Friday, 20 May 2011

Inside Out: Are You a Loose Cannon?

Inside Out LGBT Film and Video Festival kicked off last night with Loose Cannons (Mine Vaganti) a wonderfully comic family drama by Ferzan Ozpetek (Ignorant Fairies; Saturn in Opposition). The film centres around Tommaso, the second son of a prominent pasta-making family in Puglia. Intent on announcing his homosexuality at family business dinner, Tommaso is forced to remain closeted when, at the same dinner, his brother is disowned and his father has a heart attack. Past and present are linked in the characters of Tommasso and his grandmother, La Nonna (played by the extraordinary Ilaria Occhini). Most of the story is set in the present, but through dialogue and short flashback sequences of La Nonna as a bride we come to understand the nature of love and the need to live one's life on one's own terms. For those of you who missed the Toronto premiere of this delightful and incisive film, Mongrel Media will be releasing it theatrically in a few months. Watch for it!

World's Best Docs,
TIFF Bell Lightbox
Saturday May 21 2:45pm

As often happens with short film programmes, there are some you like and some...not so much. In the case of this programme selection, there was only one weak entry among the interesting and diverse pool of documentaries. The title of George and Brad in Bed pretty much sums up the plot, but what makes for interesting viewing is listening to Star Trek's George Takei and his husband Brad Altman talk about how they met, and how they began certain morning rituals. Their bickering-bantering couples' speak is relatable and humourous to partners and singles watching the film.

The engaging Swedish film, A Farmer's Desire (En bondes längtan) about a farmer transitioning from male to female late in life is a curious blend of humour and revelation. Knut's matter of fact delivery and his rawboned presence in a dress defines his own brand of femininity. Knut's rough farmer's hands with nails painted pink, his bumbling inability to locate some panties that he had put out to wear, and his delight in his immeging zaftig figure are scenes that bring us into a world that is seldom explored, that of the rural trans person.

The British, Decoding Alan Turing, is an insightful introduction to the world of mathematics and the influential genius. Alan Turing is credited with speculating and developing theories that have lead to the modern day computer, but he is best known to many of us as the man who cracked the Nazi's infamous, Enigma Code. This fascinating portrait of Turing is drawn from interviews with his co-workers, artists, computer buffs and writers. A gay mathematical prodigy persecuted for his homosexuality as well as his connection to highly secret government documents, Turing will continue to be a subject who's life, work, and evenutal suicide will, as one person states, remain an enigma. After watching this film you will see the Apple computer in a completely different light. No need to be a math wiz to enjoy and appreciate.

The High Level Bridge is a contemplative, symbolic and literal look at the bridge in Saskatchewan where so many lives have been lost to suicide. Views of the bridge and the cold waters below are photographed in an innocuous, but ominous gray tone that blends well with the director's narration about the history of the structure as well as the death of people he has known who have jumped from the bridge.

William Yang - The Art of Seduction I didnt' get a chance to screen this short, but am curious to learn more about the life of this Austalian-Chinese photographer of male nudes.

INSIDE OUT Toronto LGBT Film and Video Festival (May 19th - 29th)
Tickets can be purchased:
On the phone 416-599-8433 or 1-888-599-8433
In-person (10am – 10 pm) TIFF Bell Lightbox (TBLB) 350 King Street West.
Senior, Student and Youth Discounts Available.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Pata Pata

So many of you have been asking me what I saw at Hot Docs 2011, and what was my favourite film. Well, I saw 32 films: 29 feature documentaries and 3 shorts. This year's festival had a bumper crop of good to extraordinary films, so choosing my favourite wasn't easy. I should let you know that my criteria for "favourite" is highly personal. What I select may not be the best documentary made. My favourites are films that resonate with me, that had an impact at the time of the screening and that stayed with me long after the festival was over. Well, I've made my Top Ten List (in green) and want you to leave comments with your own favourites, so please share your thoughts. My number one favourite film is Mama Africa, the documentary about the life and career of singer, political/human rights activist Miriam Makeba (pictured left) directed by one of my favourite directors, Mika Kaurismäki.

1. A Simple Rhythm
2. Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest
3. Becoming Chaz
4. Becoming Santa5. Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey
6. Bobby Fischer against the World
7. Boy Cheerleaders8. Buck9. Carol Channing: Larger Than Life
10. Fightville
11. In Heaven, Underground. The Jewish Cemetery in Berlin-Weissensee
12. Koundi and the National Thursday
13. Limelight
14. Lovable
15. Love Arranged
16. Mama Africa17. Matchmaking Mayor
18. Mighty Jerome
19. People I Could Have Been and Maybe Am
20. POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
21. Senna22. Shibuya – Tokyo (short)
23. Somewhere Between Winner Sundance Channel People's Choice Award(see my interview with director Linda Goldstein Knowlton)
24. St-Henri, The 26th of August25. Superheroes
26. The Black Power Mixtape 1967-197527. The Chocolate Farmer
28. The Lumberfros29. The Power of Love (Celine Dion Fans in Kenya) (short)
30. Two’s a Crowd (short)
31. We Were Here32. Wiebo’s War

Photo credit: courtesy of

Friday, 6 May 2011

Hot Docs: What's On for Saturday

Here are my thoughts are some of the films that I have seen that play again this week-end. For complete details visit or call 416-637-5150 The festival runs until Sunday, May 8th.

