Tuesday, April 30, 2013
At age 14, Laura Dekker embarks on a quest to become the youngest person ever to sail around the world alone. It is a decision that will seem controversial to some, but for Dekker the sea is her home. The Dutch teen spent the first few years of her life living on a boat with her parents. Part of the reason Dekker wanted to live with her father, after her parents divorced, was due to the fact that she could continue sailing.
Traveling on a 40 ft sail boat filled with food, and all the maps and gear she will need, Dekker sets sail to achieve her dream. Spending close to two years at sea, Dekker visits exotic locals, make friends with fellow sailors and encounter the highs and lows that Mother Nature has to offer. It is a voyage that not only tests her strength and fears, but also provides an opportunity for Dekker to learn a lot about herself in the process. The Dutch teen soon starts to question where her true national ties lie. This all helps to set the stage for a rather unique and endearing coming-of-age tale.
Monday, April 29, 2013
Growing up there were two major media events that made an impression on me, the O.J. Simpson trial and the Clarence Thomas Senate committee hearings. These were major events because it was perceived that prominent African-American men were having their characters assassinated...or at least that was the perception at the time for many in the African-American community. In the case of Clarence Thomas it was more than that, it was a battle of the sexes. A classic he said she said battle that felt more like a legal trial than a hearing designed to investigate and uncover the truth.
As the woman who brought sexual harassment into the national spotlight, Anita Hill was painted as a villain by several in the media. Though her testimony against Clarence Thomas was deemed shocking by some, there was no denying it had legal ramifications that are still felt today. Twenty years later, Anita Hill opens up about the grueling nine-hour session and how it changed her life forever.
There is a prevalent double standard in our society in which online piracy is increasing becoming an acceptable crime. However, it only seems to be acceptable until someone tries to steal from you. It is a skewed form of logic that perfectly encapsulates the world of entitlement that technology has created. If you want proof, look no further than Simon Klose’s captivating, though flawed, documentary TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay – Away From Keyboard. The film chronicles the period when the creators of the world’s largest peer-to-peer film sharing site, The Pirate Bay, were put on trial for violating numerous copyright laws. Klose followed the site’s creators, Gottfrid Svartholm and Fredrik Neij, along with The Pirate Bay’s official spokesperson, Peter Sunde, as they took on both Hollywood and anti-piracy organizations.
It is a David versus Goliath tale in which David may not be as virtuous as he believes himself to be. In the eyes of Gottfrid, Fredrick and Peter, they are being persecuted unfairly. While the world sees them as the masterminds behind a company promoting and profiting from illegal activity; they view themselves as merely a bunch of guys who became friends in an online chat room. Peter even remarks that they are “the good guys” in all of this. Unlike the anti-heroes in the Hollywood films that litter The Pirate Bay site, Klose never provides evidence in the documentary to support their claims of injustice. If anything, the film portrays both Gottfrid and Fredrik as technically gifted men who consider their right to have fun to be more important than any legal ramifications. They foolishly think that international piracy laws do not apply in their Swedish homeland. In one scene early in the film while leaving court, Gottfrid gleefully remarks that he had a pirated copy of the new Depeche Mode CD on his laptop during the entire court session for that day.
Sunday, April 28, 2013
On February 21, 2012 the members of the feminist punk collective Pussy Riot, wearing their trademark neon coloured balaclavas, staged a guerrilla style satirical performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The band’s intent was to comment on the unhealthy union between church and state that Vladimir Putin’s regime ushered in. Little did they know that their thirty second performance would land them in jail and ignite debates across the world.
In Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer, directors Maxim Pozdorovkin and Mike Lerner document how the Pussy Riot trial dissolved into a “show trial” in which the punishment did not fit the crime. It is clear that the fate of Pussy Riot was sealed the minute they set foot in the Orthodox Church. Even their parents, who are usually supportive of their daughters and their political activism, admit that the group crossed the line. While there were other avenues the band could have taken to get their message across, what is truly interesting about the cathedral incident is the response it caused.
