Friday, 31 October 2014

ON Hiatus...

Hi, Everyone,
The More the Merrier blog is on hiatus, but the radio show is going strong, so please tune in Saturdays from 12noon -  1:00 pm for your film/theatre and arts-at-large fix, and fantastic music (mostly Canadian).

CIUT 89.5 FM
www.ciut.fm

Podcasts: updated every Monday at
http://www.ciut.fm/shows-2/spoken-word/the-more-the-merrier/

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

TIFF14: Running Naked in Out of Nature

With Ole Giaever. Photo by Nathalie Pampin, Clutch PR
You must admit that this poster for Out of Nature is eye-catching, so besides the fact that Nordic films are my priority at TIFF, I was curious to know why this character was running without pants. Well, I now know the secret, but you should go see the film yourself to find out the answer. After speaking to director Ole Giaever, he did admit that while filming the
scene, he did feel a sense of liberation, and apparently the rest of the crew were jealous of his freedom from pants.

What I liked about this film is it's simplicity: a man out in nature questioning his path in life. The character, Martin (played by Ole), is a married man with a son, and on the outside looking in, he appears to have a wonderful life, but Marin is bored with his status quo. He is not an alpha male. He is not the guy who gets chosen to go to lunch with the rest of the office gang, and as the film unfolds, we learn about his upbringing and how he was not the best socialized child.

While hiking through the beautiful Norwegian woods we are privy to his thoughts, some of which are quite funny while others are honest and cruel. Be honest, don't you sometimes have thoughts that happen only in your head, that you would never dare (or hope you don't) ever utter aloud? Sometimes such thoughts are fleeting and may even shock us, but when we hear them voiced by Martin we understand them. It was refreshing to hear a man's thoughts, as we never see men voicing their raw feelings in film. Did he marry too young, should he work out more, was his life better back when he use to go to clubs, is he a good father, what lies ahead or is this it?

My full interview with Ole will air on The More the Merrier on CIUT 89.5 FM (date TBC). Follow me on Facebook so you don't miss the broadcast.

Out of Nature
Saturday, September 13, 6:00 pm
Scotiabank Theatre

Monday, 8 September 2014

TIFF14: Estonia's Martii Helde's Fresh Vision (In the Crosswind)

Estonian director, Martti Helde shared with me that he felt his grandfather's presence on the set of his first feature film, In the Crosswind. During my conversation with Martii, I learned that the history of the Baltic "deportations" is studied in school, and his grandfather (who lost a leg in WWII) openly spoke about the time period, although never too much about being in the camps; rather, his impact on Martii was about how to be a good person and to live life to the fullest. 

In the Crosswind, in which Martii labels the "deportations" as a "Soviet Holocaust" to symbolize the universality of these horrible and continuing human actions, we follow the forced journey of Erna (Laura Peterson) and her daughter  (and to a lesser extent, her husband Heldur) to Siberia. Martii was given Erna's letters by an archivist while doing research and, spurred by the stories from his grandfather, he decided to make a film about the consequences of June 14, 1941. What began as an attempt to make a short film about a time when thousands of Baltic citizens were forced from their homes in Stalin's attempt to purge the region of its people, turned into a feature when Martii was told that his style of telling the story was neither documentary nor short enough for a short fiction film. 

His style, that of tableaux vivants, forces the viewer to move their eyes and fill in the gaps as the camera weaves in and around their bodies. Months were spent placing the actors in their positions so that by the time shooting occurred, blocking and camera movements were worked out. Imagine looking at a portrait that suddenly becomes almost three dimensional, and your eye and brain follow the movements that are slowly revealed. Sometimes it is as if you are looking at a triptych framed by walls or trees providing a barrier that interrupts a shot. In these cases, you move your head to see what's beyond the wall or behind a tree. 

Shot in beautiful black and white (a deliberate choice influenced by flipping through the period photographs of his grandfather's album), the film is scored simply and presented in with delicacy that it will overcome any sentiments of holocaust viewer fatigue. Give yourself about ten minutes to get used to the fact that you will be hearing voiceover narration instead of dialogue, that there will be no re-enactments, and you will find yourself experiencing film in a brand new way. You will also find unexpected beauty in this "frozen in time" cinematic historical drama.

My full interview with Martii Helde will be broadcast on The More the Merrier on CIUT 89.5 FM (date TBC). Follow me on Facebook so you don't miss the broadcast.

TIFF 4-14.14



Tue, Sep 9
9:45pm
SUB
Thu, Sep 11
5:00pm
SUB
Sun, Sep 14
9:30pm

Sunday, 7 September 2014

TIFF14: Questions, Questions...

Jukka-Pekka Valkeapää
I could spend hours interviewing actors/filmmakers about their work. As an interviewer I rarely feel as if I have asked all the questions I want or need. I always have the basic questions in mind going into to the interview, but as I don't use a script, the conversation can flow in any direction. If my subject becomes passionate about an aspect of their work, I don't cut them short; my next question is not as important as what they are presently sharing; as a result, I sometimes end my 15-20 minute chat with questions unanswered.

