Portugal, India, New York and Oslo in a week

I can see you, sitting there, staring at my headline, saying to yourselves, “that’s not possible, and even if it was, who’d be crazy enough to do it?” Relax, I have no intention of trying it. But my week did include bits of all of them.

It began last Wednesday night when I had dinner with a friend. I don’t know if you’re the same, but I tend to always end up in the same neighborhood when I go out to eat — the one I live in. Why we tend to fall back on what’s familiar I don’t know, but it sure does get boring after a while.

So we decided to venture further afield and go to a little family-run Portuguese restaurant she’s been to before. It’s called Rush Hour and it’s in the west end of Toronto, on Dufferin.

No, I don’t know how a Portuguese restaurant ended up with that Continue reading

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Missing something?

I had a movie last Saturday morning, the second last of the six-film package I bought for the Hot Docs Film Festival.

Although the friend I was with offered to drive me home afterward, I decided to walk. The theatre isn’t that far from where I live; about a 15 minute walk, 25 or 30 if you dawdle and stop to look in store windows.

Plus, it was my idea of perfect weather — sunny, warm, not too hot or humid, with a nice gentle breeze. So we said our Continue reading

Back in the saddle again (sort of) …

I’ve always been a movie lover and for years I attended TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival). It was something I always looked forward to — even the endless lining up.

Those 10 days every September were sacrosanct, I booked them off almost a year in advance and honestly, short of a disaster there was nothing  — and I do mean nothing — that would have caused me to change my plans.

You’ll think I am totally crazy, but I used to buy the 50-movie pass. Yeah, I’d see five to six movies everyday, for 10 straight Continue reading

Turkish delight …

I saw a wonderful documentary last week, about street cats in Istanbul, where hundreds of catsthousands of them roam freely, and have for thousands of years. In the film, Kedi, we meet seven of them.

To be perfectly honest, much as I love cats, part of me wanted to see the film and part of me didn’t. I hate to see animals (or people) suffer and I was afraid these pussycats would look Continue reading

Keep on keepin’ on …

I saw a terrific movie last Sunday, a documentary — “Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago”. Don’t know if you’re familiar with the Camino Trail — it’s a boots700+ km pilgrimage route you can walk from various points in Europe to the city of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain.

Yeah, you heard right. You walk it. Seven hundred plus kilometres. About 434.96 miles, give or take a couple of dozen blisters. Callouses. Cases of tendonitis. Bum knees. Tears. Exhaustion.

Everyone has their own reason for doing it. For some it’s simply to know they can. For others it’s to overcome an illness or fear, to find the answer to a question they may not have even yet asked, to find themselves, to come to terms with a loss, to celebrate an event or a milestone, or simply for the sheer fun

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Day 273. All Done

That’s it for another year. Marilyn and I saw our final documentary at 8:00 last night. HotDocs 2013 is officially over. Funny, but in the end, I was no longer tired. globeI know I wrote, early in the week, I was weary; and grateful for a couple of days without movies. But I got my mojo back towards the end of the week. I hit my stride. And, now, I’m re-energized.

The movies we saw got much better as the week progressed (until yesterday), which could have something to do with it. Or, I just got into the groove. Doesn’t matter what it was, in the grand scheme of things. I’m just happy we went. And I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing some of the films we missed, during the year.

Here in Toronto we’re very fortunate. We have a theatre, very close to where I live, devoted to showing only documentary films, 365 days a year. We also get non-documentary festival-worthy films at other theatres

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Day 269. True Calling

India has always beckoned those, from every corner of the globe, who are seeking answers.  And Rocky Braat, a young American man from Pittsburgh, is no exception.  The son of an alcoholic mother who neglected him, and a father who compassionleft him and joined the military when he was just three years old, Rocky was brought up by his grandparents.

But as grateful as he was to his grandfather, and as much as he loved him, he never stopped longing for what his life was lacking. A family.  A typical, close-knit family of his own.

