Is it a rat?
Is it a bat?
Is it a cat?
Drat is a gothic tale of a woman living alone in a
Her solitary routine is disrupted when she suspects
that some kind of animal is trying to invade her home.
Her suspicion turns into obsession as she tries in vain
to keep the creature out.
11 minutes, 2010, Canada
Farzin Farzaneh is an Iranian-born artist living and
working in Montreal.
Technique The images were created directly under the camera
and photographed on the animation stand.
This technique is similar to painting-on-glass and sand animation.
Farzin would erase and draw over the parts of the images
that he wanted to modify in the next frame.
Farzin used graphite and colour pencils on velum.
"The Hungry Squid," John Weldon's
tale about a little girl who is left alone to fend for herself, is full of
great characters, strong colors and wonderful Celtic-sounding music composed
by Chris Crilly. It's a very imaginative film using floppy
puppets made by Lilian Kruip.
The puppets are filmed flat on their
backs. "I'm a drawing animator, so they didn't need to stand up. We used
the lightest fabrics we could get," Weldon explains. The puppets were filled
with aquarium grains, which make them feel like a light beanbag. Most of
the puppets have skeletons in them for support. The right materials had
to be designed to make them flexible.
Images were recorded directly into the
computer and matted together with other materials, and the backgrounds were
mostly photographs. The ocean was Lake St. Louis in Pointe Claire, Quebec.
Weldon used Adobe Photoshop, Adobe After Effects, and Adobe Premiere for
editing; it took him a year to do the animation. "The Hungry Squid"
The Montreal World Film
Genie Award for Best Animated Short,
The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, 2003
A fantastic voyage
by train at night…an hallucination with an outstanding use of light, color,
and startling sound effects; precise detail and intricate design. The
stop-motion animation took more than five years to complete. Portrait artist
Jason Walker created the technique of adding composited human eyes to the
stop-motion puppets. Not a children’s film.
Nomination Short Film Animated, 2008
“My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts” is based
on a story told to Kove by her grandmother and is a co-production with Studio
Magica in Norway where Kove was born. “My grandmother was a bragger, and I
later found out that not all the stories she told were true,” Kove explains.
She once told me that my father was the first guy in Norway to own his own
car. I was only four or five and never questioned what she said. Then I
found out this wasn’t true. Maybe he was the first man on the block to own a
Ironing is the focus of Kove’s
film. “My grandmother lived with us, and everything had to be ironed,
including our underwear.” Norway was part of Sweden and before that part of
Denmark. As the film opens, it’s 1905, and an independent Norway wants to have
its own king, but they can’t find the rightful heir. Unemployed royals
apply. “Grandmother” is full of humor as a new king, Prince Karl of Denmark,
is elected. He can’t ski, like most Danes, his wife can’t speak Norwegian,
and neither of them can iron shirts. As well, there are no servants in
Norway…so they are doomed. We see an image of them in their un-ironed shirts
greeting the public.
A solution has to be found.
The local, respectable clothing store solves the problem. Then Kove’s
grandmother, an employee of the store, discovers that she is ironing the
King’s shirts, and she tells everyone.
When enemy soldiers invade the
country, grandma becomes a hero. She leads the resistance with a nation-wide
mobilization of shirt-ironers who, in many creative ways, sabotage the enemy’s
The technique used in the film
is cel…and the cel painter, Anne Ashton, came to Norway for two weeks to walk
around and do a color study before choosing the colors for the film. Specific
details were added to the film. If you look closely, you will see that all the
German soldiers look like Hitler.
Kove also had help with
scriptwriting from her former Concordia University teacher, Stefan Anastasiu.
Sea and Stars
by Anna Tchernakova and Georgine Strathy, 11 minutes, 2002.
Color against a black and white background makes
this film outstanding.
Produced by Intermode
Media with the help of Story Editor Sue Stranks,
Director at the Canadian Film Television Production Association
Two daring travelers embark on the journey of a lifetime.
Mitch and Skot
Along the way they encounter countless difficulties and obstacles
that come rolling with the wheelchair and living life off the beaten
Come along for the ride and see how they meet adversity and beat
Mitch, who has been diagnosed with a brittle bone disorder
sets out on this dangerous expedition in a wheelchair.
He faces unbelievable barriers when attempting freight train hops in
the constraints of his chair. Accompanied by his best friend Skot the two document their story as they face the unknown in "Await the
Girls wearing boxing gloves is not a usual sight in Kabul,
Afghanistan. The Taliban are opposed to sports. The situation in Kabul is
calm during the filming, but that can change. If the current government
loses control, there will be trouble.
