Thursday, 14 June 2012

"i am a good person/i am a bad person" and "Modra" and "Only" - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Hot on the heels of a Major Career Retrospective at the Canadian Film Institute in Ottawa, one of this Country's Great Filmmakers will have her Features screened in Toronto at the Royal Cinema! Miss them at your peril.

Here is a complete list of the screening times at the Royal Cinema, 608 College Street, Toronto. There will be Q&A’s with director and cast following each screening. As well,revenue from "i am a good person…" go into a filmmaking fund. Details HERE!!!

Screening Times: Thursday June 14 OPENING 9:30pm – i am a good person/i am a bad person | Friday June 15 7:00pm - i am a good person/i am a bad person 9:30pm – i am a good person/i am a bad person | Saturday June 16 – SPECIAL TRIPLE BILL DAY. $20 to see all 3 movies! 4:30pm i am a good person/i am a bad person – ONLY 7pm – MODRA 9:30pm | Sunday June 17 4:30pm - i am a good person/i am a bad person 7pm - i am a good person/i am a bad person 9:30pm – MODRA | Monday June 18 7pm – i am a good person/i am a bad person 9:30pm – i am a good person/i am a bad person | Tuesday June 19 7:00pm - ONLY 9:30pm – i am a good person/i am a bad person | Wednesday June 20 9:30pm – i am a good person/i am a bad person | Thursday June 21 9:30pm – i am a good person/i am a bad person

i am a good
i am a bad



Review By

A dervish derives inspiration from God and does so with complete and total devotion, honouring the Creator with continuous, strenuous forms of physical manipulations, such as exercise or dance that involve literal whirling at breakneck speeds.

Influenced by John Cassavetes, Mike Leigh and Jean Renoir, Canadian filmmaker Ingrid Veninger is also developing an approach to her humanist form of dramatic cinema that is clearly all hers.

In fact, Veninger might well be cinema’s only living equivalent to a whirling dervish. Like a dervish, she honours her Creator (cinema), her prophets (Cassavetes et al), then whips her creative concoction into a frenzy – literally living and breathing cinema – producing film from within herself, her devotion and life itself.

With her previous work and second feature as a director (she’s written, produced and acted in so many more), Modra, a personal dramatic exploration of her Slovakian roots, Veninger was on the cusp of embarking upon the film festival circuit.

This got the dervish whirling.

She wrote a script about a filmmaker taking a trip to Europe to present her film on the film festival circuit. She cast herself as the filmmaker Ruby, and her own real-life daughter, talented young actress Hallie Switzer (female lead of Modra) as Ruby’s daughter Sara. With ace cinematographer Ben Lichty and sound recordist/boom operator Braden Sauder, Veninger and Switzer blasted across the pond from Canada to Europe and made a movie. The screenplay, already workshopped and in final draft, accompanied the group who knew that as long as the structure of the story was adhered to, there would potentially be room for rewriting depending upon the exigencies of production.

The movie, i am a good person/i am a bad person, is funny and heartbreakingly moving, and while full of ‘realistic’ touches, it never descends into Canadian Cinema Dreariness 101 and is, in fact, imbued with a sense of scope to allow its tenderness and intimacy to shine in all the ways they should in movies.

The world is, of course, replete with father-son pictures, but mother-daughter relationships – in terms of numbers and quality – pale in comparison. This is a film that contributes admirably to this relatively rare tradition.

Ruby is a loveable scatterbrain. Her film, a crazed, seemingly political avant-garde celebration of – ahem – the penis, is set to premiere overseas at the – ahem – Bradford International Film Festival in dear Old Blighty. Eighteen-year-old Sara is dragged along on the trip to be her mother’s assistant, though one gets the feeling that deep down, Mom craves some one-on-one quality time with her burgeoning daughter.

Sara is decidedly serious – in general, but especially on this trip – and Mom’s carefree spirit is driving her up the wall. Mom, not totally oblivious to this, is still intent on having a good time.

Things in Bradford reach a bit of a head and it’s decided that Sara will go to Paris on her own to visit with relatives whilst Ruby will forge on to a screening at the Arsenal Cinema in Berlin.

As mother and daughter each face personal challenges, it also becomes glaringly apparent how much they need and love each other.

I suspect it might not be too much of a spoiler to suggest that hard decisions are wrought and events inspire more than a few tears from even the most hardened viewers. Those who stick with the seemingly freewheeling spirit of the picture are rewarded a thousandfold during the extremely moving finale.

Filmmakers of all stripes will, I think, get a kick out of the sequences shot in Bradford and Berlin. How many times have filmmakers heard the rather embarrassed words from festival directors – as Ruby does in the film – ‘It’s a much smaller house than expected, but they’ll no doubt be a spirited bunch.’

