April 23, 2014

0 Theatre: Abigail's Party - Where The Alcohol Flows Freely And So Do the Insults

Precisely Peter Productions brings to Toronto Mike Leigh's comedy, Abigail's Party. The play was written for the stage and television devised and directed in 1977 by Leigh himself. It is a suburban situation comedy of manners, and a satire on the aspirations and tastes of the 'new middle class' that emerged in Britain in the 1970s.

The setting is England 1977; the Queen is celebrating her Silver Jubilee, the punk movement is in full swing, and somewhere in suburban Essex, a group of neighbours are getting ready for a little party. Beverly, a brassy aspirational housewife, and her husband Lawrence, a pompus, hen-pecked estate agent, decide to throw a party for a few neighbours.

As the drinks flow, the alcohol begins to take effect, and insults also begin to flow. Beverly, the hostess from hell, starts to humiliates, seduce and dominate her guests (and her husband) before the evening reaches its shocking climax. Sounds like quite the soirée, non?

In this latest version of the play, John Shooter will direct a cast comprised by Anna Hardwick (Beverly), Dylan Roberts (Lawrence), Claire Burns (Angela), Cody Ray-Thompson (Tony), and Astrid Van Wieren (Sue). Designs are by George Quan and Amanda Wong with lighting by Joseph Patrick, and sound by Aaaron Bernstein.

Voted one of the best British comedies of all time, Abigail's Party captures the intense pain and absurdity of the lives of a group of social climbers, living in 1970's suburban England. You can join the party, already underway at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace. The show runs until Saturday, May 3rd, starting at 7:30pm; there is also a matinee show Saturday at 2pm. Tickets available online, here.

April 18, 2014

0 Poetry Corner: Bruce Lee - For A Moment

For A Moment
By Bruce Lee

For a moment
The surrounding utters no sound.
Time ceases.
The Paradise of Dreams come true.

-- from: Bruce Lee: Artist of Life. Edited by John Little. Tuttle Publishing. Vermont, 1999.

Bruce Lee (November 1940 – 20 July 1973) was a Hong Kong American martial artist, Hong Kong action film actor, martial arts instructor, filmmaker, and the founder of Jeet Kune Do.

Lee was the son of Cantonese opera star Lee Hoi-Chuen. He is widely considered by critics, media and other martial artists to be one of the most influential martial artists of all time, and a pop culture icon of the 20th century. He initially trained in Wing Chun and Boxing, but later rejected well-defined martial art styles, favouring instead the use of techniques from various sources, which he called Jeet Kune Do (The Way of the Intercepting Fist).

He is noted for his roles in five feature-length films: Lo Wei's The Big Boss (1971) and Fist of Fury (1972); Way of the Dragon (1972), directed and written by Lee; Warner Brothers' Enter the Dragon (1973) and The Game of Death (1973), both directed by Robert Clouse.

April 15, 2014

0 Hot Docs 2014: Hye's Top 10 Picks

The time has come for another year at Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. This is a festival I look forward to every year because it offers audiences a wide arrange of documentary films. Their selection opens our minds, breaks our hearts, brings out our inner activist, and most importanly makes us reflect on the state of our world today.

As in previous years, I've selected ten films that have piqued my interest. Most of these I have not screened yet, thus I cannot give you an in-depth analysis just yet. I have, however, tried to pick films from most of Hot Docs' programmes to have some variety. In no particular order...

Concerning Violence -- Special Presentations
Dir. Göran Hugo Olsson

Isabel Bader Theatre - Sun, Apr 27 4:00pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 - Mon, Apr 28 4:15pm
Hart House Theatre - Fri, May 2 3:30pm

Using Frantz Fanon’s incendiary text The Wretched of the Earth as a guide, filmmaker Göran Hugo Olsson returns to the Swedish television archives... unearthing astounding footage of the fight for decolonization. The film is divided into nine chapters propelled forward by the powerful voice of activist and artist Lauryn Hill, who reads selections of the text against the images of a young Robert Mugabe, South African white elite and everyday occurrences of rebellion and civil war. 

