Daniel Garber talks with Tasha Hubbard and Jade Tootoosis about Nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up

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

Photos by Jeff Harris.

On August 9, 2016, young Colten Boushie was shot in the back of the head, point blank, in an SUV on a Saskatchewan farm. These facts are undisputed. A cut and dry case.

So how come the shooter got off scott free? Every trial is different but one fact stands out: the shooter – and the jury – were white, while the victim was indigenous. This case has reverberated across the country as people try to understand what is happening.

Is justice is just a myth for some Canadians?

Nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up is a new documentary that looks at the Colten Boushie trial and its aftermath, how it fits in Canada’s checkered history, and what Colten’s supporters are doing about it. It’s written and directed by award-winning filmmaker Tasha Hubbard and had its world premier at Toronto’s HotDocs Canadian International Documentary Festival. Jade Tootoosis, from the Red Pheasant Cree First Nation, is Colten’s sister who helped bring the issues the trial raised to national and international attention.

I spoke with Tasha Hubbard and Jade Tootoosis in studio at CIUT.

Nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up opens on May 31st in Toronto.

Daniel Garber talks with Jamie Kastner about There Are No Fakes

Posted in Art, Canada, Crime, documentary, Indigenous, LGBT, Ojibway, Organized Crime by CulturalMining.com on April 19, 2019

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

Photos by Jeff Harris

Norval Morrisseau was one of Canada’s most celebrated painters, whose brightly-coloured images, surrounded by thick, black outlines are instantly recognizeable. An Ojibwe shaman from an area north of Thunder Bay, Morrisseau incorporated Anishinaabe culture and storytelling into his work. His paintings hang in top galleries and are highly prized by art collectors. So musician Kevin Hearn, of the group Barenaked Ladies, was  pleased to buy a large green Morrisseau canvas from a Toronto Gallery. Until, that is, he discovers it’s a fake.

There Are No Fakes is a new documentary that looks at the roots of Canada’s biggest case of art fraud ever uncovered. It also looks in depth at the dark underworld of fine art, filled with deception, organized crime, money laundering, and terrible violence.

It’s written and directed by award-winning Toronto filmmaker Jamie Kastner and is having its world premier at Toronto’s Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. He’s known for his quirky, funny, shocking and highly original documentaries on a wide range of topics. I’ve spoken to Jamie twice before on this show, once about the Great Disco Revolution (2012) and again, in 2016, about the Highjacker’s Tale.

I talked with Jamie Kastner in studio at CIUT 89.5 FM.

There Are No Fakes will have its world premier on April 29th at 6:00 pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Daniel Garber talks with director Tiffany Hsiung about The Apology

Posted in Canada, China, documentary, Korea, Philippines, Slavery, Women, WWII by CulturalMining.com on December 3, 2016

img_1617Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM.

Japan joined the European race for colonies late in the game. But they took to it with a vengeance, expanding ever southward. First Taiwan, Korea, and Manchuria, and by the the-apology1930s they began to seize territory in Eastern China, Southeast Asia and Islands of the Pacific and South China seas. And at the vanguard of all this was the Japanese Imperial Army. To keep the soldiers free from disease they initiated a program of Comfort Women (従軍慰安婦). Over img_1619200,000 girls and young women from Japanese colonies across Asia were forced into sexual slavery to serve the troops. Because of the shame involved, the survivors remained silent for fifty years. What happened to them, what are their stories, and what apologies do they seek?img_1621

The Apology is a new NFB feature documentary that follows three elderly Comfort Women – from Korea, China and the Philippines — who survived that horrible ordeal. It is a highly personal film, seen through Hsiung’s eyes as she documents the three Grandmothers’ lives while they still have a chance to tell their stories.

The Apology opens in Toronto today. I spoke with Tiffany Hsiung in studio at CIUT.

