Friday, 29 April 2011

Hot Doc Reviews: Beats, Love and Oil

Beats, Rhymes & Life, The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest
Sat, Apr 30 6:30 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

This film has one screening only and it has already gone RUSH, and while it's always worth a try to get into a rush screening, no need to fear if you don't as this film will have its theatrical release shortly. I'll do my full review then.

Love Arranged
Sat, Apr 30 6:44 PM, Cumberland 3
Mon, May 2 1:30 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Divya and Neha are modern Indian women who, with 30 closing in on them, have decided to add the arranged marriage route as another option to finding a husband. (Being 30 in India means that only divorced and widowed men will be available to them.) Party girl, Divya, is educated, fun, and loves her job as a wedding planner, but she can hardly hook up with someone at any of the weddings she is planning, and her outspoken, live-life-to-the-fullest attitude is attractive to men her age, but not to their families. The curvy, pet-loving Neha lives in an India where more and more men want a skinny, Bollywood-type woman (think Aishwarya Rai). The ball is in the man's court, with his family's wishes superceding any thoughts of a love-match. Divya and Neha are caught in a world where today's urban Indian woman is caught between the colliding forces of a culture that is allowing women to express themselves more fully, but which still demands that they behave in a traditional way in order to navigate the ancient rituals of marriage. The filmmaking is rudimentary, but the openness of these two women in exposing their vulnerabilities, is what makes this film worth watching. Kudos to them for allowing the cameras to follow their attempts to find love.

Wiebo's War
Sat, Apr 30 7:00 PM, Isabel Bader Theatre
Tue, May 3 7:15 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox 4
Sat, May 7 7:00 PM, The Regent

Is Wiebo Ludwig an eco-terrorist, or a Christian man trying to defend his family and his property? What would you do if you finally decided to get away from society and raise your children in a beautiful stretch of Alberta farmland only to find out that after years of working on your property and having your family flourish that you only own the top 6 inches of your land, and that the Canadian government can buy and sell the subsurface mineral rights of that land without notifying you? Does miscarriages in your family and livestock give you the right to sabotage a business that legally bought the mineral rights from the Canadian government? A fascinating subject with the added intrigue of the RCMP, Christian values, and the mysterious absence of the media. Note: I will be interviewing director, David York on The More the Merrier Radio, Saturday, April 30, 1:00pm on CIUT 89.5 FM. You can listen live at

For all Hot Docs info please visit:
For tickets: 416-637-5150

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Hot Docs Reviews: Rhythm Nation

Boy Cheerleaders
Fri, Apr 29
9:00 PM, Cumberland 2
Sun, May 1 4:30 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3
Sun, May 8 6:45 PM, Isabel Bader Theatre

I didn't expect this film to be one of my favourites among those films I had screened for Hot Docs. I prejudged this little film, thinking it would be a cute, feel-good piece about a brave little troop of cheerleading boys trying to make it in a girls' world. Well, Boy Cheerleaders is that, but it's also about boys trying to make sense of fathers leaving, and mother's who have made their own mistakes in life and are trying to do better for their boys while living in a cash-poor part of Leeds, England. Little Harvey (pictured left) is the "Billy Elliot" of the film, and I can't tell you how hard it was for me to watch him holding his blue ice cream cone and dreaming that like the Dad in Billy Elliot, his estranged father will some day see him dance and be proud of him. As adults we know this will never happen for Harvey, and we wish we could save him that hurt, but this is a documentary, not fiction feature, and divorce is a harsh fact of life. Thankfully, these boys have an inspiring coach (also raised by a singe mom) whose tough love and dedication uses cheerleading as a conduit for teaching the boys some life lessons and happiness.

