October 2010

The National Film Board of Canada celebrates International Animation Day (October 28) each year with a weeklong celebration of animated film. Get Animated! events are happening all across the country, with Toronto screenings and workshops starting Tuesday October 26 and continuing through to Sunday October 31. All events take place at the NFB Mediatheque at 150 John Street and are completely FREE!

This image is from Claude Cloutier’s delightful Genie-winning short Sleeping Betty, screening in the Fairytales for All programme, which is suitable for all ages:

Sleeping Betty

And this one is from Marie-Hélène Turcotte’s lovely The Formation of Clouds, which screens in the NFB New Releases programme, recommended for adults and young people aged 14 and up:

The Formation of Clouds

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EstDocs 2010

If you know me at all, you know that I have a special place in my heart for small countries. But opportunities to see cinema from the smaller nations can be rare. Not so with tiny Estonia. This nation of just over a million inhabitants has been fortunate to screen its cinema at local festivals such as the European Union Film Festival. What you might not know is that Estonia has a dedicated documentary film festival as well that is now in its fifth year. Estdocs takes place from October 15-22 at several venues around town. While Estonia remains near the top of my to-visit list, I might not be able to make it for a few years, so learning about Estonian culture through film is great preparation.

The opening film is the charming World Champion (Maailmameister), about 83-year-old pole vaulter Herbert Sepp. If you enjoyed Autumn Gold (Herbstgold) (review) at this year’s Hot Docs, you’re bound to enjoy this one, too.

And the festival closes next Friday night with a special presentation by John Ralston Saul on the disappearance of languages. Finno-Ugaric languages, of which Estonian is one, are disappearing rapidly. What does this mean for the culture of a small and proud country like Estonia? Come and find out.

Tickets and more information are available through the EstDocs site as well as from the Estonian Foundation of Canada.

Check out their Facebook page, too!

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Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival 2010

It’s hard to believe that I’ll be covering my fifth edition of the Reel Asian fest this year. Over the years, this strongly-curated event has brought films from places like Indonesia and Malaysia to my attention, in addition to adding to my knowledge of film from such cinema powerhouses as Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea. The program for the 14th edition of the festival was announced last night, and I’m preparing to have my horizons expanded yet again. Here are some things I’m looking forward to:


Tuesday November 9 at 7:00pm: Opening Night GalaGallants – I heard this described as a martial-arts version of The Expendables. Sold!

Golden Slumber

Friday November 12 at 10:00pm: Golden Slumber – from the same director who brought us the inventive Fish Story at last year’s festival.

The Mountain Thief

Saturday November 13 at 5:00pm: The Mountain Thief – filmed using non-professional actors recruited and trained by the director living near the Manila garbage dump where the film is set.

I’ve really only had a chance to take a cursory glance at the program guide so far, and I’m sure I’ll find more to feature in the weeks to come.

Passes and tickets are on sale now, and this year, for the first time, Reel Asian will be holding events and screenings in Richmond Hill. If you can’t make it downtown, be sure to check out the 905 version of the festival!

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Polish DVDs [front]

Alerted by one of the many smart folks on the DVD Beaver email list, a few months back I checked out Merlin.pl, an online retailer located in Poland. I was especially delighted to discover a whole series of two-disc sets of the best of Polish animation, as well as a collection of the work of Polish documentary filmmakers. As a nation, Poland has always punched well above its weight when it comes to filmmaking of all kinds. Over the years, institutions like the Lodz Film School have turned out very fine filmmakers, many of whom have gone on to worldwide fame (Polanski, Kieślowski, Wajda, Zanussi, Skolimowski, to name just a few). While the work of most of these filmmakers is readily available in the English-speaking world, the achievements of Poland’s animators and documentarians has been harder to access. Not anymore.