April 20, 2012. Interview: Sylvia Caminer talks to Daniel Garber about “An Affair of the Heart” her new documentary on Rick Springfield and his devoted fans

Posted in 1980s, Acting, Cultural Mining, documentary, Hotdocs, Movies, Music, Uncategorized by CulturalMining.com on April 16, 2012

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You might remember pop-rock star Rick Springfield’s hit Jesse’s Girl, and you may have seen him on General Hospital. But a new documentary, An Affair of the Heart (that’s premiering at HotDocs on April 29th), shows a little known aspect of the pop star’s life: his relationship with his devoted fans. Sylvia tells about making the film, an odd trip to  Sweden, and what celebrity fandom’s all about….

April 7, 2012. Interview. Filmmaker Nisha Pahuja talks to Daniel Garber about her new documentary The World Before Her

Posted in Canada, Clash of Cultures, Cultural Mining, documentary, Hotdocs, India, Movies, Spirituality, TV, Uncategorized, violence by CulturalMining.com on April 16, 2012

Religious fundamentalism is triggering violence, riots and even wars across the globe, and is frequently in the news. But what about Hindu fundamentalism?

A new Canadian documentary takes you inside a bootcamp where teenaged girls are trained and indoctrinated into the violent Durgha Vahini movement. The documentary, The World Before Her, Directed by Nisha Pahuja, will have its Canadian premier at HotDocs in Toronto and opens on April 19th at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

It follows two young women. Ruhi is a westernized contestant in the MIss India beauty pageant in Bombay; Prachi Trivedi is a hardline, Hindu fundamentalist and rising political activist who has attended these camps since she was a small child.

We talk about making her new film; westernization vs modernization; the causes and dangers of fundamentalism and extreme nationalism; and the state of women in contemporary India.

UPDATE: Nisha Pahuja’s new film The World Before Her has just won the BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE award at the Tribeca Film festival! Congratulations, Nisha!

Awards Announced: 2012 Tribeca Film Festival:

By Kristin McCracken

“Winner receives $25,000 and the art award “An Unpeopled Land in Uncharted Waters, 2010” by Kara Walker; courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York.

“Jury Comments: “With unprecedented access, great compassion, and a keen eye for the universal, this year’s winner takes a hard and clear-eyed look at the trials of growing up female in today’s fast-changing world. Following young women who have taken diametrically opposed decisions on how to tackle the influence of global forces in their communities, the filmmaker takes us on a journey to examine how the pressures of faith, fashion, and family are bringing up a generation of women who are desperately searching for meaning amidst a reality of few real choices.”

July 8, 2011. Films Without Superheroes. Movies Reviewed: The Tree of Life, Blank City PLUS Shinsedai, Toronto After Dark, HotDocs

Hi, 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, genre and mainstream movies, helping you see movies with good taste, and movies that taste good, and what the difference is.

Some people wonder, aren’t there any movies that aren’t about cartoon characters, superheroes, guns or toys? What are adults supposed to watch in the summertime? Well, don’t worry, there are films out there for everyone’s taste. This week, I’m looking at two examples of films that exist outside, or alongside, the summer blockbusters. One is an unconventional movie that some people like and some people hate; and another is an up-coming documentary about the no-wave film movement in the post-punk era of downtown New York City  in the 80’s.

But first… some news about the movie scene in Toronto.

Art films are great, but genre films are fun too. And there’s a small but amazingly entertaining film festival in the fall that shows genre movies: Horror, Supernatural, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Animation, Crime, Action, Thriller, Suspense, Cult, and Bizarre. Well, if you are (or know of) a filmmaker who has made a genre film — the kinds of moviesI just mentioned – The Toronto After Dark film festival is open for submissions, worldwide. But better send it fast: the deadline is July 22. For more information go to torontoafterdark.com

Also, the venerable Bloor Cinema, that great reparatory cinema at Bathurst and Bloor st. is about to undergo a big change. You may have noticed that it’s not showing movies right now. They’re doing much-needed renovations, but that’s not all: when it re-opens in the fall, it looks like it’s going to be the headquarters of HotDocs – the documentary film festival. Does that means we’re going to have a nice, downtown movie theatre that only shows documentary movies, all year round? We shall see… but it does mean the Bloor Cinema isn’t disappearing – it’s just taking a short rest.