A Simple Rhythm
Fri, Apr 29
7:00 PM, The Royal Cinema
Sat, May 7 6:30 PM, Cumberland 3
Sun, May 8 3:45 PM, The ROM Theatre

It's evident in the beautifully composed images in A Simple Rhythm, that director, Tess Girard is a visual artist. Her cinematography is such that I could easily have watched this film without sound, which is ironic since the movie deals with sounds and the rhythms of life that connect us to each other and to nature. This thoughtful and philosophical film would have benefited more if Girard hadn't also done the narration. I don't find her voice a good match for the film. Maybe there is a scientific explanation for my reaction as there is for other themes examined in this film. Perhaps one of the mathematicians, composers, consciousness thinkers and other interview subjects can give me the answer as to why my rhythms don't synchronize with Girard's voice as well as they do to the rhythm and beauty of her images, and the exquisite score by Juno Award winning musician Charles Spearin and Ohad Benchetrit. Your comments on this film would be gratefully appreciated as this film is one that warrants post-screening discussions.

For complete Hot Docs (April 28 - May 8, 2011)info please visit:
Box Office:
416-637-5150 (Check out the Box Office FAQ before you call. Wasting time could mean that the prepared person on the next line may snap up your ticket!)

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Did You Say Hot Dogs? LOL! No, "Hot Docs" :-)

I love introducing Hot Docs to people. Festival goers are well-familiar with the event, but to many outside the festival world, it may seem like I am saying "hot dogs" instead of "hot docs". I always smile, because I understand how the aural confusion can happen, and because I get to rave about the Canadian International Documentary Festival. Hot Docs is a great place to get your feel wet in the festival circuit because the tickets are relatively affordable and there really is something for everyone. Here are my thought on some of the films I have had a chance to screen:

Mighty Jerome
Fri, Apr 29 9:30 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3
Sat, Apr 30 11:00 AM, Isabel Bader Theatre
Sun, May 8 4:30 PM, The Revue

I had heard of the Canadian World Champion and Olympic sprinter, but I didn't really know much about him besides his medals and the fact that there is an award named after him. I even knew that Fil Fraser had written a book about him, but I didn't dig any deeper. Maybe because I knew that Charles Officer was working on a film and I knew that he was a trusted and talented director. Well, thank you Charles for bringing Harry Jerome's life to the screen. The use of black and white was a wise that prevents the usual jarring movement from archival photos and footage to modern reality. Mighty Jerome is an interesting portrait of an athlete, and a man whose athletic abilities did not make him immune to other issues that many people face: marriage, children, underemployment and health issues. Through Jerome we also see the history of Canada in terms of its treatment of Blacks, interracial marriage, the lack of financial support for Canadian athletes, Canadian pride and the power of the media (positive and negative). Like my other Charles Officer film favourite, Nurse.Fighter.Boy., Mighty Jerome has a wonderful soundtrack (score by Schaun Tozer) that complements the reflections of many of Jerome's friends and family.

Photo: Harry Jerome and his athletic hero, Percy Williams (photo credit: Bill Cunningham) Harry beat one of Percy's longstanding records.

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975
Fri, Apr 29 6:30 PM, Bloor Cinema
Mon, May 2 1:00 PM, Cumberland 2
Sat, May 7 9:00 PM, Bloor Cinema

Director, Göran Hugo Olsson, did a fantastic job of compiling documentary footage of the Black Power movement done by Swedish journalists. I had seen documentaries before of the movement, but never footage of Stokely Carmichael taking over the microphone and interviewing his own mother about the hardships the family faced when they moved from Trinidad to the United States. Archivial footage of the reporters, the black power players (Seale, Cleaver, Newton etc) and commentary by such present day figures such as Angela Davis, Talib Kweli, John Forté, and Erykah Badu contextualize the state of a movement that started out as Black and White and then segued into the oppressed vs. the oppressors and the tactics used by the American government to keep the oppressed in their stations. Besides the obvious draw of the documentary's subjects, the fact that the footage was captured by Swedish journalists is another fascinating attraction of the film. I had no idea that the the TV Guide once listed Swedish (and Netherlands) television as "anti-American!"

Photo: Professor/Activist, Angela Davis (in jail) speaks to a Swedish reporter about growing up with White on Black violence and challenges him on what he thinks revolution really means.

More info:

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Love Your Radio! Win a Trip to London, England!

