Thursday, October 27, 2011

2011 Toronto International Art Fair Oct 28 to 31

2011 Toronto International Art Fair
ctober 28 to 31, 2011
Metro Toronto Convention Centre

I had a chance to preview the 12th Annual Toronto International Art Fair this morning, doing my best to check out the mind boggling array of fine art on display. It was of course impossible to get a firm grasp on what ends up being their biggest year ever, with 109 galleries exhibiting work from 13 different countries.

You can also check out work by the winner of the 2011 RBC Painting Competition for emerging artists.

The international representation includes of course a good percentage of Canadian galleries, along with American and particularly from New York City's edgy art scene. I really liked the large scale Inuit work at Feheley Fine Arts, (pictured,)  and I also noticed a number of very cool exhibits by Québec artists and Montréal galleries, including Galérie Bellefeuille, who've got the work of Damien Hirst and Jim Dine. The fair includes some solos shows, notably Chuck Close and some abstract work from Vancouver artist Attila Richard Lukas.

An onsite videotheque is new for this year, being a small lounge near a nicely stocked bookstore. What's being called the Open Space displays larger pieces of sculpture. There's a section for emerging galleries and emerging artists, and interactive elements like the Collage Party by Winnipeg native Paul Butler. As he explained, it's a picnic table for collage, where both the artists and public can make collages either alone or in collaboration with others, that will be displayed on the unsusually crafted table (you'll see what I mean).

Special projects include a whimsical take on the artist's life by Kent Monkman (curated by Steven Loft). Called The Art Game, it's a kind of maze with small rooms, actors, text on the walls - Critical Acclaim!... Dumped by Dealer! - and paintings, among others, which set up various scenarios. There is a ringmaster at the door, and surprizes at every turn. They were still setting up when I saw it but it looks like fun.

The 1979 Andy Warhol BMW is on display, only the second time it's ever been in Canada. Videos behind it and on the adjacent wall show Andy at work (he's signed the back bumper) and the car actually competing in races. (Last year they had Esther Mahlangu's, the first BMW car.)

If you've got $3,500 and you'd like to help out MOCCA, they've got an exclusive print by renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky - Dryland Farming #13, Monegros County, Aragon, Spain,, 2010 (20” x 26” Chromogenic colour print, Edition of 25, ©Edward Burtynsky). You can view it at MOCCA's link above - that image wasn't manipulated. It's what dry farming actually looks like, quite in keeping with his talent for finding dramatic landscapes as altered by human beings.

There's way too much to talk about and the variety keeps it really interesting - a highly recommended way to spend some time this weekend.

Sculptures in the Open Space:

Lyons Wier Gallery (New York City)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Trumpeter/Composer Wadada Leo Smith's Ten Freedom Summers Multimedia Project Premieres in LA Oct 28-30

From a media release:
Trumpeter/Composer Wadada Leo Smith Presents World Premiere of Civil Rights Opus
"Ten Freedom Summers" with Golden Quartet and Southwest Chamber Music

Multi-Media Event October 28 - 30 at the
REDCAT Theater in the Walt Disney Concert Hall Complex, Los Angeles

Pre-concert discussion to include Smith, Southwest Chamber Music & Facing History and Ourselves

LOS ANGELES - A child of the South who was raised in the red-hot crucible of the civil rights movement, Wadada Leo Smith has long contemplated creating an epic-scale opus exploring the struggle for African-American freedom and equality. With the three-night world premiere of "Ten Freedom Summers" at the REDCAT Theater in the Walt Disney Concert Hall Complex, Los Angeles on October 28-30, the visionary trumpeter and composer delivers his masterwork, a vivid, spiritually charged musical tapestry that celebrates the movement's heroes and the turbulent era's milestones, while also posing philosophical questions about the nature of democracy and equality.

