Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Galas and Special Presentations announced for TIFF 2010

The Toronto International Film Festival announced the titles over 50 films from their 2010 schedule at a press conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel on King Street West. The films announced were primarily Gala and Special Presentation films and comes shortly after having announced their opening night gala film Score: A Hockey Musical. More films will be unveiled in the coming weeks, including the Midnight Madness titles on August 3, Canadian titles on August 10, and the full lineup of almost 300 films on August 24.

Festival CEO and Director Piers Handling (pictured, right) and Co-director Cameron Bailey took turns speaking. The announced films included some highly anticipated titles such as Miral (Julian Schnabel), Biutiful (Alejandro González Iñárritu), Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky), The Conspirator (Robert Redford), Barney's Version (Richard J. Lewis), Little White Lies (Guillaume Canet), Casino Jack (George Hickenlooper), and Rabbit Hole (John Cameron Mitchell). Full list and details below.

Handling and Bailey deflected attempts from the press to get more information on other potential titles from certain regions or by certain stars such as Jodie Foster's The Beaver (starring the embattled Mel Gibson). Handling stated that their policy is to not comment on films that have not been announced. He did state that they "spread a very wide net," and that they are still screening films (although they have stopped accepting submissions). 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Call for submissions: Women in the Directors Chair - August 31 deadline

Creative Women Workshops Association is a British Columbia-based organization that has since 1997 run a well-regarded program known as The Women In the Director's Chair Workshop (WIDC). Presented in partnership with Telefilm, the Banff Centre and the Alliance of Canadian Cinema Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), WIDC is a professional development program for Canadian women directors. Their next program deadline is August 31, 2010.

WIDC is aimed particularly at mid-career directors. They select eight women each year to participate in two modules. The first is a Story Incubation Module (SIM) and is "a specially designed 4-day intensive story development workshop that offers a psychological approach to the development of character, dialogue and story structure." This takes place November 27-30, 2010. Then after some follow-up in December, the participants take the Prep, Production and Post Production Module (PPPM), a three-week period from January 13 to 30, 2011 where they'll receive instruction and mentorship from seasoned professionals on all aspects of film production. T

Free Summer Movie Nights - Bravo!FACT short films

The Toronto International Film Festival has been hosting free movie screenings every Wednesday at 9pm in Metro Square all summer from June 30 continuing until September 1st. On July 21, the screenings will be a series of Canadian short films, featuring those made through the Bravo!FACT program. This was the grant program which supported me on on my latest project Notes from the Kuerti Keyboard. Bravo!FACT celebrates its 15th anniversary this year.

The program tonight consists of The Translator, Unlocked, Vive La Rose, Big Girl, and from Bravo!FACT the films are Cattle Call, Pointless Film, Aruba, The Stone of Folly, The Canadian Shield, Record, I Met The Walrus. Many of these are award-winning films, while I Met The Walrus went so far as to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Short Film. It is a very funny Monty Pythonesque animation of an interview with John Lennon made when he came to Toronto in 1969.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Free party in Toronto for Scott Pilgrim Volume 6 release

Tonight on Monday, July 19, the bookstore The Beguiling is hosting a street party in Mirvish Village (Markham Street, a block west of Bathurst & Bloor) to celebrate the release of the 6th and final volume of the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World series entitled Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour. Series author and former employee of The Beguiling Bryan Lee O’Malley will be on hand at 8pm to sign copies of his books, and after midnight when his new book when it officially becomes available.

The party begins at 9pm and will go until the bars close. Many other stores in Mirvish Village will be having Scott Pilgrim-related contests and events. For example, you can hear indie bands at The Central, enter a costume contest at the former David Mirvish Books, or play 8-bit video games at The Butler's Pantry, hosted by the Toronto Hand-Eye Society starting at 8pm.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Film review: Inception

Writer/director: Christopher Nolan
Producer: Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan
Cast : Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard, Ken Watanabe, Michael Caine, Tom Hardy, Dileep Rao, Tom Berenger, Pete Postlethwaite, Lukas Haas
Sci-fi action-thriller, PG-13
2 hours 28 minutes

It was all a dream.

For decades, this has been the lamest way to end a story. What may have been original ages past became had become a silly cliché. But with one brilliant stroke, writer/director Christopher Nolan has found a way with his latest film Inception to take the tired subject of dreams and create a work of breathtaking originality.

