Friday, 18 January 2013


Film Corner
CINEMA (2012)

in alphabetical order
by first letter
of first name or company
By Greg Klymkiw


Dave Barber - He is legendary. Since 1982, Dave Barber has served as one of the country's chief advocates for the exhibition of Canadian Cinema as the Coordinator of the home away from home to 'Peg cineastes, the Winnipeg Film Group Cinematheque. His first love has always been to champion homegrown product generated in the City of Winnipeg, giving full support to some of the country's most visionary filmmakers and being a vital part of the product's penetration into the national and international marketplace. His second love is Canadian Cinema - period, and he's sought to provide a theatrical home for a myriad of films generated domestically in formats ranging from training/workshop opportunities to retrospectives and last, but not least, as full-fledged theatrical releases. His third love is cinema and he has tirelessly championed the theatrical exhibition of the finest films made internationally that would otherwise have no theatrical home. One of his earliest successes was being the first advocate of Francis Coppola's One From The Heart and providing a theatrical venue for it when the film was ignored by mainstream exhibitors. Since that time he's repeatedly sought out the most challenging cinema to present to movie-lovers in Winnipeg from all over the world. Importantly, Barber's devotion to all the aforementioned remains a chief influence upon several generations of important filmmakers who, from Winnipeg, have taken the world by storm. Everybody knows and loves Dave from all over the world - filmmakers, other exhibitors, programmers, distributors and pretty much anyone who loves and cares deeply about cinema. For decades, Barber was a fixture the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and while he still attends the Hot Docs Film Festival, he has been sadly missing for a couple of years at TIFF. This, frankly, has created a huge void for filmmakers in Winnipeg in addition to the hundreds of international guests who descend upon TIFF. Even though I haven't lived in Winnipeg for over 20 years, exhibitors, distributors, programmers, curators and filmmakers still look upon me as a 'Pegger and pepper me with questions like, "I've been looking for Dave Barber, where's he staying?" [OR] "Where's Dave Barber? Isn't he coming to Toronto this year?" [OR] "What do you mean they've stopped him from coming? I wanted him to see my movie." Sadly, budget "appears" to be the excuse for his absence outside of Winnipeg. As far as I'm concerned, his importance to cinema in Winnipeg (and by extension to the rest of the country) is so integral, that I'd not only have him representing the Winnipeg Film Group and its important place in the theatrical exhibition of domestic and international product at BOTH Hot Docs and TIFF, but I'd be finding any means necessary to scrape together the pittance that would ultimately be required to have him attend Images, the Toronto Gay and Lesbian Festival, the ImagineNative festival, the FantAsia festival, Toronto After Dark Film Festival, the Montreal Festival of Nouveau Cinema and the Vancouver International Film Festival. He needs to be out of the city, out of the office and out in the field. Barber is the lifeblood of cinema in Winnipeg and frankly, his presence is missed outside of the city. This is abominable and frankly, he not only needs to be reinstated to being able to scour for product amongst his old haunts, but to reiterate my aforementioned point, expanded even further. There are few who'd disagree. In fact, anyone who would disagree is full of shit. Then again, I can't frankly imagine anyone being that stupid. So, come on Winnipeg! Barber is important to both Canadian Cinema and the birthplace of Prairie Post-Modernism as an advocate, promoter and exhibitor. Now's the time to reinstate and expand his gifts as an ambassador from Winnipeg, one of the the most historically vibrant regions of independent cinematic voices in the country. As the hit man at the end of Scorsese's Mean Streets says before shoving his gun out the window of a speeding car and blasting away: "NOW'S THE TIME!!!"