It’s also worth mentioning that i am a good person/i am a bad person is full of humour – gentle bits of human comedy and full-on Bridesmaids-style blowjob gags (pun intended) and scatological humour.

Happily, this doesn’t temper any of the sentiment, but in fact, enhances it. And unlike Bridesmaids, i am a good person/i am a bad person NEVER overstays its welcome. The picture is taut, trim, hypnotic and passionate.

Kind of like a whirling dervish.

Modra (2010)
dir. Ingrid Veninger
Hallie Switzer,
Alexander Gammal

Only (2008)
dir. Ingrid Veninger
Simon Reynolds
Jacob Switzer,
Elena Hudgins Lyle

Review By
Greg Klymkiw

Consider this review a love letter to a true artist, an artist who has created a film so delicate, inspiring, moving and heartbreaking that it connects with all who see it on a very personal level.


To now begin.


You were born in the former Czechoslovakia – Bratislava, to be precise – but you are too young to have experienced the phenomenal rise to power of Alexander Dubcek and his extraordinary Prague Spring – the grand cultural explosion that infused a national pride that threatened to topple Russian domination.

As a young adult, you knew the Prague Spring was cool – not only was there Milan Kundera’s great book The Unbearable Lightness of Being, but there also existed Philip Kaufmann’s sumptuously romantic and sex-drenched film rendering of it.

And as much as Kaufmann brought the Russian invasion so sadly to life on film, you can’t – try as you might – remember being clutched in your mother’s arms as your family flees the Russian tanks rolling in during that horrendous year of 1968 when the Spring turned to a communist-ruled Winter once more.

Or perhaps you remember all too well.

The brain is a powerful machine, as is the soul. Your parents’ reminiscences of that time, your experience of being the child of immigrants who were forced to leave everything they loved behind to give you the life you never would have had under communism, your sense of childlike wonder that grew within you and stayed in your heart long beyond childhood – all this and more still might have managed to retrieve these memories and allow you to blossom into the artist you are – to blossom within your soul, the soul of a Slovak!

You grew up in Canada – as Canadian as maple syrup (but with more than a few dollops of Neil Young) – and yet something nagged at you about your beginnings, your parents’ struggles, the painful inability to connect with family left behind (for fear of communist reprisals against them) and always wanting to discover your roots.

At the age of 17, you visited the ‘old country’ and reconnected with your family and ethnicity. Returning to Canada, you worked as an actor, a producer and eventually a director.

You are Ingrid Veninger – an auteur of the highest order: the real thing and then some.

Frankly, there’s a film in the above, but as an artist you have taken it so much further in your extraordinary solo directorial feature debut Modra. After producing such ground-breaking Canadian feature films as Peter Mettler's Gambling, Gods and LSD and Charles Officer's Nurse Fighter Boy, co-directing with Officer the fabulous experimental short URDA/Bone that premiered at the New York Film Festival and the exquisite feature film Only, co-directed with your greatly talented friend and colleague Simon Reynolds that was feted with a screening at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and festivals all over the world, you took the next logical step and solo-directed Modra.

Your co-directorial feature effort Only, was comprised of tiny, tender moments and infused with the warmth and love of family. Only starred your son Jacob Switzer as a young boy living in a small Northern Canadian town who, along with a young girl the same age, discovers the simple pleasures of life, the glory of nature and most importantly, love.

Modra stars your 17-year-old daughter Hallie Switzer as Lina, a young lady who, like yourself, takes a trip to the ‘old country’ to connect with her roots. Having just broken up with her boyfriend, she drags along a platonic pal Leco (Alexander Gammal) who has a bit more on his mind than friendship.

During the weeklong trip, both kids discover that they have little in common and romance is not going to be part of the equation. However, all of Lina’s old world relatives think they’re a couple. As Lina finds her roots, she finds herself and so does Leco. Most importantly, they discover the value of connecting as human beings and the true power of friendship and shared experience.

To say this movie had me squirting tears would be an understatement. I chocked up emotionally at several points, but also wept tears of appreciation for the movie’s consummate artistry. While Modra, much like Only, feels unscripted, it IS, in fact, beautifully scripted, and the natural performances of the kids, the real friends and relatives in Bratislava and your magnificent probing directorial eye, add up to a film where art meets life, and in so doing, creates a lovely collection of those precious cinematic pieces of time that make us realise again how precious life is, and at the same time, what a glorious, wonderful gift the art of movies is.

My love letter draws to a close.

It’s nice to review movies this way – especially when they're so infused with love.

If you wish to own these Ingrid Veninger productions on DVD, consider ordering them hereby clicking the following links: