Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Hot Docs: Only the Lonely

Alcan Highway
Wed, May 1 9:00 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox
Thu, May 2 2:00 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Sun, May 5 6:30 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 3
Ok, so Alcan Highway is a doc for the vehicle-curious; the Phineas Bogg type (Dick Van Dyke character) who would buy a junk heap like Chitty (as in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) because they can see it's hidden beauty, and they're going to be out there in the yard, tinkering under its hood until they prove it to you. Well, Hesse is that type of guy. Except instead of Chitty, there's a truck that's even older than Hesse (forty-something) sitting in Alaska that he buys with the intention of adding an equally old trailer and driving it to Vancouver where he hopes to settle for the remainder of his life. Why, Hesse wants to say good-bye to his Finnish homeland is never made clear, and it really doesn't matter because it's what happens along the way, and where he's headed that matters; that, and the tinkering that goes on with the restoration of his new, portable "home". We see Hesse argue with his travel companions, two mechanically inclined buddies who want to help him fulfill his dreams, but who can't stand Hesse's slow decision-making process, and sometime stubbornness. Hesse also meets some fine, upstanding Canadians who come to his aid with the old beater, and, courtesy of his journey we get to see some picture postcard shots of the Western Canada. So, get that guy/gal that you know who thinks that there's no better way to spend a Sunday than fixing something, and grab them a ticket to see this doc. Your mind might wander a bit, but they'll be focused on what Hesse and his friends should be doing to fix the truck and how they just might do things differently. As for me, I liked the way director, Aleksi Salmenperä just lets the film unfold, because I'm sure even he must have wanted to jump in and say to Hesse, "Come on, already! Get 'er done!".

Gangster of Love
Fri, May 3 9:00 PM
Scotiabank 3
Nedjeljko Babic (at left with his wife) is the Gangster of Love in Nebojsa Slijepcevic's film about a Croatian matchmaker who has seen many of his clients' meetings result in marriage. You can find him wherever there is a social event happening: bars, cafe's, bull vs. bull matches, peddling his CD of love songs and drumming up business for himself and mates for his clients. The main female subject of the film is Maya, a Bulgarian single mother who moved to Croatia in search of a better life away from her abusive husband.  Maya goes on many matches throughout the film, and each time we hope the match will take, but when the men's eyes land on her child, they are no longer interested. Stubborn, and desperately lonely as the men are, like in so many parts of the world, children are a deal breaker. Whether or not Maya finds a match is one thread of the film; other clients we follow are a German man who has heard wonderful things about Croatian women, a construction worker who worked hard abroad to make money and build a three-storey house, but has no wife to fill its emptiness. Then there is the extremely lonely, underemployed man who says he wants a mate, but finds excuses for why he won't find a suitable one. His friends posit that he is gay. Who knows? All we know from watching this film is that finding a true match is not easy, even with the help of a matchmaker who approaches the task with the intensity of a gangster cupid.
 
Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival
April 25 - May 5, 2013
http://www.hotdocs.ca/

Box Office
Phone number: 416-637-5150
Address: 87 Avenue Road – Hazelton Lanes, Lower Level
Closest Subway: Museum or St. George
11:00 am - 9:00 pm

Individual tickets to regular screenings are $14.60. Tickets to Hot Docs late night screenings are $6.20. Hot Docs ticket prices do not include HST

Students (with valid ID) and seniors (60+) can attend daytime screenings (screenings before 5 pm) for free. Same-day tickets are available at the participating venue one hour before the first screening of the day, subject to availability

Hot Docs: There's Something About the Women...

