Saturday, 31 December 2011

Do It In Public in 2012!

Isn't it past time for the "elitist" tag to be removed from the Arts? In 2012, stop defending and/or being embarrassed for choosing to feed your creative soul. So, what if some people at work think you're weird for seeing a play, a non-mainstream movie, or strolling through an art gallery? Have you ever meet a kid who didn't take crayon to a blank piece of paper with a fervor? Those children were always proud of their masterpieces. When did the drawing end, and why? Was it your decision, or was it imposed upon you by outsiders with their own agendas? Reclaim and proclaim your love of the arts in 2012! It's time to break free!

"I dropped my bags and did it in public! 
Show your public display of affection for the Arts in 2012!"

Photo taken at King and John Streets during the CONTACT Photography Festival.
Photo credit: Men in Cities Public Installation series by Robert Longo

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

MEMPHIS The Musical: Felicia Boswell is Pure Magic!

If you haven't already heard, MEMPHIS, the 2010 Tony Award winner for Best Musical is in Toronto (until December 24th). Set in 1950's, Memphis, is the story of forbidden love (white boy/black girl) and forbidden musical integration (white teens listening to "race music"). DJ wanna be, Huey Calhoun (Bryan Fenkart) is in love with the music he hears on Beale Street, the music of the city's black inhabitants, who have taken church music and turned it on its head and transformed it into R & B, soon to be transitioned again into Rock music. Venturing into one of these clubs, Huey meets and falls in love with Felicia (Felicia Boswell), a singer in her brother Delray's (Quentin Earl Darrington) nightclub.

The love story is forwarded by dance-in-your-seat music by David Bryan and Joe DiPietro (who also penned the book, based on a concept by George W. George). Energetically choreographed by Sergio Trujillo, the dances are a blend of period moves, and pure Broadway styling that contrast the ways in which black and white teens were dancing, and the way everyone began to dance to the same music, American music. Set pieces such as the FM broadband dial, the disc jockey booth, and the television studio will be nostalgic for older audience members; younger audiences will view the set design as "vintage" while relating to the age-old theme of rebelling against their parents' music.

The themes in Memphis are huge societal issues, but this is more a play about music than anything else. If you're looking for a message piece or a weighty musical tome about the dangerous prospect of miscegenation in the south and the difficulties blacks faced in getting their music played without paying payola, or whites co-opting black music, then look elsewhere. Memphis is a commercial theatrical venture, meant to satisfy a wide range of tastes and ages. This is a full out musical about generational changes, the rise of rock and roll, and individuals daring to decide their own fates. I had a very enjoyable time watching this play on opening night, but I couldn't help wishing after I had left the theatre, that Memphis had risen to the heights of a Fiddler on the Roof, a play which so adroitly blends its themes of discrimination with extremely memorable tunes (Tradition, Matchmaker etc). What I do remember is the dynamic performance of Felicia Boswell. She is pure magic, bringing a spark to the stage every time she steps onto it. Once her character of Felicia is introduced, you will find yourself watching for her next appearance. Her tiny figure disguises a powerhouse voice that can fill any thearte, but what I enjoyed most about her singing are the quiet moments she has every now and then to sing with minimal music and without vocal riffs acrobatics. Boswell needs to watch her diction a wee bit, but you can't teach stage presence, and she's got that flowing from the tips of her fingers. Bryan Fenkart is adorable as the lovestruck Huey, but he is even better when paired with Boswell. She is one actress that producers should snap up once her run with Memphis ends.

Memphis does not shy away from the race issue: the polite terminology of "race music" is used throughout the play, but in one scene a character does use the term "nigger music", not to shock, but to remind the audience that such terms were broadly and commonly used to describe the music that black people were playing on stations way at the very end of the radio dial. Huey and Felicia have to keep their taboo romance a secret from his mother, her brother, and society at large. Even good Christians didn't listen to the music Huey wants to unearth from the clubs for all of Memphis to hear. Teenagers might be demanding a change on what's on the dial, as the song "Everybody Wants to Be Black on a Saturday Night" evidences, and advertisers will follow where the teen dollar goes, but race mixing will not be condoned! Felicia's "Colored Woman" tells the story of a woman who wants to make different choices than her mother, but as another tune demonstrates "Change Don't Come Easy". At a pivotal moment in the first act, Gator, a character who has not spoken since witnessing a lynching, breaks out of his trauma to earnestly ask everyone to "Say a Prayer".