So that’s why he went to India.  In search of love.

What he didn’t expect, was to end up volunteering in an orphanage, refuge, school and care centre for children, and women, infected with HIV.

What he didn’t expect, was the degree of suffering he would encounter.  The poverty, the squalor, the alienation, Continue reading

Day 268. Not Impressed

Into every life a little rain must fall.  Both literally and figuratively, in my case.  Monday was nasty, weather-wise.  Damp, cool, grey and raining.  More like fall than late spring.  And the sun doghasn’t been shining all that brightly on my HotDocs experience so far, either.

Before I go too much further, I just want to say that instead of writing this post this morning, I wrote it yesterday, for posting today.  This is a crazy busy day for me, and I wanted to make sure I delivered.  My promise is, after all, a post every day.

So as of yesterday morning, Tuesday, August 30, I’d seen five films.  Seven, really, if you count two short films before a couple of main attractions.  So I’m halfway done.  I’ve loved one (Anita).  I’m ‘comme ci comme ca’ about another (Ballerina).  One was very charming and I enjoyed it (Cutie and the Boxer) and the rest, well … Continue reading

Day 266. First Three

You remember I mentioned I’d be seeing ten films at this year’s HotDocs? Well, I’ve now seen three of them. “Ballerina”, “Anita” and “Tough Bond”. With the exception 3moviesof Anita, I can’t say I loved all of them. But I am happy I saw them.

Does that make any sense at all? Probably not. It does to me, though. Because there was something in all three I found worth seeing.

“Ballerina” was, perhaps, the biggest surprise. Why, I’m not exactly sure.

Maybe because I’ve seen several films on dance and dancers over the years, so now I have pre-conceived notions. And a couple of years ago at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) I saw “Pina”, an absolutely magnificent Wim Wenders documentary about Pina Bausch, a famous German performer of modern dance, choreographer, dance teacher and ballet director.

Shot on 3D it has, for me, forever changed my expectations for this genre of film.

So maybe it just wasn’t ever going to be possible for me to love “Ballerina”. Maybe I was just unable to appreciate it, on its

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Day 219. Singing Out

Last weekend was my kind of weekend.  Two days, two movies.  Both documentaries.  Both about music.  Last Sunday’s film, “Greenwich Village:  Music That activistsDefined a Generation”, is all about the Village in the early 60’s.  When it was a hub of creativity and social consciousness.

As a kid, as soon as I knew I wanted to work in advertising (at about 12 years old), I set my sights on moving to New York and living in Greenwich Village.  I never did, although I could have.  Guess I didn’t want to, badly enough.

Regardless, it’s a place I’ve always gravitated to, even now.  And watching the movie I know I would have loved being there.  Still would, probably.  Although, truthfully, I would have been too young to leave home then.  It was slightly before my time.

Thank God something was before my time.  Some days I feel like it was Adam and Eve and then me.

As we learn in the movie, on Sundays everyone congregated in the park at Washington Square.  That was the meeting place, where the likes of Judy Collins, Tom Paxton, Pete Seeger, Kris Kristofferson, Arlo Guthrie, Buffy St. Marie, Carly Simon and a very young Bob Dylan first sang their songs.

That is, until the city passed a noise ordinance.  Which resulted in a protest and a lot of arrests.

Which was to become a sign of the times.

The film’s narrative comes from Suze Rotolo’s (a one-time Dylan girlfriend) book, “A Freewheelin’ Time:  A Memoir Of Greenwich Village In The Sixties”, narrated by Susan Sarandon, an activist in her own right.  This is interspersed with interviews with many of the artists of ‘the day’.  One of my favourites was Jose Feliciano, who did a very funny Dylan impersonation.

There’s also enough ‘performance’ footage to make you feel like you’ve attended a concert.  The director also managed to get her hands on some great archival footage, including the protest resulting from the Continue reading