Ed Barreveld - 2012 was a banner year for Ed Barreveld and his visionary documentary production company Storyline Entertainment. This is a great thing for a great guy. I met Ed in the 90s when he was the Studio Administrator of the Ontario Office of the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). In those halcyon days, Ed was the man who truly held the purse strings and vetted every element of a film's production. Many administrators in similar positions, especially within the context of government agencies, fit the term "petty bureaucrat" like a glove. Not Ed. He made it his priority to do whatever he had to do to make the lives of the filmmakers at the NFB smooth as silk so they could do what they had to do - create cinema. If you had a problem or needed something, most bureaucrats looked for excuses to say "no" and/or delay stuff to make sure their stinking assholes resting in their feathered nests were secure until every "t" was crossed and every "i" was dotted. With Ed, the films and the filmmakers were always the most important thing. His answer to everything was,"Hmmm, let me see what I can do." And DO, he did. Since the turn of the new century, Ed's been an indie producer of documentary product. This year, his company Storyline Entertainment was tied to 4 tremendous pictures (2 stellar features, The World Before Her and Herman's House) and two very cool TV docs for History (The Real Inglorious Basterds and The Real Sherlock Holmes). He supports gifted filmmakers (Min Sook Lee) and socially committed artists (Angad Singh Bhalla), has a small core of magnificent talent in his office, production coordinator Shasha Nakhai and producer Lisa Valencia-Svensson and on Storyline's most feted picture, he committed himself to helping The World Before Her get off the ground whilst eventually partnering with director Nisha Pahuja's longtime producing partner Cornelia Principe who brilliantly fuelled the creative and logistical engine when the movie was shooting in India. Ed is all about great ideas, partnerships and collaboration. He's bright, funny, generous, kind and passionate. I could probably go on for about another 2000 words, but you'll have to wait for the next issue of POV Magazine for that.


Geoff Pevere - When people ask me what film critics I read and why, the numbers have dwindled over the years to those I can count on two hands (well, one and a half hands). Thankfully this clutch of scribes continues to deliver incisive, humorous writing and perhaps for me, most importantly, THEY TELL ME SOMETHING I DON'T KNOW (or something I DO know, but need pointed cajoling to wholly embrace and/or build upon) and as such, engage me in the sort of stimulating dialogue I demand when reading said criticism. One of the digits on my hand (the right hand, to be precise) is a movie-nut spawned in Ottawa, our fair nation's capitol. From his earliest days as a contributor to the now-defunct Cinema Canada, through his superb program notes when he was the Canuck programming guru at the Toronto International Film Festival and of course, the myriad of freelance pieces he contributed over the years to Take OneThe Globe and Mail, etc., as well as the seminal best-seller, the Can-pop-culture history Mondo Canuck (co-written with Grieg Diamond), it was Pevere - more so than the traditional Maple-flavoured bastion of mainstream movie criticism that always reminded me WHY cinema had become the most important mode of cultural expression in all of modern history. Frankly, Pevere spoke to me with the authority of one whose literacy in cinema from all periods was unimpeachable and who generated copy that sang the body electric. When he joined the Toronto Star as a staff movie critic I actually bought the newspaper to read his reviews and frankly, his pieces were the ONLY thing I bothered to read in that bloated advertising rag aimed at inner-city-pseudo lefties and brain-dead suburbanites. Then I started to notice a huge decline in the Star's entertainment pages. Pevere continued to keep up his end of the bargain, but frankly, even his pieces seemed to get shorter and fewer. The Star was one of the quickest to adopt the lowest common denominator approach to cultural reportage/commentary - especially in film: 500 words, a bit of opinion and lots of plot summary, thank you, muchly. Once Pevere took over the Book columnist position, I stopped buying the paper and sneaking looks at Pevere online. When The Star dumped the book column and relegated one of this country's great movie critics to general entertainment reporting, I still did byline searches online, but aside from an occasional think piece on movies or some other pop culture subject, there became even less Pevere to read. When I had the opportunity, along with a select number of folks, to read a brilliant multi-part series of features on alcoholism in the cinema and within culture in general, I was astounded to learn The Star had NO PLACE for this great writing. Pathetic! Pevere is one of Canadian Cinema's great heroes because his writing and passion for cinema in general, places him in a position as lofty as the best of the best. More importantly, and MORE THAN ANY OTHER WRITER in this country (including all the puffery slobbered upon the late, though great, Jay Scott), Pevere created an important body of writing on Canadian Cinema - some of which, and I'm being self-serving here - managed to place an entire body of work I was a part of, in a critical context that could ONLY have made sense to a critic like Pevere rather than the actual filmmakers. In recent times, his writing has dotted numerous literary journals and he wrote what is still and no doubt, will be the seminal book on Don Shebib's Goin' Down Tbe Road. These days, The Globe and Mail has wisely asked him to contribute occasional freelance pieces on film and he's launched a website of new writings on the cinema, The Blessed Diversion Network. Blessed, indeed!