"Ten Freedom Summers" is a collaboration between Smith's celebrated Golden Quartet featuring pianist/composer Anthony Davis, bassist John Lindberg and rummer Susie Ibarra, and the acclaimed Southwest Chamber Music ensemble conducted by Grammy Award-winner Jeff von der Schmidt. The musicians will record the project in the days after the premiere for release on Cuneiform in the spring of 2012. In designing the sprawling multi-movement work, Smith focused on the formative decade framed by the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education that overturned the notorious Plessy v. Ferguson decision ratifying Jim Crow segregation, and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed many forms of racial discrimination.

"I was born in 1941 and grew up in segregated Mississippi and experienced the conditions which made it imperative for an activist movement for equality," says Smith, who is marking his 70th birthday with his most ambitious undertaking. "It was in that same environment that I had my first dreams of becoming a composer and performer."

More than a three-night musical premiere, "Ten Freedom Summers" is a multimedia project that incorporates archival news footage and evocative but abstract cinematic imagery edited with a self-consciously musical sensibility. The production was inspired conceptually by August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning 10-play Pittsburgh Cycle, in which each play chronicles a decade of African-American life in the 20th century. Beyond being a passionate fan of Wilson's work, Smith feels a deep personal connection to his plays as he provided the transcription of a 1920s Fletcher Henderson piece and contributed trumpet work to the original 1982 production of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," a score created by saxophonist Dwight Andrews (a member of Smith's ensemble New Dalta Akhri who went on to collaborate frequently with Wilson).

"I own all 10 of Wilson's plays and have studied them over the years," Smith says. "Much like Wilson, what I'm trying to do is give a full impression, show the psychological transformation that America achieved. Each piece has its own motivation, and what ties it together is the psychological thread. Rather than taking 10 decades, I took 10 freedom summers."

The REDCAT premiere is the culmination of more than three decades of intermittent work, study and contemplation. Smith has divided the 18 movements into three thematic collections, "Defining Moments in America," "What is Democracy?" and "Ten Freedom Summers." With movements dedicated to the indomitable Mississippi Freedom Democracy Party leader Fannie Lou Hamer, the brutally slain teenager Emmett Till, and Montgomery bus boycott catalyst Rosa Parks, the first collection could just as easily be called "Heroes and Martyrs" as "Defining Moments."

In an historic collaboration, von der Schmidt and Southwest Chamber Music have risen to the challenge. After decades of being revered by his peers and colleagues, Smith is attaining his rightful place at the forefront of American music. "Every ensemble is like a planet in the cosmos," Smith has said, and with "Ten Freedom Summers" he has created a startlingly detailed universe that reflects upon the essence of what it means to be American, and what it means to be human.

Friday, October 28, 2011 8:30pm - Ten Freedom Summers, Part One
Saturday, October 29, 2011 8:300pm - Ten Freedom Summers, Part Two
Sunday, October 30, 2011 7:00pm - Ten Freedom Summers, Part Three

Tickets: $38 each evening general admission; $28 each evening for students/CalArts Faculty/Staff, (213) 237-2800.

Facing History and Ourselves, an international organization dedicated to fighting racism, anti-Semitism and bigotry through education, will participate in a pre-concert discussion that will provide context for the performance.  They'll also work with Southwest Chamber Music and Smith to bring this piece to schools. The organization has extensive resources that look at the role of individuals and their choices in the history of the civil rights movement.

CD Release: Sultans of String & Move + North American Tour

From a media release:

Sultans of String MOVE CD Release!
featuring special guests Ernie Tollar, Jordan Klapman, Pabloski Rosales, The Cuban Trumpet Ensemble, and more!
Saturday, October 29, 8pm (doors: 7pm)
Trinity St Paul’s Centre, 427 Bloor St West, Toronto
Direct link to buy tix

[Toronto ON]  Raucous roots, genre bending string super-group, Sultans of String, kick off their Canadian & US CD release tour in Toronto with a spicy performance at Trinity St. Paul’s Centre on Saturday, October 29th! (selected tour schedule below, including NY's Birdland and Boston's Scullers!).

