Friday, 18 May 2012

Inside Out Grows Up with My Brother the Devil

Ironically, Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival leaves its adolescent years behind by launching its 22nd year with a film in which the youthful tenets of masculinity are harshly tested. The engrossing and refreshing British drama, MY BROTHER THE DEVIL is set and shot on location in the Hackney, UK, home of director, Sally El Hosaini. The story centres around Rashid (James Floyd) an early school leaver and drug-running gang-member who wants better for his studious younger brother, Mo (Fady Elsayed). 

Fady Elsayed (Mo) and James Floyd (Rasid) in MY BROTHER THE DEVIL dir. Sally El Hosaini)
I thought I knew what to expect from My Brother the Devil, but was wonderfully surprised by its refreshing take on a familiar storyline. The script is well-realized on screen with fantastic cinematography, music, sound, and carefully placed scenes that underscore the pattern of tension and release needed in a rude boy picture. 

Actor, James Floyd, who doesn't have a bad side as far as the camera is concerned, is solidly cast in his role as Rashid--most would never know that the mix of East London and Caribbean patois was not his natural dialect. He is as believable amongst his gang "fam" (some of whom were local non-actors) as he is in relating to his birth family. With his ability to imbue Mo with the necessary vulnerability and awkward posturing of a fourteen year old, Fady Elsayed (in his first screen role) manages to capture the universality of the younger brother wanting to impress and emulate his older brother. Young actress, Letitia Wright, is a scene-stealer as Aisha, a new neighbour that Mo has a crush on. 

In establishing the dynamics between the brothers from the opening of the film, and introducing their family and friends at the same time, writer/director, El Hosaini immediately defines the roles and world in which Rashid and Mo inhabit. In an open secret between Rashid and his mother, he augments the family income by slipping money into her wallet and she turns a blind eye at the origin of the money; Mo is privy to that secret, and would like to do the same thing, but college or university is the familial goal for him; their father works as a bus driver, and doesn't approve of Rashid's unemployed status nor his friendships with the "Blacks" on the housing estate. Mirroring the confined world of the brothers is the tiny flat in which they live, sharing a room with bunk beds and little privacy. Truth is spoken outside the confines of the flat, but there is no softness there to cushion any blows; the estate playgrounds are occupied by rope gyms, paths barricaded by iron rails, and concrete mounds. Just who is the "devil" in this tense urban maze is left up to the viewer. 

Speaking via Skype, El Hosaini was pleased that the film was being shown on the International Day Against Homophobia because she wanted to bring that very subject to light: how do young men, living in a hyper-masculine environment, with transposed values from various Arab cultures, negotiate the issue of masculinity and homosexuality? She also wanted to move beyond stereotypes in an exploration of brotherly love. In playing Rashid, James Floyd said that he benefited in his preparation for the role by being accepted by the locals into a world he knew almost nothing about. He shared that learning the dialect was like learning a new language ("I had to ask what certain words meant"), one that he studied hard to capture in delivering El Hosaini's realistic dialogue.

El Hosaini plans to have a screening of the film in Hackney (only the cast and local crew have seen the Sundance Award-winning film) and other parts of inner city London.  She would also like My Brother the Devil to be seen in the Middle East, but has yet to be invited to any of those festivals.  

Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival
May 17-27th
By Phone:
10am to 7pm daily
416.599.TIFF (8433)
Toll free: 1.888.599.8433
In Person: 10am to 10pm daily
TIFF Bell Lightbox, Reitman Square,
350 King Street West (at John Street)

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Inside Out Film Festival Launches Tonight!

What are you seeing at Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival 2012?

MAY 17-27th
Film Info/Trailers:
Buy tickets: online or .
By Phone: 
10am to 7pm daily
416.599.TIFF (8433)
Toll free: 1.888.599.8433
In Person: 10am to 10pm daily
TIFF Bell Lightbox, Reitman Square,
350 King Street West (at John Street)

Monday, 14 May 2012

China Heavyweight Scores!

It's not easy for a Canadian film to make it past the first week-end screening at your local cinema, and for a documentary, the chances of getting bums in seats on that all important first week-end is rare (unless you're Michael Moore), but Oshwa's own, Yung Chang has scored with his latest project, CHINA HEAVYWEIGHT.