Today, for example, after interviewing Jukka-Pekka Valkeapää (They Have Escaped) for example, we began talking about the sound in the picture. It was on my list of questions that I had wanted to ask, but other elements of the filmmaking came up that trumped the question. I didn't turn my recorder back on because we were having a natural conversation and pulling out the recorder would have intruded on our conversation, even though what we were talking about wasn't private. 

I always think filmmakers as being confident in their vision but, as JP shared, watching the first cut of his films is always a "humiliating experience" where he feels uncertain about the film he is making. As for the sound elements, it wasn't until the last few weeks of the editing process that he felt he had the right mix for They Have Escaped. I was quite taken by the sound elements in his film and was happy that he was content to answer a question that fascinates me: how directors deal with silence. As JP agreed, "silence has a sound" and he worked very hard to find the right piece from his collection of sounds to use.

I'm satisfied with the recorded content of my interview, which will air post-TIFF on The More the Merrier (date TBC), but even as I said good-bye to JP, I realized that as usual, I had even more questions to ask...

The next screenings of They Have Escaped are:
WED Sept. 10, 4:00 pm, Scotiabank Theatre
SAT Sept 13, 10:00 pm, Scotiabank Theatre
Finnish with English Subtitles
My Warning: not for the faint of heart. It's in the Vanguard section!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

TIFF14: How About a Quick Trip to Finland?

For the past several years, I have been focused on Nordic films at TIFF, a passion I developed thanks to Sprockets (now TIFF Kids) founder, and TIFF programmer, Jane Schoettle), and continues with programming by Steve Gravestock. The calibre of films from this region continues to impress me and I am beginning to establish a relationship with a few directors. Here are a couple of Finnish entries that you might want to check out. Complete details at http://www.tiff.net/festivals/thefestival The Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept. 4 - 14.

I first interviewed Finnish director, Dome Karukoski, in 2010 with his TIFF entry, the comedic, Lapland Odyssey, and then last year with Heart of a Lion, a drama with unexpected touches of humour about a skinhead who falls in love with a white Finnish women with a bi-racial child. This year I am looking forward to seeing The Grump, and continuing my conversation with Dome about his filmmaking.


When I first interviewed another Finn, Jalmari Helander in 2010, he had just finished Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, and was looking forward to heading back home to see his brand new baby daughter; he had no idea what his next project would be "who the fuck knows". This year, he has a film screening in the Midnight Madness program and I am so happy for him! With Big Game, he is directing the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Felicity Huffman, James Broadbent, and Victor Garber!


The VANGUARD selections at TIFF are described as "provocative, sexy...possibly dangerous. This is what's next." The still (left) for They Have Escaped definitely fits that description; however, I am curious to see what director JP Valkeapää has in store for us with this drama about two young social outcasts trying to negotiate society norms. One positive note for the film is the attachment of Aleksi Bardy, the producer of Karukoski's highly successful, Heart of a Lion.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Coming Soon: Fan Expo Canada 2014

Are you ready for Fan Expo Canada? I'm slowly getting there, with the excitement building every day. The first time I attended the "3rd largest pop culutre event in North America" I expected to feel like a fish out of water: I wasn't a gamer or an official nerd, but I did love comics and read them in my childhood and as an adult, I borrowed graphic novels every once in a while from the Toronto Public Library; however, it didn't take long for me to feel right at home with the masses of people in attendance at this Con. It's like being in a town where costumes and regular clothing are the norm and no one looks out of place--no matter how outlandish the garment. In fact, the over the top or character accurate the better if you want people stopping you and posing with you for a quick snap.

As a newbie, there is still lots for me to learn about Cosplay, Steampunk, Horror, the various Sci-Fi and Anime genres etc. No wonder people get a pass! There really is something for everyone and if you want to take it all in, it will take you the whole four days to do so. If you are pressed for time, though, there is plenty to fill a day. Check the website and schedules to see which day(s) suits your interest and go to it.

Going by yourself? Not a problem. The attendees are all very friendly, and the guests at the booths are always ready to chat. Bring some cash with you because you will want to buy something. Trust me on this. It's very hard to go home empty-handed. From a tote bag to a postcard to full leather gear, every booth is a temptation. Celebrity autographs and photos are usually in endless supply, but there are also one-of-a-kind items that you might have to shell out big bucks for. One tip, though, don't take pictures of the stars without their permission! Not cool! They love to meet you, but they are there to work. It's a livelihood for many of the retired stars who do these Cons to augment meagre royalty cheques, so please show some respect along with your love.

I'll be tweeting and facebooking from the event, so be sure to follow my journey as I learn more about this wonderful world! Bring on the "full frontal nerdity!"