Friday, July 16, 2010

BITE ME! Toronto International Body Image Film & Arts Festival, July 16-18

The BITE ME! Toronto International Body Image Film & Arts Festival launches its inaugural season this weekend. It begins with an invite-only launch on Friday night at the XEXE Gallery, 624 Richmond St W. Then on Saturday and Sunday, films, discussions and workshops take place at the National Film Board (NFB) Mediatheque and theatre, 150 John Street.
A free Saturday workshop, the BITE ME! YouthZone, is free for girls from 12-18. To register, contact info@bitemefilmfest.com with the subject line: BITE ME! YouthZone. A one-day pass is $15 but both days are only $20.

Films being screened include hits from Hot Docs such as 65_REDROSES which examines Eva Markvoort's struggle with Cystic Fibrosis, and The Story of Furious Pete, the story of an anorexic male who becomes a competitive eater. Color of Beauty is an examination by model Renee Thompson of how the world of fashion so often defines beauty as "white." Many screenings will have filmmakers in attendance.

Toronto Singapore Film Festival 2010, July 16-17

The Toronto Singapore Film Festival launches its 5th edition this weekend. It's one of Toronto's more modest festivals but interesting nonetheless. Singaporean filmmakers have been steadily gaining in international stature and have recently begun competing at festivals such as Cannes.

Friday night's opening gala takes place at the Revue Cinema at 400 Roncesvalles Avenue. They will screen the North American premiere of Royston Tan's musical hit 881, co-presented with the Reel Asian Film Festival. "881" is how Cantonese speakers often text farewell greetings to each other, since 8 in Cantonese is "ba" and 1 is "yi." Thus 881 = "ba-ba-yi" = "bye-bye."

On Saturday, the screenings move to Innis Town Hall, 2 Sussex Avenue, a block south of Bloor & St. George. At 4pm, the Worldwide Short Film Festival co-hosts a screening of 5 short films. One of the directors Vicknesh Varan will be in attendance. Then at 7pm, the closing film will be Kelvin Tong's horror/thriller Rule #1.

All films have English subtitles.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

National Screen Institute (NSI) Features First 2010: feature film training

The National Screen Institute is a national filmmaking school based in Winnipeg. It has undergone a number of changes over the last while, including the appointment of producer Derek Luis as its new CEO. It runs a number of initiatives for film and television. They announced a call for submissions for one of them, the NSI Features First program.

Features First is a training program for Canadian filmmaking teams who are prepared to develop and then make their first or second film. To apply, you need a writer, director and producer to submit a script. The writer can be director or producer as well, but the director and producer cannot be the same person. Team members are not required to be from the same province, but you should be able to manage any geographical concerns if you are accepted into the program.

Deadline for submissions is September 22, 2010.

Pamela Anderson at the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival, Montreal

Pamela Anderson addressed the media in Montreal in this morning in anticipation of her show Pam’s Variety Gala tonight (Thursday) at the Théâtre St-Denis as part of the Just for Laughs Festival. She will be co-hosting the event with her Dancing With The Stars partner Damian Whitewood. The lineup also includes Axis of Awesome, Beardyman, Blueprint Cru, Des Bishop, Kristeen Von Hagen, Michael Kosta, Paul Zerdin, Ralph Harris and Trevor Boris.

The media gathering took place at the Globe Restaurant on St-Laurent, and an second press gathering on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was to take place an hour later in Montreal's Old Port. But at the last minute, the city denied PETA their permit, claiming the ad was sexist (see letter below). As a result, the unveiling of her new ad for PETA took place simultaneously at the Globe Restaurant. When she pulled out the French-language version of the poster, one wag commented (en anglais, with a French accent) "Ah, now we understand it...."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Call for submissions: CFC NFB Documentary Program

The Canadian Film Centre (CFC) and National Film Board (NFB) have announced the 2nd edition of their documentary program. This program was successfully initiated last year by the two institutions with four participants. Yung Chang, Shelley Saywell and John Walker were already award-winning documentarians, while Sarah Polley was a graduate of the CFC as a director and also Academy Award-nominated for writing her film Away From Her.

The program last year was a six-month program in the first half of the year. This time around, it is expanded to run a full year starting in November 2010, interspersed in multiple modules. They encourage development for feature-length, mid-length as well as interactive documentaries. The program is for directors only unfortunately, and not producers.

The deadline for applications is October 15, 2010

Opening night gala announced for TIFF 2010

This morning at an impromptu press conference called at Toronto's Hockey Hall of Fame, the Toronto International Film Festival announced their opening night gala film. Festival directors Piers Handling and Cameron Bailey were on hand to announce that the 2010 TIFF opening screening will be Score: A Hockey Musical, written and directed by Michael McGowan. McGowan's previous films Saint Ralph and One Week also played at TIFF to great success.  

