Daniel Garber talks with Andrew Gregg about Skinhead, his new documentary on CBC Docs POV

Posted in Canada, CBC, Conservativism, Cultural Mining, documentary, Movies, Nazi, Politics, Racism, Skinhead by CulturalMining.com on November 24, 2017

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM.

Neo-nazis, white supremacists and the alt right have captured headlines for more than a year now. Vandalism has escalated to demonstrations, shootings to terrorism. And some say the election of Donald Trump has given these groups new power in mainstream politics. But surely that’s an American phenomenon, with no traction in Canada….right?  A new documentary looks at the extreme right in Canada and pokes holes in the illusions of complacent Canadians.

The documentary is called Skinhead. It tell the story of a former skinhead and white supremacist named Brad, his beliefs, and what led him to abandon his ideology. Skinhead is written and directed by award-winning documentary filmmaker Andrew Gregg. (I previously interviewed him here and here.)

I spoke with Andrew in studio at CIUT 89.5 FM.

Skinhead will be broadcast on CBC TV on Sunday, November 26th at 9:00 pm.

Films Reviewed: Best of Enemies, Amar, Akbar & Tony PLUS TIFF40 International Launch

Posted in Clash of Cultures, comedy, Conservativism, Crime, Cultural Mining, documentary, Movies, TV, UK, US by CulturalMining.com on July 31, 2015

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM.

Biko Squares at KulturaI said before there are no summer festivals, but thats not exactly true. There are plays of course, cultural festivals like Caribana and a Filipino festival called, fittingly enough. Kultura. They’re showcasing Filipino arts and culture and serving new riffs on traditional cuisine. And the Mosaic South Asian film fest in Mississauga features films from India, Canada and around the world.

This week I’m looking at two movies. A UK comedy/drama about three devoted friends, and an American documentary about two sworn enemies. But before that a preview of movies coming to TIFF this fall.

8qWV3l_1507-TIFF40-8484_o3_8663841_1436473920TIFF40 International Launch

The Toronto International Film Festival, one of the world’s preeminent film festivals, just released the names of some of the international films premiering there in September. I can’t recommend anything yet since I haven’t seen them, but here are a few that night be really good.dda510_dff5c81b3edb4224a5d9c9b301be2a56.jpeg_srb_p_439_293_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpeg_srb

Trumbo, directed by Jay Roach, tells the story of famed Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston). He famous for classics like Spartacus, Exodus, and Roman Holiday. But he was blacklisted as one of the Hollywood 10, who 830701-D-9880W-001refused to testify at HUAC, the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Where to Invade Next is Michael Moore’s latest tongue-in-cheek documentary where he tells the Pentagon to relax, he’ll take over the job choosing IMG_0214.CR2America’s next war.

And, at last, some good news out of Greece: there’s a new movie called The Lobster by the always bizarre social satirist Yorgos Lanthimos. In some future world it’s singles who face g5MLJ9_legend_01_o3_8694644_1438110470the most severe austerity laws: anyone who doesn’t hook up with a mate in 6 weeks is turned into an animal.

Finally I can’t wait to see Tom Hardy in the biopic Legend about Reggie and Ronnie Kray the violent and sexually audacious identical-twin London gangsters. Hardy plays both brothers.

William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal in BEST OF ENEMIES, a Video Services Corp. release. Photo courtesy of Video Services Corp.Best of Enemies
Dir: Robert Gordon & Morgan Neville

In 1968, ABC TV, the third-ranked US network, tried something new and audacious. They put two men on live TV to comment on the Democratic and Republican primaries leading up to the election. What they didn’t know is the degree if vitriol the meeting would spark. William F Buckley was a right-wing intellectual who wrote for the National Review. He was a free trader who feared the communists. Gore Vidal was a successful novelist and an avowed liberal who embodied the sexual revolution. He William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal in BEST OF ENEMIES, a Video Services Corp. Photo courtesy of Video Services Corp.was gay and wrote satirical books with transgendered heroines. In 1968 the nation was torn apart by the War in Vietnam. But the thing is, superficially at least, they were extremely similar. They both came from prosperous New England families and hob-nobbed with celebrities. They both were accomplished wordsmiths who loved and respected a good turn of phrase. They both spoke with an upper-class, mid-Atlantic Brahmin accent. And they hated each other’s guts. Eventually their conversation deteriorated into a spat with Buckley called a crypto-Nazi and Vidal the “F word” slur for gay men.