FAN EXPO CANADA
August 28-31, 2014
Complete Details: http://fanexpocanada.com/
Tickets: http://fanexpocanada.com/tickets/

Photo/logo courtesy of Fan Expo

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Monty Python is Not a Pet Snake


I'm really surprised at how much I enjoyed the international satellite broadcast of Monty Python Live (mostly). Why? Because I was never a fan of the legendary British comedy troupe. As a Jamaican kid clicking the converter, I didn't get the humour in Monty Python's Flying Circus. Next! In high school I didn't get the reference to "is your wife a goer, wink, wink" and as for the Lumberjack Song, I wanted a red plaid lumberjack jacket like the white Canadian kids in my school ("NO!" scoffed my Jamaican mother) but I sure wasn't going to watch "that weird show" to find out more. After seeing the farewell performance of the septuagenarian cult comedy geniuses, I will venture to try one of their films. My Python friends recommend, Life of Brian.

Cineplex is presenting the reunion show again on July 23rd and 31st at theatres across Canada. They are also showing the Meaning of Life (July 24), Monty Python's Life of Brian (July 27) and Monty Python and the Holy Grail (July 30).

Python fans can expect to see original members (John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin)  re-enact some of the favourite sketches live on stage (here's where the "mostly" comes in) and the inclusion of deceased Graham Chapman in television clips in between the live stage set ups.  So, if you're familiar with the dead parrot, fish slaps, and the Spanish Inquisition you won't be disappointed. The show is also full of songs, including the famous "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", the politically incorrect, "I Like Chinese" as well as a couple of dirty little ditties (Penis song anybody?) in which audience participation makes it more fun (but okay if you remain silent and just laugh along) to follow the bouncing ball. 

My Python screening companion was quick to educate me about the older woman on stage with the boys. Apparently "Python Girl", Carol Cleveland a.k.a "Carol Cleavage" was only supposed to have a been part of a couple of sketches on the original television show, but went on to become a regular and was also cast in many of their films. Carol plays a prominent role in this stage performance, and is a delight in the Spam sketch.

If you're new to Python, the show includes a Chorus Line fit team of nubile young dancers and singers that flesh out the extravaganza. London's O2 Arena where the live event took place, has a large stage to fill and the addition of the dancers manage to keep the mood and the eyes occupied between and during the performances. They are hilariously effective in the aforementioned Penis song lead by Eric Idle (complete with candy-coloured penis cannons), and especially so in the choreographed take on the Silly Walk, which is obviously too physical for the ageing comedians, but which needed to be referenced.


Fan or not, a wide audience can enjoy the men sitting around trying to out do each other in how poor they were as kids sketch (You had a wall? Paradise! We had a corner of a room with no roof.), the bit with the two middle age ladies (Cleese and Idle) watching television and the exploding Penguin, the career development knee-slapper, and television clips of Philosophers on the football pitch, a matronly English women's group re-enacting the Battle of Pearl Habour, and many subversive animated sketches. The two-tiered stage, decked out like a vaudeville show, will remind Pythons of the Flying Circus, but even newbies will be entertained by the kitchy atmosphere. My audience, young AND old (remember the average age of the guys on stage) were all howling with laughter, and so was I!

I don't know if it was the satellite feed or the sound at the Scotiabank Cinema that needed tweaking, but the sound in the first half of the show sounded  a bit muffled, but after the intermission there were no technical glitches marring the even funnier second act. No doubt with it having been recorded, there won't be any such issues to contend with. Happy viewing. Maybe you'll see me at the upcoming screening of Monty Python's Life of Brian.

Links
http://www.cineplex.com/Events/ComingSoon
http://www.montypythonlive.com/
https://www.facebook.com/MontyPython

Credits
photos courtesy of Monty Python's facebook page.

Friday, 4 July 2014

James Quandt on Satyajit Ray and Zabrina Chevannes on A Nurse's Worst Nightmare!

James Quandt, TIFF Cinematheque's Senior Programmer and I chat about the Satyajit Retrospective (on now until August 17) and nurse and standup comedian Zabrina Chevannes and I talk about laughter mental health, and the other talents that are part of her upcoming show, A Nurse's Worst Nightmare. Have a look/listen at the segment below.

FILM/SHOW INFO
http://tiff.net/satyajit-ray 
 http://comedybar.ca/nurses_worst_nightmare.php
 

Saturday, 28 June 2014

9 Fringe Shows Ask for Your Bum in Their Seats

http://fringetoronto.com/
tickets $12 no latecomers EVER!
(416) 966-1062
It's baaaack! The More the Merrier's Annual 5 Minute Fringe Showcase returns with 9 productions from the Toronto Fringe Festival telling you why you should spend your $12 to see their shows. Each show is given just 5 minutes to convince you that theirs is the show to see.

Click the video below to listen to the show. Show listing is by alpha order, not as you hear them on the video. Happy Fringing!



A SIMPLE TWIST OF FAITH
DESCRIPTION: Honour the start of the WWI Centennial with this musical inspired by a true story. In 1917, a Jewish American soldier in Germany enters a synagogue seeking solace from the terrors of war.

Kiever Synagogue, 25 Bellevue Ave.