We follow three young girls who love the challenge of competition. It helps them
to forget their problems. They want to be professional boxers. Their
coach, Sabir Sharifi, is an ex-boxer whose dream to
compete in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics was crushed when the Soviets
invaded Afghanistan. History is a harsh reminder.
Only a few years before, these same girls weren't
allowed to leave their home or go to school.
Now they train in the National Stadium, where girls were once stoned by the
Taliban. They don't have money for equipment, but they find ways around this.
Their instructor says, "Keep your body tight....
Breathe like you were blowing into a bottle." We see the girls hopping on one
foot, moving up stairs. They don't need fancy equipment.
For now, they are allowed to go out of the country to
compete. Their first match was in Vietnam. One of the girls says, “It was the
first time I had seen a ring, and there I was climbing into it.”
They also travel to
Kazakhstan and China. It's an exciting time for them - exposure
to other worlds. Despite financial problems and threats, their father
supports them - and they persevere.
The National Film Board of Canada
Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet - 40 Years of One Night Stands,
Directed by Jeff McKay, 72 minutes, 2009
This film documents the legendary rise of Canada’s Royal
Winnipeg Ballet Company - the first Canadian company to be granted a ‘Royal’
title. This was no small feat, especially given the remoteness of the city, both
geographically and culturally. Winnipeg was surrounded by farmland. Eminent
dance critic Clive Barnes called The Royal Winnipeg Ballet ‘prairie freshness.’
The story is an inspired look at The Royal Winnipeg Ballet provided by Winnipeg
surprisingly, one does not lose interest as the story progresses. The
statistics and historical facts, interspersed with striking dance images, keep
the viewer riveted to the screen.
George Sapounidis, Greek/Canadian folk
singer, who at 40 still lives with his parents. He has issues, but he also
has a wonderful "joie de vivre." And he doesn't give up easily when he
wants to do something. In real life, he works as a statistician. He travels
to Beijing to play bouzouki and guitar. And the
girls flock around him as he bills himself: “the only Greek in the world who
can sing in Chinese." The young ladies all find him charming.
His dream is to sing at the closing ceremonies at the Athens Olympics asthe Olympic torch is passed from Athens to Beijing, but
his mother wants him to get married to a good Greek girl and make babies.
If you think you know
Claude Jutra, you will discover after viewing this film that you knew very
little about him, and his life remains a mystery even to those close to him.
Wonderful archival footage and photographs of Jutra's past, excellent interviews
with his friends, especially with Saul Rubinek and Michel Brault.
Corporation by Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott and Joel Bakan (and about
200 other dedicated and talented friends and professionals), 145 minutes, 2003
The pathological nature of the corporation is explored in this film which zooms
in on the greed of corporations to make a profit. Although the law regards the
corporation as a 'person,' there is nothing ethical about the organization.
There seems to be no concern for people or the environment.
Jennifer Abbott and Joel Bakan
Sundance Film Festival: Documentary Audience Award World Cinema; Vancouver
International Film Festival: Most Popular Canadian Film.
Disfarmer: A Portrait of America
Trailer 2:30 minutes
by Dennis Mohr
In the small mountain town of Heber Springs, the Arkansas portrait photographer
known as Mike Disfarmer captured the lives and emotions of the people of rural
America during the two World Wars and the Great Depression. This documentary
discovers an American master, his influence on the modern Manhattan art world,
and the legacy he left behind in his hometown of Heber Springs.
“Disfarmer”is a documentary exploring the two insular communities of
Heber Springs, Arkansas and the Modern Manhattan art world, and the long-dead
misanthrope who has unwittingly brought the two together.
Avedon referred to Disfarmer’s photography as “indispensable”; his own series of
rural portraits, In the American West, published a decade later, reveals a
kinship with - and likely the influence of - Disfarmer's unblinking eye.
- The New York Times
The documentary film is in production.
Dennis Mohr, Producer
Gizmo Films Incorporated (o/a Public Pictures)
220 Kenilworth Ave. • Toronto, Ontario • Canada M4L 3S4 c:
416-573-0265 • e:
Margaret & Evergon, Directed by
Don Winker, 45 minutes, 2011
In 1999, the celebrated Montreal photographer Evergon took a
remarkable series of nude portraits of his own mother, then
80-years-old: black and white images that embodied not the
infirmities of old age, but a timeless strength, dignity, even
majesty. Some ten years later filmmaker Donald Winkler embarked
on a project that explored what lay behind that series of
photographs, uncovering in the process a poignant family
history, a woman's determination to be her own person, and a
unique and inspiring relationship between mother and son.
