FNC 2015: Film festival offers a triple dose of Al Pacino with Wilde Salomé, Salomé and a personal greeting to Montrealers from the actor

Al Pacino can be seen as King Herod in the films Wild Salome and Salome. The films will be presented, twice, as a double bill at the Festival du nouveau cinema in Montreal.
Al Pacino can be seen as King Herod in the films Wilde Salome and Salome. The films will be presented, twice, as a double bill at the Festival du nouveau cinema in Montreal.

In 2006 Al Pacino presented a staged reading of the Oscar Wilde play Salomé in Los Angeles. He played King Herod, a role he had played several times before, and the then-unknown Jessica Chastain played Salomé. The actors wore modern dress.

Pacino filmed the play, for a theoretical eventual release. That film is simply called Salomé. (Though back then he was going to call it “Salomaybe.”)

He filmed the rehearsals of Salomé and background material on Oscar Wilde – that film is called Wilde Salomé. It includes remarks about Wilde from Gore Vidal and Bono, among other people, and trips to Wilde’s birthplace in Dublin, his former home in London and the Paris hotel where Wilde died in Nov. 30, 1900 at the young age of 46. We see the infamous wallpaper from his famous quotation: “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or the other of us has to go.”

As a director, Pacino does not hesitate to show himself acting petulant, confused or even ridiculous, as when he stands in the Mojave Desert with a camel.

He’s very funny, too. He says that during the play’s run no one will be asked to turn off their cellphones, because many of the attendees will be doctors or dentists and people might need to reach them in emergencies. He goes on to add that only doctors and dentists could afford the high ticket prices charged by the theatre and that those high prices were not set by him.

Jessica Chastain is the revelation of Wilde Salomé, she’s just luminous. Pacino’s cranky and querulous interpretation of Herod seems a bit weird, but maybe he has his reasons.
I think Wilde Salomé could appeal to just about anyone. Filmmakers, acting students, fans of Oscar Wilde, Al Pacino and Jessica Chastain would find it especially entertaining. That probably covers a lot of people!

FNC 2015 Salome Chastain

Wilde Salomé is being presented along with Salomé (which I have not seen yet), and BONUS! before they begin, attendees will be treated to video Al Pacino recorded just for them. It’s approximately 23 minutes long, and seems to have been made relatively off the cuff. Looking at his hands I wondered if the jewelry he wore as King Herod came from the costume dept. or from his own personal collection.

Wilde Salomé is 95 minutes long, Salomé is 78 minutes, and Al Pacino’s greeting is about 23 minutes long. Read more about Wilde Salomé and Salomé on the FNC website.
Wilde Salomé and Salomé
Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, 12:30
Program #138

Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015, 13:30
Program #317

At Cinéma du Parc, 3675 Ave du Parc

FNC 2015: Film festival offers 8 films made in the two Koreas

 

A scene from the South Korean film The Shameless.
A scene from the South Korean film The Shameless.

The Korean peninsula is in the spotlight as the Festival du nouveau cinéma shows three films made by South Koreans, four made by North Koreans and one documentary shot (mostly) in North Korea by a British company with an American subject (Dennis Rodman) and an Irish narrator.

In alphabetical order, the three South Korean films are Coin Locker Girl, directed by Han Jun-He), The Shameless, directed by Oh Seung-Uk, and Right Now, Wrong Then, directed by Hong Sang Soo. You can read synopses of these South Korean films on the FNC web site.
The North Korean films are A Bellflower, The Flower Girl A Schoolgirl’s Diary, and The Tale Of Chun Hyang. Read synopses of the four North Korean films here.

Former basketball star Dennis Rodman was demonized by some people because he went to North Korea, several times, and met with dictator Kim Jong-un. Montreal's Festival du nouveau cinema will show the documentary, Dennis Rodman's Big Bang In Pyongyang, which takes us along for the ride.
Former basketball star Dennis Rodman was demonized by some people because he went to North Korea, several times, and met with dictator Kim Jong-un. Montreal’s Festival du nouveau cinema will show the documentary, Dennis Rodman’s Big Bang In Pyongyang, which takes us along for the ride.

Finally, the documentary, Dennis Rodman’s Big Bang In Pyongyang, gives us an inside view of the several visits the controversial former basketball made to North Korea. Read more about it here. 

