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Posted in Festivals, Film
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10/18 2011

ImagineNATIVE: Northern Exposure

NeilBecause he’s not aboriginal, filmmaker Neil Christopher, left, is a little nervous about what kind of reception he’ll receive at the ImagineNATIVE film festival Wednesday. Christopher’s animated short, Amaqqut Nunaat: The Country of Wolves, kicks off the opening night gala program ahead of On the Ice, a first feature from US director Andrew Okpeaha MacLean.

Christopher’s professional partner and producer, Louise Flaherty, is Inuk so there won’t be any question about why the film is screening at ImagineNATIVE. And although questions of race and cultural appropriation irk Christopher just a little, he’s tremendously proud of his contribution on this and other projects.

“In the North, in Nunavut, I have no insecurity about not being aboriginal,” he tells me over coffee in Toronto. “I’m Nunavummiut, I have hunting rights, I contribute to my community, I served two terms on town council in Resolute Bay. I would NEVER be invited to be part of a band council down South, it’s a totally different mindset.”

Christopher has lived in the Nunavut for 15 years; he went up on a one year contract to help establish a high school and never looked back. He jokes about that first trip being like Gilligan’s Island, a three-hour tour that never seemed to end but he’s immensely happy in the North (presently calling Iqaluit home). “Frankly, I don’t know what I’d do down South that has as much meaning for me in terms of being part of a community and working hard on something that’s needed.” READ MORE

Posted in Family, Festivals
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10/6 2011

HarbourKIDS’ Monster Mash

helen yungWith Thanksgiving upon us and Halloween dead ahead, this weekend’s HarbourKIDS festival at Harbourfront Centre is dedicated to the scary, funny and exciting potential of monsters. A wide range of family focused activities and performances explore ideas about monsters including an exciting headline program from Mammalian Diving Reflex.

Toronto’s Helen Yung, left, will be in the Studio Theatre most of the weekend with Gulliver, a larger than life puppet she developed for Montreal’s Festival Acces Asie. Yung’s highly interactive presentation, dubbed Playtime with Gulliver, is a blend of puppetry, new media and improv.

Like the Wizard of Oz, Yung is perched behind her creation, operating him with her feet and typing as fast as she can to put words in his mouth via text-to-speech software.

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Posted in Family, Festivals
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09/26 2011

Mini Franco-Fête

stage
David Pecaut Square was humming yesterday with a musical festival celebrating Franco Ontarians or more properly, le Jour des Franco-Ontariens et des Franco-Ontariennes. These photos were taken near the end of the celebration as choruses of young singers joined arms to sing “Notre Place.” It was a very welcoming, family-oriented event.

chorusline
Photos by Christopher Jones

Posted in Festivals, Film
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09/13 2011

Art, Not Commerce, Driving Veninger

Ingrid Veninger in I Am a Good Person, I Am a Bad Person
Local filmmaker Ingrid Veninger is under no illusions about the commercial prospects for her latest feature, i am a good person, i am a bad person, even though Toronto critics have been unanimous in praising the film. The Toronto Star called the movie “a sure-footed film about finding yourself off balance” and The Globe and Mail said it’s “a realistic, funny, touching picture of life’s ‘in-between’ moments.”

Yet Veninger is here at TIFF enjoying the buzz, revelling in the laurels and not doing a darn thing to actually “sell” her picture.

“It’s crazy to say, I know, but I don’t want to sell this film,” she tells me. “I’d love it to expose me to people I wouldn’t otherwise meet – industry people, other film people – and maybe open the door to collaborations that might not have happened otherwise. But this film is very much a festival film, it’s an art piece, a limited edition. It was born out of travelling to film festivals and I want it to be seen at film festivals and that’s it.”

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09/8 2011

urbanNOISE Fest Against Violence

flipSMIt will be a rush for Flip Watson to perform at urbanNOISE on Saturday (September 10), to put his talent out there in the neighbourhood that helped to shape him.

Watson is an especially good choice for the bill, which is focused on fighting violence in the community: the rapper’s father and uncle were shot dead in Lawrence Heights in 2001. That tragic event changed the course of Watson’s life; a sports-playing 10-year-old at the time of the shooting, he responded to the loss by acting out, skipping school and generally getting into trouble.

By age 19, he’d been in and out of jail twice. His second sentence included two years of house arrest during which he had nothing else to do but sit and write.

“Instead of taking out my anger on people and the world, I started writing it down on paper,” he says. “I really found a talent.”

In jail, Watson met some of his father’s friends: “They taught me that I can’t be trying to take out my revenge on the world, I can’t be keeping up with the badness. Deep down I was a good kid but the death of my father and uncle really changed my whole demeanor.”

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