Rhombus Media is known for their films on the arts, especially
music ("The Red Violin," "Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould," "Making
Overtures"). "Five Days" follows the Toronto Symphony Orchestra during the first
days of its new season (2004) with their new conductor Maestro Peter Oundjian.
Oundjian was first violinist with The Tokyo String Quartet until he switched to
conducting after he started having problems with a repetitive stress injury and
had to stop performing.
What is interesting about the film is that musical footage
is intercut with behind-the-scenes activities of the orchestra members and the
administrators. We see a double-bass player expertly playing a lovely solo
passage, then the screen is split in two, and we see this same musician,
backstage, competing in some kind of finger hockey game with another member of
Oundjian's schedule is mind-boggling. He rushes around from a television to
radio interviews, to orchestra rehearsals. His energy is impressive.
And the intricacies of such a hugh, complex organization, such as The Toronto
Symphony Orchestra, are reveling as to the amount of work it takes to make this
Cellist Yo Yo Mah, Soprano Renée Fleming, and Pianist Emanuel Ax are
featured artists in the film.
They all reveal an authentic passion for music.
Directed by Laura Turek,
45 minutes, Canada, 2010
CBC News Network "The Passionate Eye"
"Gambling Boys," a documentary produced by EyeSteelFilm, delves in
to the world of teen gambling, a world that offers excitement, the potent
allure of making big money, and as many are discovering,
the potential for serious addiction problems.
With the barrage of marketing campaigns, television coverage of
poker tournaments, and easy access to online gaming, it is no surprise that
teens are increasingly affected. Experts are finding that the rate of
problem gamblers among young people is two to four times higher than for
Photo by Lois Siegel
Gambling Boys features three youths ranging in age from 14 to 20
years old. These teens share their experiences with the thrill of gambling
and the tragic consequences when the betting gets out of control.
Gambling Boys, offers a poignant and lively picture of teens’
fascination with gambling and the harsh consequences of getting hooked.
The film was produced by Sally Bochner and Tamara Lynch,
and executive producers Mila Aung Thwin and Daniel Cross. Lois Siegel: Still Photography
Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould
Photo by Peter Bregg
Copyright: 2009 White Pine Pictures Inc.
Directed by Michèle Hozer & Peter Raymont
Review by Lois Siegel
If you are interested in classical music, musicians, piano,
or human nature, this documentary film is a must see. It’s excellent. There
have been other films about eccentric pianist Glenn Gould, specifically “On
the Record” and “Off the Record,” (National Film Board of Canada, 1959) and
“Thirty-Two Short Films about Glenn Gould” (1993) - a series of vignettes
about his life. “Genius Within” is the most comprehensive film study to
date. It follows Gould’s development as pianist from his early years until
the day of his death in 1982 at the age of 50.
Gould was only 22 when he made his American debut at Town
Hall, New York City (1955). The following day, he was offered an exclusive
recording contract with Columbia Records. His recording of Bach’s Goldberg
Variations received immediate critical acclaim. The rest is history.
And what an interesting character Gould was. Draped in a long coat, scarf,
and gloves in the middle of summer, he had his own way of dealing with the
world. He refused to shake hands with anyone, fearing injury. As well,
Gould was a nocturnal being, often rehearsing with others late at night. He
used a special rug and chair for recordings and performances. The chair
looked like it had fallen off the back of a truck, and it had a tendency to
squeak while he was playing. Trying to eliminate these sounds from
recordings, as well as Gould’s habit of singing while he was playing, drove
Columbia recording technicans nuts.
Photo Courtesy of Sony
Eventually Gould refused to play concerts, preferring to edit
his recordings meticulously instead. He was obsessed with having absolute
control over every aspect of his work.
The film’s structure is masterful. The extensive research undertaken for
over two years to create this production is impressive. Information about
Gould is smoothly interwoven with stock footage from previous films about
him, interviews with people with whom he worked, music critics, and former
lovers - all providing a new insight into the private world of Glenn Gould.
The interesting aspect of the film are the personal
interviews with people who knew him but had never spoken publically about
their relationship with him. Cornelia Foss, the wife of German born,
American composer/conductor Lucas Foss, left her husband and took their two
young children to live in Toronto. The news about her four and a half year
affair with Gould only broke two years ago.