The Women and the Passenger
Wed, May 1 1:00 PM
Scotiabank 3
Thu, May 2 9:15 PM
Scotiabank 4
Thanks to directors Patricia Correa and Valentina Mac-Pherson, we get to enter a world that some of us would normally not have access to: a tryst motel and the chamber maids who work there. The hotel, El Passajero (The Passenger) is like a lush, aging madam and the extravagantly decorated chambers, her lavish wardrobe that would be elegant if not for their tired excess. The clientele book rooms for illicit affairs as well as romantic couples' retreats, and the hotel offers rooms and menus to meet various budgets, tastes, and needs. As they change sheets and dust the rooms, four chamber maids share insider stories about the patrons and reflections on their own love life and past and present relationships. A young maid talks about meeting her boyfriend, another talks about the prospect of introducing one of the hotel's furniture pieces, a muli-purpose chair, to her husband, while others talk about ex-husbands, and rekindling old loves. None of these maids are judgemental about their clients activities within the rooms, and express sympathy for the lonely ones who come to the hotel; after all, they've seen it all through the dirty dishes and sheets, and heard it all through the doors. Watching The Women and the Passenger is like peeking through a black lace veil into a fascinating diorama filled with explosive colour, moving figures, moments of contemplation, and the amusing sounds of lust.


The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne
Wed, May 1 1:30 PM
Scotiabank 4
There's something about Doris: she's fabulous, chic, a consummate liar, and a no holds barred jewel thief (the press didn't call her "Diamond Doris" for nothing!). In The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne, we learn from Doris that her introduction into stealing jewels was in reaction to the racism she endured as a dirt poor black child, whose father was abusive to her mother. Fearing for her mother's safety and armed with a "take that" attitude towards whitey, Doris stole some jewellery and rescued her mother.  Realizing that she was good at her new occupation, Doris, who had always played a childhood game called Miss Lady, took her show on the road and travelled the world stealing diamonds the likes of which often graced the pages of luxury magazines such as her favourite, Town & Country. Tall, tanned (she's part Black, part Cherokee), and lovely, Doris found her "lady-like" mannerisms could get her into the same high-end, European jewellery salons as white women. She looked like a society woman, so she was accepted as one. In Europe, manners were paramount, where in the United States, black is black no matter how ladylike you actually were or pretended to be. According to Doris, she doesn't "steal" she just "doesn't give things back". Whatever you may think of Doris, you will find her fascinating. A woman, who is now in her eighties and accused of stealing, what else, jewellery, Doris was a woman who in the 50's, and 60's, was her own human rights trailblazer. She did it on the wrong side of the law, but she did it: not even jail stopped her, as she lively recounts to directors (Matthew Pond, Kirk Marcolina). As a screenwriter in the film says, Doris is "the protagonist and antagonist" of her own life, while another references the fact that Doris' halo sits on top of her horns. What a woman!


Good Ol' Freda
Sat, May 4 8:45 PM
The Regent
Don't hate me, but while I like and respect the talents of The Beatles, I'm not passionate about them. I am, however, passionate about Freda Kelly, the subject of Ryan White's documentary, Good Ol' Freda. From typing pool to typing letters as the legendary group's fan club secretary in the 60's, to her current role as law firm secretary, Freda Kelly is a wonderfully, down-to-earth, all-right-let's-get-it-done woman, whose only interest in this film is creating a document for her toddler grandson, Niall. When she's an old granny, sitting in a chair with her cat on her lap, she wants Niall to know that once upon a time she had some excitement in her life. This "DVD" as she calls the film, is now done and she can go back to her life and put those events back in the past. Her modesty, her humour, and her Liverpudlian loyalty to the Fab Four is what kept her working for group since the age of 17 until the group disbanded in the early 70's. She never told stories out of school, and she never will. I enjoyed watching pictures from the era, and hearing about her visits with Beatle mums and dads, and dealing with mad teenagers calling and writing in to get a lock of hair or snippet of shirt fabric from John, Paul, George, and Ringo (or Ritchie, as Freda calls him). This film is about the fans, and Freda was a Beatles fan who, as one person in the doc says, is not a "fanatic". She empathised with the fans that wrote in, and even when she went from 100 letters a day to 8,000 per day, she did her best to get "the boys" to do autographs--over lunch, during a meeting, watching TV, after concerts (whatever it took) . In his film, Ryan White captures for posterity, stories from her contemporaries that paint Freda as a lovely, steadfast woman, living at an exciting point in history for both music and England's youth. Freda's own discussion about her past recounts her love of her local boys, and concludes a part of her life that was exciting while it lasted, but is now past. Goon on ya, Freda.