Until December 24th
Toronto Centre for the Arts
5040 Yonge Street (North York Centre subway stop)

Photos: by Paul Kolnik; Memphis poster by Key Art.
Courtesy of DanCap Productions.

Monday, 14 November 2011

More Please: Mysteries of Lisbon (Nov. 14-17@TIFF Bell Lightbox)

Master director, Raul Ruiz must have been well-pleased that his last work, Mysteries of Lisbon, is such an inviting and engaging piece of cinema. Ruiz died this summer, but this 4 hour melodrama, along with his long list of film credits will endure. Ruiz is never in a hurry to tell this story (based on the novel by Camilo Castelo Branco) of a boy searching for his roots. Why is he called simply João, with no last name? Who are his parents? Are they alive? How did he end up in a convent school? We, the audience, wonder about these questions too as we are introduced to João, played by João Arrais, whose solemn brown eyes echo the void in his character's life. This young actor is an equal match to the actor, Adriano Luz, who plays the sympathetic Pardre Dinis, the keeper of many secrets. Also noteworthy is the performance of Ricardo Pereira who style is reminiscent of Errol Flynn, but with Pereira's own brand of unbridled sexuality.

More than a costume froth, Mysteries of Lisbon, is an intricately layered puzzle piece of a melodrama; just when you think you've begun to understand a central character, aspects of their nature and glimpses of their personal histories are revealed. With the legato pacing style, the smooth transition from one mystery to another, and actors that fit the period scenes this journey that takes us from Portugal, to Spain, France and Italy, seems much shorter than its actual running time of 274 minutes.

If I have one criticism, it is that I would have liked to have seen the entire 6-hour version that Ruiz completed, and which ran on Portuguese television. As good a job as is done condensing the film into a 4-hour version, you do get the feeling that there are stories that remain untold. So, like João this version leaves us with a bit of mystery. I'm not sure if a longer film version is available, but this 4-hour version is the one that played to positive crowds at TIFF 2010, and which the Lightbox is screening until November 17th. Yes, this version is worth seeing on a larger screen, I just wish that I could have viewed the remaining hours on a large screen as well.

TIFF Bell Lightbox
350 King West (corner of King and John streets)
Monday, Nov. 14, 6:15pm
Tuesday, Nov. 15, 12:00 noon, 6:15pm
Wednesday, Nov. 16, 12:00 noon, 6:15pm
Thursday, Nov. 17, 12:00 noon, 6:15pm

Get Tickets:
416.599.TIFF 1.888.599.8433

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Lily Eng, Woman Warrior at Reel Asian Film Festival on Nov. 10th


donna g: Performance art is something that is often baffling to the public. How would you describe what you do to those who don’t have your artistic background and training?

Lily Eng: I am an experimental choreographer who uses the dynamics of martial arts to articulate movement in unique, emotive, and personal ways. At the core of my movement scope of practice is the desire to take my internal landscape and extract it externally.

donna g: You have training in more traditional dance forms such as classical and modern ballet. What drew you to this more experimental style of artistic expression? Did you have to “unlearn” traditional dance techniques? How the body moves in classical ballet is different from how it moves in modern ballet, let alone experimental dance, so how did you adapt to the new methods of movement?

Lily Eng: The common denominator that runs through my disciplined art/body-oriented forms is a strong disciplined foundation. I take everything (martial arts, modern dance, ballet …) I have learnt as my resource library of movement knowledge.

I have more upper body strength than say a ballet dancer because of my extensive kung fu training. The way I articulate my body in performance is very evident of how my muscles have developed to handle specific tasks of loading, and what it can and cannot handle.