Gould seemed to be happiest when he was playing the piano. Other aspects of
his life were not so comforting. His
hypochondriac and paranoid tendencies became more acute later in life
- his dependence on pills more intense. The positive and the dark side of genius is explored in the “Genius
This is a fascinating documentary about water and the swimmers that are
obsessed with entering water in all its forms. The film was inspired by
Charles Sprawson's book of the same name (Pantheon, 1993).
These swimmers go where other swimmers have never dared to go, they swim
across vast expanses of seemingly thick, black masses of darkness. They
conquer their fears. The culture of swimming is the focus of the film, and
we wonder why these swimmers do what they do.
What makes these swimmers
challenge themselves in the water like this?
It's very weird – as a prairie
boy I am ‘auto-freaked’ by the sea. I just immediately think of
myself as the lunch buffet special as soon as I dive into water that
is any distance off shore. The sea is so alive!
Dolphins, fish, jellyfish, all kinds of stuff – plants, animals,
fish, decay, blood, sperm, eggs. It’s like a global hot and sour
soup that has everything in it and does everything - inches apart;
it creates life and brings death. So it is exciting, I think, because
of that vulnerability. And because of that, when you swim
naked in this vulnerable way it is so arousing because you are so
aware of everything that you feel – as the water glides over
you. So I think this has a lot to do with it.
In fact there is a clip from the
show at the beginning when Charles Sprawson says something like
this. I found that rivers freaked a lot of people out, but I like
swimming in rivers, except city rivers because they are usually so
skanky. But that didn’t stop Charles from swimming in the Tiber. I
really, really tried to stop him from swimming in it. But the more I
told him he shouldn’t the more convinced he was that he should.
While we were shooting him after he got into the Tiber, several
mambo-sized, well-stretched condoms floated just past his head. We
all screamed out ...'watch out Charles,' but I don’t think he even
saw them. Two years before when we were in Rome shooting the sewage
Crapshoot: The Gamble with Our Wastes, I got to know exactly how completely polluted the Tiber is and
how it is really an open sewer - pretty to look at from a distance
but that is about it. Charles seems to get a thrill out of these
physical dangers in the water, whether it’s a shark or a French
I was amazed by
the story about
David Yudovin who suffered a cardiac arrest while swimming
- and how angry he was because he had not completed his swim.
He is so into these swims. He
will do anything. I really get the sense that for him, to die
swimming would be a great way to go because he loves it so much.
This would be perfect for him. His entire life revolves around the
Featuring singer/comedian Jann Arden in New York City as she performs at the
legendary Studio 54 and explores NYC. The film works because of her
humor and the excellent camera work of John Tran, director of photography
and editing by Daith Connaughton.
His major honors include an Academy Award® in 1982 for his documentary
“Just Another Missing Kid. ”The story of a rich and powerful Ottawa family trying to find their
who had gone missing while on his way to summer school.
But everywhere they went, police refused to help and finally a private
detective was hired
to track down the two killers of the teenage boy. First broadcast on the CBC’s Fifth Estate, April, 1981.
The Chinese New Year is approaching. Every year, thousands of Chinese are
crammed together trying to buy tickets in train stations across China,
hoping to go home. They return to their families to celebrate the New Year.
This human migration is of gigantic proportions – the largest anywhere in
the world. If you are at all claustrophobic and don’t like crowds, “Last
Train Home” will challenge you.
“Last Train Home” is a fascinating portrait of
China, contrasting life in the city with the country. Thousands of Chinese
leave their small villages to earn more money in the city. They are hired
to work in factory sweatshops, toiling long hours, often on night shifts,
and they are housed in close quarters. Their entire lives revolve around
grueling work. They make jeans with large waistlines, 40 inches, for
foreigners. “Americans are fat,” they explain.
These factory workers leave their children at home
to be cared for by grandparents. “Last Train Home” follows one family: two
parents, one grandmother and two children. The parents rarely see their
children. They want to make money so that their kids will be able to have a
good education and a better life.
Their 15-year-old daughter says, “The country’s a
sad place.” She wants the excitement of the city and leaves for a city job.
City life is enticing for young people.
Tony Koulakis, 67, chef and owner of
Montreal’s legendary eleven-stool greasy-spoon,
Cosmos, has been serving up his famous cholesterol-loaded all-day
breakfasts since the late 1960s, without taking a single serious vacation.
One year before retiring, Tony places his beloved Cosmos in the trust of his
three children, and flies - for the first time in nearly three decades -
back to his homeland of Greece.