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival
April 25 - May 5, 2013
http://www.hotdocs.ca/

Box Office
Phone number: 416-637-5150
Address: 87 Avenue Road – Hazelton Lanes, Lower Level
Closest Subway: Museum or St. George
11:00 am - 9:00 pm

Individual tickets to regular screenings are $14.60. Tickets to Hot Docs late night screenings are $6.20. Hot Docs ticket prices do not include HST

Students (with valid ID) and seniors (60+) can attend daytime screenings (screenings before 5 pm) for free. Same-day tickets are available at the participating venue one hour before the first screening of the day, subject to availability.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Hot Docs Cornucopia

Whew! I've had a busy few days covering Hot Docs, Canadian International Documentary Film Festival (April 25 - May 5, 2013). Some of my time has been spent viewing media screeners, never as good as watching films on the big screen, but it's my way of giving you the heads up on a few films--mostly through The More the Merrier's Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/tmtmradio) and twitter (https://twitter.com/tmtmshow).

I always try to watch the social docs because I love observing how people go about their daily lives. The political docs are not my first choice any more. Having been on the planet a few decades, I find I can't stare Truth in the face as often as I used to. Not that I hide my head in the sand, it's just that I now need something to balance out the ugliness that I'm constantly made aware of. So, if you're like me, then you will appreciate the films I've seen.

Felix Austria
Mon, Apr 29 6:00 PM
Scotiabank 3
Sun, May 5 3:30 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
History and the search for identity merge in this doc about Brian Pfeifle, a Modesto, California intellectual who, enamoured of fin de siècle Austria and Otto van Hapsburg (the last Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary), changed his first name to Felix (as in  Bella gerant alii, tu felix Austria, nube! – Wars may be led by others – you, happy Austria, marry). He added Etienne-Edouard to honour his father (Steven Edward), who is battling Huntington's disease. Director, Christine Beebe (pronounced "bee-bee") followed Felix's journey for eight years in an attempt to capture his attempt to meet with the Archduke, his unexpected detective work into the life of a fellow Austria-file who bequeathed Felix his  Hapsburg archive, as well as Felix's search to understand his possible genetic inheritance. Felix Austria is a fanciful (animated sequences play an integral part), historically interesting film filled with pathos and humour and a a very particular subject in the dandy Felix Etienne-Edouard Pfeifle.


In the Shadow of the Sun
Mon, Apr 29 8:00 PM
Hart House Theatre
Sun, May 5 8:30 PM
Scotiabank 3
I know I just shared that I like social docs that don't suck the life out of me, but the two main subjects in this film as so captivating, so inspiring that I could not help sticking with the screener until the very end. Director Harry Freeland's six year document of Albinos in Tanzania being killed, and their body parts sold as tokens that supposedly bring wealth to their buyers, is one that held my attention because of the protagonists' love of learning and their willingness to risk their lives in order to fulfill that quest for, and share the knowledge obtained. Josephat Torner (photo left) is an incredible human being who, despite threats to his life, sets out to educate those whose ignorance of Albinism ("how can a Black woman give birth to a white child?") and dire economic situation have lead them to believe that the body parts will bring them wealth. Vedastus, a young man with an eager mind who craves a way to learn more about building homes and working with electricity; unfortunately, schools in his area are not safe, so he stays at home drawing and creating his own world, constructing model televisions, antennae, and fixing the electricity in his home. Josephat's travels to areas to talk to villagers, revealing to himself and us the variety of reasons for the killings, and the many ways devised to keep children and adults with Albinism safe (if not free). Since he started working on the film, Freeland has worked with Albino societies to create a website to raise awareness of the issue: http://standingvoice.org/ 