The Festival du nouveau cinéma runs until Oct. 18, 2015 in several theatres in downtown Montreal. Consult the FNC web site for schedules, synopses and to buy tickets.

FNC 2015: Ninth Floor, a documentary film about the ‘Sir George Williams computer riot’ will be shown where the events took place

Concordia professor Clarence Bayne (left), director Mina Shum and producer Selwyn Jacob across the street from the Henry F. Hall Building of Concordia University. (National Film Board of Canada photo.)
Concordia professor Clarence Bayne (left), director Mina Shum and producer Selwyn Jacob across the street from the Henry F. Hall Building of Concordia University. (National Film Board of Canada photo.)

“Sirens reverberated through downtown Montreal as fire trucks and police cars rushed towards the three-year-old Hall Building. Surrounded by riot police clashing with protestors, the ninth floor of the jewel of Sir George Williams University was on fire. Black smoke billowed from open windows and onlookers watched with horror and disbelief.” (Excerpt from an anniversary article by Justin Giovannetti in the student newspaper The Link, Feb. 10, 2009.)

It’s known in local lore as the “Sir George Williams computer riot.” In May 1968, a biology professor at Sir George Williams University was accused of racism against his Caribbean students. After months passed without action from the university administration, students occupied the ninth floor computer centre in February of 1969. Eventually, computers were trashed, windows were broken, and punch cards floated down onto the snowy street below. The riot squad moved in; someone started a fire. The damage was in the millions of dollars.

Computer punch cards and other paper litters the ground below the Henry F. Hall Building of Concordia University in February, 1969. (Concordia Archives photo via Nationa Film Board of Canada web site.)
Computer punch cards and other paper litters the ground below the Henry F. Hall Building of Concordia University in February, 1969. (Concordia Archives photo via Nationa Film Board of Canada web site.)

On Friday, Oct. 9, 2015 we Montrealers will have a rare opportunity involving time, memory and (physical space). In the ground floor in Room H-110 of the Henry F. Hall Building, of Concordia University, we can watch a documentary about the events that took place all those years ago, just a few storeys above. (Before the occupation, a committee to discuss the complaints against the teacher had taken place in H-110 itself.)

Among the people who attend tonight, some will have little to no knowledge of what happened, some will have watched footage on the nightly news back in the day, some might have been part of the occupation. Some might be second-generation Concordia students.

What will it feel like? I can’t imagine, but I intend to find out. I’m sure there will be many interesting questions and comments. Director Mina Shum and members of the Concordia Caribbean Student Union will be among the guests at the screening.

Ninth Floor was shown at the Toronto Internationl Film Festival (TIFF) and received positive reviews. Some U.S. writers expressed surprise and disappointment that Canada is not always the kinder, more gentle nation that we (and they) might like to think that we are.

For those who cannot go on Friday, Oct. 9, there will be another screening at noon on Friday, Oct. 16, 2015, in the J. W. McConnell Building across the street.

Ninth Floor is being presented by the Festival du nouveau cinéma and Cinema Politica of Concordia University. There is a Facebook page for the screening of Ninth Floor.

You can also read about Ninth Floor on the FNC web site. The 2015 Festival du Nouveau Cinéma runs until Oct. 18, 2015.

Cinema Politica Concordia: Fast food workers in New York fight for rights and wages in The Hand That Feeds

 

Still4credit: Jed BrandtDiego Iba–ez, left, and Mahoma L—pez in a scene from the documentary filme The hand That Feeds. Photo credit: Jed Brandt
Diego Iba–nez, left, and Mahoma Lo—pez in a scene from the documentary film The Hand That Feeds. Photo credit: Jed Brandt

The Concordia branch of Cinema Politica gets back into gear for the 2015-2016 school year with The Hand That Feeds, on Monday, Sept. 21, 2015.

The award-winning documentary, written, directed and produced by Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick, follows fast-food workers in Manhattan as they struggle for decent wages, safer working conditions and respect. A brief description on the website of The Hand That Feeds reads: “Shy sandwich-maker Mahoma Lopez unites his undocumented immigrant coworkers to fight abusive conditions at a popular New York restaurant chain. The epic power struggle that ensues turns a single city block into a battlefield in America’s new wage wars.”