While there are some contemporary interviews, the best parts of this amazing documentary come from the actual of the debates. A great and very entertaining historical document.

1245_RosarioAmar, Akbar and Tony
Wri/Dir: Atul Malhotra

Amar, Akbar and Tony are best buddies in a South Asian West London neighbourhood. Amar (Rez Kempton) is a serious Sikh, engaged to be married and about to start his first job as a lawyer. Akbar (Sam Vincenti), of Muslim South Asian background is an overly self-confident entrepreneur. And Tony (Martin Delaney) who works at his Irish mom’s corner store, is romantically obsessed with a particularly comely Indian lass. She’s the one, he says, so his friends vow to help him meet her. But when her violently protective brother enters the fray, trouble follows, and Amar ends up in jail, his life ruined. The story picks up again after his jail term, where the three mates vow to rekindle their friendship. But can they overcome the heavy social pressures and their own 0600_AA&T_25May13misgivings?

Amar Akbar and Tony is an English film but seems to be aimed toward the Desi community. In some ways, it’s iconoclastic, showing how traditional families choose to deal with social taboos. I liked that. The humour, on the other hand was definitely hit and miss. A white guy with brown shoe polish on his face pretending to be Asian – can that ever be funny? Other scenes are more clever: like when Akbar, dating a Baby Spice-lookalike, is asked by her parents to declare his stand on terrorism.

Best of Enemies opens today in Toronto, check your local listings; Amar Akbar and Tony are among many movies having their North American premier at the 2015 Mosaic International South Asian Film Festival (MISAFF15) August 6-9 at Cineplex Mississauga and The Living Arts Centre. Go to misaff.com for details. And for info about TIFF go to tiff.net.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning, on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com

Behind the Curtain. Movies reviewed: Dragon Girls, We Always Lie to Strangers, The Grub-Stake: Revisited PLUS Hot Docs!

Posted in 1920s, Canada, China, Conservativism, documentary, melodrama, Movies, Music, Musical, Republican Party, Uncategorized, Yukon by CulturalMining.com on May 3, 2013

Jeff Harris: Lining up for Hot DocsHi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

Hot Docs, Toronto’s documentary film festival, continues through the weekend – and daytime tickets are free for all students and seniors. This is a once-a-year opportunity to really absorb all sorts of politics, people, music and ideas.

This week I’m going to look at three movies that – in very different ways — pull back the curtain to show what’s going on backstage. One doc is about a Kung Fu Academy in China, another about hillbilly entertainment in southern Missouri, and there’s a new look at a silent film shot in Yukon Territory in the 1920s.

Dragon_Girls_4Dragon Girls

Dir: Inigo Westmeier

This is a movie about China’s biggest kung fu centre, the Ta Gou Shao Lin martial arts academy. It’s in Henan province, north of Beijing. It has a huge number of students, both boys and girls, and they are all strictly trained in what feels like a military school (like Karate Kid times 1,000). And this school has a public square, a vast stone plaza that looks to be about the size of Tian’anmen Square in Beijing.

This documentary uses two ways to portray the school. One is aerial views of the entire academy – that’s hundreds of people – performing flawless, intricate fighting formations, all at once, on the square. And they’re all dressed in identical red jumpsuits, running around in perfect harmony.

But then they switch to close-ups of girls at the academy telling their stories. The place is unheated in the winter and Spartan looking. It’s Dragon_Girls_5almost like a prison, says one. Another runs away, all the way home to Shanghai – she can’t stand the life there: it’s cruel and bitter. Their trainers aren’t very sympathetic toward them – they went through the same training so they expect the new girls to do suffer like they did. They train them ruthlessly, even the little girls, to learn the kicks, the sword moves, the jumps, the punches…  And there are constant competitions, with winners and losers and rankings. Some of the girls’ parents are dragons themselves – if the kids don’t come in first place they get no praise.