For me, it was not a matter of unlearning dance techniques, but rather of encompassing and incorporating additional artistic and movement styles that presented themselves. My experimentation has allowed for advancement of a particular dance/movement personal style that is still highly relevant to me.

donna g: Growing up in Blind River, Ontario, did you ever dream that you would one day perform in such places as Sweden, Scotland, England and Italy? Or did that dream take form when you moved to Toronto at age 10?

Lily Eng: No, I didn’t know I would travel to such places when I was young, but I did know by 6-years of age, that I wanted to be a dancer. This was quite interesting because my small town and the surrounding areas did not even have a dance school. The travelling came about when I started dancing.

donna g: How supportive was your family/friends in regards to your career choice?

Lily Eng: I think they were rather surprised, as no one in our family came from a dance background or had dance training. However, my mother loved Chinese opera, so she had a very strong artistic slant. I got my love of the arts from her.

donna g: You formed Missing Associates with Peter Dudar in 1972. Where did the name come from and how was it different from other groups of that generation?

Lily Eng: Missing Associates is a tongue-in-cheek name and is a pun on my name. Peter Dudar and I are the constants of Missing Associates. Everyone else is missing until we ask him or her for his or her input.

Peter and I were able to explore creativity and the arts in ways that were quite innovative, and yet relevant to us. We were very multi-disciplinary in our approach and were rigorous in “pushing our own envelopes.”

There was a time when we used people who had no formal training to work with us so as to get to their “real and true” performance essence, albeit with their hesitant awkwardness, while being put on the spot in these speaking pieces that were unrehearsed and off-the-cuff conversations that enlightening and sometimes quite humorous.

A lot of my earlier works are endurance pieces. The audience can see me sweating, hear my laboured breathing; they can see I am getting tired. This runs contrary to what you would expect about “performance.” You are not supposed to see a sweaty brow because it is all effortless.

donna g: How was it, transitioning to solo performances?

Lily Eng: It wasn’t hard because I have always been very comfortable as a solo performer, and solo work has been my forte. However, this may change.

donna g: What inspired you to develop the piece, “But Women Did Come: 150 Years of Chinese Women to North America”? Was it a commissioned piece or something stemming from a more personal urge?

Lily Eng: "But Women Did Come: 150 Years of Chinese Women to North America" was a travelling pictorial show that ran concurrent with the American sister show, to promote the contribution of Chinese women in Canada. I was the opening performer for the show when it first came Toronto. My picture was included along with the other Chinese women in the show.

donna g: Congratulations on your work being highlighted in the festival’s “Lily Eng: Reel Asian Canadian Woman Warrior”. The dance/art world certainly knows your name, but how do you think your Kung Fu students will react to seeing your various performances on screen?

Lily Eng: They will love it and laugh when they see me sparring and kicking ass in several of the films.

Nov. 8 - 13 Toronto; Nov. 18-19 Richmond Hill
T: (416) 703 - 9333
E: W:

Wednesday, 2 November 2011


Do yourself a favour and get your ticket to FELA! Whether you line up 2 hours prior to showtime and get Rush tickets or whether you buy regular tickets, you will want to be in the house when Tony Award nominee, Sahr Ngaujah breaks it down as Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. With the Canon Theatre stage transformed into The Shrine (one of Fela’s clubs), leave your “shy” at home, in your car, on the TTC, and most definitely at the door, because you are going to more than just a play, you are going to a Fela-bration! Don’t worry that you haven’t had time to Google who Fela is or what Afrobeat is. Music will great you as you take your seat, and dancing women, with a talent for muscle isolation and sonic sexiness will demand your attention and make you forget the 416, 905, 519 and get into the 419, a gyrating audience participation dance where your hips are a clock and you set the movement. The 419 is also a reference to the Nigerian penal code for fraud, so while FELA! entertains, it’s also includes the political and social struggles that Fela Kuti experienced in Nigeria.

Directed and choreographed by the legendary Bill T. Jones, who conceived the idea with Jim Lewis (book, additional lyrics) and Stephen Hendel (also a producer), FELA! is a mesmerizing, production full of movement, magic and, of course, music. Anyone attempting to even perform in the style of Fela Kuti has to be multi-talented, and triple threat (actor, dancer, singer), Sahr Ngaujah effortlessly embodies Fela’s charismatic and explosive spirit. Ngaujah knows when to swagger with music star sex appeal, when to transition to charming repartee with the audience, and when to command attention as a leader and political activist.

