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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