Mexican immigrant Lopez worked at an Upper East Side branch of a 24-hour deli called Hot & Crusty Bagel Cafe. Employees were underpaid and often verbally abused. They were not entitled to vacations or sick days. In a six-minute video “Op-doc” called Occupy Bakery that Lears and Robin Blotnick made for the New York Times, Lopez remarks that “consumers want to buy organic food, and they worry about how animals are treated. . .but why aren’t these same values applied to people?”

In the text that accompanies their video, the filmmakers state: “In the early 20th century, immigrants were at the forefront of the labor movement that helped build our middle class. Today, when the fastest growing job sectors are retail and food preparation, the struggles of low-income workers and their families matter more than ever. Turning these jobs into living-wage jobs while fixing our broken immigration system would lift millions out of poverty and benefit our entire economy by increasing consumption and tax revenue. Mr. López’s story is part of a growing wave of low-wage and immigrant workers organizing across New York City and around the country that has the potential to spark this kind of change. It’s time we admit it: America runs on the labor of the undocumented. Their struggle for rights, inside and outside the workplace, is an inseparable part of our democratic project.”

To me, it seems both moral and logical that people receive a decent salary for their hard work. And yet, a short review of The Hand That Feeds in Mother Jones magazine mentions a scene that shows “a co-worker counting out the $290 he’s just received for a 60-hour workweek. . .” Other articles about fast foodworkers in New York indicate that some work as long as 72 per week without receiving any overtime pay.

It’s important to note, as well, that Hot & Crusty was not some mom-and-pop operation, either. According to an article on the web site Waging Non-Violence,  it was a “corporate restaurant chain backed by a multimillion dollar private equity investment firm.”

Many enthusiastic reviews have been written about The Hand That Feeds. IndieWire calls it “a rousing chronicle” and a “well-plotted and captivating David & Goliath story,” RogerEbert.com calls it “suspenseful and inspiring” and the Village Voice says that it’s “filmed with the urgency and suspense of a Hitchcock thriller.”

In his review, Frank Scheck of the Hollywood Reporter points out that Lopez is a “likeable, camera-friendly personality,” while Jen Chaney of The Dissolve reminds us that the fight was very much a group effort: “The victories in the effort to establish the Hot & Crusty Workers’ Association speak to what happens when multiple individuals channel their efforts toward a worthwhile cause. The employees at Hot & Crusty stage protests, organize picket lines, and circulate flyers, but their actions have the most impact when they are joined by people in the community, fired-up change agents from the then-burgeoning Occupy Wall Street movement, and members of other unions who rally behind their cause. By building the documentary around an ensemble cast, Lears and Blotnick demonstrate, in terms of content as well as filmmaking, that the voices of a few can galvanize the voices of many.”

In a scene from the documentary film The Hand That Feeds, Nazario G., left, and Felicito Tapia illustrate the principle that working together can creates powerful results. Photo credit: Jed Brandt
In a scene from the documentary film The Hand That Feeds, Nazario G., left, and Felicito Tapia illustrate the principle that working together can creates powerful results. Photo credit: Jed Brandt

In a Women and Hollywood article for IndieWire, co-director Rachel Lears was asked: “What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?” Her reply was: “I would hope that people leave the theater with an invigorated sense that it’s possible to stand up – individually and collectively –  and create meaningful, local change that really affects either their own lives or those of others.”

If you watch the trailer for The Hand That Feeds that’s just below this blog post, you’ll see that someone has remarked; “minimum wage jobs are for highschoolers. . .” Kevin Jagernauth of the The Playlist tackles that misconception in his review of the film: “What’s most astonishing in watching the documentary is the commitment these workers have to keeping the kind of jobs that many presume are disposable, given to high turnover, or simply a waystation or rite of passage on the way to something better. What “The Hand That Feeds” admirably makes clear is that these aren’t teenagers or students earning extra cash on the side. These are men and women with responsibilities to their spouses and children, with rent to pay, and other expenses, who don’t have the luxury to quit and find something else. Each paycheck matters, but by the same token, while they are willing to work hard, there is only so far they will allow themselves to be abused, not just by management, but by a system (particularly in the food industry) that regards their efforts as minimal, unimportant, and replaceable.”