Melanie Marshall (Fumilayo Kuti) tears the roof off with her warm, rounded soprano in Trouble Sleep and Rain, while actress/singer, Paulette Ivory (Fela’s U.S.-born second wife, Sandra) fills the Canon Theatre with her rich tones of molasses and smoke in such songs as Upside Down and Water Get No Enemy.

Lending credibility to the Fela stage are a core of female dancers that flit around Ngaujah; sometimes as the dancers/singers that were an essential part of Fela’s concerts; sometimes as club clients; and sometimes as members of Fela’s compound, Kalakuta. It is a quite a feat that Ngaujah is able to hold our attention amidst these lissome, athletic women. To call them sexy would not even begin to do justice to what these talented performers are able to accomplish on stage. Live dynamite is the best description I can think of for what they do. As for the male dancers, their leaps, taps, and swirls demonstrate a prowess that demands both talent and stamina. Rounding out the stellar excellence that is FELA! are the musicians that bring the Fela Kuti endorphin-raising beats to life.

Like many attempts to depict the life of someone who is larger than life, the script for FELA! emphasizes some aspects of Fela Kuti’s like while omitting of downplaying others. The play takes us through Fela’s journeys to England and the United States, his attempts at political life, his brushes with the law, the forming of his compound and the development of his musical ability, which touched the lives of so many in his Nigerian homeland and abroad; however, it is not a complete biography, nor should it be. At 2 hours and 45 minutes, you get your money’s worth from FELA!, as well as an introduction or re-introduction to Fela’s music (which dominates the play) and life.

Thank you to Mirvish for bringing this Broadway and West End production to Toronto. Yeh, yeh!

FELA! runs until Nov. 6

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Go Ahead and ImagineNATIVE!

Sunday, October, 23rd is the last day to enjoy screenings and events at the 12th Annual ImagineNATIVE Film & Media Arts Festival. Why not spend a lazy Sunday afternoon exploring some of the following artistic and diverse offerings (list courtesy of GAT PR and ImangineNative). For complete details visit:

All Regular Screenings at the TIFF Bell Lightbox are $7! FREE to Seniors, Students (with valid ID), and the Underemployed before 6pm everyday! Closing Night Screening & Party tickets are $12 (with discounts for Student, Seniors and Underemployed).

Film & Video Screenings:
Towards the Sun
Oct. 23, 12:00pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 2

Three incredible works from the Far North! FeaturingQueen of the Quest, Guovssahasa nieda (Dancing Virgin), and Towards the Sun.

Co-presented by Arnait Video Productions

Broken Promises: Shorts Program II

Oct. 23, 2:45pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 1

Spanning geography and time, these films collectively speak to the evolution of Indigenous experience and promises that have been made... and often broken.

Co-presented by Planet in Focus

Saving Grace
Directed by Merata Mita
New Zealand, 86 min, 2011
Oct. 23, 12:30pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 1

The final film from acclaimed filmmaker and activist Merata Mita, Saving Grace is her very personal response to the violence and abuse that has plagued generations. Powerful and candid, this film gives voice to the many fathers, brothers and husbands who are taking responsibility for past wrongs by working towards a future free from violence and oppression.

Co-presented by Native Child and Family Services of Toronto

Playing with:
Makings of a Kaitiaki
Directed by Sophie Johnson
New Zealand, 12 min, 2009

A Maori elder speaks candidly about her struggle to protect her homelands from becoming a sewage dumping ground.

Tunniit: Retracing the Lines of Inuit Tattoos
Directed by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril
Canada, 50 min, 2010
Oct 23, 2:15pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 2

Inuit traditional face tattoos have been forbidden for a century, and almost forgotten. Director Alethea Arnaquq-Baril uncovers the mystery and meaning behind this beautiful tradition as she endeavours to renew it with her own facial tattoos.

