October 21, 2014

What To See And Experience At imagineNATIVE 2014

Celebrating its 15th anniversary, imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival begins next week, running October 22-26, showcasing some of the most compelling and distinctive Indigenous works from around the globe.

This year's festival includes: 130 films and videos; nine Radio Works; seven multi-platform New Media works; four art exhibitions featuring 19 media artists; 11 industry panels and public workshops; and 17 commissions. Continuing to expand its line-up, imagineNATIVE will feature 175 artists representing more than 70 distinct Indigenous nations from 12 countries, including a special International Spotlight on the diverse and remarkable work of Indigenous artists from across Australia.

Opening Night
Wednesday, Oct 22nd, 7pm
What We Do In The Shadows
Bloor Cinema

I cannot tell you how much this choice of opening film makes me smile from ear to ear. This vampire 'documentary' screened at TIFF's Midnight Madness in September, which is where I saw it. It also won TIFF's MM Audience Choice Award. It has been doing the festival circuit since and has garnered some excellent response. No need to tell you what it is about because I sincerely hope you make it out to this one. I laugh every time I think of scenes from the film. As well, co-director Taika Waititi will be in attendance.

Thursday, Oct 23rd, 8pm
Drunktown's Finest
TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 4

Set among the landscape of the Navajo Reservation, the film will takes us on a journey of exploration into the lives of three young Navajo people. The film focuses on three protagonists – who represent three genders – which to me, make for a progressive move in terms of filmmaking, in general. Definitely curious about this one.

Friday, Oct 24th, 11am
Coded Territories Book Launch
Ryerson Image Centre

Aside from films, imagineNATIVE has now published its first anthology of essays written by leading Canadian Indigenous new media artists, edited by Steven Loft and Kerry Swanson. Attend to hear about the book and enjoy some light refreshments.

Friday, Oct 24th, 5:30pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 4

A documentary about Solomon Uyarasuk, a young Inuk man filled with talent and promise, who was found dead while in RCMP custody in 2012. The police claim suicide but the community suspects murder. I'll have more about to say about this film and Solomon's story in the next few days.

Friday, Oct 24th, 11:15pm
FREE Admission
The Witching Hour: Late Night Shorts Programme
TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 3

This is for those of you who like late-night films and are looking for a little sci-fi, horror, and more. The line-up looks diverse and interesting.

Saturday, Oct 25th, 2:30pm
Available Light: Shorts Programme
TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 3

Short films that sound like a complete sensory experience. There is something to be said about experimental films, and thus, I suggest you check out the line up for this shorts programme.

Saturday, Oct 25th, 4:15pm
FREE and Open to the Public
The Future of Indigenous Social Justice Docs
Panel with Filmmakers incl. Alanis Obomsawin
TIFF Bell Lightbox

Documentary filmmakers, producers and advocates will engage in a discussion about the vital importance of documentary films. They will also talk about how the industry might and should respond to the need for creating opportunities in order to bring these stories to wide audiences.

Saturday, Oct 25th, 4:15pm
The Pa Boys
TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 3

Three Maori flatmates decide to form a band and embark on a pub tour “Down North” to Cape Reinga in Aotearoa. Boasting a "hot reggae soundtrack", I am keen to see where this tour takes us.

Saturday, Oct 25th, 9pm
imagineNATIVE 15th Anniversary Party
Hart House

Celebrating 15 years is no small feat, and why not join in the party? Be part of it and groove to the sounds of Bear Witness of DJ collective A Tribe Called Red. The party will also feature Cris Derksen and Red Pepper Spectacle Arts.

Sunday, Oct 26th, 11am
Sumé -Mumisitsinerup Nipaa (The Sound of a Revolution)
TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 4

A rock band from Greenland? Indeed! This Indigenous band, Sumé, recorded three albums in the early 1970s. This documentary should be a great introduction to the band, their politics, and music.

Closing Night
Sunday, Oct 26th, 6:30pm
The Embargo Collective II
TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 1

To celebrate its 15th anniversary, imagineNATIVE commissioned five short films created by five female Indigenous Canadian filmmakers. The screening will be followed by an in-depth, in-cinema panel featuring the artists and executive producer and project manager Danis Goulet. The line-up looks very strong.

On-Goin until Fri, Oct 31st
Ice Fishing
Art Exhibit At 401 Richmond

imagineNATIVE is the world’s largest Indigenous festival showcasing innovation in film, video, radio and new media. For full film and festival listings, as well as ticketing and box office information, visit imaginenative.org.

October 15, 2014

Toronto After Dark 2014: May I Suggest...

One of my favourite film festivals, and the first I decided to cover when I started this site, the Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TAD) takes over downtown Toronto beginnng tomorrow until October 24th.. In store, there are 9 nights of horror, action, cult, and sci-fi movies. It is by far, one of the most fun festivals to attend... not only as a cult film fan.

For those of you who, like me, are still making up your schedules, I have taken the liberty of compiling a list of films I am planning to check out.

