Cinecast Episode 467- 2016 Year in Review (Part One)

We did it. With the help of Jim Laczkowski from The Director’s Club Podcast and Voices & Visions, Andrew and Kurt are joined by Matt Gamble for a full exploration of the year that was – maybe subconsciously we prefer to stay positive and somehow manage to avoid getting into the whole celebrity death thing. But we do look at a whole lot of trends and themes and strengths and weaknesses that encompassed 2016 as a whole. Of course we make up for our lack of list making over the year with three different top 5/10 lists including our favorite pictures of the year. Per usual, this things clock at nearly four hours. So for your convenience, we’ve chopped it up into three episodes – or, as always, if you prefer the “whole bloody affair” version, that’s available for download as well. We hope you enjoy the show. Whew!

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 

 
 
Would you like to know more…?

Cinecast Episode 467- 2016 Year in Review (Part Three)

We did it. With the help of Jim Laczkowski from The Director’s Club Podcast and Voices & Visions, Andrew and Kurt are joined by Matt Gamble for a full exploration of the year that was – maybe subconsciously we prefer to stay positive and somehow manage to avoid getting into the whole celebrity death thing. But we do look at a whole lot of trends and themes and strengths and weaknesses that encompassed 2016 as a whole. Of course we make up for our lack of list making over the year with three different top 5/10 lists including our favorite pictures of the year. Per usual, this things clock at nearly four hours. So for your convenience, we’ve chopped it up into three episodes – or, as always, if you prefer the “whole bloody affair” version, that’s available for download as well. We hope you enjoy the show. Whew!

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 

 
 
Would you like to know more…?

Cinecast Episode 467- 2016 Year in Review (The Whole Bloody Affair)

We did it. With the help of Jim Laczkowski from The Director’s Club Podcast and Voices & Visions, Andrew and Kurt are joined by Matt Gamble for a full exploration of the year that was – maybe subconsciously we prefer to stay positive and somehow manage to avoid getting into the whole celebrity death thing. But we do look at a whole lot of trends and themes and strengths and weaknesses that encompassed 2016 as a whole. Of course we make up for our lack of list making over the year with three different top 5/10 lists including our favorite pictures of the year. Per usual, this things clock at nearly four hours. So for your convenience, we’ve chopped it up into three episodes – or, as always, if you prefer the “whole bloody affair” version, that’s available for download as well. We hope you enjoy the show. Whew!

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 

 
 
Would you like to know more…?

Cinecast Episode 467- 2016 Year in Review (Part Two)

We did it. With the help of Jim Laczkowski from The Director’s Club Podcast and Voices & Visions, Andrew and Kurt are joined by Matt Gamble for a full exploration of the year that was – maybe subconsciously we prefer to stay positive and somehow manage to avoid getting into the whole celebrity death thing. But we do look at a whole lot of trends and themes and strengths and weaknesses that encompassed 2016 as a whole. Of course we make up for our lack of list making over the year with three different top 5/10 lists including our favorite pictures of the year. Per usual, this things clock at nearly four hours. So for your convenience, we’ve chopped it up into three episodes – or, as always, if you prefer the “whole bloody affair” version, that’s available for download as well. We hope you enjoy the show. Whew!

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 

 
 
Would you like to know more…?

Hot Docs 2014 Preview

HotDocs2014-TheInternetsOwnBoy

So how do you go about choosing what you want to see at a film festival like Hot Docs (running from April 24th to May 4th in Toronto)? With a roster of 197 films from 43 different countries and a reputation for superb programming, you could probably randomly select 20 films and be exceedingly happy with the results. Or you could just let the staff do it for you – for example, as I listened to Director of Programming Charlotte Cook talk about a small portion of the lineup at this week’s press conference for the 21st annual festival (the largest documentary film festival in North America), I felt that I should simply just see the movies she mentioned. I expect those picks alone would make for a hell of a schedule.

One of those movies unveiled by Cook was the festival opener The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swarz. Before he took his life at the age of 26, Swarz was known for co-founding reddit (and several other companies), fighting SOPA and leading many internet activism causes before the U.S. government came after him with a variety of charges. The film will also screen as part of the festival’s “Big Ideas” series and will have on hand Cory Doctorow, Gabrielle Coleman and Lawrence Lessig for a post-viewing panel discussion.