The release of MOVE, the band’s third album, can only be thought of as a perfect hat-trick. These multiple award winning and JUNO-nominated string wizards present – once again – an exhilarating celebration of world music styles and influences that embrace Gypsy Jazz, Cuban rhythms, Arabic folk, Spanish Flamenco and classical music in an incomparable and blinding flurry of musicianship. It’s as if Chris McKhool and Co. have entered a cross-cultural time machine. How else could these talented individuals have absorbed so many generations’ worth of musical influences in such a short time?

Under the lead of McKhool’s virtuosic 4 and 6-string violin attack, guitarists Kevin Laliberté (Jesse Cook, guested on tour with The Chieftains) and Eddie Paton (Robert Michaels) trade guitar effects while Drew Birston’s (Chantal Kreviazuk) bass holds down the rhythm (taking a few choice leads himself) with Rosendo “Chendy” Leon (Alex Cuba, Parachute Club) supplying the lion’s share of the band’s distinctive percussion. Guests like Ernie Tollar (flute), Kevin Turcotte and Alexander Brown (trumpets), Ken Whiteley (mandolin, piano, organ), Amanda Martinez and Dala (vocal support) help round out the eclectic mix, ripe with a blend of new to old, spirited to downright possessed.

The travelogue begins with “Andalucia”, establishing its strong claim to its location in southern Spain before changing gears as violin replaces its flamenco sounds with a sharp turn towards Northern Africa, complete with funky bass. Likewise, “Dos Guitarras” begins flamenco-like before McKhool’s violin gives way to dueling guitars in a composition that seems broken into 4 parts, like a play. The beautiful “Montréal” begins gently, like the whispering of lovers before it goes upbeat, adding horns and energy while the hard left turn of “Emerald Swing” with its upbeat, swinging bluegrass feel – and distinctive acoustic bass solo – deftly demonstrate the wide-reaching range of this band.

There’s no denying that creativity collides with pure passion across each of these dozen tracks and, just when you think you might be figuring them out, they’ll throw in a left-field cover to hide their tracks. Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” might be the last song you’d expect from the Sultans, yet armed with Dala’s lush backdrop, McKhool and the Gang lay waste to expectations, enticing Neil’s mellow country out of the shade and into the sunshine. Full of surprises, the Sultans of String continue along on their nomadic adventure, covering more ground than can instantly be digested for most.

The behind-the-scenes MOVE masters for this wild ride are sound engineers Jeremy Darby (Live Aid, U2, Pink Floyd, Prince) and George Seara- Manic Sound (Jesse Cook, Michael Jackson, Sting). Mastered at legendary Sterling Sound in NYC.

Selected upcoming dates:
Oct 29 - Trinity St. Paul's Centre, Toronto ON
Nov 2 - House of Jazz, Montreal QC
Nov 3 - Scullers Jazz Club, Boston, MA
Nov 4 - Nelson Odeon, Cazenovia NY
Nov 5 - Oswego Music Hall, Oswego, NY
Nov 6 - Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs, NY
Nov 7 - SiriusXM Live Performance, Washington DC
Nov 8 - The Living Room, New York, NY
Nov 9 - Turning Point, Piermont, NY
Nov 10- Birdland Jazz Club, New York, NY their website for other dates & locations

Un-Chamber Music: Real Vocal String Quartet in NYC Oct 27 & 28

From a media release:

From Sahara Trance Bluegrass to Re-Imagined Brazilian Choros:
The Un-Chamber Music of Real Vocal String Quartet on Tour

The classically-trained players of the Real Vocal String Quartet have lost it. As can be witnessed on their most recent debut eponymous recording and in concert, they bang on their violins, stomp their feet, and allow African trance music to influence their take on old timey standards. It's not their sanity that's missing; what RVSQ has lost is the ability to abide the constraints of either the old school classical world, where musicians must frequently forsake their creativity for the overall sound of the orchestra, or the often unapproachable reaches of the contemporary classical world.

“There is a perception that ‘new music’ for classically trained musicians needs to be difficult or inaccessible,” says Dina Maccabee, a violist in the group. “We are all totally into challenging ideas but we also like pop music. And we feel like just because you have a highly trained skill set doesn’t mean you need to play obscure music.” Their simultaneous singing and stringing—a barrier buster in itself—may just be the perfect combination for straddling these musical worlds. Catch them this October in East Coast cities including in Washington DC and New York City.