Hussain Amarshi - Many Canadian film distribution companies have come and gone, or worse, been swallowed up into a variety of ever-morphing conglomerates. Mongrel survives because it is a company with true vision. Founded by the passionate cineaste Hussain Amarshi in 1994, Mongrel has always set its sights upon vibrant, original and independent work that has a passionate audience out there in the world, but one that many distribution entities were either too lazy, ill-equipped and/or not interested in serving properly. I recall meeting Amarshi in those halcyon days at the beginnings of that exciting New Wave of English Canadian Cinema when he worked on the Atom Egoyan and Jeremy Podeswa films of legendary Canadian producer Camelia Frieburg. What I remember most fondly were conversations that were almost impossible to have with most people in the business - a discourse that seamlessly wove its way through a passion for cinema as art and industry. Many of the glorified used-car hucksters and/or glorified secretaries/bureaucrats in the Canadian film industry who purported and continue to purport being blessed with this gift are little more than masters of lip-service. Not Amarshi - he's always been endowed with the truly magic blend of cinematic aesthetics and business - coursing through his veins like the Congo River's Gates of Hell. The power within, however, manifests itself on the surface with the cultured, erudite and charming persona that's all Amarshi (all the time). One needs only look at the properties Mongrel backs and distributes to get a gander at Amarshi's vision. And his support for the best in Canadian cinema is an unparalleled reflection of good taste. The past year alone saw works as diverse as Peter Mettler's The End of Time, Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell and Deepha Mehta's Midnight's Children - all bearing an unquestionable Canadian pedigree, but with an international flavour. And Mongrel's high levels of great taste are reflected in the superb work they pick up directly and/or the first-rate Sony Pictures Classics they unleash upon the Canadian marketplace. Again, in the past year, Mongrel released the epitome of COOL!!! Witness: A Late Quartet, Amour, Citadel, Holy Motors, Searching For Sugar Man - the list goes on. And lest we forget, Mongrel is distributing the extraordinary Canadian film War Witch (Rebelle), a 2013 Academy Award Nominee for Best Foreign Language Film. Truly great, visionary leaders surround themselves with only the best. Sadly, the Canadian film industry is replete with too many leaders who buffer themselves with milquetoast butt-lickers to satisfy the Status Quo. Again, not Amarshi. He's one of our country's true kick-ass, take-no-prisoners visionaries whose loyalty and belief in assembling and nurturing a great team is one of the ways in which Mongrel stays at the top of the heap. Witness: Tom Alexander, Mongrel's Director of Theatrical Releasing - the only MBA I know who has the makings of a first-rate film critic and instead hustles great product for a great company. Mongrel also has the great taste to utilize the inimitable veteran publicist Bonne Smith of Star PR to hustle the theatrical product to the media. The list, frankly, could go on - Amarshi's team is a veritable Round Table of Canadian Cinema's Knights. Amarshi is, of course, King. Mongrel Media, unlike the ostentatious Camelot, hovers inconspicuously (though impeccably interior designed) on Queen Street West, overlooking the rebuilt asylum across the street. Yes, I know it's politically incorrect to refer to these joints as asylums, but you know what? Mongrel on the home entertainment front also handles Kino Lorber product and as Mongrel was responsible for hustling a whack of first-rate Mario Bava pictures, I'm sticking to the word "Asylum". When you're the coolest of the cool, that's a view worth looking at.