Ezra and Tony
Tony is affectionately known as “The God
of the Potatoes”. The film examines the culture of his restaurant through
interviews with the legions of his many devoted, outspoken customers.
Prom Night in
Mississippi Directed by
Review by Lois Siegel
May 17, 1954: The
Supreme Court announces that the system of
segregated public schools in the United States is
public schools are integrated.
1997: Actor Morgan Freeman offers to pay for
integrated senior prom at CharlestonHigh School
Black and white students have separate proms. His offer is declined.
2008: Morgan Freeman repeats his offer. The school board
Charleston plans its first integrated prom.
I couldn’t believe that a high school would still have separate
I thought this type of segregation was over long ago.
The documentary film “Prom Night in Mississippi” reveals another world
- that of a small town mentality obsessed with hatred.
The problem doesn’t seem to be with the students.
It’s the older generation who have not let go of their racist
But there is hope for change. The younger generation is moving away
from old attitudes.
They are receptive to change and social interaction.
population 2,100. Location: EastTallahatchieCounty.
Current statistics: the 46th lowest income in America.
The film: Director Paul
Saltzman immerses us in the life of teenagers
in a tiny Mississippi community. We
meet some of the senior high school students
through a home movie cam. They tell us their opinions.
The grown-ups use the excuse of ‘safety’ to support segregation.
Some parents still insist that their kids go to a separate, white
“Prom Night in Mississippi” is filled
with humor, humanity, and emotion…
the high school kids talk about the restrictions placed upon them by
They also talk about their boyfriends, girlfriends, and buddies at
school both black and white.
A white girl talks about her black boyfriend. We see them together,
happily enjoying each other’s company. Their relationship seems
The only white basketball player on the school team is nicknamed
here is talk of discrimination regarding a black student
who tells us she was supposed to be Valedictorian of her high school
Someone else was chosen, although her marks were higher. This isn’t
She knows it. She’s frustrated because she can’t do anything about
We see the preparations for the prom: Black girls trying on prom
White girls showing off their dresses. A white, slick limo snakes
its way into a poor,
black neighborhood where well-dressed students exit from well-worn
or shanty houses with crumbling exteriors and couches on the front
The context is almost startling – a moment of relief from the walls
There is a white prom held days before the integrated prom.
A fight breaks out, but there is no fighting during the integrated
So much for safety concerns when mixing black and white kids.
The integrated prom is a real delight with a live band and terrific
rap singing, and line dancing as the entire senior class jives on
the dance floor.
humbling, emotional moment comes when Glen, the father of Heather
who is dating a black boy,
tells us he’s racist because his granddaddy and daddy were, and they
but he says that whatever his daughter decides to do, he’ll back
her. There's hope. Attitudes do change.
Prom Night in Mississippi has been sold to HBO, Super
Channel and Global.
The Recipe Diaries, directed by
Jacques Menard, 47 minutes, 2005
Documentary for Television
and Lentil Crepe
Native to Sri Lanka and South India
Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid simultaneously raise a
family, travel around the world looking for good recipes, and put a cookbook
Jeffrey in Sri Lankan Village
Naomi in Ahmedabad, India
He's the Jewish Cowboy of Klezmer Funk. He's a rapper who's
not into politics or religion.
And this film is about him, but it's also a celebration of
His name is Josh Dolgin, but they call him 'Socalled." He grew
up in Chelsea, Quebec,
where he played the piano, performed magic tricks, and drew cartoons
for The Ottawa Citizen's 'Teen Page."
Chicken "Freud" Rice and "Jazz Legends of the Animal Kingdom" -
Charlie Porker and Thelonious Mink.
But right now he's setting new standards for performance in
a musician who isn't afraid to experiment.
He can take a small sampling of a Klezmer tune and turn it into
that reflects a mixture of cultures what he calls "Kosher Funk."
"People should get along," he says. He insists that people should
put aside their differences and celebrate them.
"I'm like the Mahatma Gandhi of hip hop," he says, "except I'm not
The film is filled with talented people playing good melodies and
Socalled's side-kick is singer Katie Moore.
Her voice is lovely - reminiscent of Kate and Anna McGarrigle.
Dolgin is a collaborator: He tracks down artists of all ages:
Fred Wesley, trombone; Matt Haimovitz, cello; Irving Fields, piano.
His point: Generations can work together.
His explanation of show business: "This is it, Garry Beitel," he
says to the film director...
excitement, drugs, sex, violence.