Playing with:
National Parks Project: Sirmilik
Directed by Zacharias Kunuk
Canada, 10 min, 2011

Commissioned as part of the National Parks Project, renowned director Zacharias Kunuk takes us on a breathtaking journey through the rugged Arctic landscape.

Directed by Alethea Arnaquq-Baril
Canada, 2 min, 2011

This delightfully satirical animation reveals the evolution of Inuit stereotypes from past to present.

Co-presented by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, National Parks Project

Every Emotion Costs
Directed by Darlene Naponse
Canada, 90 min, 2011
World Premiere
Oct. 23, 4:15pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 1

As teenagers, June and Quilla ran away from their northern Ontario reserve, leaving behind a mentally-ill mother and their youngest sister, Ella. Years later, June and Quilla - their relationship now strained - return to their First Nation upon news of their mother's death. While there, the three sisters must come to terms with feelings of abandonment, the harsh realities of abuse, and the nature of family. Starring Tantoo Cardinal, Nathaniel Arcand and Michelle St. John.

Playing with:
Totem Impact
Directed by Duke Redbird
Canada, 4 min, 2011

Duke Redbird makes history with imagineNATIVE's first ever 3-D film!

Music is the Medicine
Produced by Jody Hill
Canada, 53 min, 2011
Oct. 23, 4:30pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 2

Over the past 20 years, blues-rock virtuoso Derek Miller has built a highly devoted fan base, received numerous awards and played with a long list of famous musicians, all the while struggling with addiction and personal loss. This revealing documentary follows the now reinvigorated and critically acclaimed artist as he strives to further elevate his already esteemed career. Get behind the scenes of a local legend!

Playing with:
Northern Haze: Living the Dream
Directed by Derek Aqqiaruq
Canada, 37 min, 2011

Rocking the North hard and heavy since 1977, Northern Haze: Living the Dream tells the riveting story of the first known Inuit rock band to sing in their Indigenous language.

Co-presented by NXNE, iNative Fest, Revolutions Per Minute

Closing Night Gala
Screening Presenter: Global Toronto
Wapos Bay: Long Goodbyes
Directed by Dennis Jackson
Canada, 74 min, 2011
Oct. 23, 7:00pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 1

World Premiere

The colourful cast of Wapos Bay makes the jump to the big screen! But everything is not well in this idyllic northern community. After a lifetime of happy memories living in Wapos Bay, Talon and Raven discover their dad has accepted a job in the big city. Travel back to Wapos Bay in this charming film for the whole family based on the award-winning TV series.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Prizes. Prizes. Are you in?

That's me with Mamma Gógó director, Friðrik Þór Friðriksson. TIFF is one of many film festivals that I cover and bring to you via The More the Merrier, every Saturday at CIUT 89.5 FM.

Support The More the Merrier and you might win a prize from the show prize package or win one of CIUT 89.5 FM's daily draws during the Fall Fundraising Campaign. Donate now by clicking on this link: or by calling 416-946-7800 or Toll Free at 1-888-204-8976. Or call in Saturday, October 22nd between 1:00pm - 2:oo pm to donate during the live broadcast on 89.5 FM or at Be sure to mention The More the Merrier as the show you wish to support!

Thank you and good luck!

Donate to The More the Merrier on Saturday, October 22nd bewteen 1:00 - 2:00 and you will have a chance to win a Family or Dual Membership . Courtesy of TIFF Bell Lightbox. Prize valued at $150

Other prizes include:

A VIP Pass courtesy of the Ontario Science Centre. Includes entrance to the Ontario Science Centre and Leonardo Da Vinci's Workshop: The Exhibition.

A pair of tickets to Chagall and the Russian Avant-Garde at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Courtesy of an anymous donor.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

It's Baaaack! Toronto After Dark Film Festival Returns to October!

October is so much better for Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TADFF) than August. While I loved going to a film festival in August, being scared chilly in the Bloor Cinema and coming out to a hot day, I think October is a better fit for the this festival of horror drama, comedies and other genre films.

With its brilliant colour, its red maples, so similar to blood; its blustery winds, so chilling down the spine, and Hollowe'en, October is the perfect month for the Toronto Zombie Walk, and for TADFF fans to snuggle down in the festival's new venue, the Toronto Underground Cinema--a perfect match, in my opinion.