July 02 at 07:00 PM   July 03 at 07:00 PM  July 04 at 01:00 PM
July 06 at 12:00 PM   July 07 at 07:00 PM  July 08 at 07:00 PM
July 09 at 02:00 PM   July 09 at 07:00 PM  July 10 at 01:00 PM
July 10 at 07:00 PM  July 11 at 01:00 PM   July 13 at 12:00 PM

Show length: 75min. Genre(s): Family, Musical   
Warnings: Audience Participation  harmonyoverwar.com


DREAMS OF SUMMER'S END
DESCRIPTION: Four people struggle along the string that holds life together. Sexuality follows every relationship, every lifelong decision, but what gets left behind?

Robert Gill Theatre, 214 College Street
July 02 at 10:30 PM  July 05 at 12:30 PM  July 06 at 11:00 PM
July 07 at 05:15 PM  July 09 at 07:45 PM
July 10 at 09:15 PM  July 11 at 04:30 PM
Show length: 60min. Genre(s): Drama


KOMUNKA
DESCRIPTION: An evening in a communal apartment in Moscow with seven Russians in real life conflicts around every day issues. Gays and homophobes, working class macho guys and intellectuals, women and men, they fight, drink, and talk about the Sochi Olympics, Putin, the Ukraine, and gays.

Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse, 79 St. George Street
July 03 at 07:00 PM  July 06 at 10:45 PM  July 07 at 03:15 PM
July 09 at 07:30 PM  July 11 at 03:30 PM 
July 12 at 12:00 PM  July 13 at 05:45 PM
Show length: 60min.  Genre(s): Comedy, Drama
Warnings: Sexual Content, Mature Language  ruzhyev.wix.com/komunka


LOVE'S LABOURS LOST
DESCRIPTION: The King and his three gentlemen have sworn off women for three years of study, until the Princess and her three ladies come to the court… Will their vow be forsworn or will love overcome?

Victory Cafe, 581 Markham St.
July 03 at 07:00 PM  July 04 at 07:00 PM  July 05 at 09:00 PM
July 06 at 05:00 PM  July 08 at 07:00 PM  July 10 at 07:00 PM
July 11 at 07:00 PM  July 12 at 07:00 PM  July 13 at 05:00 PM
Show length: 90min. Genre(s): Comedy
Age range: 19+ shakespearebashd.com



ONLY HUMAN
DESCRIPTION: Highbräu presents a comedic exploration of the depths, heights, and square footage of humanity...Free cake not guaranteed.

Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace, 16 Ryerson Ave.
July 03 at 06:00 PM  July 05 at 01:30 PM  July 06 at 06:15 PM
July 08 at 06:45 PM  July 09 at 08:15 PM  July 10 at 09:45 PM
July 11 at 03:30 PM  July 12 at 01:00 PM   
Show length: 60min. Genre(s): Comedy, Sketch
Warnings: Mature Language  highbraucomedy.com



STRAPLESS
DESCRIPTION: Smart, sassy, sexy, sketch comedy performed by 4 of Vancouver’s best sketch comedians.


George Ignatieff Theatre, 15 Devonshire Place
July 02 at 10:30 PM  July 05 at 07:00 PM  July 07 at 01:00 PM
July 08 at 06:30 PM  July 10 at 12:00 PM
July 11 at 09:15 PM  July 12 at 05:45 PM
Show length: 75min. Genre(s): Comedy, Sketch
Warnings: Sexual Content, Mature Language straplesscomedy.com


THE ART OF TRADITIONAL HEAD-TYING
DESCRIPTION: What and where is home?
“If the values, people, and traditions of the place I call home have changed, where is my home now?”

St. Vlad's Theatre, 620 Spadina Ave.
July 02 at 08:45 PM  July 05 at 02:15 PM  July 07 at 03:00 PM
July 09 at 07:45 PM  July 11 at 02:15 PM
July 12 at 12:00 PM  July 13 at 09:00 PM
Show length: 60min. Genre(s): Drama
Warnings: Sexual Content, Mature Language artoftraditional.com


TRUE
DESCRIPTION:
“Forget it”
“But it happened”
“Unhappen it”
“What does that even mean – “
“You’re at the fountain but this time you get directions”
“But that’s not true”
“What’s true?”

Citizenry, 982 Queen Street W
July 02 at 08:30 PM  July 03 at 08:30 PM  July 04 at 08:30 PM
July 05 at 08:30 PM  July 06 at 08:30 PM  July 08 at 08:30 PM
July 09 at 08:30 PM  July 10 at 08:30 PM  July 11 at 08:30 PM
July 12 at 08:30 PM
Show length: 75min.  Genre(s): Comedy, Drama
Warnings: Mature Language criminaltheatre.com


VECTORS OF THEIR INTEREST
DESCRIPTION: Inside a Victorian house rented online for the night, the three young recessionistas of Viragon Capital Group and their thoroughly male, thoroughly unpaid intern search through their host’s effects looking for new, perverse business opportunities.