The movie continues like that: in and out, tight then wide. There are the close-up, touching stories about individual girls’ plights; alternating with fantastical movie-style performances in the square, involving hundreds or thousands of shaolin kids.

From far away everything looks perfect. But, up close, the flaws begin to appear.

We_Always_Lie_To_Strangers_1We Always Lie to Strangers

Dir: AJ Schnack, David Boone Wilson

Somewhere, halfway between Hollywood and Broadway stands a small town in the Ozarks that offers its own, unique variety of entertainment. It’s Branson Mo., and it’s one of the best-known, unknown tourist attractions in the US.

What is this place? It’s a strange small town filled with giant music halls started a few decades ago by people like the Osmonds, the Presley Family, and Lawrence Welk. They put on old-school musicals and variety shows that are mainstream, conservative, and very, very white. It’s a world of elaborate kitschy musicals and hillbilly, Hee-Haw comedy.

But this movie goes behind the scenes, showing that it’s not quite what it appears to be. It follows some of the theatrical families who make Branson their home base. There’s a foul-mouthed single mother, who cusses a blue streak and then says – for Jesus. There’s the town mayor, a woman and member of the Presley clan, who points out that women are the ones who really run things there. There’s the Lennon family, transplanted from Venice, California, who have kept their liberal convictions even deep in Tea Party territory. And there’s a gay couple, a divorced We_Always_Lie_To_Strangers_2man with two sons and his boyfriend, both of whom sing and dance in some of the kitschy, dog-and-pony shows, even while promoting Branson “family values”.

I liked this doc because, even though it starts as a conventional, reality-TV-style show, following some of the characters around, it ends up giving much more. There’s lots of music, some of which is actually really good.

There’s a lots to like: things like a brilliant analysis of the differences between borscht-belt and bible-belt humour. And some scenes are visually fantastic: like when everyone’s at this combination flea market and air show, and, all of the sudden, the planes are dropping fire bombs just behind them, and there are huge plumes of black smoke shooting up, just past the funnel cakes! (That scene made it for me…) Very interesting movie.

GrubStake_mediumThe Grub-Stake: Revisited

Dir: Bert Van Tuyl and Nell Shipman

A silver-haired prospector arrives down south with a fistful of gold nuggets. He tempts the wide-eyed young Faith (Nell Shipman) to leave her laundry shop and come north with him to the Yukon to find love and get rich. After some resistance she agrees, and they head north by steamship.

But he soon turns out to be a monstrous letch and Nell has to fight him off. She’s forced to flee by dog sled with her disabled father. She has to cope with blizzards, bears, outlaws with guns, and dangerous cliff-side chases. Luckily, Nell meets a handsome man in the woods and together they try to triumph over the bad guys.

That’s what The Grub Stake – a Canadian silent movie from 1923 – looks like. But in the new, Revisited version (that’s showing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox next week) the archival print will be shown alongside an original, live performance, that comes to us from the Yukon. A group of actors supply new voices to the silent images, with live musicians creating a haunted, ambient soundtrack.

Here’s the twist: the new script is positively Shakesperean, with all the lines pulled from plays like Hamlet, Richard III and Twelfth Night. Does it work? It’s funny! It doesn’t quite make sense, though: sometimes the dialogue is in perfect synch with the images on the screen, but at other times it seems to be at war with what you’re watching. But I guess that’s what makes it… art.

The Grub Stake is playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, only on May 6th. For more information, go to tiff.net.

You can see Dragon Girls, We Always Lie to Strangers, and many other great documentaries at Hot Docs this weekend. Go to hotdocs.ca for details.

Also opening today is Still Mine, based on a true story about an elderly farmer in New Brunswick who vows to defy the law for the sake of his ailing wife; Kon Tiki, the fantastic Norwegian epic about a journey across the pacific on a raft (I loved the Norwegian version, but haven’t seen the English-language one (check your local listings); and various short films at TIFF that support Mental Health Week (May 5-11) sponsored by Toronto’s Workman Arts: go to tiff.net for details.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com .

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