“Big Ideas” was quite successful last year, so they’ve upped the count to 5 separate films that will be covered in much greater depth via after film discussions with relevant guests. Along with the Swarz doc, there will also be Mission Blue (about environmentalist and oceanographer Sylvia Earle – also in attendance), The Case Against 8 (featuring the two couples who, along with a pair of lawyers, fought and won to strike down Proposition 8 in California that denied same sex marriages) and To Be Takei (about – you guessed it – George Takei and his eclectic life).

The fifth one of the “Big Ideas” is the one that hits me close to home – I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story. I vividly remember, back in the day, watching the very first season of Sesame Street before toddling off to afternoon kindergarten. The show was a joy for me then and can still – without much effort – cuddle me in its warm embrace. Big Bird was a big part of that, so I’ll be bouncing in my seat before, during and after the film. Especially as Spinney – Big Bird AND Oscar The Grouch’s puppeteer – will be on stage to talk about the movie and his life.

And if that wasn’t enough, here’s a few others mentioned at the kickoff event:

 

Super Duper Alice Cooper – The world’s first Doc Opera. No interviews or voice over, just graphics, animation and footage of Alice from his life and career. The event will be simulcast across Canada to 40+ theatres and the man himself will be on hand as well. A big ticket for sure.

Would you like to know more…?

Mamo #325: Breaking Docs

In this two-pronged episode, Kaitlyn Regehr, producer of Tempest Storm: Burlesque Queen, returns to the show to discuss her experiences pitching the project at WestDoc 2013. After that, we get into the online frenzy that followed the conclusion of Breaking Bad – in particular, the heartfelt confessions of one Mr. Damon Lindelof.

Tempest Storm: Burlesque Queen’s Kickstarter program runs till October 9! Help them get across the finish line right here, or visit tempeststormfilm.com for more information.

To download this episode, use this URL: http://rowthree.com/audio/mamo/mamo325.mp3

Hot Docs 2013: Muscle Shoals

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Tucked into the North-West corner of the state and hugging the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals, Alabama is a slow-paced town of about 13000 people (if you sift it out of its Quad Cities region). But aside from its intriguing name (taken from the shallow areas of the river where mussels could be found), what makes this Southern city so interesting and worthy of an entire documentary about it? Three reasons spring to mind…

The music…That swampy, bluesy, soulful music that pushes the rhythm section up front and then drags all of the vocalist’s deep seated, long buried emotions out into the open. Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge, Wilson Pickett, Etta James, Otis Redding and The Staple Singers all cut seminal sides of music here and influenced countless others – many of whom later came to Muscle Shoals themselves (Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Bob Seger, etc.). Duane Allman just about forced himself into the recording studio as a session guitarist and convinced Pickett to cover The Beatles “Hey Jude” – the results (a revelation to me in this film) becoming a template for The Allman Brothers. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” (as tired as it has become from classic rock radio) has never sounded as fresh or alive than it did playing over the end credits of the film. It’s said that the black artists from this area of Alabama used styles from country music while white musicians incorporated blues & gospel elements. The results lead directly to the Muscle Shoals sound – reason enough to encourage a melting pot of cultures – which permeates every corner of the film. The soundtrack is stupendous and sounded staggeringly great in the confines of the Bloor Theatre.

Would you like to know more…?

Hot Docs 2013: Valentine Road

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Director Marta Cunningham is glad I’m angry. The second showing of her fantastic documentary Valentine Road has just let out at Hot Docs and a few of us are milling about the lobby. She’s more than willing to discuss the film, but even happier to gauge people’s feelings and emotions after viewing it. Several of us mention the anger we feel at the sequence of events, the many points where warning signs were missed and the absolute failure of just about every adult in the film to do the right thing for the students in this particular school. She says that she hopes we hang on to that anger so that we can turn it into something positive – like taking action in regards to local issues or simply helping where we see fit.