My thoughts: Having seen Olsson's previous work The Black Power Mixtape, I am very interested in how this film will be told, as it deals with a topic of much importance. The film played at Sundance to some positive reviews. One that will create plenty of dialogue and reactions during and afterwards.

Ne Me Quittes Pas -- Special Presentations
Dirs. Niels van Koevorden / Sabine Lubbe Bakker

ROM Theatre - Mon, Apr 28 9:00pm
Scotiabank Theatre 3 - Wed, Apr 30 1:00pm
Scotiabank Theatre 3 - Fri, May 2 1:00pm

When Marcel's marriage ends, he leans heavily on his best friend, Bob, for support. The men commiserate, share a wicked wit and hit the bottle hard...  tragicomic portrait of codependence presents the laughter and loathing at the heart of their friendship and addiction. When Marcel slams the brakes on his boozing and enters rehab, Bob, for once, doesn’t join in.

My thoughts: All of us need a friend to get us through tough times. This doc interests me for two main reasons, mental health and addiction issues, as well as, relationships and what sustains them. A snippet of life that seems worth a look.

Joy Of Man's Desiring -- Canadian Spectrum
Dir. Denis Côté

TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 - Sat, Apr 26 9:45pm
Scotiabank Theatre 7 - Sun, Apr 27 7:30pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox 4 - Sat, May 3 7:30pm

This is a cinematic essay focused on the routines and repetition of various workplaces. As scenes move from machinists and garment workers to laundry attendants and carpenters, the mise-en-scène and sound design are as highly constructed as the products being manufactured. Côté leaves little to chance, intentionally drawing as much attention to the form of the filmmaker’s work as he does to the chosen labourers he follows. 

My thoughts: Admittedly, the phrase 'cinematic essay' drew me to this title. However, the trailer also captured my attention. There is something about films that tell a story without much use of words, which I find fascinating. This type of fim may not be for everyone. But for those who appreciate how music and cinematography can drive a story, this is one to take in.

Where I'm From -- World Showcase 
Dir. Claude Demers

TIFF Bell Lightbox 3Mon, Apr 28 8:30 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 4Tue, Apr 29 3:00 PM
Scotiabank Theatre 7Sun, May 4 6:30 PM

Demers takes us on an intimate journey through his troubled childhood in working-class Verdun, a historic and notorious borough of Montreal. We see the neighbourhood—one of great contrasts, from the majestic banks of the Saint Lawrence River to the fluorescent glow of the local Dunkin’ Donuts—through the eyes of his two alter egos, Bastien and Cédric... who are just discovering themselves and the world around them.

My thoughts: Personal journeys are often intriguing. Identity often stems from the places we grew up in to the places we have yet to visit. It appears this is what Demers is hoping to portray in this film.

The Engineer -- International Spectrum
Dirs. Juan Passarelli / Mathew Charles

Scotiabank Theatre 4 - Thu, May 1 6:00pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 - Fri, May 2 3:00pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 - Sat, May 3 3:30pm

Death is part of Israel Ticas’ everyday existence in this unflinching real-life horror movie. As the only criminologist working in El Salvador, he excavates abandoned wells now used as mass graves by the MS-13 and 18th Street gangs. Despite a truce, these blood rivals continue to “disappear” victims and have simply taken to hiding the bodies they once displayed publicly.

My thoughts: The so-called truce between rival gangs in El Salvador supposedly brought down the number of murders in the country, as per government statistics. Yet, the number of disappearances skyrocketed. I will have more to say about this film closer to the festival. There is much to be said for what is not being done by local officials. And this film focuses on a very important issue affecting El Salvador and all of Central America.

The Condemned -- World Showcase
Dir. Nick Read

Scotiabank Theatre 3 - Mon, Apr 28 7:15pm
ROM Theatre - Wed, Apr 30 11:00pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 - Sun, May 4 3:30pm

A seven-hour drive from the closest city and hidden in a forest as large as Germany, Russia’s Penal Colony 56 is as remote as it is impenetrable. A maximum-security prison for murderers, the imposing fortress locks down 260 of Russia’s most dangerous killers. After six months of hard negotiating with the Russian Prison Service, cameras enter this secret world to reveal prison life’s daily rituals, psychological conditioning and dark dramas.