Rent a Family Inc.
Tue, Apr 30 1:00 PM
The ROM Theatre
Sun, May 5 1:00 PM
Scotiabank 3
I'm fascinated by the manners of Japanese society, as least as I have viewed them through film. Because the individual is not at the centre of society as it is here in the West, the Japanese operate from a position of doing what seems best for everyone involved, which sometimes mean that secrets are kept buried rather than shared and dealt with. Director, Kaspar Astrup Schröder, has devised an interesting way of showing this conundrum: he inserts television clips of people discussing the pros and cons of open comunications into his doc about Ryuichi, a husband and father of two who runs a small company called I Want To Cheer You Up Ltd. Ryuichi's clients hire him to provide stand-ins to act as their friends, family members or even employers. For example, if your family is dead or estranged, you can hire his company of players to provide guests for your wedding.  Ryuichi himself has attended many weddings as a father or uncle. Ironically, Ryuich's own family has no idea what he does for a living. There is little to no communication between he and his family, and his only display of affection is to his little dog. His wife takes care of the house and the children, and never questions him about anything. As for Ryuichi, he feels that he cannot share anything with her so he lives depressed, in self-/socially- imposed isolation. The juxtaposition between Ryuichi's clients (one girl wants to move in with her boyfriend and needs her "father's" approval) and his unfulfilled home life (he and his wife have separate rooms) is as fascinating, bittersweet gateau of tristesse.

Hill of Pleasures
Tue, Apr 30 3:30 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Sat, May 4 6:30 PM
Isabel Bader Theatre
Director, Maria Ramos, wanted to invite viewers to see a different side of the Brazilian favela (shantytown) than the shoot 'em up, gangland side that we normally see in films. She doesn't deny that violence exists in the poor hilltop settlements, but she says it doesn't happen every day, and that the country has begun to address the issue through its implementation of "pacification" programs that introduce community-style policing into the neighbourhoods. In these pacified areas, the gangs have been reduced, and police shootings have steadily declined, but drug dealing is still a method of making money in these poor areas, and, while the police try to stay on top of the drug trade and other crimes, residents fear repercussions from criminals, and continue to harbour a mistrust of the police. Ramos offers us both points of in this film, and through her unscored scenes and various subjects ( mailman, bookseller, youth, beat cop, EMT workers) introduces us to  what is normally absent about this region: hardworking people who have developed a community and a culture has defied violence for many years.



Menstrual Man
Tue, Apr 30 6:30 PM
Scotiabank 4   
Wed, May 1 10:30 AM
The ROM Theatre   
Fri, May 3 9:00 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
I must say, that seeing two men discussing the difference between Western-style panties and Indian-style panties is a scene I have never contemplated before seeing it unfold in this doc about Arunachalam Murugananthama, man who wants to develop, produce, and introduce low cost, locally made maxi pad that will lessen health issues (including death) for millions of Indian women. Not an easy thing to do in a culture where menstruation is not on open topic of discussion, and where most women risk infections by using cloth. Because they are too ashamed to hang the cloths on the wash line where the material could at least be bleached by the sun, many of the cloths are dried inside the home or not washed to an extent that removes all signs of menstruation. Uneducated, but socially conscious with an entrepreneurial spirit, Arunachalam, operates from his own business model where success is based on the contributions made to society, rather than how much money is made. Despite most people thinking he's crazy for talking about such a taboo subject, he is determined to achieve his goal of bringing health, employment and pride to his community. I want to thank director Amit Virmani and his filmmaking team for making this delightful and unique film.

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival
April 25 - May 5, 2013
http://www.hotdocs.ca/   

Box Office
Phone number: 416-637-5150
Address: 87 Avenue Road – Hazelton Lanes, Lower Level
Closest Subway: Museum or St. George
11:00 am - 9:00 pm

Individual tickets to regular screenings are $14.60. Tickets to Hot Docs late night screenings are $6.20. Hot Docs ticket prices do not include HST

Students (with valid ID) and seniors (60+) can attend daytime screenings (screenings before 5 pm) for free. Same-day tickets are available at the participating venue one hour before the first screening of the day, subject to availability

The Circle asks: Where Did We Come From

First time director, BRAM CONJAERTS used money from his grad school projet to fund his first film, The Circle. Next Hot Docs screening is Sunday, May 5, 9:30pm at the Isabel Bader. DETAILS: http://www.hotdocs.ca/mobile/film/circle