And coming up later this month is the Shinsedai Film Festival, a chance to see a wide range of contemporary movies coming out of Japan, and too meet some of the filmmakers who will be speaking at the screenings. It’s at the JCCC – the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, up near Don Mills and Eglinton from the 21st to the 24th. For more information go to jccc.on.ca .

Now some reviews.

First, the movie I said some people like and some people hate:

The Tree of Life

Dir: Terrance Mallick

(SPOILER ALERT: I’m going to talk about the entire movie. But I don’t think this is a movie that can be spoiled by understanding what it’s about.)

This is a movie about an American family – a mother, a father, and three sons – back in the late 1950’s. They live in a wooden house in Waco, Texas. The father (Brad Pitt), an inventor, is having trouble getting ahead. He sees the world as cruel, rough, and competitive, and wants to make his sons into tough fighters who survive against all odds. The mother (Jessica Chastain) is deeply religious, a spiritual, charitable and nurturing protector. And the eldest son, Jack, (Hunter McCracken) takes it all in, but since he’s a kid, it all gets messed up in his head. He decides his father hates him and wants him dead, while he’s sexually excited by his beautiful mother – with all the guilt and shame that entails. Oedipus, anyone?

At the very beginning of the movie, we discover that one of the three sons has died. So the rest of the film shows us the memories, whispered thoughts and fantasies of all the other characters thinking back from the present to earlier times.

The story seems mainly to be told through Jack’s eyes, but the voices and thoughts of other characters weave in and out, too. When he wants to remember his now dead brother — whose faintly glowing soul appears at the start of every section of the movie — he thinks back to the very beginning – I mean the very, very beginning. At this point, the movie goes off on an unusual, but pleasant detour, back to the creation of the earth, with volcanoes, lava, ice, and water everywhere. Spiro gyra swim in the primordial ooze, and gradually cells separate, merge and evolve. It looks like an old NFB or Birth-Of-An-Island clip, or a grade 8 film strip. Only so much better.

All to the sounds of Smetana and Mahler. Water crashes down over cliffs, and cute, fuzzy dinosaurs appear until they’re all wiped out by an asteroid. And then a baby – one of the brothers — is born.

Aside from that — and a mega-FAIL yucky beach montage toward the end — the movie is mainly about a few years in the young family’s life as the kids grow up alongside a sapling in their yard – the tree of life – that turns into a huge, twisted and towering tree by the end. The very long memory scenes are book-ended by the eldest son looking back from the present day.

Is it a good movie? I thought it was great! But it’s an art film drama – don’t go if you’re looking for a mainstream conventional Brad Pitt love story. There’s not much dialogue, and the storytelling is a bit more subtle than formulaic dramas. But it’s not a low-budget run-off either; it’s a sumptuous, beautiful, and moving story of the confused memories of one boy’s childhood in Texas.

A totally different type of movie, but also experimental is a documentary about the indie movie scene in NY City in the late seventies and early eighties.

Blank City

Dir: Celine Danhier

Before the real estate explosion, manhattan was a gritty, edgy place filled with crumbling tenements, lurking muggers, and random shootings.

Artists, writers and musicians fled from small towns and suburbs across the country to live in a more dangerous, more exciting world. They shared a feeling of nihilism, living as if the world was about to be obliterated by late-cold

-war atomic bombs blowing up across the planet. Large parts of the Lower East Side and Alphabet city were completely uninhabitable and bombed out, with broken windows, and missing doors. Nina, a Yugoslavian woman I used to know, lived on 3rd and B, and you had to walk over a giant piece of wood nailed halfway across the door of her closet-like apartment even to get inside. She was squatting there since no one anted to go near those buildings anyway.

Now, of course, Manhattan is a giant shopping mall, with Times Square – formerly the place for runaways, hustlers, porn, prostitutes, pot dealers, and petty crime – now features tourist traps like the Disney princess store, and the M&Ms gift shop.