My thoughts: The filmmakers interview six inmates, giving the audience full access to their stories, as well as, this 'fortress.' I often wonder how useful are prisons in 'rehabilitating' even the most dangerous criminals? I am curious as to what we can learn from this documentary.

Pine Ridge -- Made In Denmark
Dir. Anna Eborn

Scotiabank Theatre 7Sat, Apr 26 6:00pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox 3Sun, Apr 27 1:00pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox 4Sun, May 4 4:30pm

Pine Ridge Reservation, home to the Oglala Lakota Nation, has been the site of some of the most tragic events in Sioux history, including the massacre at Wounded Knee. With high unemployment, a large number of residents living below the federal poverty line, troubling rates of teen suicide and low life expectancies, the youth of Pine Ridge struggle to make sense of an uncertain future.

My thoughts: A quote from the trailer nailed this film for me, "most people still think we live in tepees [thípi in Lakota]... we have houses, man." It should be interesting to see how Eborn tells the story of the Lakota people. The film has screened at other festivals also. What seems to stand out in reviews of the film, is its focus on local voices, rather than 'an editorial voiceover.'

Love Hotel -- Love, Factually
Dirs. Philip Cox / Hikaru Toda

TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 - Sat, Apr 26 6:00pm
ROM Theatre - Mon, Apr 28 6:30pm
TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 - Sat, May 3 6:00pm

Pay by the hour or the night. Order sexy underwear or condoms or anything else imaginable from a coin-operated machine. Anything goes at the Angelo Love Hotel in Osaka, run by Manager Ozawa and his efficient staff. Small living spaces, long work hours and the need for privacy drive 2.8 million Japanese a day to visit “love hotels.”

My thoughts: I am no prude and I file this documentary under 'curiosities.' Is it not interesting to see how establishments like 'love hotels' function in a society like that in Japan? Sex is not always discussed openly, I'm hoping this film will provide some interesting perspectives and thought-provoking reactions, too.

Que Caramba Es La Vida -- Next
Dir. Doris Dörrie

Scotiabank Theatre 7 - Fri, Apr 25 3:30pm
ROM Theatre - Sun, Apr 27 7:00pm
Scotiabank Theatre 4 - Fri, May 2 7:30pm

Mariachi may be an essential part of Mexican culture but it’s considered a man’s domain. Female mariachis struggle to claim their rightful place in the squares... Juggling work, motherhood and homemaking with their musical careers is challenging but once they step into their role as a mariachi singer the difficulties of everyday life in Mexico City wash away and they sing the famed folk music of their country.

My thoughts: I enjoy listening to mariachi songs, as many latinos do.  I will also discuss the film in greater detail in the next few weeks. However, I do enjoy learning about strong women, who are "doin' it for themselves." I'm looking forward to watching this film with a large audience.

Doc Of The Dead -- Nightvision
Dir. Alexandre Philippe

Bloor Hot Docs Cinema - Sat, Apr 26 11:59pm
Hart House Theatre - Sun, Apr 27 9:30pm
Royal Cinema - Sat, May 3 9:45pm

Could there be a real zombie outbreak? If so, Doc of the Dead can help you prepare. First, before you learn how to fend off the enemy, you should study them. Masters of zombie culture, including George A. Romero, Simon Pegg and Greg Nicotero, come together to discuss the evolution of the zombie genre, and why zombie films, video games, books, graphic novels and television shows continue to rise in popularity.

My thoughts: With talks of a Zombie Apocalypse and shows like The Walking Dead, who isn't a fan of zombies these days? I have a good feeling this film will sell out for its opening midnight screening. And I also think it should be entertaining, and fun.

These are but ten films to get you started, if you have not done so yet. There is something for almost every taste and type of documentary fan. In essence, this list aims to get you interested and curious about what 'docs' are coming to Toronto starting April 24 to May 4.