Screening Saturday, May 7th (various venues)

The Chocolate Farmer-Indigenous land rights, fascinating images of the Belize landscape and chocolate farming, and a family story about a man who wants to pass his knowledge on to the next generation, who don't seem to value what his love of the land that is linked to their culture and history.

Limelight: Peter Gatien owned four of the top nightclubs in the US, including the Limelight, a historic converted church that saw thousands of people dancing and interacting each night. The influx of Ecstasy broke down class barriers and drove the techno and hop hop music scenes. Peter ran his clubs like a business, not a partier. He employed hundreds of people and gave many musicians their starts (Madonna, Jay-Z, P-Diddy etc), but New York Mayor Guilianni goal was to lower crime in New York and make a name for himself. Caught up in the furor of Giulini's mission, Gatien was accused of using his clubs as a gateway to sell drugs. "Get Gatien" was the mantra of law establishments, and the case against him cost the city and Gatien a lot of time and money. An interesting time and an interesting subject matter, but the non-stop music in the film was too relentless for me as the director tried to do a retro vibe to his documentary. Wish he had chosen music that fit each scene rather than used a monotonous melange of music that had no impact except to irritate the eardrums.

Matchmaking Mayor: I thoroughly enjoyed the short film, Two's A Crowd that screened before this feature documentary. The short followed two New Yorkers in their prime, who are married but have lived separately for the four years that they have been married. Economics has driven them to live together, creating a tension as each share their trepidation about moving in together. Will living together destroy the happiness and companionship they have established for four solid years? Hilarious look at non-traditional, monogamous love. I would buy this film because the subjects are so wonderfully funny individuals. As for Matchmaking Mayor, I enjoyed the scenes with the Mayor doing his planning to get single people in his village together so that they can procreate and contribute to the Earth's population and keep their village alive. However, when the doc strays away from him making his announcements to the village over the PA system, or strategizing over the street maps showing singles, the film suffers. There are too many wasted scenes with some of the singles. Had these been tightened up, the film would have been better. Still, worth seeing because of the Mayor's misguided but well-intentioned ambition.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Hot Docs: What's Your Favourite Film?

Have been having a sweet time at Hot Docs this year with most of my films rating 3 and above out of a possible 5. Which reminds me, when you go to Hot Docs, keep you ticket stub because that's how you vote for Audience Favourite. The back of your ticket is a ballot with a range of 1-5 (five being the highest rating). Just rip through the rating you want to give the film and when you come out of the theatre drop it in the box that the volunteers are holding. Do take the time to vote if you want your film to win. Each vote does count and benefits the director. Audience Favourite means a lot to them and their careers! So, what's your favourite film so far. Click the "comment" tab and follow the prompts. Happy Hot Doc-ing!

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival
Runs until May 8th

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Hot Docs: An Interview With Linda Goldstein Knowlton (Somewhere Between)

Somewhere Between
Linda Goldstein Knowlton
Screenings: May 1 and May 3 screenings
Tickets/Info: or 416-637-5150

donna g: Unlike other adoption films that I have seen, this one is different in the fact that these girls were given away, placed, abandoned (however you want to label it) because of gender. In watching the film, I was impacted strongly by this particular and painful detail. The four girls in Somewhere Between deal with this issue in very different ways. Did you choose the girls based on their varying response to this aspect of their adoption, or did you choose them based on their geographic locations, age? Could you please comment on how you chose Fang, Haley, Ann and Jenna?

Linda Goldstein Knowlton: While all of the girls adopted from China share a certain elemental experience, we all know that everyone is unique and develops their identity in individual ways. With this film, I wanted to be able to share a representation of the commonalities and the varieties of experience these girls may have, so I chose four girls who could do that. And because we're all shaped somewhat by our environments, it was important for me to chose girls from very different parts of the US; there are a lot of differences between Berkeley, CA and Newburyport, MA, for instance. I really wanted to make a film that shows that there's no one, 'right' way to experience adoption, and these girls (now young women!) helped me to do that in ways I never imagined.