Well, it’s a few days later now and my anger has subsided somewhat – but not completely as it’s still hanging in there. Via its nuanced look at the complicated interactions and issues that led to the 2008 murder of a 15 year-old boy in his classroom, Valentine Road ensures that the feelings will linger. You may remember the case – a Grade 8 boy in Oxnard California named Larry King asks another boy in his class (Brandon McInerney) to be his valentine. A few days later, he lies dying near his classroom computer after Brandon shoots him twice with a gun he brought from home. It’s a horrible crime emanating from intolerance and lack of education, but it’s far from the whole story. Cunningham begins to introduce us to the many people involved in this story – friends, family, teachers, girlfriends, half-brothers, cops, lawyers – and takes us through the tragic backgrounds of both the slain boy and the killer. The cast of characters continues to grow as the film moves beyond the incident, through its aftermath and ever so slowly towards the trial. 3 full years go by from the time of the murder to when the trial finally takes place and then stumbles to a mistrial. A plea bargain is finally reached, but no matter how you view the story there’s bound to be something in it to get your back up.

Would you like to know more…?

Hot Docs 2013: Anita

HotDocs13-Anita

I‘m a bit conflicted over my impressions of Freida Mock’s newest documentary Anita, so let’s see if I can work them out…

First of all, let me be clear about the subject of the film – Anita Hill is clearly an incredible person. Intelligent, funny, brave and interesting, 20 years ago she became a lightning rod around issues that few people enjoy discussing even today. And yet, there it was on the news back in 1991: an entire panel of old white men talking about sexual harassment, penis sizes and pubic hair during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas. As women were finally breaking down some barriers by garnering greater positions within the U.S. government, Hill’s grace under fire during her single 9 hour questioning session made her a role model for many women and brought more public attention and debate to the issues. Hill understood that harassment of any kind is primarily about control (perhaps being the youngest of 13 children helped her recognize this…) and she strongly felt that her prior experiences with Thomas’ repeated sexual advances and inappropriate closed door insinuations was relevant to him being given a lifetime position on the Supreme Court bench. In other words, “Speak Truth To Power”. The film documents a great deal of Hill’s lengthy appearance at the hearings via old news footage and shows us the road she traveled afterwards up until her present day role as a speaker and professor of public and social policy. Though she never wanted to discuss her history specifically in the classroom, she’s never shied away from it. “If I’m not public, it will be a sense of victory for them”.

But the film let’s both Anita and the audience down in the telling of all these events. There are fascinating sections of her story (the condescending questions of senators at the hearing, the 25000 letters of hate/support Hill has received, the effect she had on the rise of female politicians at the federal level, etc.), but it’s told flatly, doesn’t always provide as much context as it could have, and mostly sticks to archival footage and current talking head interviews. It’s clear that Mock wanted to keep the focus on Hill, but as engaging as Hill is herself when speaking and discussing her family, career before/after the hearings and her hopes for the future, it sometimes feels similar to a 60 Minutes piece. That’s not in and of itself bad, but it’s disappointing. Particularly due to the excellent work Hill is currently doing with young women and the array of her peers that could have been pulled in for further positioning of her role in changing perceptions on harassment in the workplace. As I walked out, I mentioned to a friend that all the conversation I heard after the film was mostly about ideas Anita Hill had discussed in the extended Q&A (also attended by Mock) and not about the film.

Would you like to know more…?

Hot Docs 2013: Rent A Family Inc.

Ryuichi Ichinokawa’s wife doesn’t know what he does for a living. And she doesn’t really seem to care…”Without meaningful conversation, any relationship withers. I guess I just gave up on him. As long as we can pay the bills, I don’t care what he’s doing anymore.” He is either out at work, uncommunicative on the computer at home (when she says the above quote to the filmmakers, he’s right there in the same room on the computer and has no reaction) or sleeping. He thinks she has a negative attitude, stopped supporting him long ago and cares more about what her friends think than what he does. Short of his obsession with one day getting to Hawaii, they no longer have any ambition, hopes or dreams and assume the worst about each other. They are two very lonely people and Ryuichi wonders how much longer they will stay together after the kids have both gone off to school. So it may seem odd that the name of his company is “I Want To Cheer You Up Ltd”.