THE HAND THAT FEEDS
Directed by Rachel Lears & Robin Blotnick / United States / 2014 / 84 ‘ / Spanish – English / with English subtitles
Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, 7 p.m.
Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd., W., H-110, Montreal
The screening is part of DisOrientation 2015, co-presented with Solidarity Across Borders and Concordia Food Coalition, and will be followed by a discussion with organizers and members of the Immigrant Workers Centre – Montreal. The venue is wheelchair accessible.

Festival des film du monde review: Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima)

Naoto Matsumura has a chat with one of the ostriches under his care in a scene from the Japanese documentary film Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima), which is being shown at the Festival des films du monde in Montreal. Naoto Matsumura looks after many of the animals that were abandoned after the 2011 meltdown of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan.
Naoto Matsumura has a chat with one of the ostriches under his care in a scene from the Japanese documentary film Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima), which is being shown at the Festival des films du monde in Montreal. Naoto Matsumura looks after many of the animals that were abandoned after the 2011 meltdown of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan.

Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima) is a documentary portrait of Naoto Matsumura, a man who voluntarily looks after the (mostly) four-legged victims of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March of 2011. These include dogs, cats, cows, and a pony. There are some wild boars prowling around, too, though they look like scroungers, not officially under his care. And then there are the two otherwordly ostriches, with their quizzical expression and powerful legs that can break ribs.

The nuclear plant went into meltdown after an earthquake and the resulting tsunami. Humans were quickly evacuated because the radiation leak made the area too dangerous for them to remain. Many people had no idea that they would be gone so long. They tied their dogs up and planned to come back for them within a day or so. But they were not allowed to come back, and shelters did not accept dogs and cats, in any case.

Some cattle were destroyed on orders of the government, others starved to death, but some were entrusted to Naoto Matsumura, and he continues to look after them to this day. In the beginning, he bought food for them with money from his small pension, now he also gets donations from supporters. He says he wishes the government would look after the animals, that would be the moral thing to do, and it would also increase knowledge about the effects of radiation. The animals are mammals, just like us, whatever happens to them might happen to humans, too.

On a technical level, Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima) is not perfect. Especially in the opening footage, some bright areas are bleached out, and throughout the film, the microphone picks up many distracting sounds – truck engines, and fierce winds among them. But heart is more important than technique – watch the film to see Naoto feeding and interacting with the animals and describing his feelings of obligation toward them. He tells us how the nuclear plant changed his town of Tomioka – at first it brought prosperity, and conspicuous consumption – a car for every family member! Then came the disaster. It could take 30 years to decontaminate the town; maybe it will never be safe again. He wonders if the decontamination work is really just for show.
Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima)
Director : Mayu Nakamura
Cinematographer : Mayu Nakamura
Editor : Mayu Nakamura
Music : Saho Terao
Film production and Sales : Prod.: Mayu Nakamura, Omphalos Pictures,Tokyo 180-0002 (Japon), tél.: +80 (80) 3408 85 30 missyn510@aol.com.

Naoto Hirtoriki (Alone in Fukushima)
Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015 – 4 p.m. – Cinéma Quartier Latin 2, 350 Emery St., in Montreal. (Metro Berri-UQAM)

Documentary film How to Save the World examines the early days of Greenpeace

A Russian whaling ship towers over protesting members of Greenpeace.
A Russian whaling ship towers over protesting members of Greenpeace.

 

RIDM, Montreal’s documentary film festival, takes place in November. But outside of that framework, RIDM’s Docville series presents a film at Excentris on the last Thursday of the month.

The selection for May, How To Change the World looks at the early days of Greenpeace. The non-governmental environmental organization now has branches in 41 countries, but it got its start in Vancouver, B.C., back in the 1970s.

Long before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, smart phones, and widespread access to the World Wide Web, Greenpeace activists were able to galvanize the public against the testing of nuclear weapons, and the killing of whales and baby seals. They famously vowed to place themselves between the harpoons of fishermen and the whales those fishermen were hunting. Look at the trailer below, to see how vulnerable the Greenpeace members were, bobbing on the ocean waves in their small, inflatable boats while huge whaling ships loomed over them.