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Nordic Films at TIFF KIDS International Film Festival2013


Me with Fridrik Fridriksson TIFF10
DID YOU KNOW my love of Nordic films was born out of attending Sprockets: The Toronto International Film Festival for Children? Well, Sprockets has morphed into TIFF KIDS International Film Festival, and Nordic flms continue to play a part in the festival's screening schedule. I attended the festival as an adult, but there is no reason why the children in your life can't get started on international films. Who knows, they may end of covering them at TIFF when they grow up. As for me, I continue to focus on Nordic films, and at TIFF10, I met and interviewed director, Fridrik Thór Fridriksson  who produced of one of my favourite films from Sprockets, Ikingut (2000).


Ella and Friends
When their beloved school is shut down by the schemes of a fame-hungry race-car driver, Ella and her friends must band together to take on their nemesis in the race of a lifetime!
Wednesday April 17
12:15 PM
Director: Taneli Mustonen
Country: Finland Year: 2012
Language: Finnish
Runtime: 81 minutes, Rating: G Ages 7,8,9,10

Will-Bot, an anxious outer-space patrol robot, learns that sometimes a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet.
Saturday April 20 (Screening as part of Loot Bag: Destination Imaginiation)
12:45 PM
Director: Kim Hagen Jensen
Country: Denmark
Year: 2012
Language: No dialogue, 6 minutes, Rating: PG

Arriving in his eleventh new home in as many years, young boating enthusiast Eskil befriends the town eccentric, whose exciting secret project might just hold the key to a new life.
 Saturday April 20
3:15 PM
Director: Stephan Apelgren
Country: Sweden
Year: 2013
Language: Swedish, 98 minutes, Rating: Ages 9-13

Note: this film stars on of my favourite actor, Torkel Petersson, who I was first introduced to at TIFF '08 in Patrick Age 1.5.


Casper and Emma 
 The first feature film based on the bestselling Norwegian children’s novels, this unique live action/ animation hybrid introduces us to best friends Casper and Emma and their favourite stuffed animals, Miss Rabbit and Lion Cub.
Sunday April 21
2:30 PM
Director: Arne Lindtner Næss
Country: Norway
Year: 2012
Language: Norwegian
Runtime: 74 minutes
Cast: Nora Amundsen, Elias Søvold Simonsen, Janne Formoe, Hilde Lyrån, Markus Tønseth
Rating: G Ages: 6, 7, 8

TIFF KIDS
April 9 - 21, 2013
Get Tickets: 416.599.TIFF | 1.888.599.8433 or http://tiff.net/tiffkids/festival/ticketinfo

Credits: film descriptions, stills courtesy of http://tiff.net/tiffkids/festival






Friday, 12 April 2013

TANGO LIBRE: Are You Man Enough For This Chick Flick?...

TANGO LIBRE
SUNDAY, APRIL 14, 6:30 PM
Director: Frédéric Fonteyne
Country: France, Luxembourg, Belgium
Cast: François Damiens, Sergi López, Jan Hammenecker, Anne Paulicevich
Language: French, Spanish, subtitled in English
Runtime: 105mn
Year: 2012
Awards: Mostra de Venise 2012 : Prix spécial du Jury Orizzonti ; Festival International du Film Francophone de Namur 2012 ; Festival BFI du Film de Londres 2012 ; Festival du Film de Varsovie 2012 : Grand Prix
Rating: 14A


The provocative title of this post is meant to lure men who have never been to a film festival, or seen a foreign film, to go and see TANGO LIBRE at Cinéfranco. Along with this invitation, is a challenge to see how they would react to the given set up of a woman being the Queen Bee to not two, but three men and a teenage boy. Alice (Anne Paulicevich) is the woman around whom, the plot and the love, hinges. Alice loves to tango, but her husband, Fernand (Sergi López, whom I loved in Partir) is not into it, and neither is her lover, Antonio (Jan Hammenecker), who also happens to be Fernand's friend, failed partner in crime, and current cell mate. When Alice and her son go to visit both men in jail, Alice is surprised to learn her new tango partner is none other than prison guard, J.C (François Damiens), who is also captivated by her. Director, Frédéric Fonteyne, and his very talented cast, turn a plot that could have descended into a soap opera, into a tender, yet macho drama whose comedic moments manage to maintain the script's anchor to reality; not an easy feat in a film where steel-eyed inmates dance the tango! The film succeeds because no one is playing it for laughs, especially in scenes where Alice has to deal with raising her teenage son on her own.