For full details on How To Hot Doc, box office information, full documentary listings, visit hotdocs.ca. I will also have some special spotlights this year. Please stay tuned for more of my coverage of this year's festival through this page, or you may also follow my adventures via Twitter and Facebook.

April 11, 2014

0 Poetry Corner: Esther Mathews - Song

Esther Mathews

I can't be talkin' of love, dear,
I can't be talkin' of love.
If there be one thing I can't talk of
That one thing do be love.

But that't not sayin' that I'm not lovin' --
Still water, you know, runs deep,
An' I do be lovin' so deep, dear,
I be lovin' you in my sleep.

But I can't be talkin' of love, dear,
I can't be talkin' of love,
If there be one thing I can't talk of
That one thing do be love.

-- from: Immortal Poems of the English Language. An Anthology Edited by Oscar Williams. 447 British and American Masterpieces by 150 Poets. Pocket Books. A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. New York. 1952.

Streetart by Anser.
Photo: HyeM.

April 8, 2014

0 It's April: Celebrate National Poetry Month!

Established in Canada in April 1998 by the League of Canadian Poets (LCP), National Poetry Month (NPM) brings together schools, publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, and poets from across the country to celebrate poetry and its vital place in Canada's culture. The year 2014 marks the 16th anniversary of NPM in Canada.

Regina Mayor Michael Fougere challenges his fellow mayors across Canada to have a local poet read a poem at the opening of their Council meetings in March or April. The challenge is a celebration of UNESCO’s World Poetry Day (March 21) and National Poetry Month in April. The purpose is to celebrate poetry, writing, small presses and the contribution of poets and all writers to the cultural life in our communities. It also celebrates libraries, and the work of so many mayors and municipalities to promote the Arts, culture, and literacy and reading. Great initiative, I believe.

Last week, LCP also announced the shortlist for its 2014 Memorial Awards, and the Spoken Word Award. The works and authors shortlisted are:

Raymond Souster Award 2014 

seldom seen road by Jenna Butler (NeWest Press) 
Alongside by Anne Compton (Fitzhenry & Whiteside) 
Her Red Hair Rises with the Wings of Insects by Catherine Graham (Wolsak & Wynn)  
Rebel Women by Vancy Kaspar (Inanna Publications) 
Brilliant Falls by John Terpstra (Gaspereau Press) 
Birds, Metals, Stones & Rain by Russell Thornton (Harbour Publishing) 

Gerald Lampert Memorial Award 2014 

the place of scraps by Jordan Abel (Talonbooks)  
Rove by Laurie D. Graham (Hagios Press) 
Light Light by Julie Joosten (BookThug)  
Surge Narrows by Emilia Nielsen (Leaf Press)  
The Survival Rate of Butterflies in the Wild by Murray Reiss (Hagios Press) 
Incarnate by Juleta Severson-Baker (Frontenac House Poetry) 

Pat Lowther Memorial Award 2014 

The Hottest Summer in Recorded History by Elizabeth Bachinsky (Nightwood Editions) 
Alongside by Anne Compton (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)  
Leaving Howe Island by Sadiqa de Meijer (Oolichan Books)  
Whirr and Click by Micheline Maylor (Frontenac House Poetry)  
Meeting the Tormentors in Safeway by Alexandra Oliver (Biblioasis) 
Status Update by Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang (Oolichan Books) 

Spoken Word Award 2014

Poet and artist bill bissett is this year's honouree for his influence and impact on spoken word in Canada. The award will be presented to bill at the League of Canadian Poets’ Annual Poetry Festival and Conference award gala on June 7th, 2014. This $1000.00 annual award was created by Sheri-D Wilson—a pioneer of spoken word poetry in Canada—to honour a Canadian spoken word artist who has made a substantial contribution to the development of spoken word, through the originality and excellence of his or her own writing/performance works, and through involvement in—and contributions to—the expansion of the spoken word community.

There will be some events where you can enjoy some poetry as well. I would recommend the following:

Poetry City
Presented by the Toronto Public Library
Thursday, Apr 10 -- 6:00 to 8:15pm
Beaches Branch - Program Room

Five of Canada's finest poets, Dennis Lee, Ronna Bloom, Ken Babstock, Karen Solie and Souvankham Thammavongsa invite you to celebrate National Poetry Month at the Beaches library.

