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

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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

Day 218. Missing Musician

Yesterday I made a passing reference to a film I’d seen over the weekend.  It was Saturday afternoon, we went.  And the movie was absolutely amazing.  Extraordinary, I’d go so far as to say.  “Searching For Sugar rodgriguezMan” is a Swedish-British documentary about an American folk musician, Sixto Rodriguez.

Have you ever heard of him?  I hadn’t until a friend of mine mentioned, at least a couple of months ago, she wanted to see the movie.  She is one of the most avid fans of music I know.  All genres.  So of course she knows who he is.  And of course, she’s been a fan of his for quite a while.  We do talk about music a fair bit, so it’s interesting we never talked about him, until now.

Before I go on, just let me say, now I’ve heard him sing and, in particular, listened to his lyrics (in most of his Continue reading

Day 181. Extraordinary Reunion

In 1965 a white, Jewish, twenty-one year old living in Toronto was sitting, in his family home, watching the news on television.  What he saw so moved him, so civilrightsdisgusted him, he was compelled to go to Greenwood, Mississippi.  To help.  To do something.  To get involved.  To join the fight for equal rights. To be part of the Civil Rights Movement.

To help black residents register to vote.

The twenty-one year old Canadian was Paul Saltzman; and, while on his way into a Greenwood courthouse, he was stopped, and chased, by three white youths.  Even though he ran for his life, they caught up with him.  One slugged him, knocking him to the ground.  In hindsight he was very lucky.  They might just as easily have shot Continue reading