CINEFRANCO: FRANCOPHONE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
APRIL 5 - 14, 2013

THE ROYAL CINEMA (all screening)
608 COLLEGE STREET
TICKETS: http://2013.cinefranco.com/index.php/en/tickets
Cash Sales only at the door

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Cinefranco Mixes It Up



COMME UN CHEF/THE CHEF
APRIL 11, 8:40 PM, ROYAL CINEMA, 608 Carlton
Director: Daniel Cohen
Country: France
Cast: Michaël Youn, Jean Reno, Raphaëlle Agogué, Julien Boisselier
Language: French, subtitled in english
Runtime: 85mn
Year: 2012
Awards: Festival International du Film de Comédie de l’Alpe d’Huez 2012 ; Festival du Film francophone à Vienne 2012 ; Berlinale 2012 : Culinary Cinema
Rating: G



An amuse-bouche of a film starring, Jean Reno as a famous chef, being challenged to create gastronomic cuisine based on molecular technology (taken to extremes here!) and Michael Youn as a cook whose sensitive palate is offended by the pedestrian demands of diners. A formula film that succeeds based on the adage that if "it ain't broke, why fix it?" You know exactly where this film is taking you, and menues are a feast for the eyes, so relax follow where its lead. A perfect film for those who want to step into the waters of viewing foreign films.





THE QUEEN OF MONTREUIL
FRIDAY, APRIL 12, 9:00 PM, ROYAL CINEMA, 608 Carlton
Director: Solveig Anspach
Country: France
Cast: Florence Loiret-Caille, Didda Jonsdottir, Samir Guesmi
Language: French, subtitled in english
Runtime: 87mn
Year: 2011
Awards: Mostra de Venise 2012 : Prix Lina Mangicapre ; Golden Horse Film Festival de Taïpei 2012 ; Reykjavik International Film Festival 2011: RIFF Audience Award
Rating: 14A



Those who know of my love of Nordic films, will understand why the word "Icelanders" jumped out at me when I read the description of this film. Quirky, with a soupcon of melancholia, this film about a widow who takes in two Icelanders in economic distress, draws you in with its unpretentious performances, and fascinating contrasts. The injection of Jamaican references, was an unexpected twist that, although somewhat stereotypical, nevertheless points to France as an increasingly multi-cultural country, where immigrants connect with others within and beyond the French borders.






FEMME ECRITE/WRITTEN WOMAN
SATURDAY, APRIL 13, 1:30 PM, ROYAL CINEMA, 608 Carlton
Director: Lahcen Zinoun* director in attendance
Country: Morocco
Cast: Fatym Layachi, Isma El Kanatir, Abdelkrim Cheddati
Language: Arabic, subtitled in english
Runtime: 87mn
Year: 2012
Awards: Festival national du film marocain de Tanger 2012 : Meilleur scénario/ Meilleur son
Rating: R


For those who enjoy poetic films that play with the imagination, then this is the film for you. It's the story of an anthropologist and his fascination for a Berber poet, Mririda, and Adjou, a prostitute whose intriguing tattoos further enraptures his senses and need to understand the secrets of woman. Lillia Sellami's beautiful cinematography and Wolfgang Funk's original score, perfectly captures the elusive eroticism and strength of the feminine mystique.







CINEFRANCO: FRANCOPHONE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
APRIL 5 - 14
THE ROYAL CINEMA
608 COLLEGE STREET
TICKETS: http://2013.cinefranco.com/index.php/en/tickets
Cash Sales only at the door