Saturday, September 23, 2006

Literary Sunday

Two things happening tomorrow:

Word on the Street - I'd like to check out the poetry readings by Jon Paul Fiorentino and Nick Thran, a discussion of "Tips on Starting Your Own Magazine" with the Maisonneuve folks, and maybe even the seminar with Denise Bukowski on getting an agent. I've never really thought seriously about whether or not I'd like to someday have one, but this could at least give me some worthwhile insights when I do think about agents.

Fictitious Reading Series - Marnie Woodrow and John Lavery are reading this Sunday at this intimate series, in which the writers are interviewed after their readings. Upstairs at This Ain't the Rosedale Library at 7:30pm. I'm planning on being there.

Film Fest Part 2

I haven't had much time lately to write in here, but I wanted to finish off the list of what I saw at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was fun (mostly) to work at one of the film fest venues this year, and I hope to have the time to do it again next September. It was a very high-energy, high-pressure, fast-paced environment, for a very short time peroid.

Severance - a midnight madness quirky comedy action-gore thing... I wish I could tell you more but Lindsay and I (okay, I) had imbibed a little too voluminously beforehand for me to give you anything other than fuzzy recollections... But while it was at times amusing, it wasn't really my thing. The crowd was into it, though, which must have been nice for the UK director in attendance.

Jindabyne - an Australian film starring Gabriel Byrne, and based on Raymond Carver's story "So Much Water So Close to Home." The film powerfully depicts the emotional complexities of the various ways in which we deal with death, both on a personal and on a community level. But more than that, the pivotal discovery of the body acts as a catalyst for change in various characters and their relationships with themselves, their spouses, their friends, and their communities. Definitely worth seeing. I'm going to read this Carver short story and see how they differ.

A Grave-Keeper's Tale - an Indian mythic film, about a woman who tends the graves of children for a living, and is eventually cast out of her village as a "ghoul." Afterward, I learned it was also based on a short story, called "Baayen" by Mahasweta Devi. It was an interesting and vivid film, and I appreciated it's underlying message of how fear and ignorance can irrationally excise individuals or groups from their communities. Ultimately though, the film was just a little too melodramatic for me.

Khadak - a Belgium/German/Dutch film set in Mongolia, about a boy who is able to sense the suffering of animals over great distances, and convulses in seizures. Whether it's a mysterious power or epilepsy is unclear, but not entirely relevant to enjoy this highly imagistic and poetic film. The family is forced from their farm in the steppes to a mining town by a military convoy, and the allegorical and gorgeous film explores how this effects their pysche and community. Gradually the film becomes less linear and purely imagistic, which seemed to confuse and even annoy some viewers sitting near me, but I quite enjoyed it. Must be the poet parts of me. I did agree with one overheard conversation afterward, in which one viewer was saying that she wouldn't have minded the change in tone and style if it had been more consistent, rather than two thirds story and suddenly one third metaphoric images. That last third though was stunningly beautiful and evocative and I would see it all again.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Film Fest Flicks

Here's a quick list with comments of what I've watched so far. I won't bother with official descriptions; you can click on the link for those.

Bamako - This is a compelling film from Mali that challenges the concept and effects of globalization and puts on trial the World Bank and the IMF. I was a bit confused as to whether this was a mock trial, a what-if fiction, or a real tribunal. Apparently they were real lawyers, judges and witnesses speaking out, with passion and detailed evidence regarding Africa's subjugation. Then suddenly there was a strange Western film-within-a-film... Overall though this Danny Glover-produced film was compelling and well worthwhile.

Kinshasa Palace - A very personal narrative, almost a video diary that the filmmaker uses to explore the disappearance of his brother Max, which blurs the boundaries between fiction and memory. His search takes him from Paris to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), to Lisbon and to Cambodia. But more interesting is his family history and the documentary elements about the colonization of Congo. His family is part Portugese, part Congolese and now living in Kinshasa, Lisbon, Paris and in Belgium. An informative and intriguing film but ultimately unsatisfying from a plotting perspective, which is a pitfall for not-fiction but not-fact filmmaking I suppose.