Igor Drljaca: Igor Drljaca and his family lived in Sarajevo. Then the Bosnian War started. Shells and missiles went off constantly. Tanks rolled through the city. The ground rumbled and shook like an earthquake. Communism kept Yugoslavia together. Communism was dead. The country was torn apart. Igor and his little brother were children when a view out their window could be deadly and peeking out from within framed a war that left its mark on millions. Weeks of terror instilled itself upon the Drljaca family until they escaped the country and fled to Canada. Young Igor was always an artist and when the time came, he studied film at York University. He made a clutch of phenomenal short films and this year, he unleashed his first feature film Krivina upon the world. Igor is Canadian - through and through. This is the country of his family's salvation, but it's also the country with which Igor discovered artistic freedom and the opportunity to make movies his way - movies that captured life in both Sarajevo and life in Canada. Igor's feature is perhaps one of the most powerful dramatic explorations of the experience of the diaspora uprooted by the Baltic and Eastern European conflicts of the 90s and their lives here in Canada. His acclaimed short film The Fuse: Or How I Burned Simon Bolivar was honoured as one of TIFF's Canadian Top Ten and most recently was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award. Krivina enjoyed its world premier at TIFF 2012 and has secured Canadian Distribution via legendary programmer Stacey Donen's brand new College Street Pictures. It has been selected to participate in the prestigious Rotterdam International Film Festival where it will represent Canada, a country that should be proud of this glorious film and this achievement. It is, after all, a Canadian Film, by a Canadian Filmmaker that deals with the despair suffered by the Bosnian diaspora as new citizens of Canada. It even shares the stylistic extension of a great tradition of Canadian Cinema that typified so much of the country's classic output during the 60s and 70s at the dawn of our feature film industry. Shamefully and almost embarrassingly, Drljaca's great film was invited by Telefilm Canada to apply for marketing assistance to reprsent our country in Rotterdam, only to be rejected on the grounds that the film is not in the English, French or Aboriginal languages. This appalling, short sighted and frankly, ethnocentric stand taken by the Federal agency responsible for assisting Canadian cinema is representative of this country's pathetic ignorance of the fact that there are (and have been since the earliest days of immigration) huge numbers of New Canadians who barely speak the official languages. This, however, is not a disgrace on the part of the diaspora of countries seeking a new life here - it's a reality and a vital part of the country's multicultural tradition. Multiculturalism via the late Prime Minister Trudeau was an official and important policy and is what makes Canada a leader in civil and human rights. Clearly, the federal agency that denied this film funding it deserved (and I reiterate, was invited to apply for) is not only unfair, IT IS DISCRIMINATORY. Some petty bureaucrat(s) looked at their idiotic rules and instead of taking the sort of brave chance one expects from those in the civil service who are there to serve ALL Canadians, they did the usual cowardly ass-covering and said, "Sorry, folks." There are, of course, many examples of civil servants who look at the idiotic guidelines of all sorts of things and make exceptions. These people are the real Canadians, like all those brave boys in the World Wars who didn't bury their heads in the sand and risked everything. When a bureaucrat takes a risk, they're hardly risking their life. In spite of this insult, Drljaca is clearly a proud Canadian filmmaker who has proudly made a genuinely great Canadian film and hopefully will continue to do so. I think we'll be seeing more and more Cultural Heroes like Drljaca in this country who are not going to be stopped by some of the pettiness of this country. They love this country and they will continue to make movies in this country we can all be proud of. Igor is a young, vibrant Canadian filmmaker. He's already delivered great work. This is one hero whose only limit will be the sky.


Ingrid Hamilton - I love a great publicist, especially when they blend classic, old-style approaches with current, cutting-edge approaches and, frankly, forward thinking. Maybe it's my obsession with Sweet Smell of Success, having a Father who was a kickass, hands-on promotions and public relations guy, plus my own predilections as a promoter through much of my existence as a producer - whatever it is, I know a GREAT publicist when I see one and Ingrid Hamilton of GAT PR is nothing if not a great publicist. Most importantly: She loves movies. Loves them to death. She KNOWS cinema. Like the back of her hand. She also knows her clients' needs so well, she can take them on and run with them - far beyond anywhere they'd expect. She knows writers, too. She lets them do their thing, provides what they need and hangs back, BUT, she has an uncanny sense of certain writers' tastes and she'll subtly and helpfully, draw their attention to material they WILL enjoy writing about. This should come as no surprise to anyone who read Ingrid when she was a scribe for the inimitable Toronto Sun. I always believed the best journalists made great publicists or screenwriters. She's currently the former, but who knows what rabbits she'll continue to pull out of her hat. Versatility is the strongest suit in this crazy business - especially in Canada. Amazingly, Ingrid also toiled at CTV and more than ably handled their national publicity. Why, amazing? CTV has always been the most un-cool web in Canada and her golden touch brought the unheard of word "hip" to the stodgy old boys' network. Most notably, in recent years, she's been the PR mouthpiece for every great Canadian film type who is doing cool shit - Ingrid Veninger, Kinosmith, The Toronto Jewish Film Festival, the ImagineNative Film Festival, VSC, Indie-Can Entertainment, the new College Street Pictures - the list goes on and on and on - people and organizations that are cooler than cool, and Ingrid knows how to make even cooler. That, my friends is a GREAT publicist. And that is very, very cool indeed.


Michael Dowse - Dowse is a Canadian director who can do no wrong. He's a born filmmaker with the very art of cinema hard-wired into his DNA. His work is Canadian in the best sense of the word. He proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Canadian culture IS a thing unto itself, while at the same time, injecting the work with a humour and entertainment value that's universal. From his FUBAR hoser epics right through to GOON, his magnificent ode to hockey, Dowse is, quite simply OUR storyteller. His buckshot sprays effectively upon several generations in this country and try as we might, it's firmly lodged within us - a constant reminder of who we were, are and will be. Dowse is the real thing, and then some.