No, it's more like waiting around, being very tired, hungry,
"The Socalled Movie is entertaining in a way you wouldn't expect.
It's full of surprises. Dolgin is very upfront about his life.
He's a good show.
Take This Waltz
Directed and Written by Sarah Polley, 116 Minutes, 2011
Music: “Take This Waltz” by Leonard Cohen
Margot (Michelle Williams) with Daniel (Luke Kirby)
Some people will never be happy with their situation in life.
To ease their pain, they dream.
Margot (Michelle Williams) lives with Lou (Seth Rogen). He works at
home writing chicken cookbooks.
She has some kind of job writing for Parks Canada. They play stupid
little games with each other,
threatening murder with dangerous weapons, but that's about it for
When they go out to eat, Lou doesn't talk. He's only into the food.
Margot is bored.
She meets Daniel (Luke Kirby) while working on a story at the
Fortress of Louisbourg in Nova Scotia.
Then she sits in the same row as he is on the plane back to
Then she finds out he lives across the street. And away we go......
The film is sexy. The best sex is verbal. Sitting in a cafe,
Margot asks Daniel to tell him what he would do to her. He does - in
If this doesn't turn you on, nothing will.
Daniel (Luke Kirby)
The film is funny.
You can't have Sarah Silverman (Margot's "Alcoholics Anonymous"
sister-in-law - Geraldine) in a film
and not laugh out loud whenever she appears. Silverman is terrific.
But so are all the actors. Damien Atkins as the Aquafit Instructor
is hilarious. The casting is excellent.
Geraldine (Sarah Silverman)
problem with extra-marital affairs is that you take all your demons
Changing partners doesn't change you. And as Geraldine says, "A
happy life is not always guaranteed."
In this case, we aren't really sure what is real and what is only in
but the journey with her is quite outstanding and memorable. It just
might hit home.
Ladies, don't take your husband with you to see this film.
Tell him to see it on his own or not....
Dr. James Orbinski accepted the 1999 Nobel
Peace Prize on behalf of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), aka Doctors Without
Borders, as their President. He was a field doctor during the Somali famine,
the Rwandan genocide, among other catastrophes. His story of helping
others, beyond what most people would do, is inspiring and clarifies
the situations in underdeveloped countries.
China is changing faster than most people realize.
One of the major disruptions to Chinese life is occurring along the Yangtze
River where the Three Gorges Dam resides. The dam is the largest
hydroelectric power station in the world. It's not expected to become fully
operational until 2011.
The potential benefits of the dam are
flood control because millions of people live downstream of the structure,
as well as hydroelectric power. The dam should reduce coal consumption by 31
million tons per year, cutting the emission of greenhouse gas. The downside
is that 2.3 million people have to relocate, including 4 million more by the
year 2020. Residents complain of government corruption and a lack of
proper assistance for relocation and there are hints that people who
protested the move were beaten and had their property destroyed.
Also, the dam sits on a seismic fault.
Three Gorges Dam
"Up the Yangtze" introduces teenagers
Cindy (Yu Shui)
and Jerry (Chen Bo Yu). Cindy comes from a poor family living on the edge of the
river, a family that barely survives by raising a few crops and very few
farm animals. The parents can't read or write. Their daughter must
postpone her education to earn money. Jerry is an urban only child, spoiled, and over-confident. Both Cindy and Jerry find jobs on
a luxury cruiser that transports rich tourists along the Yangtze River as they view a last glimpse of the ancient version of China, a life that is
Excellent cinematography puts us right in the picture and the boat moves
through the locks into the Yangtze. We feel as if we are there.
Two lifestyles are contrasted in the film, that of
Cindy's family in the country, eking out a minimalist living and that of
Jerry, enjoying the city during an evening hanging out with friends. The
city has also changed.
Now we see cars instead of bicycles and
well-dressed young people toting shopping bags.
Then we see how Cindy and Jerry progress with their new
jobs on the luxury cruiser. Their lives are also in contrast to that
of the tourists. They are workers, and the work is difficult. They
have a lot to learn, whether it be how to greet the tourists: "Welcome
Aboard," as opposed to a mere "Hello;"
washing never-ending piles of dishes in the deck below; learning not
to ask for tips and not to call the Americans 'Foreign Devils." Their
instructor gives them Wal-Mart type pep talks and spews clichés like "When
there's a will there's a way," and "Rome wasn't built in a day."
