Halfway through Hot Docs 2014, I had the great pleasure to sit down with filmmakers Grant Baldwin and Jenny Rustemeyer to discuss their call to arms Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story. Number fourteen of the top twenty audience favourites this year, and winner of the Emerging Canadian Filmmaker Award, it’s an eye-opening demonstration of just how much we’re blindly discarding.
I met them at the Park Hyatt, and we quickly ventured up a small flight of stairs adjacent to the lobby where a quiet, secluded room with a fireplace sat waiting for us. “We’re really tired,” Grant needlessly apologizes. It’s no wonder: asides from the exhaustion of the festival circuit, Grant and Jenn have a newborn baby boy in tow.
With a young child to care for, the question of food waste immediately springs to mind. This is of little concern, as Jenn deftly adds, “people always say there’s so much more waste when you have children. I think it depends on the way that you raise them. In our family, we used to serve food family style so that the food was in the middle of the table. You would take what you want, and then you had to eat everything on your plate.”
“[I]t’s interesting now, having a child,” Jenn continues, “because people [ask] ‘what about food waste? Do you think it’s safe?’ Absolutely. I would feed the food waste that we found to our son. It’s perfectly safe. [I]t’s not garbage food; it’s just surplus.” Would you like to know more…?
It was a sunny afternoon, and the temperature was finally starting to inch upwards of ten degrees when I met Kris Kaczor and David Regos. Director and Producer respectively of Hot Docs 2014 feature Divide in Concord, they met me at TIFF Bell Lightbox for a quick chat before the second screening of their film. Taken with the distinct Twin Peaks vibe of the LUMA Lounge on the second floor, we sat down in a set of plush seats at the back of the empty room.
“The New York Times article is where I first heard about Jean Hill,” Kaczor tells me. “I reached out to her and I feared, when I first read it, that this interesting story would be lost to history.” Originally intending to make a short video on the subject, following up on a piece the New York Times had published the year prior by Abby Goodnough, the project slowly grew. “Jean said ‘why don’t you film a feature documentary on it instead,” Kaczor continued, “because we’re going back and trying again,’ since they’d lost the year prior. And that was about it.”
This was the perfect time to focus on Jean and her crusade. This was the third, and potentially final, time she and her colleagues were attempting to ban plastic water bottles from Concord, Massachusetts. Their goal was to pass a bill that would ban personal-sized plastic water bottles from the town. Specifically, the bill would ban polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles less than 1 liter (34 oz) in size that contained water – sparkling and flavoured water need not apply. Not to be sold in cases or vending machines, although the sale of the same sized bottles of different materials would be allowed. Baby steps. Would you like to know more…?
A mid month podcast? What’s going on?!
During last year’s Vancouver International Film Festival, I had the opportunity to see Jason James’ romantic comedy – about STDs – That Burning Feeling (review). I also had the chance to catch up with director Jason James shortly after he introduced the movie. We made our way to the lobby where we chatted for 20 minutes, complete with a walk through part by a very chatty group of ladies, about everything from the cast and writing strong characters to the Vancouver dating and real estate scene.
That Burning Feeling opens in Vancouver and various other Canadian cities on Friday, April 11th. Stay up to date with the movie’s release via their Facebook page.
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While you can read the entire AMA over here, here are the highlights.
On his favorite movie of his:
I did a film with Jim Jarmusch called Broken Flowers, but I really enjoyed that movie. I enjoyed the script that he wrote. He asked me if I could do a movie, and I said “I gotta stay home, but if you make a movie that i could shoot within one hour of my house, I’ll do it.” So he found those locations. And I did the movie. And when it was done, I thought “this movie is so good, I thought I should stop.” I didn’t think I could do any better than Broken Flowers, it’s a film that is completely realized, and beautiful, and I thought I had done all I could do to it as an actor. And then 6-7 months later someone asked me to work again, so I worked again, but for a few months I thought I couldn’t do any better than that.
On his oddest experience in Japan:
I was eating at a sushi bar. I would go to sushi bars with a book I had called “Making out in Japanese.” it was a small paperback book, with questions like “can we get into the back seat?” “do your parents know about me?” “do you have a curfew?” And I would say to the sushi chef “Do you have a curfew? Do your parents know about us? And can we get into the back seat?” And I would always have a lot of fun with that, but that one particular day, he said “would you like some fresh eel?” and I said “yes I would.” so he came back with a fresh eel, a live eel, and then he walked back behind a screen and came back in 10 seconds with a no-longer-alive eel. It was the freshest thing I had ever eaten in my life. It was such a funny moment to see something that was alive that no longer was alive, that was my food, in 30 seconds.
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If you’ve seen American Hustle, you either love it or hate it or are still scratching your head. No matter you’re feelings on the film, you can’t tell me you didn’t come away a little upset at not hearing the end to Louis CK’s ice fishing story about him and his brother and their angry father.