HIJ Reading Series #4
Featuring Ian Williams and Souvankham Thammavongsa 
With special guests Songs for Runaway Girls
Sunday April 27 -- 2:00 to 5:00 pm

Readings will include works by Williams and Thammavongsa, a great musical set, an author Q&A. As well, the members of Songs for Runaway Girls are going to prepare traditional sweet Argentine treats for us called Alfajores and Mate too. And as if that is not enough, there will be more pie and refreshments! You are also welcome to bring adult beverages of your choice. This sounds like absolute merriment!

If you're a poetry fan and are able to attend these events, I suggest you do. It's not only a chance to hear some new works, but also to support local poets. And if you're curious for more poetry, I also suggest you take a tour of my budding poetry corner, where I share works from the greats and up-and-coming poets as well. It may be National Poetry Month but the joy of poetry is an everyday occurrence.

April 7, 2014

0 Music And Dance: Arabesque's Upcoming Production SAWAH

Acclaimed Toronto dance and music ensemble Arabesque returns after a year’s hiatus with the world premiere of its newest production, Sawah.

Sawah is directed and choreographed by Arabesque founder Yasmina Ramzy and directed and composed by Bassam Bishara and Suleiman Warwar. Arabesque brings Western sensibilities to traditional Arab style. They create large intricate ensemble performances, while maintaining the essence of the improvised tradition.

I had the pleasure of attending a rehearsal for Sawah and was able to have a chat with Ramzy. We discussed her approach to developing the production. Ramzy described how the company decided to take a year hiatus during which Sawah was created. The company was "reborn," said Ramzy. It seems rather apropos this latest production is called Sawah, she continued, "since it is an Arabic word that means traveler or wanderer."
Dancers at Sawah Rehearsal
Photo: HyeM.
In a way this title mirrors the journey the company has taken. As a company, "we are not only contemporary, nor Middle Eastern, nor jazz.. we incorporate various aspects of dance. In Sawah, we want to showcase the nuances between Western and Middle Eastern cultures. And also show how Western culture has appropriated Middle Eastern culture." One of the numbers includes the title song  [from the tv show] I Dream of Jeannie. Ramzy choreographed the number with both the Egyptian and American versions of the song. From what I saw at rehearsal, the audience will really enjoy this number. There are 11 choreograhies as part of the show; thus, there will be plenty to enjoy.

With regards to the choreography, Ramzy usually comes up with ideas and themes. In Sawah, director Bishara and composer Warwar have also made suggestions on what hand movements to add. And Ramzy has suggested some musical arrangements as well. "We've been having a lot of dialogue back and forth between us," explains Ramzy. The dancers also have a say in the choreography; everyone has ideas. The show is "much richer for this reason."

The company boasts a diverse, multicultural cast originating from 12 countries, including Tunisia, Peru, Jamaica, Lebanon, Iran etc. The performance includes over 20 dancers and 20 musicians. This year, they held auditions in Montreal for the first time. And five dancers from Montreal will be part of the show. This clip can give you an idea of the process, as a whole.

The show aims to evoke the sense of joy and freedom one feels when embarking on an exciting journey to new far off places. It’s a celebration of Middle Eastern culture and art and how it has found a new home in Canada. Ramzy also shared that Sawah "is my reaction to the rest of the world as well. I'm taking the artform and making it be part of something more than just dance. I want others to be aware of the richness of the culture. I want to give audiences a sense of that."

Sawah is a narrative accompanied by very talented musicians and dancers. It makes sense there is no 'real' term or genre for it, as Ramzy said. It will sure bring audiences lots of entertainment and culture. I would say, if you have not been to an Arabesque performance, you make a point of going at least once. I left that rehearsal dancing my way home.

Fleck Dance Theatre, 
part of Harbourfront Centre’s NextSteps Series 
From April 10-13, 2014. 
Tickets start from $19 - on sale now

April 4, 2014

0 Toronto Weekend Round-Up: April 4 to April 6

As most of you know, every weekend there is always something fun and exciting happening in Toronto. I thought I'd take a moment to round up a few events and festivals for you.