Throughout his life Sean Clifton was always different. Known to police because of his delusional tendencies, Clifton was viewed by many in the community as harmless. This view changed a little over a decade ago when Clifton savagely stabbed a woman, Julie, at the local Wal-Mart six times. What provoked such a violent assault? According to Clifton, a voice in his head told him to attack the prettiest girl he saw. Diagnosed as suffering from both schizophrenia and obsessive compulsive disorder, Clifton is found “Not Criminally Responsible” for the crime and is committed to a psychiatric facility.
Twelve years later Clifton is on medication consistently and is showing significant signs of improvement. He has even started the process of slowly integrating back into society under supervision. Due to these advancements, Clifton feels that he is ready for a “conditional discharge” which would provide him even more freedom. Achieving this will be an uphill battle though as Julie, and others, fear that Clifton may lose control again and endanger more lives. There are also lingering questions as to whether Clifton is even sane enough to handle the daily strain of normal society.
Saturday, April 27, 2013
At the tender age of ten, Pug has one goal in life and that is to join the 12 O’Clock Boys. Hailing from the tough streets of Baltimore, the 12 O’Clock Boys are a gang of illegal dirt bike riders who make the local streets their personal playground. Every Sunday the streets are flooded with 20 to 30 dirt bikers doing stunts amidst live traffic. In Pug’s eyes the 12 O’Clock Boys represent the pinnacle of cool, but both citizens of Baltimore and local law enforcement view them as a dangerous nuisance.
Filmed over the course of three years, director Lofty Nathan follows Pug as he attempts to make his dreams of joining the gang a reality. During this time Pug wrestles with the death of his older brother and the deep impact it has on him. His overall view of the world becomes more cynical and his carefree attitude towards school does not sit well with his mother Coco. Despite Coco repeatedly telling him that there is no future for the 12 O’Clock Boys, especially with the cops constantly on the lookout, Pugs infatuation with the lifestyle only grows stronger.
In an industry were Milli Vanilli is considered the pinnacle of fraudulence, the “hoax” in The Great Hip Hop Hoax may seem rather tame in comparison. This does not make the plight of the rap group Silibi N’ Brains any less compelling though. If anything, the film is a scathing commentary on the music industry and its consumers. Jeanie Finlay’s film is a cautionary tale on the dangers of sacrificing one’s principles in order to obtain their ideal goal.
Similar to the film Felix Austria!, which is also screening at Hot Docs, The Great Hip Hop Hoax is a film about reinventing one’s self to achieve a dream. However, this film highlights the dangers that come when one’s true identity is lost in the process. Hailing from Scotland, Billy “Silibil” Boyd and Gavin ”Brains McLoud” Bain met when they were teenagers and quickly bonded over their love for all things hip hop. With a knack for writing catchy and thought provoking rap songs, the pair, along with friend Oskar “Bravo” Kirkwood, formed the group B Productions. Dismissed by industry A and R representatives as “the rapping Proclaimers”, Boyd and Bain decide to get revenge by reinventing themselves as a Californian rap duo Silibil N’ Brains. To their surprise, doors in the London music scene quickly open as everyone seems eager to discover the next Eminem or Beastie Boys.
Friday, April 26, 2013
The journey to uncover Hinkel’s past comes at a very critical time in Felix’s life. His father suffers from Huntington’s disease, a fatal degenerative brain disease that is passed down genetically, and Felix has a 50 percent of inheriting it. After witnessing how the disease caused violent, and suicidal, outburst in his father; Felix knows the clock may be ticking for his own life too. Now at the same age that his father was when first diagnosed, Felix travels across America and over the Atlantic on a historical fact finding mission he feels his whole life has led up to. As the mystery surrounding Hinkel’s life slowly unravels, the possibility of having an audience with Archduke Otto von Habsburg becomes far more than just one of Felix’s recurring dreams.