As for the gender issue, that these girls now have the lives they have because they are girls....I thought about it constantly. But when I asked each of them about that, their answers surprised me. I come from a generation where being a girl created obstacles, and these girls see no limits to their opportunities based on their gender. However, each girl does understand how her past was impacted by the fact that she's a girl.

donna g: Fang seemed incredibly mature and confident. She even questions her age at the beginning of the film (15), believing that the orphanage chose a younger age than she was to make her more adoptable. Whatever her true age, I wonder if she was presenting well publicly while sublimating her doubts and vulnerabilities. Were there such moments with her during the shoot that didn’t make it into your final cut?

LGK: I have to say, I learned from Fang every day that I was with her...she's a truly insightful person. She, like everyone, has doubts and vulnerabilities, but I feel I presented her confidence accurately. And conversely, I didn't hide or shy away from using any footage of her. Of course, I also learned immensely from all the girls. They were all so incredibly open and honest. As I told them, their generosity is an immeasurable gift to so many people.

donna g: .I had never heard of Global Girls before your film. Could you please tell me more about it? Are you a member of the organization?

LGK:Global Girls, officially CAL G2*, is an organization formed by Jennifer Jue-Steuck. She was incredibly generous with her time and efforts, and introduced me to Jenna, Ann, and Haley. I filmed the girls as they took trips organized by Jennifer and CAL G2, but I have no formal association with the group.

donna g: There is a scene in the film where some of the girls are presented with information about international adoptions. It seemed such a harsh reality for the girls to face. They already know how difficult, if not impossible, it might be to find their birth parents, but to learn that they might have been placed for adoption without their birth parents’ consent seems an added burden to bear. How did you feel filming this scene? Did you experience any fears or doubts about your own daughter Ruby’s adoption? I mean, you are the mother of a Chinese baby.

LGK: Every family tells their children about their beginnings in China, the circumstances for their adoptions, in different ways. Especially at different times in the child's development - what I tell my daughter at 5 will be a different version than what we are able to discuss when she is 11. But the truth is, from the research I've done with adoption and child development specialists, all of these girls understand at a very young age that they were given up and for some very difficult reasons, mostly pertaining to China's One-Child Policy....which in turn promoted the boys being kept as the 'one child'.

Making this film was a very emotional experience for me. Every time I interviewed these girls, of course, I saw my daughter. It required a real effort to balance being a mother and being a filmmaker. Sometimes I succeed, and a few times it was impossible. I love these girls dearly. But as this film is about identity - and everyone can relate to that.

donna g: What was it like filming in China? Was it difficult to get work/filming permits? What did the Chinese people think of your subject matter? Did they consider it shameful that you were documenting such an emotional topic, a topic that some may feel is best kept secret?

LGK: We filmed in China twice, and both times were crazy, fun, and intense experiences. We didn't go around publicizing what the film was about, but when people asked we were very open that we were filming a girl, born in China and adopted by American parents who was coming back to learn about her roots and the country where she was born. We tried not to attract too much attention - although not always easy to do with a big camera and a boom pole. What we did find was that most of the people we spoke with did not know about Chinese children being adopted abroad.

donna g: If your film shows anything, it shows that there is more than one way to be American, and more than one way to make a family. What is the most significant thing that you learned while making this film?

LGK: The fact that this is true, is the whole reason I wanted to make the film. America is a melting pot. It's always been that way. In making the film, I learned that there's this balance between acknowledging differences and just living your life. It's not just about making families, it's being a family.

donna g: There are so many other questions that I would like to ask you, but I don’t want to give away any of the films secrets or surprises. Thank you so much for making this film and for doing this interview. tmtm
Images courtesy of Hot Docs and

ABOUT CAL*Info provided by LGK about CAL.

CAL ~ "Linking Generations Worldwide"

Chinese Adoptee Links (CAL) International was launched in the summer of 2006 with a penpal program that connected adopted kids in Ireland with adopted kids in the USA…Here's our story...
~*~CAL is the first global organization created by and for Chinese adoptees and friends around the world.

~*~As CAL grew, we realized that the social problems that led to our adoptions (wars, famine, the one-child policy, AIDS) continue to affect thousands around the globe. So we launched an umbrella organization for CAL called "Global Generations, Inc."

~*~CAL's Mission: to create a social network for the 120,000+ Chinese adoptees in 26 countries worldwide. CAL's Vision: to use our social network to give back to the greater community ("bridging") through Global Generations, Inc.

~*~CAL is completely run by volunteers on 4 continents. We have more than 500 members in 12 countries thanks to your help.

If you would like to start your own G2 "Global Generations" Teen Club Chapter, please email G2 Director Grace Cheung at

Want something posted on CAL FACEBOOK?
Contact Juleigh, CAL G2 Teen Ambassador & Director of CAL FACEBOOK, at

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