The diversity of the four players’ experiences reverberates through their latest album. For instance, “Talking Strings, Talking Drum” imitates on Western strings the totally unique sound of the African talking drum. “I find myself most fascinated and soothed by rhythmic texture these days,” said Irene Sazer. “I was listening to these intricate rhythmic sections and the scintillating vocals of African music.” “Talking String, Talking Drum” exemplifies the breadth of influence in the group as well as their desire to work outside the norm. The Quartet makes use of the talking drum in an undeniably unconventional way and it works beautifully.

“Kothbiro,” the jaw-dropping first song on the album was composed by Ayub Ogada, a Kenyan artist who’s known for entrancing vocal melodies accompanied on his nyatiti, plucked lute, on Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records. In Irene Sazer’s meticulous arrangement, the Quartet sings Ogada’s lyrics phonetically—just as his cult following audiences did on his rare U.S. performances—without speaking the language, and their violins, viola, and cello transform as they take on the swirling and rhythmical melody of his lyre.

The Quartet’s global influences run through their music, often sneaking into unexpected places like the group’s take on the bluegrass standard “Kitchen Girls.” Dina Maccabee was digging deep into the roots of Americana when she wrote this song. She’d been taking fiddle lessons and wanted to push this song beyond the typical groove expected in a bluegrass tune. Meanwhile, she’d been listening to “Amassakoul” by Tinariwen, a musical group from Northern Mali’s Sahara. Tinariwen are known for their invigorating fusion of trance with electric rock guitar. “I was looking for something that was more unexpected,” Maccabee recalls. “So while looking for a way to play ‘Kitchen Girls’ in a new way, I found this kind of groove from Tinariwen. That’s how my musical life works. There are always these different influences.”

The Quartet’s tight bond is only helped by being an all-women’s ensemble. “I feel like I’m playing with my friends,” says Irene Sazer. The fact that every member in the band is a woman is not entirely an accident. “Many of the groups we’ve played in the past with have been mostly male,” said Maccabee. “I think in some ways this could be in reaction to that. I think we just enjoy working in a space away from the ‘dudeness of band practice.’”  More precious than their femaleness is the mutual desire to work together collectively and to explore string and vocal music.

Wherever they began individually, together, the players in Real Vocal String Quartet have gone somewhere entirely new. Their chemistry as a musical group has become a catalyst for a creative explosion. They’ve taken their classical and jazz training, and combined it with their talent and other forays for their debut album. African, Brazilian, Balkan, Bluegrass: they’ve stretched beyond the conceived limits of string music. It may seem like they’ve absolutely lost it, but it doesn’t take an expert to see that they’ve known where it was the entire time.

Photo Credit: Lenny Gonzalez

Real Vocal String Quartet in NYC Oct. 27-28

October 27, 2011
Drom - New York, NY
85 Avenue A
Show: 9:00 pm
Ph: (212)777-1157   

October 28, 2011
Barbès - New York, NY
396 9th St.
Show: 7:00 pm
Ph: (718)965-9177

Opera Atelier's Don Giovanni - Oct 29 to Nov 5 in Toronto

From a media release:

Don Giovanni Opens Opera Atelier’s 2011-2012 Season
The world’s most incorrigible lover returns to the stage in this new period production of Mozart’s comedic masterpiece
October 29 to November 5, 2011

Toronto, ON
- Opera Atelier’s 2011-12 Season opens with a glittering new period production of Don Giovanni designed by OA’s acclaimed design team of Gerard Gauci and Martha Mann. Rising star Italian conductor Stefano Montanari makes his Opera Atelier debut. The new production runs October 29, 30, November 1, 2, 4, and 5, 2011, at the Elgin Theatre, 189 Yonge Street. All performances begin at 7:30 pm, with the exception of the Sunday, October 30 3:00 pm matinee. As previously announced, Don Giovanni is also part of Opera Columbus’s 11-12 season, and will be performed by the Toronto company in Columbus, Ohio on November 25 and 27, 2011.