I'm looking forward to WAR OF THE DEAD. How about you? Haven't decided? Check out all the movie trailers:

See you after dark!

Film Schedule/Tickets:

Poster and trailer courtesy of Toronto After Dark FilmFestival

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Canadian Festival of Spoken Word-Oct. 11 -15th

David Silverberg is the host of the monthly Toronto Poetry Slam held at the Drake Hotel. He is also this year's host of the The Canadian Festival of Spoken Word.

donna g: What styles of poetry/spoken word are represented in the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word?

David Silverberg: Every style of spoken word from dub poetry to prose poems to hiphop poetry. It's such a diverse festival and really shows Torontonians the breadth of spoken word in the country.

donna g: The CFSW launched last night at the Drake Hotel Underground. How was the turn out?

David Silverberg: It was a wonderful turnout! Around 180 packed into the Drake Hotel Underground and the audience was loving practically every delicious poem coming from the poets' mouths.

donna g: Last night you also had a Legends Showcase. Who were some of the talents that took to the stage, and how long did each person have to perform?

David Silverberg: Each of the poets had 15 minutes to display their talent. The Legends Showcase included Andrea Thompson, Eddy da original one, Lillian Allen, Sheri-D Wilson and RC Weslowski.

donna g: How many teams participated in the preliminary bouts last night, and where were they from?

David Silverberg: Last night 8 teams bouted, in two bouts altogether. They were:

First Bout-7:00 PM
A)1 Peterborough
B)2 Sherbrooke
C)3 Montrea – Slam Habs
D)4 London

Second Bout-9:00 PM
A)17 Edmonton
B)18 Kingston
C)19 Toronto – Up From The Roots
D)20 Saskatoon

donna g: How many judges are involved in the competition?

David Silverberg: Five judges are selected randomly from the audience.

donna g: How are the participants scored? I know there are rules to be followed, but are the teams rated on a score out of 10?

David Silverberg: Yes, scores are out of 10 and judges are told to rate each poem based on both performance and content.

donna g: When are the next bouts, and how many teams go on to the next round?

David Silverberg: The prelim bouts continue Wednesday and Thursday night. The top 8 teams from those bouts move on to Semi-Finals on Friday night at Royal Cinema.

donna g: When and where is the final slam event?

David Silverberg: The Finals is on Saturday, October, 15 at Metro United Church at 56 Queen St. E. $25 at the door, 8pm.

donna g: Who are some of the talented people taking the stage for Poets of Honor Showcaseon Saturday night?

David Silverberg: There is the awesome Robert Priest, known as Dr Poetry. And d'bi.young, one of the best dub poets in the world, in my opinion. A not-to-be-missed show!

donna g: Besides the slams, I understand that there are opportunities for poets/spoken word artists to develop their craft. What are some of the workshops being offered?

David Silverberg: There are workshops on crafting group pieces, led by Ottawa's The Recipe. A workshop on writing humour poems is led by David Clink and a Performance 101 event will feature Andrea Thompson and RC Weslowski offering advice to poets on how to hone their performance chops.TM

Canadian Festival of Spoken Word
October 11th-15th (Various Locations)

Keep track of team scores and get a schedule of CFSW day and evening events at For inquiries:

Toronto Poetry Slam

Photo of David Silverberg courtesy of Toronto Poetry Slam

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

TIFF 11: My Top Ten Faves!

Still dealing with a cold, but thankfully it's winding down. I finally feel well enough to post my Top Ten TIFF Faves as well as the list of what I saw this year at the 36th annual Toronto International Film Festival. How was your TIFF?