Each of these collections contain two discs, in the PAL format and coded for Region 2 (except the animation collection which is region-free), along with an extensive booklet in both Polish and English. All have English and French subtitles, and most have Russian and German as well. Best of all, they retail for around 36 zlotych each, which as of this writing works out to around $13. Shipping is very reasonable, adding another 36 zlotych to ship four double-disc sets from Poland to Canada. The only drawback was the glacial pace; the package took 7.5 weeks to arrive.

Merlin.pl even includes a helpful page advising English speakers how to purchase from their site. Combined with Google Translate, purchasing is fairly straightforward. When I eventually work my way through all 8 discs and 17 hours of Polish film goodness, I’m coming back for more.

I’m also going to search their site for a good book of classic Polish film posters.

  • Antologia polskiej animacji – one of several collections of animation, this one contains work from the 1950s right up to 2005.
  • Krzysztof Kieślowski – documentary work from the well-known director of feature films such as The Double Life of Veronique.
  • Marcel Łoziński – still working today, he is one of the most celebrated of Polish documentary filmmakers.
  • Maciej Drygas – one of the younger generation of documentary filmmakers in Poland. All of his work has been produced since the collapse of Communism, but still deals with that period of Polish history.

Check out a few more photos of the snappy packaging.

Polish DVDs [spines]

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Lovers of Hate

by James McNally on October 3, 2010 · 1 comment

in Netflix

Lovers of Hate

Lovers of Hate (Director: Bryan Poyser): I’m happy to use this review to introduce a new category on the blog. Late last month, Netflix finally brought their streaming movie service to Canada. Sure there have been the expected complaints that the very latest blockbusters are not available, or that the selection at launch wasn’t large enough, but luckily I ignored all that. There is plenty of great stuff to watch, and hopefully, I’ll be able to point you to some hidden gems.

Lovers of Hate played at Sundance last January, and was on my radar because it also screened at Austin’s South by Southwest Film Festival in March. I was actually at the festival, and was even at a party with the director, but didn’t have time to catch the screening itself. Such a small independent film had a very slim chance of getting a decent theatrical release in the US, never mind in Canada, so I was very happy to see it turn up on Netflix. I suspect I’ll find more overlooked indie treasures there in the months to come.

Filmed in Austin and Park City, fittingly, Poyser’s second feature (after 2004’s Dear Pillow) is a love triangle involving two brothers, a woman and one very large house. We meet misanthropic sad sack Rudy after his wife has thrown him out of the house. The first ten minutes of the film hilariously capture his attempts to bathe, first at a car wash and then in a stranger’s house. Clearly he doesn’t have much of a social safety net. When his brother Paul, a writer of popular young adult fiction, calls to tell him he’s in town for a reading, he convinces his estranged wife Diana to pretend everything’s fine so they can have a meal together, but the ruse doesn’t work for long. Paul has already let Rudy and Diana know that he’s staying in a huge house in Park City, Utah for the next month to work on his new book, and before long, each of them has shown up.

Rudy needs a place to live and shows up unannounced, only to find his brother not at home. After making himself comfortable, he hears Paul returning with someone. The giggling woman turns out to be Diana, who’s harboured feelings for Paul all along. Rudy scrambles to hide as Paul and Diana throw off their coats, and then their clothes, to consummate their long attraction. For the rest of the film, Rudy is resigned to hiding in one of the house’s many rooms, trying (and failing) not to listen to the new couple’s lovemaking and criticisms of him. It’s darkly funny, and each character carries enough baggage to make the whole thing feel sleazy while not painting any one character as a true villain. Rudy is not the only one hiding. The layers of deception and guilt and regret build, and when Paul finally figures out that Rudy is in the house, he purposely chooses not to tell Diana. The camera tells most of the story in the second half of the film, as it prowls around with Rudy, trying both to see and to not be seen.

The filmmaking is economical in every sense of the word. The single location, spare but effective dialogue, and shaded performances of the three leads all add up to a wry take on sibling rivalry, romantic deception and the meaning of success. The excellent poop jokes are just an added bonus.

Official site of the film



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