ReelWorld Film Festival 
The festival is fully underway and continues until Sunday, April 6th at Famous Players Canada Square Cinema. I suggest the following screenings for you:

Friday, April 4, 9pm
Music Video Night 

Saturday, April 5, 1pm

Family Screening
Free admission to children 12 and under, when accompanied by an adult.

Sunday, April 6, 5:30pm
Closing Night Gala: Horizon Beautiful

Toronto Silent Film Festival
The festival began this past Thursday but there are still some great films to catch on the big screen. It runs at the Carlton Cinema, Innis Town Hall, Casa Loma, and the Revue Cinema until Tuesday, April 8th. My choices for TSFF include:

Friday, April 4, 7:30pm
Carlton Cinema
City Girl - Dir. F. W. Murnau

Sunday, April 6, 4pm 
Fox Theatre
1000 Laffs: It Started with Charlie - Dir. Charlie Chaplin

Monday, April 7, 8pm
Casa Loma
Seven Years Bad Luck - Dir. Max Linder
Guest Musical Accompanist: Clark Wilson

I have also made some suggestions for Cinéfranco, as well as, aluCine Latin Film + Media Art festivals. Both of which continue this weekend.

My Hat And Glasses, J. Toonoo
Image Courtesy of Feheley Fine Arts


Saturday, April 5th, 3pm
Artist Talk & Reception
Still Life: Drawings By Jutai Toonoo
Feheley Fine Arts

This is an exhibition of recent works by Cape Dorset artist, Jutai Toonoo. Toonoo often mixes media, adding oil pastel or charcoal to pencil crayon. His exploration of inanimate objects is based upon photographs, found objects, and both natural and staged scenes.

Sunday, April 6th, 2pm
Sunday Scene: Tour by Katie Kilroy-Marac
The Power Plant

Katie Kilroy-Marac is an Assistant Professor of Socio-Cultural Anthropology at the University of Toronto. She specializes in the social history of psychiatric thought, the naturalization of of psychiatric categories, and the spaces in which local understandings of illness and suffering come into contact with Western psychiatric models. Kilroy-Marac will be leading a tour of the current exhibition.


Young People's Theatre
Runs through April 13, 2014
I recommend YPT's productions often because they are family friendly. I also enjoy them because of their inventive ways of telling myths, folk, and fairy tales. Minotaur sounds like a fun and adventurous telling of the Greek myth story combined with a young boy's efforts to save his soldier father. The good people from Mooney on Theatre also give it a good review.

50 Shades! The Musical
St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, Bluma Appel Theatre
Runs through April 13, 2014

A completely original score, live band on stage, and sexy men and women running around scantily clad in leather gear... This is certainly an Adults-Only show, but why not? I have not read the book which 'inspired' this musical, nor do I care to. But this show sounds like fun...especially after dark.

I am currently on film festival training mode as the season is just beginning for us in T.O. Nonetheless, I will be making time to check out other happenings too. Hope you do as well. And if you see me around town, stop and say hi!

0 Poetry Corner: Peter Gutiérrez - Let's Be Boring Together

Let’s Be Boring Together

By Peter Gutiérrez

Let’s be sleepy in trees
Let’s awaken when they do
Let’s move slowly even if it hurts
Let’s watch the wind as it fails to arrive
Let’s chase nothing save the still moment
Let’s accept it all and keep our hands open
Let’s smile like idiots at animals and children
Let’s hear each other being quiet in separate rooms
Let’s read aloud passages we’ve read only silently before
Let’s not wonder where the time went—it bound our presence
Let’s walk outdoors together when the weather is good, and bad
Let’s teach each other simple things that we’re embarrassed not to know

Let’s be boring together

Peter Gutiérrez has been writing and publishing poetry for more years than he cares to admit. Additionally he has written comics, criticism, nonfiction books, and short stories professionally. He lives in New Jersey and can be reached at fiifgutierrez@gmail.com.

Photo: HyeM.


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