MY TOP TEN (alpha order)
THE TURIN HORSE-Hungary (Béla Tarr) (My #1 Absolute Favourite!)
See Review

Coriolanus-UK (Ralph Fiennes) i am a good person/i am a bad person-Canada (Ingrid Veninger)

TIE: This may seem a strange coupling since Ralph Fiennes is an internationally known actor/director, and Ingrid Veninger is Canadian filmmaker who may be known only by those who love Canadian film and make a point of watching them. Despite the range of budget and styles the sense of the personal permeates every frame of these films. Despite the fact that Coriolanus looms large with weighty performances from Fiennes, Vanessa Redgrave, Gerard Butler, and Brian Cox, i am a good person equally invades the soul with performances by Veninger and her real life daughter Hallie Switzer. I enjoyed watching these two filmmakers bring their very personal visions to the screen.

Cut-Japan (Amir Naderi) Death of a Superhero-UK (Ian FitzGibbon)
Sometimes, because of my schedule of interviews and meetings, I go into films blindly, not knowing what they are about. While Cut and Death of a Superhero are not tied, they made my Top Ten list because both were wonderful revelations. Cut and its treatment of the death of cinema (the protagonist laments the fact that cinema which used to be both art and entertainment has been reduced to entertainment only) brought me into an elegiac world of film and Death of a Superhero, although dealing with a terminally ill teen delighted me with the solid acting delivered by its small cast and with its life-affirming (never indulgent) message.

Fable of the Fish-Phillipines (Adolfo Borinaga Alix Jr.)/ Where Do We Go Now?* (Nadine Labaki) *Winner: Cadillac People's Choice Award
TIE: Another tie here for these two fables about very serious topics told with boughts of humour that you have to buy into or the film will not work for you. In the case of Fable of the Fish, a tale about a woman who gives birth to a fish, it's all in the face of actress, Cherry Pie Picache. She has a face that will break your heart. One tear from her and you want to yell at the screen for someone to comfort and support her. In Where Do We Go Now? Muslim and Christian women try various subversive tactics in order to maintain peace among the men by shutting out news of political and religious conflict that surround their isolated village. The tricks the women devise are simply a device for us to consider the debilitating impact of war and what we can do to maintain peace. Both films made my list because they are simple stories about maternal love and community that twenty years from now will still engage audiences.

The Good Son-Finland (Zaida Bergroth) See Review The Last Dogs of Winter-Canada (Costa Botes) See Review
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia-Turkey (Nuri Bilge Ceylan) A Simple Life-Hong Kong (Ann Hui)
For my thoughts on Once Upon a Time in Anatolia click here. As for A Simple Life, Andy Lau was my draw to this film, and I was certainly not disappointed by his performance in this film. Lau stars as Roger, a film director whose aging amah (nanny) has taken ill. In between travelling to film sites, and doing film deals, Roger shows his connection and love for his amah by arranging her care in a nursing home and keeping her involved in his life. I appreciated the way in which director Hui, shows both the class differences and years of family connection between Roger and Ah Tao (Denise Ip) through dialogue and phone calls and visits from Roger's family and friends. The love shines through in this film and it is no wonder that actress Denis Ip won the Best Actress Award at this years' Venice Film Festival for her role as Ah Tao. A gentle and satisfying film with wonderful chemistry between Lau and Ip.

Superclásico-Denmark (Ole Christian Madsen) Click here for review.

WHAT I SAW (*indicates that I have reviewed the film)
Avalon* Winner: The Prize of the International Critics (FIPRESCI Prize) for the Discovery programme
Caprichosos de San Telmo
The Cat Vanishes
Death of a Superhero*
Doppelganger Paul*
The Education of Auma Obama*
Fable of the Fish
The Flying Machine*
A Funny Man
Generation P
The Good Son*
Le Harve*
I am a good person/I am a bad person*
The Island President*
Juan of the Dead*
The Last Dogs of Winter*
Life Without Principle
The Loneliest Planet*
Miss Bala*
My Worst Nightmare
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia*
Page Eight
Paul Williams Still Alive
The Silver Cliff
A Simple Life
Sons of Norway
Summer Game
Think of Me*
The Turin Horse*
Where Do We Go Now?

