You might expect a local queer filmmaker to be out and about this week feasting on the smorgasbord of films and videos screening thru May 30 as part of the 20th anniversary edition of the InsideOut Festival. Not Mike Hoolboom. I found him earlier this afternoon sequestered in a dark editing suite at Trinity Square Video where he’s hard at work on his next project.
Hoolboom’s sad celebration of the life of his friend Mark Karbusicky screens at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre Thursday (5:30 pm), its second local film festival showing in a month. With luck, this week’s InsideOut screening of Mark won’t be quite as funereal as the movie’s premier at Hot Docs in April.
“That was very sombre,” recalls Hoolboom. “It really felt like Mark was there in the room. There were people there from every part of his life, people who knew him as a teenager, or knew him as a kid in Burlington, friends of his parents. It was heavy.”
Mayor David Miller was among the special guests at last night’s sold-out Hot Docs premier of Listen To This, a film about a Jane & Finch music program funded through the City’s Arts in the Hood program. Young songwriting proteges Jasmine (left) and Whitney (right) are two of the stars of the film, which left the audience enthralled and inspired. “Toronto is an amazing film city and Hot Docs gives us an opportunity not only to discover cinema from around the globe, but also to see and celebrate our own stories,” said the mayor.
Photo by Lilie Zendel
The Hot Docs film festival opens tonight but Toronto-based filmmaker Juan Baquero, left, will have to wait until Sunday for the premier of his first Canadian documentary feature, Listen To This. The beautifully-shot film tells the story of a City-funded music program in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood; conceived by pianist/teacher Thompson Egbo-Egbo and backed by the City’s Arts in the Hood progam, Listen to This zeros in on a handful of the 40 students — there’s Whitney, the confident, funny girl; the shy but talented Jasmine; and Donta, the engaging youngster who ultimately quits the class before its big recital.
“About a third of the way through filming I started to understand who the main characters would be,” says Baquero. ”In documentary filmmaking there is always an inherent tension stemming from your choices of where you stand and who you point the camera at but in this case it was heightened. At the beginning it was 40 kids, two classrooms and four teachers but there were several kids who showed signs of eventually being the fabric of a great story.”
When Chris McDonald, left, was hired by Hot Docs in 1998 he was the film festival’s first full-time employee: he was an executive director with an empty office and no staff taking over a small industry event with no public component and few, if any, international guests.
What a difference a decade makes! The 17th edition of Hot Docs opens on Thursday (April 29 – May 9) with a program featuring 170 films, 300 screenings and 2,000 delegates, half of whom will be coming from outside Canada. When McDonald arrived, the tiny festival hosted about 4,000 participants, this year’s audience will likely top out around 130,000. Hot Docs is the world’s penultimate documentary film festival and market, second only to Amsterdam’s IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival of Amsterdam).
“Toronto is a film capital now,” observes McDonald. “There are close to 100 film festivals here, more than in any other city in the world. Obviously, we owe a real debt to TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) for helping local audiences understand the opportunities that film festivals represent. We had 2,100 film submissions for this year’s festival; our professionals looked at all those films and selected their favourites, so Hot Docs gives the public an opportunity to see the very best documentary films in the world, films they won’t get to see anywhere else.”
The always-innovative Images Festival storms 25 venues across the GTA beginning Thursday with a 10-day blizzard of film screenings, groundbreaking live performances and eye-popping media art installations. We pressed festival Artistic Director Pablo de Ocampo for his curatorial pick of the crop, which turns out to be director Kamal Aljafari’s film Port of Memory; the film screens April 1 at 7 pm at the Bloor Cinema. Comment to win festival prize packs, details below.
While it’s always impossible to make a single “pick” from an entire festival, I think a good place to start is our opening night gala film, Kamal Aljafari’s Port of Memory. It’s never easy to decide on an opening night film but Aljafari’s work (director is pictured above), provides the perfect introduction for what will unfurl over the rest of the festival: merging documentary and fiction, Port of Memory is a film that, like the Images Festival itself, defies categories and easy definitions.