We see the tourists singing "My Bonnie
Lies Over the Ocean," enjoying silly rhymes by entertainers who try to teach
them a few words in Chinese, and having their photos taken in elaborate
The film is replete with contrasts.
These images stay with us and make us consider the volatile future of China.
Away from Her,
directed by Sarah Polley, 110 minutes, 2006, Canada
Starring Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent, and Olympia Dukakis
One of the best Canadian
And definitely one of the best love stories
Superb acting giving a sense of reality to an emotional
Sarah Polly confronts a difficult subject with maturity and
sensitivity in this film
based on a short story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" by
In the film, Grant (Gordon Pinsent) and Fiona (Julie
Christie) have been married for 50 years.
We are given hints that their relationship has not always
been without problems,
but they are now at a time of their lives when all is good.
But we quickly realize that something has started to go
Fiona is showing signs of mental deterioration.
Alzheimer's is the definite suspect. The interesting aspect of this
film is that it focuses not just on the victim of the
but specifically on the emotions of the husband who truly
loves his wife
and is desperately afraid of losing her. Gordon Pinsent's performance is
11 - 24, 2007
Running time: 109 min. Rated Parental Guidance; Mature Theme
Men talk about women and women talk about men.
It's clever and humorous, and you haven't seen another film like
this one. What has become of the relationships among the
sexes? A quiet interlude in the country reveals all.
The film won 9
Genie Awards in 1987: Best Motion Picture, Best
Achievement in Direction, Best Original Screenplay,
Best Achievement in Film Editing, and the Golden
April 8-14 2011
Directed by Daniel Roby
Written by Steve Galluccio
Out in Montreal
It's not just that Montréal
was disco funky in the mid to late 70s. It was
also a vibrant place to be where life was
changing quickly. In 1976 Montréal was awarded
the Olympics and Crescent Street was blocked off
every night for partying athletes and beautiful
people. René Lévesque founded the Parti
Quebecois and became the 23rd Premier of Quebec.
and businesses started leaving for Toronto.
In 1977, the French language was declared the
official language of Quebec. And in 1979,
Billboard Magazine called Montreal the
second-most important market in North America
for disco music, with its 50 dance clubs,
including Kébek Elektric, the Limelight,
The film "Funkytown" centres
around stories of seven people affected by the
fast-moving scene in the city. Bastien Lavallée(Patrick Huard) is a central
figure. Based on the true story of Alain
Montpetit, we follow his downfall from radio and
television fame to his destructive dependence on
cocaine and a failed affair with a young wannabe
starlet and a suspicious murder in NYC.
Another story depicts the flamboyantly gay
Jonathan Aaronson (Paul Doucet) based on the
life of Douglas Leopold, aka Coco, who threw
wild debaucheries at his spacious loft on Queen
Street in Old Montreal. No pun intended. A
hammock was strung between beams, clothes were
in open cupboards, two telephones sat
side-by-side on a pillow, and the telephone
never stopped ringing. The bathroom was
wall-to-wall photos, some of famous people,
almost all included the occupant: Douglas
He was an entertainment and
gossip columnist, as well as a publicist, and
hosted parties at Régines at the Hyatt Regency
Hotel. I wrote about him in "Cinema
Canada." Douglas: "I just realized I have to be
in Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City - all in
three hours. I just keep saying 'Yes' to
everyone. I raised $4000 myself this weekend by
going on stage at Place Des Arts. Maybe I should
raffle someone's jock strap from the Alouettes."
Photo by Lois Siegel
Douglas Leopold and The Great Antonio
Montreal World Film Festival 1985
In "Funkytown," The Starlight
disco is fashioned on the former Limelight on
Stanley Street. There's a special floor for
"homos." It's the era of
gay-bashing....where homosexuals meet under a
bridge - the designated gay pick up spot.
Sex was often traded for stardom. Music
promoters who represented future stars were
known to hold their auditions in hot tubs, if
you get my drift. They also dubbed other singers
voices over their lip-syncing favorite sex
objects who couldn't sing worth a damn.
Essentially, the film is about
people who mess up their lives. The characters
are classics. If you have any nostalgia for
Montreal in the 70s-80s, this is a film you'll
want to see or if you don't really know
Montreal, you'll get a taste of what it was like
in the disco years.
132 minutes, Bilingual:
English and French with English subtitles.
Ice Men, directed by Thom
Best, 108 minutes, 2004.
Big Chill" with men. This Canadian drama looks more like an American
film because of its slickness, strong acting, and skilled cinematography.