At a brisk 6 minutes, Sam Decoste’s wonderful animated short manages to both delight and educate at the same time. Narrated by Jia Tsu Ye Thompson, the film reflects on the time that Thompson and her friend Mary were asked to perform the comfort women story in The Vagina Monologues. Although both women were in their 70s, and had limited to no stage experience, the desire to tell such an important story propelled them to tackle their fears of performing in front of an audience. By focusing on the women’s preparation for the performance, Decoste is able to tap into many humorous moments. These moments of levity are nicely balanced with the sad tale of the comfort women, which consisted of women and girls, who were forced to prostitute themselves to Japanese soldiers. Despite the tough subject matter that the film touches on, audience members will ultimately walk away with a huge smile on their face. Mary & Myself is a charming film that tackles an important moment in history in a poignant and entertaining way.
Still feeling ill from her chemotherapy treatments, Chula finds it difficult to adapt to both Kerala and the ayurvedic treatment at first. She begins to wonder if her decision to embark on this journey was a mistake. This causes Chula to take an introspective look at not only her life, but also the increasing possibility of death. Over the course of six weeks, she and Wheeler learn a lot about themselves, Indian medicine, and the power of the human spirit. By the end of the trip Anne sees significant improvements in Chula’s health and overall demeanor. However, when the pair return home Chula learns that the cancer has spread and she only has weeks to live.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Acclaimed actor/filmmaker James Franco has an issue with gay sex in film, but it is not what you think. Franco is tired of the fact that only heterosexual intimacy is shown in mainstream films. Furthermore he is bothered by the fact that he, and most people for that matter, have been raised from a young age to believe that this is the only type of sexual intimacy that is acceptable and “normal.” Aided by fellow director Travis Mathews, Franco embarks on an experiment that will test the limits of art, audiences, and most importantly his crew.
Taking its inspiration from William Friedkin’s 1980 thriller Cruising, Interior. Leather Bar. is based on a simple “what if” premise. Franco and Mathews ponder what the rumoured 40 minutes of controversial footage, which was cut out of Cruising in order to get an R rating, might have looked like and set out to recreate those moments. However, not everyone agrees that this experiment is a good idea. In fact the majority of the actors casted to re-imagine the scenes, including Val Lauren in a leading role once played by Al Pacino, question if Franco’s vision will be interpreted as nothing more than gay pornography. The fact that the film does not have a full script does little to quell their fears. Despite the reservations of the crew, Franco is determined to see the project through to the end even if it may jeopardize his career in the process.
Despite the orchestral score that opens up the film, The Expedition to the End of the World is far from your typical documentary about man’s place in nature. The pounding rock and roll soundtrack that cuts in after the opening credits sets the tone perfectly for the eccentric cast of characters that make up the ship’s crew. The crew consists of a captain, a geochemist, an archeologist, a zoologist, a geographer, a geologist, a marine biologist (the lone female of the group) and two artists. Over the course of their expedition they uncover fossils, watch the melting ice caps, create art, and even discover new species.
In her feature length debut Métis/Algonquin filmmaker and actress Michelle Latimer turns her lens towards a side of Toronto life that few actually see. Alias is a film that explores the world of street rap which has become synonymous with shootings and drugs in the local media. Latimer’s film cuts through the political jargon that populates talk radio and the nightly news and talks to those who are striving to make their hip hop dreams a reality. Do not go into Alias expecting an 8 Mile rise of the underdog story though. Latimer provides an honest, and at times sad, look at how urban poverty and street rap are on a continuous loop with no signs of stopping.
The film follows five individuals who cover the gambit on the Toronto rap scene. Alkatraz, Trench, and Alias Donmillion are rappers who are each at various stages of their musical careers. Alkatraz is a father who tries to juggle his responsibilities as a parent with his desire to continue making music. Trench is the “dreamer” who is determined to make it big in the rap scene, even if it means going to Europe to make it happen. While Alias Donmillion is the most successful of the three as he had a hit single that even got him national notice on Much Music. Unfortunately his musical high was short lived once he got arrested for discharging a firearm in a crowded area. Alias Donmillion now strives to reclaim a name for himself in the industry that rarely acknowledges past glory.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
For its patrons, The Manor represents a place of titillation and entertainment, but the establishment holds a different meaning for director Shawney Cohen. An aspiring filmmaker, Cohen has been working as the manager of The Manor strip club for over five years. However, his affiliation to the club does not end once his shift is over. Cohen has been tied to The Manor since he was six years old as his father, Roger, bought both The Manor and the motel attached to it.