How To Change the World is a Canada-U.K. co-production, directed by Jerry Rothwell. Rothwell was blessed with access to many hours of original 16 mm footage that had been shot by cinematographer Ron Precious near the beginning of his career. In an interview with IndieWire, Precious says: “We got some great images for sure, like [Greenpeace co-founder] Paul Watson on the back of a dead whale. These are images that become iconic. For me, they’re some of my proudest moments. My entire career in film, nothing tops that. What gave me the most satisfaction was the days doing that work with Greenpeace.”

Canadian hippie journalists, photographers, musicians, scientists, and U.S. draft dodgers were among the people who created Greenpeace.
Canadian hippie journalists, photographers, musicians, scientists, and U.S. draft dodgers were among the people who created Greenpeace.

In his Director’s Notes, Rothwell writes: “The group had a prescient understanding of the power of media, knowing that capturing the perfect image was the most powerful weapon of all. But their footage richly evokes not only the dramatic actions they undertook, but their friendships and conflicts, dilemmas and decisions – a sometimes crazy mix of psychedelia and politics, science and theatre.”

In addition to dealing with dramatic public actions by Greenpeace, the film goes behind the scenes to document the internal workings of the group and disagreements and power struggles between three of the founders Paul Watson, Patrick Moore and Bob Hunter.

The film’s soundtrack includes music from Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Pink Floyd, Canned Heat and Country Joe and the Fish.

How To Change the World had its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, and has been shown at many other festivals since then, including Toronto’s Hot Docs Film Festival, DOXA in Vancouver, theTrue/False Film Fest in Columbia, Mo., and the EcoFilm Festival in Portland, Ore. Future screenings will take place in San Francisco, Sheffield, England, Sydney and Canberra, Australia, Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Oakville, Ontario.

Embed from Getty Images

Will Jackson, left, Bous De Jong, Bobbi Hunter, Al Morrow, director Jerry Rothwell, John Murray, Rex Wyler and Emily Hunter at How To Change The World premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival on January 22, 2015 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for Sundance)

 

HOW TO CHANGE THE WORLD
Directed by Jerry Rothwell. Canada/United Kingdom. 2015. 112 min. In the original English.
Thursday, May 28, 8 p.m., Cinéma Excentris, 3536 St Laurent Blvd.

Tickets can be bought online.

For more information, visit the How to Change the World Facebook page, or the How to Change the World web site.

Docville honours Albert Maysles and celebrates spring with colourful and exuberant Iris

iris apfel

RIDM, Montreal’s documentary film festival, takes place in November, but festival organizers keep film fans supplied with documentaries throughout the year via the monthly Docville program.

The presentation for Thursday, April 30, 2015, is Iris, a portrait of 93-year-old New York style icon Iris Apfel. It was the second-to-last film made by director Albert Maysles who died on March 5, 2015 at age 88.

You might have seen Iris Apfel in the documentaries Bill Cunningham, New York (2010), directed by Richard Press, or Bury My Ashes at Bergdorf’s (2013) by Matthew Miele. Both films were shown here in Montreal at Cinema du Parc.

The documentary Iris is a portrait of fashion legend Iris Apfel, directed by Albert Maysles.
The documentary Iris is a portrait of fashion legend Iris Apfel, directed by Albert Maysles.

Once seen, Apfel is not easily forgotten. She likes to wear several large necklaces at once, and covers her arms in chunky bracelets. As a look at the trailer below will show you, she isn’t one of those people who wears black all the time. More power to her, I say! The world is full of colour, so why not enjoy it as much as possible and as long as possible?
Many critics have praised the film and the obvious rapport that existed between Maysles and Apfel. (Certainly, they had time to get to know one another – Apfel told Vogue magazine that the film was shot “on and off for four years.”)

Manohla Dargis of the New York Times says: “There are few better ways right now to spend 80 movie minutes than to see Iris, a delightful eye-opener about life, love, statement eyeglasses, bracelets the size of tricycle tires and the art of making the grandest of entrances. . . this is a documentary about a very different kind of woman who holds your imagination from the moment she appears. You can’t take your eyes off Iris Apfel (she wouldn’t have it any other way), but, then, why would you want to?”

