Niagara Integrated Film Festival (NIFF) opens June 2014   Leave a comment

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Wine, food and film come together to create unique a cinematic experience. TIFF co-founder, Bill Marshall, presents the inaugural Niagara Integrated Film Festival (NIFF) June 19-22, 2014.

The festival includes six programs that are representative of the culture in the Niagara Region. It is a perfect example of how a specific location can impact the way we watch movies.

Filmalicious – a dinner and movie event hosted in local vineyards.

Canada’s Not Short on Talent – a compilation of Canada’s top short films; a program Telefilm Canada presents each year at the Cannes Film Festival.

Film Feast – food and wine accompanied by a selection of short films from ‘Canada’s Not Short on Talent’.

World’s Smallest Film Festival – a short film competition featuring shorts shot on mobile devices, using the theme of water in the Niagara Region.

Mondo Wacko – features edgy films presented by Colin Geddes of TIFF’s Midnight Madness.

Niagara Rises – showcases work from talented filmmakers in Southern Ontario.

- Michelle

Student Screenings in Toronto   Leave a comment

The team and I have been attending a number of student screenings the past couple of weeks, including those at York U, Ryerson, Humber, and U of T.  There are a number of gems in the pack and I certainly hope we see more when we comb through our submissions pile (shameless plug though not really shameless since this is our blog: submissions deadline is next Friday!)

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The Lion at Home

The most enjoyable entries in the fiction spectrum for me were those made by filmmakers who know how to direct actors.  After five years of programming a short film festival by independent filmmakers and students, I find that the most awkward pieces of work us due to a neglect in the casting process.  I know I spout this mantra quite often when giving tips on the T24 Project but it’s true.  Directors need to cast actors for more than their look and actors need to know how to tone it down.  A 1920×1080 frame is not a lot of space and one can easily become too showy in such a tight frame.  Co-stars need to have chemistry and directors need to facilitate that by having scenes shot in a way where they are not constantly segregated from each other through the back and forth angle.  One standout for me at Humber’s FMTV screening yesterday was “Something Like This” for they bypassed all the missteps I noted above.  Unfortunately the programme doesn’t include the filmmakers’ names so I can’t tell you who directed it but if you’re the director and you’re reading this – kudos to you!

I’m going to be at York’s 4th Year Finish Line on Thursday but I did check out some shorts in the 2nd Year lineup and was impressed with a number of docs, particularly Colony Walk by Connor Johnstone and Interlude by Alannah Smith.  Here we have simple stories that people can connect to due to some solid direction by the filmmakers, who were smart enough to employ more than just a talking head to do all the work for them.

One highlight at the U of T Film Festival is At The Kids’ Table, a foodie doc that acts as a follow up to the award-winning These Are The People In Your Neighbourhood.  Working with the Madeleine Collective, Bazuin once again captures the heart and essence of a group of children as they explore a new community.  Court by Madeleine Russo was also another fan favourite.  Though these films were docs, the directors employed charismatic subjects, which is just as important as the talent of an actor for a fictional narrative.

Speaking of good child-like qualities in films, Sonia Beckwith-Cole’s The Lion at Home, shown at the Augmented Cinema Film Festival (a showcase for OCADU students and alumni) is hilarious.  We mean, HI-LAR-I-OUS!  Sometimes simple just works so well.

Winner of TVO’s Doc Studio 2014: Religion vs. Rock ‘n Roll… Or Maybe They’re More Similar Than We Think?   Leave a comment

DocStudio DocsThatMatter RGB stacked colour_1-275x183We all, in some small way, lead a double life. Whether between family and friends, work and play, we each emphasize whatever aspect of ourselves is most appropriate at any given time.

Ontario filmmaker Luca Tarantini, winner of this year’s TVO Doc Studio Contest, explores just that. The Middle Way follows Jasper Bendici, a Greek Orthodox Theology student as he attempts to reconcile the teachings of his faith with his life as a rock musician.

Outwardly, Jasper glides effortlessly between the two. He may don leather boots and an unruly shag, but he’s got a smile and demeanor that drives the old Greek ladies wild. Of course, both music and religion run deeper than that, and it is the feelings that run beneath the surface that are the most contrary.

“[Religion] teaches you to be humble…like the dirt… But when you’re on stage, BOOM, you’re king of the world,” says Jasper.

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The film highlights the importance of a balance between two but so far the religious rocker is yet to find it. Not surprising for a dude of 22.

What makes this film so great is that even as Jasper struggles with dual identity, Tarantini makes the connections that Jasper is only beginning to understand. While there may be no such thing as balancing rock ‘n roll and religion, there exists a compromise in which music can act as mediator. “Music can penetrate your soul,” says Jasper, “and get you in the zone.” Sounds vaguely religious, no?

In the end, Jasper confides, “Sometimes I do feel like I am wearing a mask. But it’s the same goof! It’s the same goof, just expressing himself differently.”

A big thank you to TVO for giving Tarantini and Bendici a platform to express their talents and stories. Under the theme “Docs That Matter,” this contest winner is certainly important in an age where religious exploration is placed on the back burner at best. We all have many passions. We all wear many hats. The Middle Way explores just one example of that.

- Maggie

Watch the whole film below

 

Loving Toronto in Spring   Leave a comment

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I do not regularly watch sports, particularly not basketball. But my partner does. And so this year, something changed in me… I became a Raptors fan, and even attended some home court games. There is a revived buzz swirling around the team, which has only grown since they made it to the playoffs (for the first time since 2008). If I were to identify the nature of this buzz, I would use terms such as: excitement, pride, and hope. The Raptors are doing well, and Torontonians are taking notice. The team gives the city a breath of fresh air, and it reminds me of how great our city really is.