Recently screened at Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival, CHINA HEAVYWEIGHT tells to story of two Chinese youth who have been recruited to train for the Olympics. Under the guidance of Coach Qi Moxiang, a former "boxing king", the young men struggle to maintain the mental and physical conditioning it takes to be successful, ever mindful of the fact that if they fail, they will have to return to poverty and the backbreaking labour of the countryside.

Screening at The Varsity Cinema
55 Bloor Street West (inside the Manulife building)

Yung Chang talks about getting the right shots for China Heavyweight:

Sound designer Kyle Stanfield talks about creating the sound for the film:

Monday, 7 May 2012

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Hot Docs 2012...And the Award Goes To...

Courtesy of VKPR and Hot Docs:


Toronto, May 4, 2012 – Hot Docs is pleased to announce the winners of the Festival's 2012 awards. The Hot Docs Awards Presentation, hosted by Jian Ghomeshi (host, Q CBC Radio One), took place on Friday, May 4, at the Windsor Arms Hotel inToronto. Ten awards and $71,000 in cash prizes were presented to Canadian and international filmmakers, including awards for Festival films in competition and those recognizing emerging and established filmmakers. The Best Canadian Feature, Best International Feature, and the Inspirit Foundation Pluralism Prize winners will have encore screenings on Sunday, May 6.

The award for Best Canadian Feature was presented to THE WORLD BEFORE HER (D: Nisha Pahuja; P: Cornelia Principe, Nisha Pahuja, Ed Barreveld), a revealing looking at the clash between modernity and tradition faced by young women in IndiaSponsored by the Documentary Organization of Canada, the award includes a $10,000 prize courtesy of Hot Docs. Jury statement: “For its brave and provocative exploration of the role of women at its two extremes in contemporary Indian society, the jury recognizes the exceptional storytelling of THE WORLD BEFORE HER. THE WORLD BEFORE HER will screen on Saturday, May 5, at 9:30 p.m. at the TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West) and on Sunday, May 6, at 11:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. at the Isabel Bader Theatre (93 Charles Street West).

The Special Jury Prize – Canadian Feature was presented to PEACE OUT (D: Charles Wilkinson; P: Tina Schliessler), which explores the high costs of energy development in Canada’s pristine Peace River. Sponsored by the Directors Guild of Canada and the DGC-Ontario, the award includes a $5000 prize courtesy of Hot Docs. Jury statement: “For its intelligent treatment of the environmental debate around thePeace River, an urgent Canadian issue with global implications, the jury recognizes PEACE OUT as a necessary call to arms.”

New this year, the Inspirit Foundation Pluralism Prize was awarded to a film in the Canadian Spectrum program that presents an accessible perspective (or perspectives) of one or more belief systems in such a way as to contribute to the development of mutual understanding, respect and inclusion among young people in society. Selected and presented by the Inspirit Foundation, the inaugural prize was awarded to THE BOXING GIRLS OF KABUL (D: Ariel J. Nasr; P: Annette Clark), the story of a courageous group of young Afghan women who risk persecution to become world-class boxers, training in a stadium where the Taliban once executed women. The award comes with a $10,000 prize courtesy of the Inspirit Foundation. THE BOXING GIRLS OF KABUL will screen again on Sunday, May 6, at 1:30 p.m. and at 6:15 p.m. at the Cumberland Cinemas (159 Cumberland Street).

The award for Best International Feature was presented to CALL ME KUCHU (D: Malika Zouhali-Worrall, Katherine Fairfax Wright; P: Malika Zouhali-Worrall; USA), which looks at the formidable efforts of Ugandan activist David Kato to fight his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill and liberate his fellow LGBT citizens. Sponsored by A&E, the award includes a $10,000 prize courtesy of Hot Docs. Jury statement: “CALL ME KUCHU explains a great injustice with life-and-death consequences and accomplishes the rare achievement of showing both the human tragedies and the triumphs of the struggle. Combining directorial intent with the prescience and persistence that enables a documentary's crew to be in an important place at an important time, we the Jury recognize CALL ME KUCHU for its wrenching yet inspiring depiction of people trying to succeed as humans and as activists in the face of hatred.” CALL ME KUCHU will screen again on Saturday, May 5, at 9:00 p.m. at the Isabel Bader Theatre (93 Charles Street West) and on Sunday, May 6, at 6:00 p.m. at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (506 Bloor Street West).