Against the post-apocalyptic look of Dangerous Manhattan arose the No Wave movement, where filmmakers like Jim Jarmusch, Lizzie Borden, Susan Seidelman, and Richard Kern used their super-8 black and white cameras to create transgressive, sexually explicit, short films. Part of the coolness was to be poor, on the edge, anti-corporate, shocking, and completely divorced from conventional life. In order to appear as the absolute antithesis of slick and plastic hollywood movies, they went the opposite direction with unrehearsed, raw (if stilted) dialogue, rough editing, and scratchy sound. John Lurie says he had to hide his skill as a trained musician – you had to be unskilled and amateur to be accepted as “real”.

A doctrine, known as the Cinema of Transgression, served as their guide to subvert… well, everything. The movies themselves were just as likely end up being shown at a punk club as in a movie theatre.

This documentary, Blank City, is a visual explosion of countless short clips of those films, alternated with present day interviews with some of the actors, musicians, artists and filmmakers of the period.

So you see Debbie Harry popping up almost everywhere, people dressed like RAF terrorists blowing up buildings, and lots of weird, semi-out-of-focus sex and violence. All with punk, new wave, early hip-hop and experimental music. This is a great movie that captures that short, explosive period of wide-open but underground filmmaking in the 80’s.

Tree of Life is now playing, and Blank City starts next Friday, July 15 at the Royal: check your local listings.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies for CIUT 89.5 FM, and on my web site, CulturalMining.com.  

Out of the Picture. Movies Reviewed: Babies, Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, Hotdocs, The Secret in their Eyes

Posted in Uncategorized by CulturalMining.com on May 7, 2010

Writers might put a lot of themselves in their scripts or novels but they rarely intrude into the plot. Directors too. You don’t show up in a movie. So Alfred Hitchcock used to appear for a second or two in most of his movies, as sort of a wink to attentive audiences, but that was his limit. Quentin Tarantino, on the other hand, had a tendency for awhile to almost ruin his movies by barging in and taking a role. Usually his terrible over-acting would bring his movies to an abrupt halt, until his scenes are over.

But then there’s documentaries.

With documentaries, every director always makes the big decision – whether to appear in (or narrate) the movie, or to stay out of the picture.

People like Fred Wiseman, (who directed great, disturbing documentaries like Titticut Follies) goes to great lengths to keep himself out of the picture. Then there are filmmakers like Errol Morris (whose "The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara", 2003, is playing at Hotdocs) who speak to the person being interviewed, but only speak from behind the camera. Others, like Nick Broomfield, are more likely to appear or speak. In his documentaries on Aileen Wuornos, a sex trade worker on the highways of Florida, and a serial killer, he ended up actually testifying at her trial. So he wasn’t just visible in his documentary, he was part of the documentary.

Then you get a filmmaker’s memoirs. "Tarnation" (2003, directed by Jonathan Caouette), also playing at Hotdocs, uses self-shot footage from the director’s boyhood to illustrate his mother’s decline. Doctors were using repeated shock treatment to "cure" her. Finally, there are documentaries like "Super-Size Me" (2004, Morgan Spurlock) where the filmmaker is the movie. So, each director has to decide where to place themselves on that scale.

Starting today is the annual Hot Docs International Film Festival in Toronto. It’s a huge festival, with lots of interesting movies – and always a few clunkers too. They always play way more documentaries than anyone can catch, usually going all day until late at night, on 6 or 7 screens at a time.

Tonight — opening night — they’re showing two movies that will be getting wide releases in May and June.

One is Babies. Are Babies going to be the new penguins? This documentary, by French director Thomas Balmes, shows us the first year – and the first word, the first step – of four babies, in Mongolia, Namibia, Tokyo, and San Francisco. It’s very low-key and understated but beautifully looking. You watch the babies down on the floor or the ground, from their level, as they see things for the first time – do they play with it? Eat it? Pet it? Their first interactions with other kids, animals and pets are revelations.

It shows it all, without comment or interference, both the highly supervised, constantly- watched life of the two urban babies, and the much freer – looking rural or nomadic ones.