Photos Coutesy of:

Monday, 26 September 2011


So TIFF 11 has come to an end, and, of course, I have to invite my film friends to join me on The More the Merrier for a discussion of this year's festival. My in studio guests for the hour were Kirk Cooper (Film Market Access), blogger Heidy M (hyemusings, alternavox) and cinefile, Moen Mohamed. Before our discussion got started, Ngardy Conteh joined me via telephone to talk about winning TIFF's Pitch This! competition. Conteh and her co-director, Allan Tong's film, Leone Stars is the first documentary to win the prize in TIFF's Pitch This! eleven year history. Visit find out more about this inspiring work in progress.

Heidy M's Top 5 TIFF FAVES
2.Las Acacias
3.Sleepless Night
5.The Raid

To read why these are Heidy's faves click here.

I always look forward to seeing Moen Mohamed's list of films. This is vacation time for Moen, who chooses his selections based on his attendance at other film festivals, and what he has read about certain films/directors etc. Other film selections come from the Visions, Masters, and Contemporary World Cinema (Moen loves listening to other languages) programmes . TIFF's motto "for the love of film" describes perfectly, Moen's kid in a candy store enjoyment of TIFF.

I was very pleased to see that Moen's favourite film was also my selection. If you heard the broadcast then you will remember our expression mutual passion for director, Béla Tarr (left).













During the broadcast Kirk Cooper talked about the industry side of TIFF, and about the success his Internship and Networking candidates in his Toronto Program (he also has a Cannes Program). (You might remember that Victoria Clowater joined Kirk on TmTm to talk about her expectations about the Toronto Program.) As a busy industry insider Kirk didn't have much time to see films at TIFF 11 (too busy talking film and Cannes 2012), but he did share his picks pre-TIFF a while back. What do you know, several of Kirk's picks made all three of our lists! Click here for Kirk's list.

Photo Credits:
Béla Tarr (The Turin Horse)
Dreileben – Don’t Follow Me Around
Good Bye
House of Tollerance

Friday, 16 September 2011

TIFF 11: The Good Son and The Education of Auma Obama

For the last week-end of TIFF many films have gone RUSH, but if you have the patience to stand in line for a ticket check out these films:

In this nuanced Finnish film, Leila, a lead actress and divorced mother of two (Elina Knihtilä), takes off for the country to lie low after bad mouthing her latest film release. There she is joined by a few of her friends and begins a romance with one of their acquaintances. Her eldest son, Ilmari, played with maturity and depth by actor Samuli Niittymäki, is used to being the man of the house, taking care of his self-focused mother and his younger brother. When it appears that Ilmari's position will be usurped by the newcomer in his mother's life, Ilmari takes protecting his mother to the extreme. Leila's behaviour and abusive relationships in the past has marked both her sons: the elder son is a keg of resentment and protectiveness and the younger is constantly left on his own, where he finds solace and comfort in nature (rarely is he seen in the house). The mother-son interplay between actors Elina Knihtilä and Samuli Niittymäki is never over directed by Zaida Bergroth . As for the younger son (Eetu Julin)I particularly appreciated the way in which Bergroth captures his isolation through naturally lit scenes accompanied by the perfect auditory sounds.

Saturday September 17, Scotiabank Theatre 11, 4:15pm

If you go see this film because Auma Obama is President Barack Obama's half-sister, then I am sure Auma would not have a problem with your reasoning, especially since she played such an important part in his life. Once in your seat, though, you will realize that there is much more to this woman than being the Barack's sister. Auma is woman who seems compelled to help others, whether she is in Kenya helping to educate and inspire young people to create opportunities for themselves where they live, or in Germany, where, as a student and later a journalist, she opened the eyes and minds of many to rethinking the needs of Africa, and the value of "aid".

Auma, like her brother, is linked to their common ancestral past by values of education and community involvement. The documenting of Auma's life is intercut with scenes of Auma, other relatives, and the neighbourhood getting ready on Election night 2008. Director, Branwen Okpako met Auma at film school in Germany, so there is an ease with how she communicates with Auma and she definitely has the advantage in that she is able to access information about the family--a key point since many African cultures keep family issues extremely private. The Education of Auma Obama is a wonderful revelation to me, and I hope it is for you too.

Sunday September 18, AMC 7, 10:15am

Toronto International Film Festival
Sept. 8-18, 2011
416-599-8433 or 1-800-599-8433

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...