Well, wonder no more.
A Q&A I recorded at one of the Toronto International Film Festival screenings of Errol Morris’s new documentary on Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. Morris talks a bit about language, and a bit about the contradictions and snowflakes of a political lifer that is still in his bubble of denial. It is a rather excellent 12 minute supplement to the film itself.
Following my roundtable interview with Don Thacker during Toronto After Dark, and after seeing Motivational Growth, I had a few follow up questions for the delightfully verbose director. Sitting on a Starbucks patio at Queen St West and John, Thacker was kind enough to answer my questions. The result was an in depth discussion on what makes his film tick, the problems with contemporary auteurship, the obsession over cult films, and the cynicism with which films are being made today.
A: Were you aiming for a nihilistic tone with the film?
D: No. Absolutely not. Nope.
A: So what were you aiming for?
D: It’s a love story! He gets the girl! At the end of Inception, […] you don’t know if the top falls. That’s the thing. You shouldn’t care. If you’re arguing over whether or not the top fell, you missed the point. The movie is about whether or not he’s going to get home to his kids. Whether or not it was a dream doesn’t matter. The whole point of the film is that this guy has lost so much connection to reality – in Inception – […] that it doesn’t matter anymore whether or not it’s real. He needs to get home to his kids. […]
A: So if you’re arguing whether or not he died, you missed the point?
D: Yeah! […] Something of him left that apartment, you know? And that’s a beautiful thing. […] Imagine this statement. As opposed to a nihilistic “oh my god, everything sucks, he just died,” imagine a scenario in which I’d said “yeah, he died, but he got a chance to make everything right and fix it!” That’s a beautiful ending. Would you like to know more…?
During the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, I had the great pleasure of sitting down with Don Thacker, writer and director of the inventive, absurdist film with the talking mould: Motivational Growth. Now, Don’s a wonderful guy. But to say that I spoke at all would not only be an understatement, but it’d be a downright lie. Neither myself, nor my two fellow interviewers, got a word in edgewise save for asking all of five questions. The beautiful thing is that we didn’t have to. In spite of the months he’s been doing his festival tour, Thacker was just as excited to sit down and chat with us, as I’m sure he was on his first interview.
I don’t even think we had a chance to ask how he came up with the concept for Motivational Growth before he started his story. “I was living in LA,” he began. “I did this foolish thing when I was 19 where I was like ‘I’m gonna save up $3000! I’m gonna go out to LA! And then I’ll be famous, and make all the movies! It’ll be great!’ I went to LA, and found that there’s a giant wall. […] [A]nd it’s built on broken dreams. It’s forded with hell tears, and it’s made metal by the aspirations of the young. […]And at the top is this giant line of networking that you have to get through to even get near the wall.
“At 19 you don’t know this,” he continues. “[…] And L.A. […] can be like a giant meat grinder from hell that destroys souls. My soul was one of those souls! I got into a bunch of bad business, worked with people who were shifty. And at one point I was living in this Australian lady’s apartment, but I was living in just one room of it. I didn’t have access to the common areas. […] And in the middle of the night […] I’d wake up, sneak out of the room, and I’d walk over to the couch and quietly turn the television on. And I sat there depressed. It was the only thing I had in my whole life. I couldn’t afford rent. […] I had no money. […]So I’m sitting there in my underwear, flipping through channels, and every time something went bad or I didn’t like something I’d just [change the channel]. And I just thought ‘wouldn’t it be great if I could just click and change to a different life?’ And then I [thought] ‘if this TV went away, I would fucking kill myself.’ That’s where I was. […] I was a kid, I didn’t know shit. Everything’s melodramatic when you’re 19, right?” Would you like to know more…?
Far and away one of the best films at Toronto After Dark this year, The Battery has been taking not only Toronto, but the international festival circuit by storm. Winner of three audience award prizes, and official selection of over 20 international film festivals, it’s living up to expectations as one of the best zombie films in years.
I had the opportunity to sit down with writer, director, producer and star Jeremy Gardner, and costar and producer Adam Cronheim to discuss the zombie-less zombie film. Though it is an originally executed film, in many ways, it’s still the same concept. “It’s still zombies,” says Gardner, “and all the rules apply. Even some of the tropes are there. But the seed of it was trying to focus on the way an apocalypse would affect the psychology and the psyche of the human rather than the macro scale that a lot of zombie movies try to do.”
Reportedly made for a meager $6,000, much of the concept of a two-man film was based on budgetary restraints. “Even as a fan of the genre, it forces you to refocus,” Gardner added on the impact of their budget. “It’s hard to splatter a head on screen when you have no money. So it forces you to be creative in what you show and what you don’t show. But I always like things like that, where it’s a little off screen. It’s like Texas Chainsaw Massacre where they always say that it’s one of the most violent movies ever, but you really don’t see anything. It’s all about mood, and tone, and terror.” Would you like to know more…?