No narration, no talking heads, virtually no words on the screen at all. It’s not a cutesie 90-second youtube joke, it’s a loving look at learning, discovery, growth. I really liked it.

I also enjoyed Rush, Beyond the Lighted Stage, a look at the young lives, (captured on old videos, home movies and snapshots), and the musical careers of the three members of Rush – Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart. It has their fans — the famous metal, rock and pop stars waxing eloquent about Rush’s music and technique — and their die-hard concert fans just loving every minute. I’m not a fan of Rush, never was, never bought a single tune, but I still got off on the soundtrack – it was great — amazing how many songs I knew, without knowing I knew them. (Now – do I have to rethink my hatred of progressive metal?) The scenes in suburban 70’s Toronto, the stage performances in what Geddy Lee refers to as their Robe period, and recent footage of a mammoth concert in Brazil are also priceless.

This year Hot Docs is showcasing many of the films of a personal favourite director of mine, Kim Longinotto, in an outstanding achievement retrospective. Over the past 35 years, she has made a series of personal and intimate portrayals of the marginalized, the hidden, the struggling people outside of the mainstream, people who you normally don’t get to see, but once you do, you want to know more about them. One of the populations she has delved into is the women of Japan. She took the old stereotypes – passive, silent, domestic – and turned them on their head. She filmed Japanese heroines, superstars, aggressive, assertive women, with so-called masculine personalities, working and living in unique environments.

Shinjuku Boys shows the staff of a conversation bar in Kabuki-cho where rich women pay to talk to sympathetic male hosts. But of a certain type: all the male employees are cross-dressing women or female-to-male transsexuals, who live as men. She follows their lives and relationships at work, and at home.

In another film, Gaea, she looks at a league of Japanese, female pro-wrestlers and their fans.

Some documentaries fall into the category of promotion – they’re there to show off a new book, movie, music group – sort of a long TV commercial. Others are there to exploit the people for the titillation of the audience – a movie freak-show. Kim Longinotto avoids both of these traps in her sympathetic, intimate, respectful, and (sometimes awestruck) portrayals of unknown female pioneers living among us.

She takes pains to keep herself off camera.

“El Secreto de Sus Ojos” (The Secret in their Eyes) directed by Juan Jose Campanella, based on the novel with the same name, is an Argentinian suspense/mystery movie that won this year’s Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It takes place in Buenos Aires.

Benjamin Esposito is retired after a legal career, and decides to write a novel, based on events around a murder that happened decades earlier. As he writes, he thinks back to a particular case of murder, and his circumstances back then.

Esposito, a straight shooter, works in a law office with his alcoholic buddy Sandoval, and his boss, Irene Hastings, a beautiful, upper-class, Ivy-league lawyer. He is forced to take on a grizzly, pro-bono case, about Morales, a newlywed who was raped and killed in her own bedroom. But once he’s on the case, and sees how deeply the death is affecting her widower, he decides to solve the crime and catch the killer.

But he gets caught up in the corrupt world of Peronist government, and experiences a series of disheartening setbacks. At the same time, Irene, whom he is in love with, is engaged to a richer, younger engineer.

As the mystery gets closer to being solved, the tension and suspense level rises, leading to some very unexpected plot twists.

The movie itself was fairly slow-moving, but kept me interested. You follow the characters through softly-lit indoor Buenos Aires, the law offices, the bars, and cafes, and the high-doored bookshelved apartments.

Right in the middle of the movie are a couple of spectacular scenes, including an amazing long shot taken from the air over a stadium, and somehow zooming into a conversation in a huge crowd. It was so technically “wow” compared to the rest of the movie’s pace, it almost seemed out of place. But that’s a backhanded compliment.

The main character, Esposito, has to decide whether to step back and let things happen, to stay out of the picture; or to dive in headfirst to change the outcome in his search for justice.

I’m intentionally trying not to give anything away, because, like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the movie depends on the fascinating plot and characters that are revealed as it goes along. It also has great, theatrical acting, (especially Ricardo Darin); a slow start but building dramatically, and… very little violence on the screen.

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