Sarah Polley - It's the second year in a row and Canada's true national treasure holds onto the throne (a Muskoka Chair) in my own privately declared Kingdom of Canadian Cultural Heroism. She's smart, funny, cool and three words ultimately suggest all one needs to know why this brave, brilliant writer, director, producer, actor, Mom and activist is a genuine hero of Canadian Cinema. Those three simple words are:


'Nuff said.

Steve Gravestock - If looks were everything, this bespectacled, ball-cap-adorned, goatee-sporting long-hair might be mistaken for a denizen of the InnTowner Hotel in Thunder Bay - sitting sagely in a dark corner of its infamous bar, an abacus on the round table to calculate "tributes" from the "soldiers", wearing the colours of T-Bay's Spartans biker gang (and bearing the monicker of "Professor"), sipping straight from a can of Labatt's 50, nodding in time to the beat of a grinding metal band and surrounded by adoring tight-jeaned, big-haired blondes whose tresses are infused with so much hairspray that they glow like the light emanating from a nuclear reactor. Yes, while he'd definitely be at home in this environment, his talents are ultimately best served as a Senior Programmer with the Toronto International Film Festival Group where for years he has presided over the organization's representation of Canadian Cinema. A tireless devotee to the Nation's celluloid output, Gravestock continues to preside over all matters Canuckian including Festival and Lightbox showcases, special presentations, retrospectives, TIFF's monograph program in association with the University of Toronto Press and the Über-Important  TIFF Canadian Top Ten. People will always whine about awards and Top Ten lists, but let it be said that Gravestock and his Über-Colleague Lisa Goldberg run one of the best organized and superbly designed jury systems in the country. Yes, juries reflect the opinions of the jurors, but Gravestock makes sure those chosen for the task have informed opinions (like, for example, oh, I don't know . . . me? Maybe?) and then the jurors have no idea who each other are and must separately submit their numeric choices in secret. These are tabulated and . . . WOW! My recent experience as a jury member on the CTT yielded the most amazing results - I figured my own tastes would be short shrifted, but in fact, an extremely diverse group of people voted upon most of the films at the TOP of my list, while the others, to my mind, made total sense to be there. My personal favourite Gravestock activity of the Heroic Kind is the vital, ongoing initiative, the Canadian Open Vault series that resurrects and screens genuine classics of early Canadian Cinema. A recent screening of The Hard Part Begins starring Donnelly Rhodes, a gritty 70s beautiful loser drama set against the backdrop of small-town country and western taverns and replete with the decade's trademark existential male angst is one of my favourite examples of this series. It's an important showcase of the astounding parallel work going on in Canuckville during the Easy Riders, Raging Bulls period of cinema. Coolsville, Daddio, Coolsville!!! There are, to my knowledge, no Canadian filmmakers who don't have the highest fondness, respect and downright regard for Gravestock. He's all Canadian, all film loving and all supportive. Most of all, he's a rarity in the rarified film festival world - he's a mensch!


Soska Twins - Jen and Sylvia Soska might represent one of the most exciting breakthroughs for female filmmaking in Canada since Patricia Rozema dazzled the world with I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing. Sporting the monicker "Twisted Twins", the identical Vancouver sisters with the exotic blend of Hungarian and First Nations blood, looks and cross-pollinated sensibilities blasted onto the scream-screen-scene with the outrageous no-budget Dead Hooker in a Trunk. This year, they upped their game and delivered the best horror film of the year (from any country I might add) - the utterly, insanely, brilliantly creepy American Mary. Under the mentorship of Eli Roth, they're poised to hit the stratosphere. With a uniquely feminist sensibility, a delectable sense of black humour, a superb sense of time and place and a knack for delving into the darker recesses of humanity, the twins have knocked two out of the park. Next up - a Grand Slam. They're currently galavanting across the globe promoting the hell out of American Mary with companies as diverse and powerful as Universal, Anchor Bay and many others. While making their films they continued to work as bartenders/serving wenches in Vancouver's ever-so-cooler-than-cool watering holes. They're hands-on total filmmakers - auteurs in the best sense of the word since they gratefully accept the assistance and input from a clutch of Canada's best actors and artisans. They're down to earth, bereft (thank Christ!) of pretension and yes, they finish each other's sentences.