October 30, 2014

Air Canada enRoute Film Festival 2014: Award Nominees and Free Public Screening

The eighth annual Air Canada enRoute Film Festival, an extension of enRoute Magazine, has announced its nominees for this year's festival.  Award categories include Best Short Film, Achievement in Direction, Achievement in Cinematography, Achievement in Animation, and, new this year, Achievement in Documentary.

The 2014 Air Canada enRoute Film Festival Award Nominees are:

Yassmina Karajah for Light
Renaud Lessard for The Wild Kids
Russell Ratt-Brascoupe for The Hearing
Raquel Sancinetti for Cycle

The winner of the Best Short Film Award will receive a cash prize of $5,000 courtesy of Cineplex Entertainment. All winners will receive an all-inclusive trip for two to the Berlin International Film Festival, courtesy of Air Canada. These are excellent prizes for any filmmaker, in my opinion.

A free public screening of the nominated short films will take place on Wednesday, November 5th at the Scotiabank Theatre Toronto starting at 7pm. An exclusive awards celebration will take place at 2nd Floor Events immediately after the screening hosted by an ETALK presenter. Jury members expected to attend the awards celebration include NFB executive producer Michael Fukushima, actor Jennifer Podemski and 2013 Air Canada enRoute Film Festival Best Short Film Award Winner Andrew Moir.

Voting for the People’s Choice Award runs until tomorrow, Friday, Oct. 31st on enroutefilm.com. The winner will be announced at the Wednesday, Nov. 5th awards celebration. By voting you can win a trip for two to a destination of their choice within North America, courtesy of Air Canada.  FYI, you can vote once a day!

For more information on enRoute Film Festival, watch all festival selections and find out more about the festival, visit enroutefilm.com. Be sure to vote... Not only can you help a filmmaker win but you increases your chances to win too!

October 23, 2014

imagineNATIVE 2014 Spotlight: Documentary SOL

In 2012, 26 year-old Solomon Uyarasuk died while in RCMP custody in Igloolik, Nunavut. The authorities reported Solomon killed himself using a shoelace while in his cell. Suicide is unfortunately a much too common occurrence in Nunavut; especially amongst the Inuit community. Solomon's family and friends just could not accept the fact he had killed himself; not in the circumstances described by the authorities.

How does an entire community make sense of such loss? And how can the rest of Canada pay more attention to this very serious issue affecting one of its communities? These are some of the questions raised in the documentary SOL directed by Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Susan Avingaq. The filmmakers have set out to tell Solomon's story while raising awareness about the high numbers of suicide in this Northern Inuit community.

Deeming this a very important issue, I posed some questions to director Marie-Hélène Cousineau about Solomon, this documentary, and how she and co-director Susan Avingaq gathered a community to talk about their history, losing their loved ones to suicide, and wishing to keep their traditions alive.

HM: My understanding is that you knew Solomon Uyarasuk, the young artist we come to know through your film. Could you please share how telling Solomon's story has opened up the community of Igloolik to talk about suicide?

Marie-Hélène Cousineau (MHC): Yes I knew him since he was first 6 or 7 years old; a little boy, very cute and gentle. I was afraid people would not want to talk about suicide but as we went filming I realized they were open to share their pain and drama and hope and solutions because they want the situation to change. Young Inuit men have 13 times the suicide rate than other Canadians. It is not acceptable. Now we will bring the film in the communities and we will see how people react and how they talk. It is scary a little bit but …it has to be done, I believe it really. People need to talk because they are holding all this pain in.

HM: How did co-director Susan Avingaq become involved with the film? Her warm presence in the film seems to help in getting community members to talk more candidly, in my opinion.

MHC: She is the one who shared her concerns with me at first. She was very confused by the different stories she heard about Solomon's death. She felt a lot of compassion for his family, for his biological mother (he was adopted).

HM: In the documentary, we meet other community members, friends and family of Solomon. What were the main themes, in your opinion, when they shared with you and Susan, their very personal stories?

MHC: They wanted to say that suicide was too prevalent, too common, too normalized. That was the most shoking thing for them. It became clear that everyone was touched by suicide, every one knew someone, of someone else [who had killed him/herself]. They also talked a lot about the role of the whole community to solve the problem.

HM: Besides honouring Solomon's life, the documentary touches upon the topic of suicide in Nunavut and the North of Canada - a topic often neglected by the rest of Canada. I have read the Nunavut coroner will hold an inquest into Solomon's jail cell death next month. Any thoughts you'd like to share on this development?

MHC: It was too long to have this inquest, too long a wait; there will be tensions, there will be sorrows and a feeling of having been disrespected. At the same time, there might be a feeling of closure; I hope so. But this wait was really, really too long. (more than 2 years). If it was not that complicated a situation , why wait so long? People will be suspicious. The justice system might not seem worth of the family's trust.

HM: Outside of the festival circuit, and educational screenings, how can more people see this film?

MHC: [People] will be able to see it on SuperChannel in 2015.

This documentary may be about Solomon. But it deals with topics and problems present in Canadian society that many have turned a blind eye on. I encourage you to attend its premiere screening at imagineNATIVE tomorrow, Friday, October 24th - 5:30pm, at TIFF Bell Lightbox.

For my picks of what else to see and check out at imagineNATIVE, click here.

5 Reasons To See Brotherhood: The Hip Hopera

The Toronto theatre scene is one that offers a vast array of types and styles of theatre. Outside the mainstream theatre districs, we, as a captive audience, are practically spoiled in the many choices we have with the many theatre companies whose work grace the stage almost every night.

For this reason, I am giving you 5 reasons to get out of the ordinary and make your way to Brotherhood: The Hip Hopera playing at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre until Saturday, October 25th.

Reason 1
This is a non-stop, high energy, one man show starring Sébastien Heins as two brothers living the Hip Hop Life. It uses original music and physical theatre to tell this parodied story. Key word: Parody.

We are taken from the 1970s and into the future, as Sébastien mixes Hip Hop and R & B, Rap, Soul, Funk, and Gospel to share a raw yet touching story of family and brotherly love. And be sure that Sébastien's performance as all characters does not disappoint. Not to mention he has great stage presence.

Reason 2
This afteRock Plays production is more of an "immersive experience"; akin to being at a live hip hop concert. From the pre-show performances to the music playing as you enter the theatre we are already part of the journey, so to speak.

Reason 3
The music. For those of us who grew up listening to hip hop and rap along with some older music genres, the music will literally resonate with you. It may even take you back... way back.

Reason 4
It is an opera. By definition, an opera is "a dramatic work in one or more acts, set to music for singers and instrumentalists." This show has all of these. The highs and low of any and every opera can be found in Brotherhood...

Reason 5
It is diverse. It is great to see theatre from companies reflecting the many cultures of our city, as is bcurrent. As audience members, and as theatre aficionados, we need to support companies like this so that we can see more of the stories that reflect our society as a whole on stage.

Brotherhood: The Hip Hopera
Directed by Karin Randoja
Dramaturgy by Jodi Essery & Karin Randoja
Set Design: Anahita Dehbonehie
Lighting Design: Jacynthe Lalonde
A co-production with Sébastien Heins
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre
Ends Saturday, October, 25th

As well, do not forget to check out the other afteRock Plays production, The Femme List. This isa  multidisciplinary work, directed by the 2014 Ken McDougall award-winning director, Gein Wong; starring Catherine Hernandez. It reveals what it is like to be sexy and proud, slutty and loud, queer and brown. It also plays until Saturday, October 25th. Buy a Combo Set and catch both shows the same night!