Now that spring (finally) has seemed to grace us with it’s presence, it’s becoming easier to take note of what Toronto has to offer. For myself, my new fresh spring eyes have replaced my cloudy winter ones, and I’m able to see the magic going on in the streets. People are beginning to leave their homes, patios are opening up, and everyone is smiling.

Perhaps most exciting: events are happening all around the city. Theatre and dance shows, farmers markets, and music festivals are fast approaching. Let’s all take advantage of this beautiful weather! Let’s recognize how amazing and culturally rich our city is! Let’s go out and enjoy ourselves.

Here are just some of the amazing events you don’t want to miss.

Hot Docs Canadian International Festival, April 24-May 4

Francis Bacon and Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty, at the Art Gallery of Ontario, April 5-June 6

Luminato Festival, June 6-15

Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, May 1-31

Stock up on fruits and veggies at Toronto’s Farmers Markets, select dates and times

And many, many, many more!

-By Sarah Gladki

HotDocs Documentary Film Festival   Leave a comment

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It’s that time of year again ! The Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, North America’s largest documentary festival, conference and market returns to the city April 24 – May 4, 2014. With a record of 186 directors this year, the Festival showcases documentaries from all around the world with subjects relating to issues of Urban Stories, Activism & Protest, Popular Culture, Capitalism & Big Business, Mental Health and Love & Relationships to name a few from the ever expanding list of topics.

The beauty of HotDocs is that it truly is a film festival dedicated to and for its audiences. Run on a ‘Rush’ screening policy, each film is open to both industry and public alike with no sense of industry hierarchy. HotDocs is a festival that is truly ‘Outspoken, Outstanding’.

Some special presentations to look out for this year:

I Am Big Bird; The Caroll Spinney Story
Tells the story of the man behind the beloved children’s cartoon series Sesame Street, that has enchanted generations for over 40 years.

Mission Blue
A mesmerizing underwater dive with legendary oceanographer, marine biologist and botanist Dr. Sylvia Earle into a story that raises the importance and urgency of the current state of our oceans and its ecosystems.

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Manifesto Community Projects has teamed up with HotDocs this year to produce a special showcase of films that addresses social and cultural topics ranging from stories in Slums from four different countries to the conflicting points-of-view of Nelson Mandelas impact on post-apartheid South Africa.

Advance Box Office tickets can be bought at 2 Bloor Street West (Lower Level, Cumberland Terrace). If you are a student or senior all screenings are FREE before 5pm each day.  So get out there, learn something new and see some HotDocs!

-Sara Alexandra

Do film release dates still matter?   Leave a comment

winter soldierFor a superhero who can’t fly, Captain America sure is soaring at the box office. Since opening almost two weeks ago in North America, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the latest installment in the popular Marvel Cinematic Universe, has grossed over $170 million in our continent, as well as an additional $335 million (and counting) in foreign markets. The well-received film broke new records for April opening weekends, and it has kicked off the summer blockbuster movie season in style.

Wait, hold on a minute… summer blockbuster movie season? In April? How does that work? Well, maybe it isn’t quite accurate, but it’s not as big of an exaggeration as you might think. Film lovers (and film studios) have typically regarded the first weekend of May as the official start of the summer blockbuster season, and for the past four years, that weekend has featured the opening of an MCU film. This year, that release date has been claimed by The Amazing Spider-Man 2, ironically a film also based on a Marvel property (albeit one that is owned by another studio). I’m not entirely sure if Sony snatched up that weekend first, thereby forcing Disney to release CA:TWS earlier, or if Disney always planned on an April debut, but some might have seen it as a bit of a gamble. April is historically one of the quieter months at the box office, so there was no guarantee of seeing returns comparable to the big summertime releases.

I’m not so sure it was much of a risk, however. When the brand is recognizable and popular, moviegoers will still turn out in droves, regardless of the time of year. March, for example, is generally regarded as one of the quieter months as well, but recent years have seen some incredibly profitable films debut at that time. Two years ago, The Hunger Games opened to a record-breaking $152.5, and went on to gross $408 million in North America – an amazing feat for the first film in a franchise. Similarly, two years before that, Tim Burton’s take on Alice In Wonderland opened in March with $116 million, and went on to become only the sixth film (at the time) to exceed over $1 billion at the worldwide box office. Read the rest of this entry »

University of Toronto Film Festival   Leave a comment

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Recently, several Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival executive members and I had the pleasure of attending the University of Toronto Film Festival at the end of March at Hart House. Despite the lack of a formalized film production programme at U of T, the film festival, organized by the Hart House Film Board, has helped in the effort to make up for this lack by providing a forum for emerging directorial hopefuls to fulfill their cinematic ambitions and get their films seen by the public. The festival is open to the public, but focuses on showcasing the work of the University’s many talented students, alumni, faculty, and Hart House members.

This year’s entrants were remarkably diverse. Touching personal documentaries rubbed shoulders with animated extreme surfers, experimental video art installations, and bleak observational relationship dramas. While U of T established their undergraduate degree in Cinema Studies over 35 years ago, the focus has remained on film history, analysis, and theory, with university level production degrees offered nearby at Ryerson and York Universities. That being said, the film’s screened showed no lack of professional polish and instead were a true testament to the accomplishments of amateur filmmakers and the talent that surrounds us in the city.

Furthermore, this is precisely what we are trying to accomplish at Toronto Youth Shorts. As a dedicated group of art and film devotees, we are very aware of the depth and range of talent available around us, especially among youth in the Greater Toronto Area. While professional film events are widely publicised and available, youth filmmakers and artists can often have a harder time getting their work seen. We hope to fill that void and bring the quality films we know are out there to the public. All in 20 minutes or less.

-Lauren

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