As the son of Jewish immigrants, Roger seems like an unlikely person to be in the strip club business. The decision clearly did not sit well with his wife Brenda, a stay at home mother, at the time of purchase. Thirty years later the entire family is reaping the benefits as the business has allowed them to live a very comfortable lifestyle. For all the financial gains The Manor has brought the Cohen clan, it has done considerable damage to the family dynamics.
Elena always knew she was destined to make a big impact on people. Her passion for acting is what led the young Brazilian actress to leave homeland, where she had a promising career in theatre, to pursue a career in film in New York City. Twenty years later Elena’s sister, Petra, is following in her footsteps. An actress and filmmaker, Petra has travelled to New York in search of Elena. As she roams the streets of New York hoping to run into her sister, Petra’s only clues to finding Elena come from old home movies, letters, and newspaper clippings. Despite being a young girl when Elena left, these pieces of information help Petra to piece together a vivid portrait of her sister.
Petra’s quest for answers reveals several similarities that go far beyond the fact that the sisters look eerily similar. As Petra and Elena begin to merge on screen, the power of acting becomes an unlikely source for Petra to find Elena. When Elena is finally found, it opens up the flood gates of pent up emotions that will have a lasting impact on the entire family. For Petra in particular, she must not only find a way to accept Elena’s choice, but also learn to let go of everything that caused her to search in the first place.
There was a time when the motto “it takes a village to raise a child” was more than just a saying it was a way of life. The disintegration of communal life in preference for Western style individualism has had damaging effects in Kenya and Africa as a whole. It has led to an epidemic of youths leaving their broken villages for life in nearby towns and slums. To numb the pain of life on the streets, an alarming number of them have taken to sniffing glue.
Tough Bond, named after a popular brand of glue sold in Kenya, is a film that explores the harsh reality of street life that many experience on a daily basis. The film follows four displaced individuals from various aspects of the Kenyan landscape that are connected by their circumstances. There is Sinbad who resides in the region of Isiolo. He does a range of odd jobs, from collecting plastic bottles to sweeping the street, in order to pay for both his grandmother’s malaria medicine and his glue addiction. In the town of Meru, we find Veronica Akai and her husband Peter, a couple whose relationship turns out to be as fractured as the troubled home that Akai originally ran away from. The last individual is Anto who is from the Kiamaiko slums of Nairobi. Anto is part of a street gang who view themselves as a misunderstood brotherhood. While they claim to merely be a group of youth looking out for one another, they have no qualms about committing violent robberies when night falls.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
You may have noticed that our postings have been a little light over the past week. This is mainly due to the fact that we have been feverishly working behind the scenes preparing our Hot Docs festival coverage. A week from today Hot Docs will kick off and have many film lovers in a documentary euphoria for eleven straight days. The largest documentary film festival in the world, Hot Docs has screened many iconic and award-winning films over the past 20 years. Films like Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About A Father, The Cove, Senna, Inocente, The Invisible War, and The Imposter all screened at Hot Docs. Here are a few of the films playing at this year’s festival that caught our eye:
A look at how the music-sharing website Napster transformed not only the music industry, but technology as a whole.
Monday, April 15, 2013
Prior to the screening of Upstream Color, an older woman exiting from the previous showing of the film turned to the line waiting and declared "do not waste your money, the film is dumb”. She then turned back to her friend and left the cinema annoyed. Though the woman is entitled to her opinions, after viewing the film I could not help but think how vastly different our views on the film were. What she considered to be "dumb", I found to be extremely rich and intelligent. The film offered an experience unlike anything I had encountered in some time.