Mozart’s outrageous comedy tells the tale of an incorrigible young playboy who blazes a path to his own destruction in a single day. Based on the story of Don Juan, Don Giovanni follows a skirt-chasing youth who s loved by women almost as universally as he loves them. His luck begins to turn at the beginning of our story, and we soon see that even he cannot escape the consequences of his actions. Featuring soaring music, bloody fights and mistaken identity, Don Giovanni stands as one of Mozart’s greatest comic masterpieces.

“We are thrilled to be creating an all-new production of this spectacular opera, having achieved such success in North America, Japan and South Korea with our previous production,” enthuses Opera Atelier Founding Co-Artistic Director and Don Giovanni director Marshall Pynkoski. “We believe that Mozart wrote Don Giovanni as a true comedy about a young man who is innocent in many ways. This interpretation is in line with Mozart’s own, though it sets us apart from many modern productions.”

The production features a stellar cast, including many artists making their professional role debuts. Canadian baritone Phillip Addis, who created a sensation as the Count in OA’s 2010 production of The Marriage of Figaro, will make his debut in the title role. Career highlights include a highly acclaimed Paris debut in the title role of Pelléas et Mélisande with l'Opéra Comique, conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner, and the title role of the rarely performed baritone version of Massenet's Werther with l'Opéra de Montréal.

Vasil Garvanliev (Leporello) is a Macedonian Baritone who achieved star status in his native country at the age of seven. He has appeared in Don Giovanni before as Masetto and the title character, but will be making his debut here as Leporello. He has just been signed by IMG Artists. Mr. Garvanliev will also be appearing in Opera Atelier’s Armide as Aronte.

Soprano Carla Huhtanen (Zerlina) is an Opera Atelier favourite who is best remembered for her Dora-nominated performance as Susanna in 2010’s The Marriage of Figaro. Ms Huhtanen was one of Now Magazine’s Top Ten Theatre Artists in 2008, and her “amazing versatility and unwavering voice” won her a place on Eye Weekly’s Top Ten Great Individual Achievements List of 2007. She will also be appearing in Opera Atelier’s Armide as Phenice/Lucinde.

Soprano Peggy Kriha Dye (Donna Elvira) recently made her debut with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in Loeffler’s Quatre Poems and Maw’s Roman Canticle. A former Adler Fellow, Ms Kriha Dye has performed many roles with San Francisco Opera including Musetta, Poussette, Drusilla, and Gretel. She played the Countess in Opera Atelier’s 2010 production of The Marrriage of Figaro. She will play the title role in Armide this season.

Up-and-coming soprano Meghan Lindsay (Donna Anna) was a young artist with Opera Studio Nederland in the 10-11 season, where she made her international debut as Euridice in Pierre Audi’s production of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo and her Concertgebouw debut performing excerpts from Don Giovanni and Le Nozze di Figaro. In spring 2012, she will sing Sidonie and Nymphe des Eaux in Armide.

Beloved Opera Atelier baritone Curtis Sullivan (Masetto/Commendatore) has been performing with Opera Atelier for over 15 years. He starred as Count Almaviva in Opera Atelier's Le Nozze di Figaro in Toronto and Tokyo and he has also been heard for Opera Atelier in Charpentier’s Medée, as Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte, Neptune in Idomeneo and Aeneas in Dido and Aeneas.

Tenor Lawrence Wiliford (Don Ottavio), who delighted as Damon in last season’s Acis and Galatea, has collaborated with conductors such as Richard Bradshaw, Bernard Labadie, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Trevor Pinnock, Helmuth Rilling, and Pinchas Zukerman. He recently released his debut solo recording Divine Musick: the late works for tenor and harp by Benjamin Britten.

Don Giovanni will also showcase the company’s full corps of Artists of Atelier Ballet.

Italian conductor Stefano Montanari makes his Opera Atelier debut conducting Tafelmusik Orchestra.  Don Giovanni will be directed and choreographed by OA’s founding Artistic Directors Marshall Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg respectively. Don Giovanni also features the work of set designer Gerard Gauci, costume designer Martha Mann, lighting designer Bonnie Beecher and fight director Jennifer Parr. The production will be sung in Italian with English SURTITLESTM.