Please share your love of radio and the arts by making a donation to in support of The More the Merrier (TmTm) during CIUT 89.5 FM's Spring Fundraising Campaign (April 11-17). Donate now via credit card or PayPal at or call 416-946-7800, toll free 1-888-946-7800. If you choose the PayPal method, the station will send you an email asking you what show you want to support. Please tell them The More the Merrier. Thank you for continuing the legacy of listener-supported radio!

My love of the arts inspired me to create a show where no one would feel intimidated or left out listening to discussions about various aspects of the arts; hence the name, The More the Merrier. TmTm has a heavy film slant because you, the listener, told me that you loved hearing me talk about film (and the many film festivals Toronto hosts) with my guests. As a past drama student, I have to include theatre coverage on TmTm. I like to mix it up with performances on the small stages as well as the more commercial stages. I even throw in some additional flavour with Théâtre français de Toronto plays (they have English surtitles for some of their performances). Book and music lovers are not forgotten either in my programme planning. Author readings, discussions about why to keep reading poetry post-high school, and call in shows about what you are reading are all scheduled with you in mind. The music I play is heavy on the Canadian side, but CanCon doesn't mean a lack of diversity. From urban flautist, Jef Kearns to a variety of African and Latin artists, and yes, even the classics as performed by Lutenist, John Edwards and Soprano, Hallie Fishel of Musicians In Ordinary, are all part of The More the Merrier's mix.

How to Donate: Online (secure site): By Phone: 416-946-7800, toll free 1-888-946-7800 In Person: 7 Hart House Circle, 3rd floor (U of T Campus) Directions: Donations of $25 or more will get a tax receipt and a chance to win a trip for 2 to London, England.

Listen to the LIVE fundraising show on Saturday, April 16th, 1-2pm. Special guests, giveaways and music. I'll be waiting to hear from you!

Monday, 11 April 2011

Keep Toronto Reading Festival: Readers Respond

On Saturday, I hosted a call in show where listeners shared their favourite book titles and what they were reading. The show was inspired by the Toronto Public Library's Keep Toronto Reading Festival (April 1-30). I'm reading Olivia Goes to Venice, one is a series of books by Ian Falconer. Here is what they had to say:

Kirk likes: She's Come Undone and is reading I Know This Much is True both by Wally Lamb (photo courtesy of TPL)

Gord is reading: Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray and likes the mysteries by Jo Nesbo (The Redbreast, Nemesis) and Tales of the City books by Armistead Maupin (photo courtesy of TPL)

Renée is reading: The Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa (photo from TPL)

Cristian's favourite is: The Elephant Man by Tim Vicary (photo from TPL) By calling in, Cristian won a pair of tickets to see Afrobeat legend, Tony Allen at the Phoenix Concert Theatre.

Marek is reading: American Project: The Rise of and Fall of an American Ghetto by Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh (photo from TPL)

Annie likes alternative comics like Lose #3 by Michael De Forge, the anthology, Root Rot, the kid's comic, Monster Party and the depressed cat comic, Cat Rackham Loses It by Steve Wolfhard (photo courtesy of Keep Toronto Reading Info:

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Call-In Show, Sat. April 9th. What Are You Reading?

The Toronto Public Library's Keep Toronto Reading Festival is a month-long celebration. Since I LOVE the TPL and reading, I am hosting a special Call-In show on Saturday, April 9th, 1-2pm on CIUT 89.5 FM. The question of the hour is: What are you reading? If you would like to be sure your voice is heard, send me an email at If you want to just chance it, call 416-946-7000 starting at 1pm. YOU could win a pair of tickets to see Tony Allen, featuring Amp Fiddler at the Phoenix Concert Theatre on Friday, April 15th! Part of the Small World Music. Good luck! Can't wait to hear from you!