106 Albany Ave, 106 Albany Ave
July 02 at 07:00 PM  July 03 at 07:00 PM  July 04 at 07:00 PM
July 05 at 07:00 PM  July 07 at 07:00 PM  July 08 at 07:00 PM
July 09 at 07:00 PM  July 10 at 07:00 PM  July 11 at 07:00 PM
July 12 at 07:00 PM  July 13 at 07:00 PM
Show length: 85min.  Genre(s): Comedy, Drama
Warnings: Sexual Content, Mature Language  surplusvaluetheatre.com

Have a listen: 



Tuesday, 3 June 2014

TMTM Book Club Selection: "Confessions of a Fairy's Daughter" by Alison Wearing

Photo Credit: http://www.alisonwearing.com/
With Toronto hosting World Pride 2014, I thought it would be fitting to choose an LGBTT book for our next read. The book that immediately came to mind was Confessions of a Fairy's Daughter by Alison Wearing. I had first heard about the book on The Agenda. I managed to catch the last part of Steve Pakin's interview with the author and mentally placed the book on my To Read List.  Unlike other books that I have selected for the TMTM Book Club, I haven't read it in advance, so I will be reading along with you. Please email me should you wish to take part in the on air discussion.

Our on-air discussion of the book will take place in July (date TBC soon). As with other selections, this book is available through the Toronto Public Library (e-book and traditional p-book), but if you can, please support this Canadian author by purchasing the book. Happy Reading! -dg


Thursday, 29 May 2014

Inside Out 2014 Reveiw: My Thoughts on "Open Up To Me"


Open Up To Me leads Peter Franzen & Leea Klemola
Having last seen Peter Franzen, one of Finland's biggest stars playing a skinhead in Dome Karukoski's Heart of  Lion (TIFF14), it was a happy surprise to see his name attached to Open Up to Me (Kerron sinulle kaiken) in the Inside Out Toronto LFBT Film Festival guide. This actor has an "it" factor that would make millions if it was could be distilled. The man just has a sexuality about him that leaps off the screen! Maybe years ago audiences felt this way when they saw Clark Gable take his shirt off in It Happened One Night and revealed to the world that he wasn't wearing an undershirt, the style staple of era, or when they saw Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire; whatever it is, Franzen is heart-thumpingly captivating. 

Open Up to Me begins with Maarit (Leea Klemola), a cleaning lady, caught in her employer's clothes by Sami (Franzen) who mistakes as a therapist. Not sure how to correct the mistake, Maarit lets Sami pour his heart out to her. It seems that Sami, a married man, is a bit of a romantic, who, sexually, "doesn't feel safe if the woman doesn't love him." During this initial encounter, Maarit, becomes attracted to Sami and soon reveals to him her employment status (a school counsellor who can't find a job in her field), and sexual status (a divorced transgendered woman estranged from her son). 

As we follow the affair that develops between Maarit and Simo, we gain entrance into the world they inhabit together and the world they negotiate when they are apart. We meet briefly, Maarit's wife, and his daughter, Pinja (Emmi Nivala). We also meet Sami's wife Julia (Ria Kataja) and Teo (Alex Anton) a student that he both teaches and coaches. It doesn't take long to realize that everyone in this film is confused about something. Who can't relate to being unsure about the next step(s) to take in life? This is the crux of this drama, and the fact that it plays out with non-traditional characters is what makes this such a fascinating journey.

Rather than give us the expected story of a transgendered woman focused on her sexual identity, director Simo Halinen instead chooses to focus Maarit's story on how she attempts to negotiate her relationship with her teenage daughter, Pinja. Leea Klemola is extraordinary as the newly confident  Maarit, a woman who has moved mentally and physically from being in a "body that wanted to be touched [but which] didn't exist." She is tired of identity lies and readily admits her "crush" on Sami. What she is insecure about, however, is her role in her daughter's life. She waffles about how she should go about building a relationship with her child, despite the fact that her ex-wife constantly tries to keep them apart. She can admit boldly in a job interview that she used to be a man, but how does she dress/act with the child she loves and whom she desperately wants to love her back? 

From the outside looking in, we see Sami as a handsome, soccer playing gym teacher with a good looking wife (who teaches at the same school) and cute children; yet, even he who seems to have what many would long for, doubts his masculinity and his ability to love and to sexually satisfy a woman. He can teach Sex Ed class and openly challenge his students about their so-called knowledge of sex, but he doesn't know whether or not he should be with the his liberating lover/pal Maarit, or his wife. It's Franzen's ability to play a credible tough guy with a core of vulnerability that makes his character of Sami so endearing in this film.

Ria Kataja's portrayal of Julia is solidly delivered, with the right emotional shadings that reveals her character's confusion about whether or not she wants to remain married to Sami.  On the one hand, we see that Julia doesn't feel that Sami is man enough for her, and on the other hand, we have the sense that she is not quite ready to move on. Complicating matters for her, is the fact that as Sami becomes sexually open with Maarit, his newfound vigor with Julia results in mixed feelings that she doesn't know how to interpret.

Teo, Sami's student and soccer protege, is as confused as the adults in the film. A teenage hunk, he is intrigued by Maarit's confident femininity, but confused about his own sexuality. Only Pinja, Maarit's daughter, has the strength to live in her world. Many miles away from her father (Maarit), Pinja  forges ahead, even though she is teased about her transgendered parent, and lives with a mother bitter and ashamed about her ex-husband. Actress, Emmi Nivala manages to meld  teenage sensitivity and coming-of-age self-determination in such a way that we want to reach out and hug as well as applaud Pinja.