• Tickets for Don Giovanni start at $33 and can be purchased through Ticketmaster at 1-855-622-ARTS(2787)
• or
• or at the Elgin Theatre Box Office (189 Yonge Street).
• $20 Operatix tickets may be purchased by patrons under 30 in person at the Elgin Theatre Box Office or online with the code OPERATIX. (Subject to availability. Valid I.D. required at pick-up.)
• Group discounts (10+ people) are available by calling 416-703-3767 x222.
• For more information, visit

Videocabaret's The Life and Times of Mackenzie King - November 2 in Toronto

Update December 1, 2011:
VideoCabaret announces December 11 closing for its acclaimed

Toronto - After playing to sold-out crowds and receiving unanimous critical and popular acclaim, VideoCabaret is announcing that The Life and Times of Mackenzie King, the latest re-imagining of playwright Michael Hollingsworth's acclaimed The History of the Village of the Small Huts cycle, is set to close December 11, 2011.

As shows are selling out quickly, VideoCabaret urges the public to book early!
Call the box office at 416-703-1725 and visit for more information.

From a media release:

VideoCabaret presents
The Life and Times of Mackenzie King
The History of the Village of the Small Huts, 1918-1939

Previews November 2 - opens November 10, 2011

Toronto - VideoCabaret proudly presents Michael Hollingsworth's The Life and Times of Mackenzie King, The History of the Village of the Small Huts, 1918-39, at The Cameron House, previewing from November 2 and opening on November 10 for a limited run.

Michael Hollingsworth's History Plays always bring the past to vivid life, and simultaneously remind us of today's headlines. The Life and Times of Mackenzie King spans the Roaring Twenties and Dirty Thirties, and resonates powerfully in our boom/bust times. The play stars Canada's most eccentric and enduring Prime Minister, and features a panoramic cast of power-brokers, war vets, socialites, fascists, communists, gangsters, work-camp hobos, crystal ball readers, booze-smugglers, and other Canadians.

In VideoCabaret's signature 'black-box' staging, the performers conjure up more than forty characters in tiny shards of light with Dervish-level choreography. Wearing eloquent costumes by Astrid Janson, the actors magically appear and vanish in the stage design by Andy Moro. The acting company this year features virtuosos of the style: Paul Braunstein (as King), Greg Campbell, Richard Alan Campbell, Mac Fyfe, Geza Kovacs, and Linda Prystawska; joined by VideoCab newcomer Jacob James.

The Life and Times of Mackenzie King premiered at The Theatre Centre in 1993, winning Dora Awards for PRODUCTION and LIGHTING, Nominations for PLAY, SET, COSTUMES, MUSIC, ACTING. (In all seven categories, King vied with VideoCab's The Great War, which won for Play and Costumes.) King also earned the Chalmers Award for Outstanding PLAY; and in 1995 was remounted with Factory Theatre. VideoCab's plays and stagecraft have won more than twenty Dora Awards and over sixty Nominations.

Play Synopsis:
The Life and Times of Mackenzie King begins with the end of World War I, and ends with the beginning of World War II - a zeppelin-ride through the soaring twenties and the diving thirties with Canada's longest-running Prime Minister. As the grandson of the notorious rebel William Lyon Mackenzie, King was driven by a sense of destiny and spurred by ghostly outriders. He fell in love regularly but never married, preferring the companionship of other men's wives, and seances with his late mother and other great departed souls.

King's occult companion Mrs. Joan Patteson, beloved dog Pat, political foes Prime Ministers Meighen and Bennett, contemporaries James Shaver Woodsworth and Samuel Bronfman, are joined in the play by Joe and Vince, a couple of Great War veterans who find employment in the rum-running business, and Molly, a war widow with nothing left to lose.  Vince rolls it all on the gal and the hooch, while Joe never stops fighting whatever is fighting him - union-busters, gangsters, mortgage-holders, work-camp bosses.