Stephanie Zacharek of the Village Voice says: “like all good documentaries, Iris is about much more than what we see on the surface, no matter how dazzling that surface may be. . . Iris is more than just a movie about an amusing lady who likes clothes an awful lot. It’s also a celebration of the revivifying power of creativity. . .Maysles’s camera opens its eyes wide to Apfel, taking the measure of her wildly beautiful and witty outfits as if it can hardly believe what it sees. There’s delight here in Maysles’s way of seeing. . .It’s also very quietly moving, considering that it’s not about growing old, but about already being there.”

Richard Brody of the New Yorker says: “The warm relationship between Apfel and Maysles comes through from the start, as she playfully shows off some of her treasures and addresses him on-camera throughout. Maysles endearingly reveals Apfel’s blend of blind passion and keen practicality, her unflagging enthusiasm for transmitting her knowledge to young people, and her synoptic view of fashion as living history.”

Iris, directed by Albert Maysles, United States, 2014, 83 min., in the original English.
Thursday, April 30, 8 p.m., at Cinéma Excentris, 3536 St. Laurent Blvd.
Single screenings cost $12 ($10 for students and seniors).

Tickets can be bought online. Doing so might be a good idea, since the Facebook page for Iris already indicates that 261 people intend to go. The Salle Cassavetes only holds 271 people and more than 1,000 (!) have been invited.
(If you can’t make it to Thursday’s screening, Iris will open at Cinéma du Parc on May 29, 2015.)

Animation film festival wraps up with three films about heroes

Teacher Ralph Whims us ready to defend his students from an invading motorcycle gang, in the short film, The Chaperone.
Teacher Ralph Whims us ready to defend his students from an invading motorcycle gang, in the short film, The Chaperone.

The closing event of the 2015 Montreal Animated Film Festival is all about heroism.
The feature film is 108 Demon Kings. That film takes elements from the Chinese classic novel Shuihui Zhuan (known in English as The Water Margin, Outlaws of the Marsh, or All Men Are Brothers) which is based on 12th century events and first published around 1368, and adds a young prince to make it even more appealing to a young audience. (Though, what with good guys and bad guys, demons, monsters, battles, etc., it ought tobe pretty appealing already!)

Image from the animated film 108 Demon Kings.
Image from the animated film 108 Demon Kings.

The The Water Margin is sometimes compared to Robin Hood to give Westerners an idea of the flavour.

The last minute addition of two shorts emphasizes the heroic theme. They are both Canadian and one is local, too!

High school dance, circa 1972, in The Chaperone.
High school dance, circa 1972, in The Chaperone.

The local one, The Chaperone, is based on a memorable event that took place at Rosemount High School, in east end Montreal, back in the 1970s (though I don’t think the school is named in the film.) One teacher and one DJ are the only adults at a high school dance. (In a recent radio interview, one of the filmmakers said that these days there’d be 10 teachers and eight parents or something like that.)

Anyway, scary-looking members of a motorcycle gang crash the dance. Oh, oh! Teacher Ralph Whims tells DJ Stefan to lock the doors and then proceeds to teach the bikers a lesson, so to speak, using chairs, fists, feet, etc. Just like in the movies! But it really happened! The film uses thousands of crayon drawings, puppets, stop-motion animation scenes showing the outside of the school, passing traffic, and the eventual arrival of police cars, shreds of paper from the explosions of dozens of pinatas, an hilarious live-action segment inspired by B-movies, AND a cheesy (in a good way) soundtrack inspired by blaxploitation films. There are some 3D parts, too. In other words, a bit of everything. It’s truly quite amazing. I watched it at home without the benefit of the 3D aspect, I’m sure it will be even more mind-blowing on the big screen. The film is made by Fraser Munden and Neil Rathbone. Fraser Munden knew the story well, because his father had been one of Ralph Whims’s students.Here’s a link to an article in Spectacular Optical about The Chaperone.

 

mynarski crop

Mynarski

The other Canadian short is Mynarski Death Plummet. It’s about Andrew Mynarski of Winnipeg, a gunner with the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II. On June 12, 1944 his plane was badly damaged by gunfire and everyone was ordered to don their parachutes and jump from the burning plane. But Mynarski struggled through the flames to try to free tail gunner Pat Brophy, who was trapped at the back of the plane. This film blends live action and animation and ends with a fantastic creation unlike anything else I have ever seen before. The film contains 21,000 hand-painted 35 mm frames!

