a teenage girl combined with depression could lead the viewer into wondering what is true and what is imagined by Carrie. Are the health care providers and a youth motivational speaker who are supposed to help Carrie with her illness as incompetent as they seem, or is this Carrie's view of them? The play could be read either way which brings depth to the script.

What is certain is that Carrie's suicide attempts have alienated her from her friends at school, who don't know how to talk to her about her illness, and damaged the trust her younger sister had in her; the former scene is hilarious to watch while the latter is resonates with heartbreaking innocence. What is also certain is that Carrie cannot live without her Edward nor can she deal with the pain of her depression. Her plan to exit the world is both comic (the plan she masterminds is called "Operation Exit F!@#$% Up Planet") and tragic as she thinks up various ways to leave this world behind. Underscoring and enhancing the humour and pain in the play are music selections (from Lilly Allen to Frank Sinatra) that mirror and advance the story.

Well-directed by Patrick Conner, Edwige Jean-Pierre enthralls as she brings all the characters to life and pulls the audience into the chaotic, teen-romantic bubble that is Carrie's life.

Rating: **** 4/5 Stars

The Theatre Centre (Queen/Dovercourt)
Friday, August 13, 10:00 PM
Sunday, August 15, 2:00 PM
Box Office: 416-504-7529

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

SummerWorks 2010: An Interview with "Say Ginger Ale" Playwright, Marcia Johnson

donna g: I certainly did not expect to have the book Anne of Green Gables pop up in a play about a Jamaican-born Canadian woman traveling back to Jamaica. Was the book a favourite of yours or was the love of the book something you created for your character, Nadia?

Marcia Johnson: I loved that book when I read it at 13 and still loved it as an adult when I read it chapter by chapter to my goddaughter at bedtime when she was 7.

donna g: Say Ginger Ale had a reading at the 2009 International Women Playwrights Conference in Mumbai, India and was well-received. Were you surprised at the response to this Caribbean play, and could you share some of the feedback you received from the audience?

Marcia Johnson: I was very surprised. I thought that some of the humour and issues might not have translated but, in the end, family relationships and conflicts are universal. Plus, everyone has a “fitting in” or migration story. The lone male Indian actor in the reading said that he had relatives in the States. Say Ginger Ale helped them understand why they seemed to feel so guilty whenever they visited family in India.

donna g: You have a good team of actors in this play: Ordena, Andrew Moodie, Raven Dauda, Norma Clarke and Sharon Forrester. Did you hold auditions for the play or did you have these actors in mind?

Marcia Johnson: Luckily, I already knew the actors. I approached them and they all said yes. No auditions required. Thank goodness for talented friends.

donna g: You begin the play with what I call, “The Barrel Scene”. For those who haven’t seen the play yet could you please explain this very familiar item to those who may not be familiar with this item?

Marcia Johnson: Most Jamaican families I knew sent barrels filled with hand-me-downs, dry goods, toiletries and whatever else we could think to family members back home. My mother would shop and collect for months before sending a barrel or two. And yes, she would fill at as much as she could.

donna g: This play was inspired by your own trip “back home” and the legacy of your grandmother. What do you think she would have thought of the grandmother in your play? Also, Jamaican mothers can puff up with pride in public at their children’s accomplishments, but brutally honest in their criticism of the same child in private. What does your mother think of the play, and are there any elements of the play that she thought should not have been revealed about Jamaican life?

Marcia Johnson: The title of this play has been kicking around for years. I’d written a monologue about the flight from Jamaica, reuniting with my parents and meeting my new baby sister long before I’d identified myself as a playwright. I pitched the story to CBC Radio and had gotten the green light. My grandmother, who had been living in Canada for years, died and had arranged for her funeral in Jamaica. I told the story of the flight with her to Canada as part of my eulogy. I was touched that, even though people were sad, this story made them smile and even laugh. I knew it had to be in the play. My mother saw the play on Sunday. She laughed, cried, congratulated the actors on their good work, then announced that she was going to “bop me” for some of the things I’d written. Ah, yes a Jamaican mother’s compliments come laced with a few jabs to bring one down a peg. I’m sure she’ll give me all the details after closing. In the mean time, she asked for extra programs to give to her Jamaican friends here and back home.

donna g: Before going in to see the play, I was very concerned that the run time was only 45 minutes instead of the average 60 minutes of most SummerWorks plays. After seeing the play, I was pleasantly surprised at how much you covered in such a short amount of time. I was completely satisfied that I had seen a complete show. On the other hand, I could see how the play could be developed for a longer run time. Do you have any plans to expand the play after SummerWorks?

Marcia Johnson: Please pass your comments on to any producer you are in contact with. The truth is, I have been wanting to develop this play for a long time. In the 6 years since it aired on CBC and the five years since I adapted it for the stage, the furthest I ever got was staged readings. I’d submitted two scripts to the Mumbai conference and this was the one chosen. I decided to look at that reading as my fond farewell to Say Ginger Ale. I had grown to believe that it wasn’t meant to be staged. The reaction from that international audience and the offer of help from fellow Canadian playwright and attendee, Tara Goldstein, was the encouragement I needed. I submitted the script to SummerWorks and the rest is history. I’m working on several other projects now. I have no current plans for Say Ginger Ale but anything can happen. There is more than enough material for it to be expanded to two hours.

Factory Studio Theatre
Thursday, August 12, 8:00 PM
Saturday, August 14, 5:30 PM
Sunday, August 15, 10:00 PM
Box Office: 416-504-7529

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

SummerWorks August 5th - 15th

There are five more days left of SummerWorks, Toronto's Indie Theatre and Arts Festival. Have you seen/heard anything yet? Tickets are a very affordable $10, so skip your coffee this week and put that money towards supporting great Canadian talent.

Don't forget to also check out the Performance Bar (free with your ticket stub or pay-what-you-can) with improve dynamos Ron Pederson, Naomi Snieckus, and Tom Baram of Impromptu Splendor. Expect a mix of comedy, theatre and music.

Learn how to relax and learn in the Playground with designers Beth Kates and Ben Chaisson. If you have them, bring them, but there's no need "borrow" your friend's or siblings' children as an excuse to gain entrance to this Playground; your creative curiosity is enough (of course, children are welcome). No experience necessary to make your own video (assistance provided), be a performance artist or build Lego buildings.

If you like to perambulate while you experience theatre, then the SummerWalks is the best bet for you. Invisible Toronto, A Heartbreaking Walk of Staggering Genius, and Uncle Lindy's Quit Yer Snivelin' Tour of Life will lead you throughout the Queen/Bathurst neighbourhood for an hour while opening your eyes to elements you may not have noticed as you dash around the city. Tickets are $5 per walk ($12 for a 3-Walk Pass). All Walks depart from the Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst Street, 2 blocks south of Queen).

For complete details visit or call The Arts Box Office at 416-504-7529

Monday, 2 August 2010

Podcast: Andrea Picard on Catherine Breillat and Eric Rohmer

The podcast of last Saturday's The More the Merrier Arts Radio is now up! Guests: Andréa Picard (tiff.cinematheque)on French directors, Catherine Breillat and Eric Rohmer + Actress/producer Alex Appel on The Death of Alice Blue. CLICK HERE to listen. Note: podcast will be up until the end of this week. Photo courtesy of: tiff.cinematheque

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...