Opening Night
Thursday, Oct 16th, 9.45pm 
Director Richard Bates, Jr. bring us this "spooktacular ghost-hunting horror comedy starring Criminal Minds’ Matthew Gray Gubler, Thor’s Kat Dennings, Twin Peaks’ Ray Wise, Jeff Combs & John Waters".

Horror comedies are not only fun but can have a wider appeal. I have also read some positive reviews on this film; as such, it seems like a good way to start our time at TAD.

Sunday, Oct 19th, 9.30pm
This werewolf thriller builds to "an intense violent climax, in which a series of vicious nighttime attacks in an otherwise tranquil community compels an aging war veteran (Stake Land’s Nick Damici) to take matters into his own hands. As the ex-solder starts to track down the culprit, he realizes he’s up against a deadly foe that’s not quite human, but rather one part man, one part wolf, and very hard to kill".

A werewolf thriller? There is no way I could miss this film. And yes, this film is also garnering some positive attention as well... I'm ready to howl!

Monday, Oct 20th, 7.00pm
From Spanish director, Nacho Vigalondo (Time Crmes) comes this dark cyber thriller about a man (Elijah Wood) forced into a deadly game of cat and mouse with an online psychopath.

Elijah Wood in a thriller sounds rather enticing, if you ask me. Being a fan of Spanish horror as well, I am keen to see how this project turned out.

Tuesday, Oct 21st, 7.00pm 
A sci-fi crime thriller about a time-travelling agent (Ethan Hawke), tasked with stopping crimes before they’re committed.

To be frank, I am choosing this film based on the fact that it's Ethan Hawke and a sci-fi movie. Add some time travel to the mix and I am there... well, in a manner of speaking.

Thursday, Oct 23rd, 9.30pm 
In this documentary, horror journalist Tal Zimerman (Rue Morgue) travels the world to understand why we love to be scared. Horror icons John Carpenter, George A. Romero, Eli Roth, Don Coscarelli and more share their lively opinions to the subject.

I think many of us wonder the same thing, why do we "love to be scared"? I also think we need to support Canadian film projects, especially documentaries. I am definitely looking forward to this one.

Closing Night
Friday, Oct 24th, 7.00pm
When a menacing stranger (Game Of Thrones’ Liam Cunningham) shows up in the middle of the night at an isolated police station, the officer on duty (Pollyanna McIntosh) finds herself suddenly besieged by a demonic outbreak of violence.

Hmm... cryptic description. I researched more about this film and all I have to say is, it sounds like a heck of a ride! Not for the faint of heart but certainly one not to miss. Bring a buddy, if necessary.

All screenings are preceded by various genre short films. And for your convenience, all films screen at the Scotiabank Theatre. For full details on the festival line-up, festival passes, film times and more, visit torontoafterdark.com. See you in the night... after dark.

Theatre Review: YPT's To Kill A Mockingbird

To mount a stage production of a novel like To Kill A Mockingbird, that is controversial yet appreciated by young and old is no easy feat. Last week, Young People's Theatre (YPT) did just that, and a great adaptation is not enough to describe it.

The overall production excels on various levels. The story deals with relevant yet serious themes on racism, rape, prejudice, and how these are seen through the eyes of a child. It is refreshing to see that YPT did not shy away from these.

I found myself quickly drawn into the story. The cast, under Allen MacInnis' direction,  absolutely work well together. I noticed some familiar faces and some well-seasoned actors. Jeff Miller personifies Atticus Finch effortlessly and has "great stage presence" as my lovely companion put it to me. Tal Shulman (Dill), Noah Spitzer (Jem) and Caroline Toal (Scout) not only work well together and with the ensemble cast, they embody their respective characters very well. As an audience, we forget they are not children in real life.

Interestingly, this story always reminds me how often young people are more tolerable than adults. The character of Atticus Finch reminds us that parents play an integral role in how children view the world and those around them. There is no surprise why this novel, and its various interpreations on film or on stage, make it an important work to revisit again and again. The incidents in Ferguson are a clear example of how times change yet some people don't. It is through stories like this one that we can continually engage a younger audience in discussing how ignorance and prejudice affect not only one person but many. Atticus explains it best, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
Jeff Miller as Atticus Finch and Caroline Toal as Scout
Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann
From an artistic perspective, I quite liked the staging of the show. Dana Osborne and team did well in keeping the set design to a minimal feel. Lesley Wilkinson's great use of lighting creates the necessary space to evoke setting and mood. I very much like this type of staging, especially for young audiences. It reinforces the idea of using one's imagination. But it also allows the audience to focus on the actors and the story.

Given that this is a production staged for a young audience -- 11 years onwards -- To Kill A Mockinbird may appear dialogue-heavy but it flows well. And it is not at all confusing. At 90 minutes with no intermission, its pacing works and nothing of importance is missed.

From casting, set and light design, and direction, YPT's To Kill A Mockinbird is not to be missed. I, thus, highly recommend this stage adaptation of the novel. The show runs until November 2nd, with extra evening performances added on October 18th, 25th and November 1st. For full scheduling and show information, visit youngpeoplestheatre.ca.