Here’s a quote from Greg Klymkiw’s Film Corner:

“This is such a great film. I could have watched all seven minutes of it if they’d somehow been elongated to a Dreyer-like pace and spread out over 90 minutes. That said, it’s perfect as it is. The fact that you don’t want it to end is a testament to director Matthew Rankin one of the young torchbearers (along with Astron-6) of the prairie post-modernist movement which hatched out of Winnipeg via the brilliantly demented minds of John Paizs and Guy Maddin. Blending gorgeously arcane techniques from old Hollywood, ancient government propaganda films with dollops of staggeringly, heart-achingly beautiful animation – bursting with colour and blended with superbly art-directed and costumed live action. . .”

108 Demon Kings, The Chaperone, and Mynarski Death Plummet are part of the Closing Ceremony and Awards Presentation of 2015 Montreal Animated Film Festival.
The event begins at 7 p.m., Sunday April 19, 2015 in H-110 of the Hall Building of Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve W.
Visit the website lemiaff.com for prices and more information.

Cinema Politica Mondays: Discover Grace Lee Boggs, an exceptional American

Philosopher, writer and activist Grace Lee Boggs in her Detroit home.
Philosopher, writer and activist Grace Lee Boggs in her Detroit home.

 

There aren’t any dull moments in the documentary American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs.

The philosopher, writer and activist Grace Lee Boggs will turn 100 in June, but in this film, which was released in 2013, she still has all her wits about her. Even more impressive, she still talks about revolution and social change, and does so in Detroit, her home since the 1950s. She has so many stories to share and hasn’t given up hope that people can work together to make a better world. She warns against placing too many expectations on political messiahs, though. She suggests that “We are the leaders we are looking for.”

Grace Lee’s father owned a big Chinese restaurant on Broadway in New York. She tells us that this gave her a comfortable home life, but she also reveals that her mother had never gone to school, and that she could not read or write. Grace Lee herself earned a BA from Barnard College and a PhD in philosophy from Bryn Mawr. Despite those qualifications, cracking the job market was not easy. In those days, she says, even department stores would not hire “Orientals.” She got a job at a library at the University of Chicago that paid $10 per week. She lived in a rat-infested basement and came into contact with the black community when she joined the struggle for better housing.

By the 1940s the Depression was over for whites but not for blacks. The U.S. was gearing up for war but the owners of defense plants would not hire black Americans. Activists began planning a July 1 protest march on Washington. An estimated 100,000 people would take part. To keep the march from happening, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802, banning discrimination in the defense industry. Grace Lee was very impressed by this example of people power in action. As she later told Bill Moyers: “When I saw what a movement could do I said, ‘Boy that’s what I wanna do with my life.’ ”

She went to Detroit because that’s “where the workers were.” She married James (Jimmy) Boggs, who was an auto worker, writer and activist. Until his death in 1993, they worked together in the labour movement and the Black Power movement; they knew Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Their home was a meeting place for thinkers and organizers.

The film includes the derelict buildings we’re used to seeing in reports on present-day Detroit, along with scenes from the past – the prosperous past and the violent one, too. Some parts of the city look a bit like Montreal, with the same kind of buses we used to have; there’s a dark stone building with arches, kind of like The Bay department store on Ste. Catherine St. And then there’s the snow, Detroit seems to get quite a lot of snow, too.

There’s evidence that Detroit’s downhill spiral began much longer ago than one might think. Back in the 1930s as many as 95,000 people were working in one of the plants belonging to the Ford Motor Co., but by the late 1950s automation was already leading to layoffs.

The soundtrack includes “Run, Charlie, Run” a tune by The Temptations about white flight from the city to the ‘burbs. I count myself as a Motown fan, but I can’t remember ever hearing that one before. I wonder if it’s ever played on any “oldies” radio stations?

Philosopher, writer and activist Grace Lee Boggs, left, and filmmaker Grace Lee.
Philosopher, writer and activist Grace Lee Boggs, left, and filmmaker Grace Lee.

