Thursday, 30 April 2015

Hot Docs 15: The 100 Year Show, A Sinner in Mecca, Speed Sisters

There is a hidden gem of a film called The 100 Year Show. It plays with It's Me Hilary: the Man Who Drew Eloise and the teaming of the two short docs is perfect: two artists in their seniors years, one 99 and the other 88 expressing their thoughts about their work. Carmen Herrera, who will be 100 years old on May 15, is a discovery to me, just as she was to the larger art world in the early 2000s. A Latin American woman, whose body of work was finally acknowledged publicly in her 90's, her work should have been known decades ago. As one person in the docs says, she should have been celebrated with other hard-edged painters such as  Frank Stella and Ellesworth Kelly.

It's Me Hilary: the Man Who Drew Eloise delightfully amuse bouche of a doc because its subject Hilary Knight, the illustrator who drew the 6 year-old character created by author Kay Thompson. Both Thompson and Knight are larger than life which is probably why a severing of the ways lead to Knight not being permitted to draw Eloise until after Thompson died. Through questions from actor Lena Dunham, who sports an Eloise tattoo, and direction by Matt Wolf, what emerges from this doc the portrait of an incredibly talented  man who lives in his own illustrated world, where  life is fantasy.

I credit director, Parvez Sharma for taking us along on his personal journey as a gay Muslim man making his pilgrimage to Mecca, but his doc, A Sinner in Mecca, needs to be tightened up.  I was very interested in how a Muslim man negotiates faith and sexuality, and I applaud his courage as a gay man going behind the scenes to document the hajj, (where filming is forbidden); however, too many unnecessary shots slow down the pace of his internal and external voyage of discovery. His is a story that needs to be shared, and I am hoping that beyond Hot Docs the film gets edited so that the personal story is strengthened.

Do not pre-judge! Speed Sisters is not about cuties in cars. Director, Amber Fares, documents the story of Palestinian women involved in the racing circuit. Marah, Noor, Mona, Betty, and Maysoon (team captain) are all fascinating individuals which makes for a interesting look at how they each  juggle social expectations ( like marriage) while expressing their personal reasons for racing cars. For some, its a release from the stress of living in an occupied territory, for others its the speed, and for all it is for the pride of their country and respective home towns. Despite arbitrary rules (there is no official federation), these women show commitment to their sport as they  drift, drive, and extend the boundaries of femininity.

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival
April 23 - May 3, 2015
For all details about Hot Docs, visit:

Photos courtesy of

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

3 For You at Hot Docs '15: Leaving Africa, Milk, Love Between the Covers

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival is underway, and I hope that you have had a chance to see what a wide range of subjects fall under that documentary heading. If you haven't here are 3 films films for your consideration.

LEAVING AFRICA  is "a story about friendship and empowerment." Having met and interviewed subjects Riita and Kata, I can testify that these two women truly embody that statement. Their dedication to empowering girls and women through sexual education and gender equality lead to community elevation and change. When  jealous observers strive to halt, their progress, the two women find themselves in an unanticipated battle to reclaim their personal and professional reputations, and even more importantly, their program's funding. With so many negative stories coming out of Africa, it's so refreshing to see a film that documents real change and hope, and nowhere is that so aptly demonstrated that in the life of Daizy and her family. My interview with director, Iris Harma, reveals that she was drawn to Daizy from her active participation in the workshops, but she never dreamed that Daizy's development would unfold so naturally over the span of the year. What happens in Daizy's family (husband, 8 kids of her own, plus 5 adopted) is truly inspiring, especially as it pertains to the future of her daughters.

MILK was a surprise for me. Why? Because I didn't expect a documentary about breastfeeding and motherhood to reveal to me that there are countries in Africa that are ahead of so-called developed countries such as the United States and Canada in protecting mother and child. In Kenya, the nutritional and medicinal benefits of breast milk are protected by law. True, the sanctions that come with those laws need to enforced to a higher degree, but as a result of these laws, maternal health and child welfare are at the forefront of urban and rural Kenya. Why are billion dollar companies allowed to spend billions of dollars with cutesy, misleading advertising in areas where women do not have sanitized water to make formula? Where women who are capable of breastfeeding are given the impression that formula is best? Answer: the babies become malnourished, sickly from diarrhea, and in many cases they die. In western countries, why can't women breastfeed in public when billboards are "covered in tits"? Director, Noemi Weiss does an excellent job in contrasting mother/baby health in Brazil, the Philippines, France, Africa, the United States, and Canada and brings insight into the medicalization of the birthing process.

LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS is a documentary that I hope doesn't just preach to the converted. With the stigma that romance readers and writers endure, I wish that non-readers will take a chance and buy a ticket to this documentary. As a huge romance reader and fan of the genre, I have heard the dismissive tone and seen the "oh, you read those" looks in people's eyes. The romance genre outsells other fiction genres, but because it's written by, for, and about women, it doesn't get the respect it deserves. In talking to director, Laurie Kahn, I found that while she had read some romances in the past, it's her interest in making films about women's lives, that lead her to make the film. Kahn follows established writers such as Nora Roberts, Eloisa James, Beverly Jenkins and others (including a new writer) documenting their working styles, interactions with fans, and mentoring of young writers, and their viewpoints on the stigma surrounding the genre. Besides being a billion dollar industry, this industry is also at the forefront of revealing the public evolution of women's sexuality: from Amish to BDSM and everything in between, you will find in on the shelves.

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival
April 23 - May 3, 2015
For all details about Hot Docs, visit:

Photos courtesy of

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Become a member* of CIUT 89.5 FM and You Could Win Big

Become a member* of CIUT 89.5 FM to be entered into the
SIX Grand Prize Draws for the chance to win:
  • A $300 Gift Card for Steve’s Music
  • Festival Passes and Accommodation for two people for Summerfolk Music Festival
  • A $200 Gift Card for Alma Natural Spa
  • A $400 Gift Certificate for classes with The Guitar Building School
  • A Galaxy Note 4 with accessory case
  • Original artwork and photography from Herschel Stroyman (

$5 - $24 = special prize from me, donna g
$25* - $89.40 = CIUT 89. 5 Member, + tax receipt + quarterly newsletter + Entry into Grand Prize Draw
$89.50 = CIUT Membership discount card + same perks as $25 +

Lots of other Special Opportunities at various donations levels including guest co-hosting or even hosting/producing your own 2-hour radio show. Click link for details:

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Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Alucine Film Festival Shines Light on Cuban Filmmakers

Take another look at Cuba through the lens of Cuban filmmakers from across Canada and the diaspora at this year's Alucine Latin Fim + Media Festival. Celebrating its 15th year, the festival shines the spotlight on Cuba with a few short film programmes--one in conjunction with a photographic exhibition. All films will include English subtitles.

Friday, April 3rd, 6:00pm – 7:45pm
Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)
317 Dundas St. West 
Films Followed by Q & A with the filmmakers
Pay What You Can

This selection of short films will eschew stereotypical views of "Cubanness" while entertaining and elucidating. 

Saturday April 4th, 2:30pm – 4:00pm
Theatre Direct / Artscape Wychwood Barns
601 Christie Street, Studio 170
Pay What You Can

Filmmakers, Patricia Pérez and Daniellis Hernandez, graduates of the International Film and Television School, document the lives of Cubans in the diaspora. Pérez's "Municipal Swimming Pool" illuminates the lives of multiple generations that work and visit a public pool in Coruña, Galicia. While Hernandez's "Extravio" reveals the struggles of a Black Cuban woman trying to find her place among people of colour in Manchester, England.

Saturday April 4th, 4:00pm – 5:15pm
Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)
317 Dundas St. West, Toronto, Ontario
56′ + Q & A following the film
Pay What You Can

Photographer and filmmaker, Hassan’s works have been exhibited in prestigious film festivals such Locarno and the Journée Suisse at Cannes, and the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. Her upcoming feature documentary "Portrait à l’encre" will be co-directed with long-term friend and collaborator Patricia Pérez (see above)

Alucine April 2 - 5, 2015
For complete details about the festival, please visit:

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...