HotDocs13-RentAFamilyInc

Ryuichi’s business provides the service of having himself or one of his extended team come and pose as a family member or friend for the client. Weddings tend to generate a lot of business as brides and grooms want to fill out their side of the aisle with additional people to show their worth (Ryuichi has even sat at an honoured guests table and even made a speech), but it seems like just about any situation might suddenly need a fake family member present. He’s played the husband for a woman trying to get her Ex to provide for her kids and a father for a girl whose boyfriend wants to ensure he has the right blessings before they move in together (her real Dad would never approve) while also having a team of about 30 other people who can take on any role required. The need for all this fakery seems to stem from many people’s concept of family honour and the need to represent a strong family and set of friends to others – which makes everything quite ironic when they use Ryuichi’s service to create layers of new secrets and lies.

My initial interest in the film stemmed from it sounding like a real life version of the events in the Greek film ALPS (based around a team of people who take on the role of their clients’ family members to re-enact scenes from their life). As interesting as that facet of the film is, it’s actually a stronger match with Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Tokyo Sonata – the story of a man who can’t bear to tell his family he lost his job. Ryuichi is still very much a follower of the patriarchal society and is searching for his validation and respect through his customers since he doesn’t appear to get it at home (he talks about how they used to celebrate Father’s Day, but don’t anymore…). He claims that he simply wants to make his clients happy and help steer their lives in the right direction – mostly due to the fact that he is deeply unhappy himself and doesn’t see a way out. A fascinating look at one man’s broken dreams and the broader implications of a culture that places importance on what other people think of you.

Upcoming Screenings:

Sun, Apr 28 9:00 PM
Scotiabank 4

Tue, Apr 30 1:00 PM
The ROM Theatre

Sun, May 5 1:00 PM
Scotiabank 3

Hot Docs 2013: Shooting Bigfoot

Director Morgan Matthews states right up front that he used to be keenly interested in Bigfoot in his younger days. Years later, that interest has now flipped and turned into a deep curiosity of the people that continue to search, track and believe in the hairy Sasquatch. He follows along with three separate teams – the deluded but honest believers, the opportunist business man and the liar – while they go through their paces to gain any evidence of the long-elusive beast. Early on it looks like the film might be just like any other let’s-go-talk-to-crazy-people doc (filled with energy, but not shedding any interesting light on anything), but shortly after all three expeditions are arranged and we’ve jumped between each team’s early preparations with Matthews, we cut to the director lying in a hospital bed. Suddenly we have a different movie on our hands…

HotDocs13-ShootingBigfoot

Though Dallas and Wayne seem a bit unsteady, they appear to honestly think they have the largest amount of compelling evidence anyone could come across. Sure it’s mostly blurry photos, recordings of sounds and anecdotes, but they’ve devoted their lives to it. They truly seem kindhearted, but a little bit lost and possibly even desperate. Tom and his professional team, on the other hand, have trucks filled with equipment and have made numerous videos of their exploits. They feel they are “this close” to finally nabbing one of the pesky critters. He is easily angered by any kind of intimation that perhaps he may have previously exaggerated some of their findings (actually, many things easily anger him) and he’s wary of the camera always being on. The third team is a solo hunter named Rick and his part-time vegetarian intern named Briana. He happens to have some history with Tom: a widely reported hoax by Rick and a friend was initially supported by Tom until proof of the fraud was made public. Rick has now reinvented himself as a professional tracker of Bigfoot and Matthews joins him on a several days-long jaunt through the deep woods.

The film becomes more and more engaging as we learn more about these people, their techniques, self-delusions and possible deceptions. It’s all the more intriguing since you know that Matthews is going to face an ordeal of some variety, but with which team? None of them escape looking silly – Rick tripping in the woods while he wears cowboy boots, Tom’s admission after a particularly stressful moment that he’s had 7 stints in his heart, Dallas calling for Bigfoot using a “shamen language” – but there’s also a more serious tone that slides under the entire film as the teams come across numerous other people living in rather desperate and terribly sad ways. Guns seem to be easily acquired, the economy hasn’t rebounded for any of these folks and basic needs are a struggle to acquire. It’s a clever mix of myth debunking, suspense, silly fun and state-of-a-decaying-nation profile. So how does it end? Well, like Bigfoot itself, you’ll just have to see it to believe it.

Upcoming screenings:

Tue, Apr 30 8:29 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Wed, May 1 11:59 PM
Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Fri, May 3 9:30 PM
The Royal Cinema