Similar to his mind-bending debut film Primer, writer/director Shane Carruth is out to once again push the limits of narrative with Upstream Color. The complicated plot revolves around Kris (Amy Seimetz), a woman who is drugged by a man only known in the film as Thief (Thiago Martins). Using special worms that are laced with a mysterious drug, Thief induces Kris into a hypnotized state where she must do his bidding. The Thief's prime objective is to get Kris to empty her bank accounts and hand over all equity to him. Once this is done he disappears without Kris remembering his face or the fact that he was ever a part of her life.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
After a turbulent year in which it was pulled from the schedule a mere five weeks prior to its original release date, G.I. Joe: Retaliation finally gets the chance to redeem itself in theatres. Expectations were riding high for this latest installment of the Hasbro franchise, especially considering how underwhelming G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was in comparison to the Transformers franchise. Many saw G.I. Joe: Retaliation as a make or break point for the G.I. Joe film franchise. Fortunately for the Joes, they will live to fight another day as the film, despite its problematic story, manages to entertain far more than its predecessor did.
Picking up where the original left off, life is going well for the G.I. Joe squad now that the head of the evil terrorist organization Cobra, Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey), is locked away in a secret prison. Unbeknownst to the Joes, Cobra is still going strong as one of their agents, Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), has been impersonating the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce) for several months. Zartan sets in motion a plan that will not only frame the Joes for stealing nuclear warheads, but also eradicate the team once and for all. After a surprise military ambush decimates the bulk of the G.I. Joe forces, three members, Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Lady Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) and Flint (D.J. Cotrona), are left to pick up the pieces. With the help of fellow Joe soldier Snakes Eyes (Ray Park), who was away at the time of the attacks, and his apprentice Jinx (Elodie Yung) the group sets out to uncover why their government has turned on them and how it connects to Cobra’s latest plans for world domination.
Tuesday, April 09, 2013
iTunes) are giving away five $25 iTunes gift vouchers. How do you get your hands on one of these vouchers? All you need to do to be entered in the draw is to “Like” Comix Asylum Magazine on Facebook. Easy as that! The deadline to enter is Sunday April 14, 2013.
Friday, April 05, 2013
Tango Libre is not your typical dance inspired film. Similar to the Tango itself, the film is a little bit of everything all rolled into one. There is joy, pain, passion, sadness and even a bit of silliness thrown in for good measure. The challenge with having so many different themes at play is finding just the right steps to keep it all in balance.
Jean-Christophe (François Damiens), nicknamed J.C, is a lonely prison guard whose only source of entertainment is the weekly ballroom dance classes he attends. At the class he meets and instantly becomes smitten with Alice (Anne Paulicevich). Although the pair has instant chemistry on the dance floor, things become complicated when they discover they have a mutual connection outside of the dance studio. Alice is married to Fernand (Sergi López), one of the convicts J.C. oversees on a daily basis. Furious to learn that his wife has been dancing with one of the guards, Fernand sets out to learn the Tango behind bars. Fernand’s quest causes an upheaval both inside and outside the prison.
Thursday, April 04, 2013
Legendary film critic passes away at age 70, and the world will not be the same without him. While the news of Roger Ebert’s passing has saddened many film lovers around the world, the out pouring of love showered on both Ebert and his wife Chaz warms the heart greatly. Roger Ebert was more than just a film critic, he was a teacher and champion of cinema to many who were uninitiated in the power film.
Like many other film bloggers of my age group, I grew up watching Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert on At the Movies every weekend. I would religiously tape every episode, even though I was not old enough to see half of the films they discussed in theatres. For me it was not the “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down” aspect that captivated me, but learning about all the films that I had never heard of that excited me. This is something that did not change as I got older. It was because of Siskel & Ebert that I discovered films like His Girl Friday, Zero Effect, Nosferatu, Farwell My Concubine, Women on the Verge of a Nevous Breakdown, Raise the Red Lantern, One False Move, and The Crying Game to name a few.