We may guess where Open Up to Me is leading, but as we watch the film we can't help but assess our own relationship boundaries and barriers in this character driven piece that is refreshingly devoid of stereotypes. 

Photo credit: www.insideout.ca

Monday, 26 May 2014

Inside Out 2014 Review: My Thoughts on "Someting Must Break"

Something Must Break's Saga Becker "Sebastian/Ellie"
My first thought upon screening Something Must Break (Nånting måste gå sönder) is "I'm loving this film." My second was, "Please keep on being good."  Happily, I can share with you that I kept on loving the film, so much so that rather than leave the experience to viewing the protected online screener, I went to see it on the big screen during Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. To my added pleasure, actress Saga Becker was in attendance. Yaay! 

In my humble opinion, Ester Martin Bergsmark is a director to watch. She has already won awards for her documentaries in her native Sweden, but Something Must Break is her first fiction film, and I can't wait to see what she handles next.

Bergsmark's cast is young, not only in age, but in screen credits. Lead actress, Saga Becker, is making her film debut and does a stunning job as the trans character Sebastian, a young man working at a dead end factory job. Sebastian has such low self-esteem and is so starved for romantic love that he admits that he will allow anyone to do anything to him just to be loved. Sebastian has a confidant in Lea (Shima Niavarani), but she has her own girlfriend problems and while she tries to help Sebastian with some advice, he is not ready, nor is he able to take it.

When Sebastian is rescued by Andreas (Iggy Malmborg), he falls in love so deeply with his hero that he becomes obsessed with him. He collects objects that Andreas has used, he follows him around town, and fantasizes about being with him. Bergsmark's dreamscape vision of of Sebastian's emotions are reflected in the slow motion portrait shots and echoed in the soundtrack of the film. "I've never loved this hard before," is a lyric that perfectly captures Sebastian's worship of Andreas while the desaturated image that accompanies a Peggy Lee ballad is both beautiful and disturbing, not because of what is taking place in the scene but because of how it encapsulates Sebastian's feelings of heartbreak and confusion.

While there is no question that Becker is the lead in the film, and that she manages to rise to the demands of her challenging role, much also rests on the shoulders of Iggy Malmborg. He had to be believable as the object of Sebastian's obsession in order for us to truly identify with how deeply that character had fallen in love with him. While the character of Andreas shows weakness in his inability to admit that he is gay, Malmborg had to find the right acting balance between playing a confused character, and being a strong secondary lead. Malmborg is successful in walking this tightrope because we adore him when Andreas and Sebastian lock themselves away from the world and are content, yet we hate him for the way he treats Sebastian when they move out into the real world. 

"It's like I'm destroying myself to become her." Like the duality of his hair colour, Sebastian is stuck between being Sebastian, the outward boy and Ellie, the young woman who sometimes makes an appearance in lipstick and heels. Early in the film, Lea admonishes, "You can never say yes or no."  As his yearning for a complete relationship with Andreas evolves, Sebastian must also evolve from his world of  "maybe" and emerge as his true self in order to stop himself from disappearing. The life lessons experienced in Something Must Break is beautifully captured by Bergesmark, and superbly realized through Saga Becker's acting. I'm not sure where Becker will go as a trans actress in Sweden, but she has a breakout role in this film, and I truly hope that she is able to grace the screen in many films to come.

Photo Credit: www.insideout.ca

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Nordic Charmers: May I Recommend Olga and Love & Engineering

You know I love Nordic films, and I'm happy to direct you to Olga--To My Friends, and Love & Engineering screening at Hot Docs 2014.

Olga--To My Friends
Want me to watch a film? Show me a picture of reindeer. So, why have I chosen to show you this picture of Olga instead? Because, Olga--To My Friends is an intimate portrait of a fascinating young woman who deserves your attention. Yes, there are reindeer in the film because she works at a station guarding provisions used by the reindeer herdsmen in the summer; but what I found absolutely fascinating about this documentary is Olga and her quiet will to keep surviving whatever life dispenses. Director, Paul Aders-Simma and cinematographer, Elen Lotman have framed and lit Olga in a style that references Old Masters, while at the same time managing to capture the vastness and icy-stillness of the tundra.

At the opening of the film, Olga tells us that she has spent 177 days alone at the outpost with only her cat as her companion. Upon learning this I felt an automatic sorrow for her until she began summarizing her life: being abruptly separated from her childhood friend at at orphanage, reunited and briefly raised with a family whose Sami roots she knew nothing about, and as an adult, dealing with her sisters' alcoholism and dysfunctional lifestyle. After hearing Olga talk about her life, I understand why this job is so suited to her, and why she is able to function with a sense of freedom and contentment in what you and I would consider destitute conditions. Later, my heart skipped a beat when, it's revealed that Olga's job at the outpost is in jeopardy because the cooperative wants to sell it. How will Olga meet this next challenge in her life?  