Both Handling and Bailey wore white hockey jerseys with the festival logo "tiff." They introduced director McGowan who spoke and then introduced some of his cast, including the newcomer Noah Reid who is the film's lead actor. Then a clip from the movie was played for the assembled guests and media. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

2011 Sundance/Alfred P. Sloan Commissioning Grant

In addition to running one of the leading North American film festivals, the Sundance Institute also provides support and assistance to independent filmmakers. The Alfred P. Sloan Commissioning Grant is a $20,000 screenplay development prize offered to writers of stories based on science and scientists. The grant is for those who wish "to create more realistic and compelling stories about science and technology; and to challenge existing stereotypes about scientists, engineers, and mathematicians in the popular imagination."

The award is named for the noted but controversial philanthropist who was president and CEO of General Motors in the early- to mid-20th century. Applicants need not reside in the U.S. but the project must be in the English language. The postmark deadline for applications is September 24, 2010.
2011 Sundance/Alfred P. Sloan Commissioning Grant

Saturday, July 10, 2010

2010 ReelWorld Indie Film Lounge Call For Submissions

Many film festivals host events and parties during the Toronto International Film Festival to piggyback on the fact that there are so many industry people from around the world in one place at the same time. The ReelWorld Film Festival goes an extra step and runs an event called the Indie Film Lounge which connects emerging filmmakers with many of the gathered established industry professionals. 

Twenty writers, directors, producers and actors will be selected and given the opportunity to undergo some training sessions in advance of TIFF. Then during TIFF, there is a cocktail reception and two days of one-on-one meetings, brunch and panel discussions. I have participated in this event before and is an invaluable experience for a very reasonable cost of $50. 

The ReelWorld Film Festival's supports diverse filmmakers but you don't have to be a minority yourself if you submit with a project idea that demonstrates your support of diverse talent. Here is ReelWorld's call for submissions:

Friday, July 9, 2010

2010 Directors Guild of Canada (DGC) Award nominees

The Directors Guild of Canada (DGC) announced on July 7 the nominees for the 2010 DGC Awards. Atom Egoyan's latest noirish thriller led the pack with 5 nominations including Best Feature and Best Movie Direction. Cairo Time, The Trotsky and Love and Savagery were also nominated for Best Feature. The nominees for Documentary were
Ballet High, The Experimental Eskimos, Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould and Love Letters.

The ceremony will take place on Saturday, September 25, 2010 at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto and will be hosted by comedian Dave Foley.

complete list of 2010 DGC Awards Nominations 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Essential Cinema exhibition to open TIFF Lightbox

The Toronto International Film Festival has announced a major free exhibition to launch the opening of the new TIFF Bell Lightbox that will be the festival's home when it officially opens on September 12, 2010. Included in the design of the new facility will be gallery space. The exhibition also takes place in other galleries in Toronto.

It will feature artworks from the films that were selected as the Essential 100 films to watch. There will be other additional installations and events at Lightbox. Here are all the details.

The Essential Cinema exhibition features iconic objects and photographs from the history of cinema as well as film-based artworks from major international artists and filmmakers, including new commissions and many Toronto premieres

2010 Fantasia International Film Festival, July 8-28

The 2010 Fantasia International Film Festival begins today in Montreal and continues until July 28. The three-week long event is North America's largest genre film festival, featuring styles such as horror, fantasy, Hong Kong action, animation, and sci-fi. The festival also hosts panels and conferences, as well as industry events and parties.

Tonight's opening night gala is Jon Turteltaub's The Sorcerer's Apprentice, starring Nicolas Cage and local Montreal actor Jay Baruchel. It's a live-action story loosely based on a Johann Wolfgang von Goethe poem and the famous sequence starring Mickey Mouse from - appropriately - Disney's Fantasia. The closing night gala on July 28 is the Sundance Festival horror-comedy hit Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. Other screenings include the Canadian premiere of Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs the World, over 50 Asian films, and the recently restored Metropolis, which adds over 25-minutes of newly discovered  material.

For more information, go to http://www.fantasiafestival.com/2010/en/

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Toronto International Film Festival ticket packages on sale July 5

Ticket packages go on sale Monday, July 5 at 10am for the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. This week, the ticket packages for the festival are being made available first to Visa credit card holders. Visa is the only credit card accepted by TIFF, and is one of their official sponsors. Ticket packages will be made available to everyone else starting on Monday July 12. Single tickets will not go on sale until September 3. The festival dates are September 9-19.