The film is directed by Grace Lee, who is no relation to Grace Lee Boggs. They have stayed in touch since 2000 when the filmmaker began work on The Grace Lee Project, a film about several Asian-American women who share the same name. (The Village Voice review of The Grace Lee Project says that Grace Lee Boggs is called Grace X by her neighbours.)

To learn more about Grace Lee Boggs, check out this book list; it includes books that she wrote and books that influenced her.

American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs will be presented by Cinema Politica on Monday, April 13, 2015 at 7 p.m. in H 110 of the Hall Building at Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W.
Admission is by voluntary donation.

For more information, visit the Facebook page about the screening.

Cinema Political will show films at various outdoor locations during the summer, but American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs is the last presentation at the Hall Building for the 2014-2015 academic year.

 

Cinema Politica Mondays: Regarding Susan Sontag

 

Regarding Susan Sontag, a documentary about the U.S. writer and intellectual, will be shown in Montreal on Monday, March 30, 2015, by Cinema Politica.
Regarding Susan Sontag, a documentary about the U.S. writer and intellectual, will be shown in Montreal on Monday, March 30, 2015, by Cinema Politica.

We can rely on Cinema Politica to bring us interesting documentaries throughout the school year. Tonight’s selection is Regarding Susan Sontag. Sontag was once one of the more visible intellectuals in the U.S.

I haven’t seen the film, but I certainly want to, based on several very enthusiastic reviews that I found. How often is a documentary film reviewed by newspapers, and Vogue and The Economist? Interesting company!

Nathan Heller in Vogue:   “She saw writing as a personal act that bore global responsibility. ‘I didn’t feel that I was expressing myself,’ she’s quoted as saying in Regarding Susan Sontag. . . ‘I felt that I was taking part in a noble activity.’ ”
In Vancouver’s Georgia Straight, Ken Eisner writes:
“this (film) should be seen by anyone with an interest in language and history.”

He also says that it “looks at how the great essayist (and not-so-great novelist) was viewed before the role of public intellectual became obsolete.”

But, but. . . don’t we still need “public intellectuals?” What do you think? On with info about the film.

Robert Lloyd In The Los Angeles Times: “Sontag’s best writing gives one permission to see things in a new way — or makes it impossible to continue to see them in the old one.” “Among American intellectuals, she was the rare rock star, and though her work stands on its own with allowance made for any writer’s ups and downs, her personal magnetism is very much part of the story; she was a thinking person’s pinup, friendly and formidable, impish and intense, bright-eyed, wide-smiled, with a head of hair that amounted almost to a signature.”

Susan Sontag wrote a lot of books! Regarding Susan Sontag, a documentary about the U.S. writer and intellectual, will be shown in Montreal on Monday, March 30, 2015, by Cinema Politica.
Susan Sontag wrote a lot of books! Regarding Susan Sontag, a documentary about the U.S. writer and intellectual, will be shown in Montreal on Monday, March 30, 2015, by Cinema Politica.

J. Bryan Lowder in Slate:  “Ten years after her death, Sontag’s supreme writerly confidence remains both an inspiration and a terror to would-be critics and public intellectuals, and for good reason—she was the embodiment of a certain school of serious, morally committed, iconoclastic, and often deliciously haughty 20th-century criticism.”  “. . .what this film provides, is an honest introduction to the person—in this case, a person who comprised qualities both deeply admirable and terribly off-putting in equal measure. Watching Regarding Susan Sontag, I felt awash in that person, carried aloft on the waves of her exquisite curiosities and pulled by the undertow of her messy personal life, suspended in the trough between the figure she wanted to be and the human being she was. . . I thoroughly enjoyed Kates’ attempt to do justice to that package—the whole package—sex, uncertainty, hubris, and brilliance, all mixed up together.”

BTW: Lowder’s review reveals that there is such a things as a master’s degree in criticism. Go ahead, call me naive, but I had no idea! Learn something everyday!

More details about this screening and Cinema Politica can be found on the Cinema Politica web site. According to the web site the “screening will be followed by a Skype Q&A with director Nancy Kates. Venue is wheelchair accessible.”

REGARDING SUSAN SONTAG, directed by Nancy Kates, / United States / 2014 / 100 ‘ / in English
Monday, March 30, 7 p.m.
Concordia University
1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd., W., H-110
Montreal

Admission: Pay what you can – $5 to $10 are suggested amounts.