Between the shadows of two world wars, ideas clash and markets crash. The action spans the Winnipeg Strike of 1919, the One Big Union movement, the King-Byng Crisis, the Great Depression, the 'On To Ottawa Trek', Mackenzie King's infatuation with the Third Reich and many other events that show how Canada discovered its inner communist.

VideoCabaret presentsThe Life and Times of Mackenzie King
The History of the Village of the Small Huts, 1918-1939
Written and Directed by Michael Hollingsworth
Starring Paul Braunstein, Greg Campbell, Richard Alan Campbell, Mac Fyfe, Jacob James, Geza Kovacs, Linda Prystawska

Associate Director Deanne Taylor o Lighting and Set Andy Moro o Costumes Astrid Janson SM/PM Andrew Dollar o ASM Laurie Merredew o Props Brad Harley o Wigs Alice Norton Music Brent Snyder  o Sound Design Jake Blackwood, Brent Snyder Sound Operator Jake Blackwood o Stage Hand Patrick Wilkie Producer Jim LeFrancois

• Previews from Wednesday, November 2, Opens Thursday November 10 for a Limited Run
• Schedule: Tuesday - Saturday, 8pm, Sunday 2:30pm
• VideoCabaret at The Cameron House, 408 Queen Street West (just west of Spadina), Toronto
• Tickets: Previews, Tuesdays & Wednesdays $20,Thursdays & Sundays $30, Fridays $35, Saturdays $40
• Box Office: 416-703-1725         
• For more information:

Salsa CD: Bio Ritmo's La Verdad & NYC Concert Dates

From a media release:


Richmond, VA may not be the typical place that comes to mind when you think of an internationally acclaimed Salsa band, but Bio Ritmo is far from typical.  The 10-member band was formed 20 years ago this September originally as a percussion ensemble brought together by two misplaced Puerto Ricans who met at art school combined with a local punk rock drummer. They have evolved over the years and become known as one of the most groundbreaking salsa bands of the last decade. Their sound is dubbed “post-salsa” and their style considered “old-school” or “alt-Latin,” but essentially Bio Ritmo is known for being themselves, writing and producing all original music with the mind set of a rock-n-roll band who happens to play “in clave” (the basic rhythmic pattern of salsa music). “With a roster that includes former rastas, punks, rockers and jazzistas, Bio Ritmo can’t help but bring an exhilarating unorthodoxy to its music.” (WNYC)

  Majadero by Bio Ritmo

La Verdad, the band’s highly anticipated album was released September 20, 2011 on Brooklyn’s Electric Cowbell Records and will be available digitally, on CD and a limited pressing 12” – making Bio Ritmo the only salsa band that currently releases on vinyl. The legendary NYC hip-hop store/label turned distributor, Fat Beats will be handling distribution, adding yet another level of uniqueness to the mix. It makes sense that La Verdad is the first full-length album to be released on the boutique vinyl label Electric Cowbell.  Label owner James Thomson was an original founder of the group (the aforementioned punk rock drummer) and their 45 “Dina’s Mambo” b/w “La Muralla” was one of the first EC releases in 2010 and is still one of the most in-demand.  Both tracks appear on the critically acclaimed EC compilation, 101 Things To Do In Bongolia, as well as the exclusive “Majadero” (That Little Chimps Remix).

Upcoming Dates:
October 27, 2011 @ IOTA Club – Arlington, VA (More Info)
October 28, 2011 @ Southpaw – Brooklyn, NY (More Info)
November 18, 2011 @ SOBs – New York, NY (More Info)

  La Verdad by Bio Ritmo

Amnesty International Dance for Justice October 27 in Toronto

From a media release:

Amnesty Dance for Justice
October 27, 2011
EnWave Theatre, Harbourfront, Toronto

TORONTO - On Thursday, October 27, 2011, a dynamic mix of African, Belly-dancing, Tap, Modern, Hip Hop, French Can-Can, and Period Ballet performers will join together for a unique benefit performance at the Harbourfront Centre. The various dance styles reflect the multicultural nature of Amnesty’s human rights work as it campaigns in countries all over the world.