"Ice Men" is Best's feature directorial debut. He's better known as a
As director of photography, his work includes "Men with Brooms" (2003). He
was also cinematographer for all four seasons of the North American version
of the TV series "Queer as Folk," and he directed two of the episodes
Martin Cummins as Vaughn
"Ice Men" focuses on
the relationships of five men spending the weekend together at a cottage.
Within a short period of time, their lives change.
World Premiere: Montreal World Film
Image et Nation Film Festival, Montreal, 2004
Atlantic Film Festival, 2004
Maman est chez le coiffeur (Mother is at the Hairdresser's), directed by
Léa Pool, 97 minutes,
2008, Canada Léa Pool's
film starts out with an idyllic scene filled with kids in the country.
School is out. Summer fun lies ahead. We focus on three children: a teenage
girl, her pre-teen brother and her younger brother.
Mother is a journalist; father is a doctor. But it isn't long until we sense
that all is not right in the family.
The acting is superb. Gabriel Arcand
(nicknamed Mr. Fly) is a lovable, mysterious deaf man living near a
lake, selling flies for fishing. The point-of-view is from the
perspective of the young teenage daughter, Élise, played by Marianne
Outstanding is the performance of a very young
Hugo St-Onge-Paquinas Benoit, a slightly backward, disturbed young child.
This unusual film will
capture your attention as it unveils the relationships between people who
are thrown together as the result of an accident. The acting is excellent,
and the storytelling is full of surprises. "Snow Cake" stars Alan Rickman,
Sigourney Weaver and Carrie-Anne Moss, who won a Genie Award for Best
Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. All the starring actors
Weaver gives a superb performance as a
high-functioning autistic lady. Rickman displays a full range of
emotions of a man torn by the past and trying to confront his future.
Sigourney Weaver prepared for her
role as Linda by spending time with a high-functioning autistic woman from
Blackburn. Although not a direct portrayal of Ros (who in real life
cannot live independently and cannot read or write), many of Ros's
mannerisms and characteristics are very apparent in Linda, as well as the
passion for trampolining and things sparkly. Ros Blackburn gives public
talks on what it is like to experience life as a person with autism.
Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman
"Autism is the inability to single out people as special, separate, unique entities - different from bits of
the furniture, different from even the family pet dog," Blackburn says.
"Snowcake was shot in 27
days in Wawa, Ontario. The writer,
Angela Pell, has an
There’s something to be said about
persistence. Some people know what they want and stick to it – risking all.
“Still Mine” is about getting older and facing limitations. The Morrison’s,
Craig and Irene, face life changes. Irene shows signs of Alzheimer’s. Craig
needs to find ways to protect her. At times, the film is predictable
regarding the process of Alzheimer’s, but it is also full of surprises,
twists and turns that keep us interested.
The acting is superb; casting choices excellent. Geneviève Bujold (Irene)
gives an outstanding portrayal of a senior experiencing obstacles she
doesn’t always understand or remember. The talented James Cromwell (Craig),
is inspiring as her husband, devoted to the well-being of his wife. As a
solution to their new challenges, Craig decides to build a new house on his
country farmland – a one-story home where his wife can be safe from second
floor falls. He’s a skilled carpenter, so this seems to be a good decision.
There are the usual exchanges with adult children who are very concerned
about their parents who live alone on a farm. Craig can handle that, but
when he starts building without the required permits, he gets into trouble
with an insensitive government bureaucrat Rick (Jonathan Potts) who reads
off construction rules like an automaton. Potts skillfully plays a very
dislikeable character. To fight “City Hall,” Craig hires his long-time
friend/lawyer Gary (the engaging Campbell Scott, son of George C. Scott and
“Still Mine” is an emotional film, but
it’s also uplifting because a determined individual with a meritorious cause
is someone to celebrate.
It is important to note that the film is based on a true New Brunswick
story. The real Craig Morrison built things for 70 years.
McGowan has conscientiously told his story with care and concern.
See the film. It’s about self-reliance and freedom, and it’s a wonderful
Randy and Brad, both in their thirties,
are schizophrenic; Rob, in his early forties, suffered a major depressive
disorder. "Unbreakable Minds" gives us a raw glimpse into their lives and
the lives of those who live with and care for them.
Keeping It Real:
Families, Community, and Mental Illness
by John Kerkhoven
Waydowntown, Directed by
87 min., 2000
Young office workers stake a month's salary on a bet to see who can stay
indoors the longest. Good humor, inventive scenes,
as Brad creates a wonderful character. Great comedy.