The Special Jury Prize – International Feature was presented to THE LAW IN THESE PARTS (D: Ra'anan Alexandrowicz; P: Liran Atzmor, B.Z. Goldberg; Israel), in which the legal minds who worked in the Occupied Territories in the Gaza Strip speak candidly about creating a framework that has had a profound global impact. Sponsored by the Ontario Media Development Corporation, the award includes a $5000 prize courtesy of Hot Docs. Jury statement: “We the Jury recognize THE LAW IN THESE PARTS for its brilliance and simplicity, turning the issues of history in Israel and the Palestinian Territories into a broader and more direct question: How precisely do civilized democracies process legally and morally complex actions in the name of survival? Viewing legislation through the lens of the people who enacted it long ago with a modern and forward-looking sense of filmmaking as art, THE LAW IN THESE PARTS reveals the fragile nature of international law in contemporary conflict.”

 The HBO Documentary Films Emerging Artist Award was shared by the directors of two films: Bill Ross and Turner Ross for TCHOUPITOULAS (P: Bill Ross, Turner Ross; USA), and Benjamin Kahlmeyer for MEANWHILE IN MAMELODI (P: Boris Frank;GermanySouth Africa). The HBO Documentary Films Emerging Artist Award is sponsored by HBO Documentary Films. Jury statement: “We the Jury recognize these films because they have an indelible sense of place while speaking to universal concerns of community. We also recognize these films as they represent a superb combination of both the constructed and the found. While each film shows us places we think we know, whether New Orleans or Pretoria, both use the tools and craft of non-fiction storytelling to give the viewer different perspectives and new insights. The Jury awards these prizes in recognition of the merits of these films, but also to note how strongly and sincerely we look forward to the future works from these filmmakers as they continue to push the medium forward.”

The award for Best Mid-Length Documentary was presented to MY THAI BRIDE (D/P: David Tucker; Australia), the story of a Welshman’s complicated marriage to an attractive younger Thai woman. Sponsored by Canada Council for the Arts, the award includes a $3000 prize courtesy of Hot Docs. Jury statement: “MY THAI BRIDE is a film that takes the story of an unlikely couple and through subtle analysis extends their human dramas into a moving examination of political, cultural and economic power dynamics. It is a film that destabilizes its viewer's empathy through a nuanced and even-handed portrayal of charged, contradictory terrain, and reframes who exactly is the conqueror and conquered.” The Shorts and Mid-Length Jury also gave an honourable mention to NESSA (D: Loghman Khaledi; P: Katayoon Shahabi; Iran).

The award for Best Short Documentary was presented to FIVE FRAGMENTS OF THE EXTINCT EMPATHY (D: Anna Nykyri; P: Joonas Berghäll; Finland), which lays bare Finland’s antipathy towards dealing with domestic violence. The award includes a $3000 prize courtesy of Hot Docs. Jury statement: “In just seven minutes this film creates a poetry of contraction between its stunning black and white imagery and grandiose music, to illustrate how cycles of violence persist and are imprinted upon the faces of Finnish women.” The Shorts and Mid-Length Jury also gave an honourable mention to FAMILY NIGHTMARE (D/P: Dustin Guy Defa; USA).

For a complete list of award recipients, please visit:

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

My Thoughts On...Only The Young, Buzkashi!

Twenty-something directors, Elizabeth Mims and Jason Tippet followed their teenage subjects, Garrison, Kevin and Skye for 2 years, capturing the dynamic of friend-ship (romantic and non-romantic), their concerns, and their unique expressions.  Wonderful cinematography and pacing invites you into the specific world of these Canyon Country, California teens that is relatable for young viewers and unexpectedly delightful for the adults.
Thu, May 3 5:30 PM
Bloor Hot Docs Cinema 

Sun, May 6 4:30 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

"The horses play as much as the people," says director Najeeb Mirza, describing the melee that's part of the game of Buzkashi. IThis hectic, dangerous game evolved from dragging wolves away from sheep, but now the wolves are replaced by a goat carcass that must cross the goal post. Tajikistan champion Azam, plays the game the traditional way, as an individual, but others are introducing a new way of playing this thousand year old game. Where the individual used to be championed for his strength and depiction of honour, now champions from other districts are teaming up to change the sport together, making it very hard for one man to win.  Director, Mirza and his crew did an incredible job of capturing the speed of the game using helmet, horse and tire cams, and an equally good job of photographing the hills and villages of Tajikistan.
Sun, May 6 9:00 PM
Cumberland 2

Hot Docs
Canadian International Documentary Festival
April 26 - May 6
Tickets: or  416-637-5150
Box Office: 783 Bathurst Street (south of Bloor)

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...