Big is Beautiful is being marketed as "a moving film on friendship, in the same vein as 35-Something, Bridesmaids and Sex in the City...with a few extra pounds". Although the sassy and sensual aspects of Sex in the City are clearly influenced the film, the message of self-acceptance feels more akin to Calendar Girls than Bridesmaids. Similar to many of the characters within the film, Big is Beautiful is not shy about what it wants to achieve. It is a comedy that wants to both inspire and entertain its audience.
Charlotte de Turckheim's film revolves around Nina (Lola Dewaere), a slightly overweight accountant who works at her husband Gaspard’s (Grégory Fitoussi) fashion company. Like many women Nina has always struggled with her weight, she has trouble finding clothes that fit in a world that only seems to cater to size 6 and under. Even Nina's own mother is constantly harassing her to be more like Nina's slim best friend Natasha (Pauline Lefèvre). After being humiliated at work when her skirt rips in front of important clients, Gaspard surprises Nina with a month-long slimming down treatment at the Bride-les-Bains spa.
Wednesday, April 03, 2013
Pierre Jolivet’s latest film, Armed Hands, is a police procedural that strives to be both a taut thriller and a gripping family drama. While Jolivet’s ambition is admirable, it serves as one of the major hindrances of the film. Armed Hands is a film that has several good ideas running throughout, but not enough time to truly explore all of them in depth.
The film revolves around Lucas Skali (Roschdy Zem), the captain of an anti-arms trafficking squad in Marseille, who is tipped off about a large shipment of NATO P90 assault rifles being smuggled in by a Serbian group. Lucas’ investigation takes him to Paris where he must enlist the help of Maya Dervin (Leïla Bekhti). Maya is a young narcotics officer who likes to live life on the edge. She also happens to be Lucas’s estranged daughter. As Lucas and Maya’s separate investigations become more intertwined, they each must confront old emotional wounds that resurface.
Tuesday, April 02, 2013
Belgian auteur Joachim Lafosse delivers another astounding look at family life with his gripping film, Our Children. Based on a real life incident that occurred in Belgium in 2007, Lafosse’s film explores the events that may have led up to the horrific event. To go into the specifics regarding the incident would be a disservice to the film, especially since Our Children keeps it real objectives a mystery for a good part of the film. All the viewer knows at the beginning of the film is that some sort of tragedy has occurred. A mother is lying in the hospital bed requesting that her children be buried in Morocco, the homeland of their father.
The film flashes back to several years earlier to show the mother, Murielle (Émilie Dequenne), in much happier times. Murielle, a school teacher, falls madly in love with Mounir (A Prohet’s Tahar Rahim), a Moroccan immigrant, and starts to plan their life together. She agrees to move in with Mournir and his surrogate father Dr. André Pinget (Niels Arestrup). The trio’s living arrangement continues even after Murielle and Mounir marry and begin to have children. At first Murielle is taken by Pinget’s wealth and generosity. However, she soon begins to feel trapped by the financial freedom Pinget provides.
Monday, April 01, 2013
Posted by Francis McKay
A slow tracking shot of a quiet room with curtains featuring birds brings us into Atiq Rahimi's The Patience Stone. The tranquil setting is violently interrupted by a bomb going off. The blast is followed by gunfire that appears to be coming from just outside. The scene then shifts to the two people in the room, a young woman (Golshifteh Farahani) caring for an older man (Hamid Djavadan) who is lying motionless. The woman prays over her husband and implores him to try and hold on. He is breathing but not able to hear, respond, or move.
The woman is perplexed by this because the local Mullah advised her that he would be moving and talking by now. His vegetative state is a result of an injury he sustained in the ongoing war engulfing the town. Alone with her comatose husband, she starts to tell him her life story. She speaks of her childhood, her thoughts on their wedding, and the lust that his brothers had for her. She tells him things that she never would if he was conscious, but feels free to do so as he is in this state. When discussing her actions with an Aunt (Hassina Burgan), the woman is told the story of “The Patience Stone”. The Patience Stone is a mythical stone that you can tell all of your painful stories to. It absorbs them until one day it shatters leaving you free of all of your past problems.