Keep Toronto Reading


Friday, 1 April 2011

Cinéfranco: The Final Week-end

Clémentine (Aïsaa Maïga) and Sébastien (Jocelyn Quivrin) are busy! The have two school-aged children, she is stressed out about her stagnant journalism career, and he is even more stressed out from studying for tests to advance in his career in post-Recession France. Nice son that he is, and even nicer wife that she is, Sébastien and Clémentine welcome his mother, Marie-France (Nathalie Baye) into their small apartment, after the whole family discovers (in a memorable scene) that his father, Henri (Pierre Arditi), has a pregnant mistress. Throw a ravenous puppy into the mix and this couple's relationship is tossed into a cauldron of domestic chaos! Sébastian's sister (who has secrets of her own) tries to lend emotional support via web chat, but she doesn't have to deal directly with a mother who has reverted to her adolescent, hippy period and a father who has discovered the marvels of being a father for the second time in the 21st century.

Quivrin and Maïga are a believble on screen couple with wonderful chemistry. I really like the fact that the film chose not to make an issue of the interracial relationship and focused instead on the topsy-turvy domestic situation. Nathalie Baye (can she do any wrong?) is a sexy, funny actress who brings some charm to Marie-France's tearful, slightly selfish and melodramatic personality. A Bhudist mistress, two adorable daughters who are learning new words from grandmère ("Papa, c'est quoi une ménage à trois?"), and a gay couple who debate the benefits of pharmaceutical vs natural herbal remedies, and this French farce is a delightful treat that should be seen with a big bag of popcorn and a glass of wine. Alas, you can get the popcorn at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, but you'll have to wait until after the film to have that glass of wine. Screens, Friday, April 1, 8:45pm

Donnant Donnant (Fair is Fair) is subversive little comedy about Constant, (Daniel Auteuil) a prisoner who escapes from hospital after suffering a stroke. On the run, he meets up with the forceful Silvia (Medeea Marinescu) when he seeks shelter on her houseboat. Seizing the opportunity, Silvia blackmails Constant: she will keep his secret if he kills her foster mother, Jeanne (Sabine Azema). Silvia dreams of going off to Paris to study piano, but her mother has lost touch with reality, and also holds the purse strings. Daniel Auteuil has facility with comedy that allows his to be a bumbling criminal (he is only in jail because he accidentally shot someone) a funny stroke victim struggling with diction (he reads children's books), and a romantic leading man. I have to give a shout out to the company that did the English subtitles. They did an excellent job of translating Constant's mixed up French into equally illegible English subtitles. The three talented actors makes this dark, fluffy comedy a pleasant treat. Screens Saturday, April 2, 4:30 pm.

Film can have an impact far beyond the screen. In Daoud Aoulad-Syad's La Mosquée, farmer, Moha has his life and livelihood disrupted when a a movie-set mosque is built on his land. Unable to farm, Moha now works for other people to earn a living, while trying to get the mosque torn down. The village has claimed the mosque as its spiritual and communal centre, and tourists have come to the village to have their picture taken on the "set".

Director, Daoud Aoulad-Syad, whose own film "Waiting for Pasolini" featured the mosque as well as locals as actors in the film, turns the camera back on the community in La Mosquée to depict the impact of film on everyday life, and also the confusion that can arise out of good intentions and religious interpretations. The story is simple, and the moral issues play out in everyday conversations that lend a reality to this thought-provoking tale. Moha becomes so obsessed with tearing down the mosque that he doesn't even know how to talk to his wife about anything else. She wants her son circumcised, but cannot get him to talk about the subject or anything else in the village. The "Imam" of the mosque/set becomes so enamoured of his role that he has cast himself in a role of importance while the real Imam has been ostracized. Does Moha have a right to reclaim his property even though the community is benefitting from its presence? The question is yours to answer in this beautiful film, where palms rise into the bright blue sky and the brown of the earth awaits your footsteps. Screens Sunday, April 3rd, 12:30pm

Cinéfranco Tickets: Adults $12. Students and Seniors $10. Up to 18 (in person only, with ID) $8 In Person: TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King Street West (10am-10pm) Phone: 416-599-8433; 1-888-599-8433 (10am-7pm) On Line: Surcharge on online and phone purchases. Visit website for complete details

1.         Photo courtesy of A BUMP ALONG THE WAY (DISCOVERY) Synopsi s: With her charismatic smile and formida...