TWO SCREENINGS ONLY!
OLGA-- TO MY FRIENDS
Scotiabank Theatre 7 
Wed, Apr 30 7:30 PM

 
TIFF Bell Lightbox 4 
Fri, May 2 7:30 PM


Olga--To My Friends
 Is there a perfect formula for finding the perfect mate? Well, in Love & Engineering, Atantas, a Bulgarian scientist living in Finland, seems to think he can help his mates find a wife using the data he used to find his bride. He can't promise them a Claudia Schiffer, but they will be able to find someone they can put up with for life.  To put it in contemporary terms, it's like watching the character, Leonard from The Big Bang Theory leading seminars and conducting scientific tests on how he "hacked" his way into being Penny's boyfriend. Yes, "hacked".  According to Atanas, women have a relationship system that his fellow scientists should be able to hack so that they can find true love.  Atanas's heart is in the right place, but I wanted to yell at one scientist to stop talking about gaming when his date has already told him she is not into games and doesn't know the one he is so excited about has been released! Dude, you already know from the smell testing that she found your scent appealing, and then you go and shoot yourself in the foot? Arggh! 

Love & Engineering is a straight up funny documentary in which you can't help but root for the brilliant, inept, charming subject matters to find their perfect partners.

SCREENING DATES/TIMES
LOVE & ENGINEERING
Scotiabank Theatre 3 
Thu, May 1 9:00 PM

 
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 
Fri, May 2 8:30 PM

 
Revue Cinema 
Sun, May 4 1:30 PM

HOT DOCS
Canadian International Documentary Festival
April 24 - May 4, 2014
www.hotdocs.ca 
416.637.5150  



 


Saturday, 26 April 2014

Hot Docs Day 3: May I Recommend


THE MALAGASY WAY

TODAY
ROM Theatre 
Sat, Apr 26 3:30 PM

This film gives you a look at poverty, not from the perspective of having nothing, but from the Malagasy people themselves speaking of how their sense of community, culture and fortitude has enabled them to maintain their sense of pride and fortitude.


OTHER SCREENING DATES
Scotiabank Theatre 4 
Sun, Apr 27 4:00 PM
Scotiabank Theatre 3 
Sat, May 3 9:15 PM


PINE RIDGE 
 

TODAY
Scotiabank Theatre 7 
Sat, Apr 26 6:00 PM 

This is not an easy film to watch, but it is an interesting look at poverty that is a direct result of historical conditioning. The Pine Ridge reservation is just above Haiti in terms of its lack of economic development. This South Dakota reservation brings to light the generational effects of the Wounded Knee Massacre (1890) and references the impact of the Wounded Knee Incident (1973). Seen through the eyes of several youth, the film asks the question: why are such dire conditions allowed to continue in one of the richest countries on earth.

OTHER SCREENING DATES
TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 
Sun, Apr 27 1:00 PM  
TIFF Bell Lightbox 4
 Sun, May 4 4:30 PM 



HOT DOCS
Canadian International Documentary Festival
April 24 - May 4, 2014
www.hotdocs.ca 
416.637.5150 

Friday, 25 April 2014

Hot Docs Day 2: May I Recommend

LOOKING FOR SOME MUSIC IN THE AFTERNOON?

Then I suggest a screening of Que Caramba Es la Vida by renowned German director, Doris Dörrie. Her take on mariachi music is refreshing in that it follows the lives of several female musicians who perform in Mexico's Garibaldi Square. Mariachi can be a macho business, but these women, some of whom are daughters of mariachi fathers, have inherited the love of the music and their passion drives them to perform despite some of the negative side effects of their chosen profession. In the square they perform for families or couples who are out for an evening of social activity, but they also have to put up with the drunks and drug users (as well as some men) who hurl slurs at them. As one woman puts it, she has often had to tell men she is a singer, not a prostitute. Dörrie also delves into a bit of the history of female mariachas through interviews with members of Las Estrellas de Mexico and Las Coronelas, some of the first mariachas in Mexico. While the women of today have to deal with leaving their children at home to perform, these women, tell how once they started getting married and the children came along, they had to give up singing professionally. Some also speak of husbands getting jealous because they were performing in bars and their mates would have thoughts that cigarette/cigar smoke on their clothes meant more was going on with their evenings than just singing.

I'm a women through and through
If they try to lasso me
I'll shoot them down
If they shout at me
I'll clear them out of the way

TODAY'S SCREENING
Que Caramba Es la Vida
Scotiabank Theatre 7 
Fri, Apr 25 3:30 PM
For additional screening dates/times click HERE

CURIOUS ABOUT ADHD?

Denmark's Erland E. Mo's documentary, Four Letters Apart,  takes an interesting look at Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) by introducing us to an alternative school that uses methods other than drugs in the treatment of children with the condition. The children are very much aware of their disorder and talk about ways in which they would like to be treated by society. They are also taught to take responsibility for their actions by talking about how they treat each other. Following the journey of three of the school's students broadens our perspective and understanding of children with ADHD and leads us to ponder where we stand on the grounds of giving Ritalin to every child with the disorder. Does and should one treatment fit all?