If you know you intend to see a number of films during the festival, buying a ticket package is the most cost-effective approach. Starting last year,  larger ticket packages were no longer eligible to be shared, with the only exception being the 10-ticket package. But this year, there are more options available. There are a wide variety of groupings and price ranges to suit everyone's needs. You have to move quickly, though. Some of them will sell out very quickly. The most popular ones will be gone in the next few weeks, and most of the rest will disappear sometime in August.

For more information, go to http://tiff.net/thefestival/ticketsandpasses
What's New in 2010? 

Tea Party Movies - a celebration of an American movement

In honour of the July 4 celebration of our neighbours to the south, I am paying tribute to the "Tea Party movement" a.k.a. the "tea-baggers," I have renamed movies from supposedly liberal Hollywood to more accurately describe the heroic membership of the modern rebel group.

It would be easy to find many titles of existing movies that describe them (e.g. Intolerance, Dumb and Dumber, Inglourious Basterds) but it's more fun to modify popular titles to create a tailor-made tribute. Try it yourself, and feel free to add your own titles in the comments section. I'm no good with photoshop but if anyone wants to make these into posters, that's cool with me. I'd appreciate the attribution and link.

So happy July 4, everyone! Enjoy.

Tea Party Movies

The Unbearable Whiteness of Teapartying

Blowhards with a Vengeance

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Summer filmmaking courses in Toronto

For people in Toronto wanting to learn filmmaking techniques, a number of places offer affordable summer courses. 

The Hart House Film Board is the University of Toronto's film club. Membership is available to UofT students and alumni. Courses are open to anyone, but students and members get a discount.
Filmmaking Classes at Hart House: http://www.uofttix.ca/view.php?id=662

Trinity Square Video is a not-for-profit artist-run centre that provides artists and community organizations with video production/post-production support and services at accessible rates.
Trinity Square Video Summer Courses: http://www.trinitysquarevideo.com/workshop_events.php

The Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT) focuses primarily on film and is a member-driven non-profit organization that provides affordable access to equipment, education and space for those with a passion for, and commitment to, the practice of filmmaking on celluloid.
Summer 2010 Film and Digital Workshops: http://www.lift.on.ca/mt/workshops.html

Friday, July 2, 2010

No need to apologize, Mr. Ebert. Video games are NOT art.

Okay, so I'm late coming to this debate but I thought I'd throw in my two cents. As many people know, esteemed film critic Roger Ebert made a pronouncement a few years back that video games can never be art. He recently backtracked and modified that statement to, "Let me just say that no video gamer now living will survive long enough to experience the medium as an art form." After a flurry of over 4,500 mostly angry comments from gamers, he's backtracked further and conceded, "I should not have written that entry without being more familiar with the actual experience of video games."

He need not have bothered apologizing. Even though he overstated his original case, he is still essentially correct that video games as they are right now are not art.  Maybe sometime, but not yet. There's no shame in that. Operas were invented in the 16th century, but didn't become an undisputed art form until the 18th century. Most forms go through an exploratory phase before some geniuses are able to create exceptional masterpieces with that form.

But Ebert's argument was theoretical and pointed out that games have a competitive or skill-testing component that art doesn't. It seems to me a sensible observation that games and art don't even share the same intent and purpose. He rightly pointed out that no other game is an art form, and that "Bobby Fischer, Michael Jordan and Dick Butkus never said they thought their games were an art form." So what would make video games so much more special than other games?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Call to boycott The Last Airbender and other racist movies

I love movies. But the movies don't always love me back, especially if those movies are from Hollywood. For all its reputation as a place overflowing with liberalism, the simple fact is that Hollywood is racist. And they think you are too.

Recently, the Guardian posted an article about the controversy of casting a black actor Idris Elba as a god in the upcoming film of Thor. I responded with a piece defending that decision as a long time coming, and a small bone to throw to minorities in a still primarily white-dominated world of film. Someone posted a response that was itself vaguely racist, and claimed that "it's not that we are racists, but to us white people the white people are more atractive [sic]." Not true, by the way, as recent studies have shown (Mixed-Race People Perceived as 'More Attractive,' UK Study Finds). But the post left a useful suggestion that I came to on my own anyhow - that it's time we simply call for a mass boycott of racist films.