Palimpsest - A Polish cop murder mystery, which is the sort of thing I usually dig (police dramas, Law & Order, Oz, etc). The title reflects the structure and plotting of the movie, but the ending was almost "and it was all a dream..." Not quite that, but as frustrating. If you're not David Lynch, don't try to be David Lynch!

Ten Canoes - An Australian Aborigine myth retold in the classic storytelling tradition. Beautiful cinematography and a simple story. The subtitles weren't working, which I didn't know until the next day; I thought the fact that we didn't know what the Aboriginal characters were saying was a stylistic decision, and I rather like that. I relied on body language and facial expression and the narrator's voice-over, which I felt was sufficient. I couldn't attend the rescreening with subtitles, and now I am curious what I may have missed.

That was Thursday of last week. Last night I saw another film.

Grbavica - I had a good feeling about this one, and did some juggling to make this work in the schedule. Deeply moving, heartbreaking, beautiful, stunning - quite a feature debut for this young director. I absolutely loved this film. Really original and affecting and gorgeous and subtly horrific. Set in post-war Sarajevo, it examines life in Sarajevo after the 90s' war in Bosnia, through a story that focuses on a single mother and her relationship with her daughter. The film's plot and characterization is that of a well-written and gripping novel with the subtle and mature emotional resonance of a great poem. I analyze other creative works in the context of literary genres, because that is what I'm most comfortable and familiar with. To find a film that is as a good as a good book... well that's pretty damn good! Grbavica is also well-acted and politically relevant. Jasmila Zbanic, the writer and director, was there afterward to answer questions, and she was charming and self-effacing and smart, and discussed the casting process, as well as work she has done using the film to advocate for women affected by the war. I can't say much more without giving away too much of the film, but I hope it is released here. Write down the title now, Grbavica, and go see it when it gets to the Carlton or Cumberland. Actually, she said distributors want to change the title...

Next I'm off to Severance, a goofy-sounding Midnight Madness affair that I hope is funny. They say The Office meets Deliverance... I hope that is accurate!


Damn I am tired...

Friday, September 08, 2006

Borat - Make Glorious Red Carpet in Toronto

Despite not having a ticket for the Borat movie, Teresa and I went down to the Ryerson Theatre to observe the shenanigans that accompanied Sacha Baron Cohen's Toronto screening of his Borat feature.


Yes, he came down the red carpet in a donkey cart, with one real (trembling) donkey, hauled by four grim-looking "peasant women." Yes, he was fully in character. I'm not sure which was more amusing, Borat, or the Borat fans.

My prints turned out really well, but I haven't mastered Photoshop well enough to have great jpgs, but here's what I have for you.

I also have some digital video, in which you can hear one fan yelling "I am #4 prostitute!" (for non-Ali-G-afficianados, it's an episode reference/joke.)

My only disappointment is that I didn't see anyone dressed up as Borat. I saw a few Khazakstan flag-wavers, one Ali-G lookalike, but no one in a big fake moustache or horrible "mankini." If I were a guy, and a rabid fan desparate for a ticket, I would've dressed up. Instead, I just took pictures and laughed my head off.

Working for TIFF has been, so far, pretty fun.

I have three short digital video clips too, but I haven't sorted out how to upload those on Any experts reading with some tips for me?


Thursday, September 07, 2006


Oh my god I am as giddy as a child on Christmas eve - one of my favourite bands of all time, The Beautiful South, are finally playing Toronto, and I just bought tickets!

Now I just have to see New Zealand's The Tall Dwarfs live and my concert shortlist will be complete. That, unless I'm in Auckland or something, is not likely to happen soon.

But The Beautiful South! Oh! Thrilling!

Now I'm off to see if I can get into some film fest industry screenings today, my day off.

Getting Beautiful South tix makes up for my not getting staff tickets to the Borat midnight screening tonight. That is very disappointing, but I think I'll hang around the Ryerson tonight to see if I can watch Sacha Baron Cohen sail in on his donkey or whatever mock Kazak shenanigans ensue...


GOOD AS GOLD by The Beautiful South