TODAY'S SCREENING
Four Letters Apart
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
 Fri, Apr 25 3:45 PM
For additional screening dates/times click HERE


HOW ABOUT A GOOD GHOST STORY TONIGHT?

A woman and her family see a young girl in a white dress along the way to Cober Pedy, another feels a hand pressing her face into the floor...these and other tales of Warkwick Thornton's The Darkside are related with fascinating detail. Set in Australia, Thornton's stories are told with backdrops by campfires, in rooms glowing in orange, green, by docks, the ocean, and even while we watch an artist at work on his over-sized canvas. In this film, the cinematography is as important as the storytelling. For viewers this means that we are never bored, and our eyes become captivated by each scene whether we listen to people directly speaking to us about their encounters with the spirit world, or whether we are hear their voice as we watch an image presented to us. By keeping the eye and the brain focused, Thornton delivers a documentary that with each subject makes us think the childlike phrase, "tell us another one!"


TODAY'S SCREENING
The Dark Side
ROM Theatre
 Fri, Apr 25 9:00 PM
For additional screening dates/times click HERE

HOT DOCS
Canadian and International Documentary Festival
April 24 - May 4, 2014
www.hotdocs.ca
 

Monday, 10 March 2014

2014 Canadian Screen Awards: Viggo and Cronenberg take a bow!

photo by donna g
The highlight of my evening at the 2014 Canadian Screen Awards was the moment actress Gabrielle Marion-Rivard (left) walked onto the press room stage, absolutely glowing, as if lit up from within. I don't think I have ever seen someone beam before last night. As she held her award in her arms, and answered questions in both English and French, Marion-Rivard spoke about how winning her award (Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role) was a dream come true. The coming of age romance Gabrielle  which was nominated for a foreign-language Oscar (2013) was later presented with a Canadian Screen Award for Best Picture. Director, Louise Archambault says that she has heard from audiences that they see the film as being about "pure love" and not just an issues story about Williams syndrome,  a condition that first-time actress, Marion-Rivard shares with her character.


photo by donna g
I love David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen together. For a director and actor known for such serious work, they are like a vaudeville comedy duo as they riff off each other as Viggo holds up his ubiquitous Habs flag or jersey (Cronenberg is a lifelong Maple Leafs fan).  My cohort, blogger HeidyMo, had a fangirl moment over the dynamic duos presence, but Viggo's History of Violence co-star (and my girl crush), Mario Bello, although in attendance at the event for Cronenberg's acceptance of his Lifetime Achievement Award, did not come to the press room. Still it was revealling to hear Cronenberg express his gratitude to the Canada Council and Telefilm Canada for allowing him to have a career and live in Canada. Without support from these two organizations when he was starting out, he would have had to leave Canada in order to become a filmmaker, or he might have pursued his love of writing and become a novelist. (His debut novel, Consumed will be released this year.)


photo by donna g
Big winners for the evening were television's Tatiana Maslany's (left) clone drama Orphan Black and Jason Priestly's comedy Call Me Fritz, while multiple honours also went to Denis Villeneuve's feature film Enemy. Lost Girl's Zoie Palmer won Fan Favourite Star and the show won Fan Favourite.

The Canadian Screen Awards honours achievements in film, television and digital media. For the second year in a row, the event was held at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, and I don't know if it was because the Academy was celebrating its 65th year, but the Red Carpet was definitely longer this year! The host broadcaster was the most suitable, CBC, and stage host was the inimitable Martin Short, or as he sang in his humourous tribute song to potential "losing ladies" last night, Uncle Marty.

Being in an awards press room can be pretty dry: some journalists were plugged into headphones to get the feed from the stage, but others, like myself, watched the silent monitors in between the winners taking to our stage for their post-win Q & A session. Thank you, Richard Crouse for your positive vibes, and for asking such great questions that I always feel as if you are reading my mind. Richard also knows how to share, never once forgetting to check the room for those who have their own questions. If you ever have the chance to attend an event where Richard is facilitating a discussion about film or with filmmakers, do yourself a favour and buy a ticket. I sometimes feel at these events that some people in the room are only interested in getting sound bites and money shots. Richard is that person in the room that always, always maintains an enthusiasm for film.

For the complete list of winners and nominees, please visit: http://www.academy.ca/Canadian-Screen-Awards/2014-Nominees-Winners/Film 

For more of my pictures, please visit my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/tmtmradio

Friday, 31 January 2014

POSTPONED: Swell Broad & The Homemaker (Jan 31-Feb 9)

If you were planning to see Swell Broad & The Homemaker the production has been POSTPONED! 

"Convection Productions and Peanut Butter People are sad to announce that Swell Broad & The Homemaker: A Double Bill has being postponed (one day before opening).

Unfortunately, a pipe burst in our venue, The Downstage, and the theatre is completely flooded. Along with the floors, audio and lighting equipment has been damaged beyond repair. 

We are currently looking to secure a new venue for late March or early April and will keep you updated. Thank you for your continued interest and support!"

Best,
Brooke Banning