In many corners of our world, artists are still persecuted for expressing their beliefs and thoughts.  That’s why articles 19 and 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights calls on governments to respect the right to freedom of expression, and the right to enjoy the arts.

Come and see Toronto’s most dynamic dance professionals as they dance their hearts out to benefit Amnesty International’s movement to bring justice and human rights for all.

Performers include:
Arabesque Dance Company & Orchestra is Canada's leading Middle Eastern dance and music ensemble and unique in the world. The company consists of 17 male and female dance artists trained in 14 different styles of Middle Eastern dance led by Yasmina Ramzy and 9 acoustic musicians led by Bassam Bishara.
I rock with The ONE is a faith based hip hop dance crew that uses hip hop dance as an influence to positively inspire the World.
La ROUGE Entertainment - A touch of class. A pinch of panache. A whole lot of sass. For creative and quality event performances and programming, LaRouge is your exlusive Red Hot entertainment provider!
• Incepted by artistic Director Sylvie Bouchard in 2009, BoucharDanse is a Company that utilizes the poetry of Contemporary dance and the narrative element of theatre, together in one stroke
Opera Atelier holds a unique place in the North American theatre community, producing opera, ballet and drama from the 17th and 18th centuries.
LUA SHAYENNE & CO. presents traditional African and Afro-contemporary dance works that explore current subject matters with the aim to be a vehicle for spiritual and social progress.
Toronto Salsa with Daniel Guajardo and Johanna Barczyk
Bringing Tap Back is the freshest tap dancing company to hit the industry. This Canadian company is fully dedicated to bringing tap dancing from being hidden throughout the industry to being presented on the main stage; front and centre!
Spirit of Aloha is a Toronto-based halau (school) engaged in sharing the beauty and knowledge of the Hawaiian culture through its art form - the HULA.

When: Thursday October 27th, 2011, 7:30-10:00pm.
Doors open at 6:45 for Cash Bar and Silent Auction.
Where: Enwave Theatre, Harbourfront Centre, 231 Queen’s Quay West.
Tickets $30

Join us to support human rights and Toronto’s dance community!
From last year's event:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

CD Release: Sibiti Samaké’s Dambe Foli - Traditional Mande Music

From a media release:

Hungry For A New Kind of Prey, Hunter & Donso Ba Sibiri Samaké’s Newest Album Set For Release Fall 2011

Dambe Foli, A New Take on Traditional Mande Music.
Scheduled Release Date: October 25, 2011

Independent record label Kanaga System Krush (K.S.K.) set to release this fall 2011 Dambe Foli. Sibiri Samaké’s second and long-awaited album featuring traditional Mande/Bamana Hunters' music.  A masterful showcase of a rare genre, the granddaddy and ancient precursor to modern day blues.

“If the blues’ origin can be traced to West Africa then this album puts listeners squarely at the doorstep of one of modern music's cornerstones,” said Aja Salvatore, founder of K.S.K. on introducing the grassroots label’s latest foray to share and champion the music and talented musicians of West Africa.

One of a handful of hunters, or donso to have been heard beyond the African continent, Sibiri Samaké's stirring vocals and talented instrumentals transports listeners right into the heart and roots of Mande music and culture.

Samaké, the lead instrumentalist on the traditional donso's (hunter) harp, the donso n'goni plucks gritty, complex riffs that easily rival the best Western bass players around. This long-necked stringed calabash resonator has been dubbed by New York music experimentalist Bill Laswell in The Guardian & Observer, “as one of the world's essential bass sounds.” Alongside, Samaké’s urgent yet drawing vocals in his native tongue of Bambana and true to the African tradition of call and response music, Samaké is accompanied by back-up vocals from fellow musicians Sumayla Fofani also on the donso n'goni and percussionists Ibrahima Diakite on the karinya (iron-metal scraper) and Kadiatou Samaké on the kusubu (shaker). The album shines through the amazing work of Oz Fritz who put his masterful touch during the mixing process.

With its intentional atypically lengthy four tracks - mastered to bring the audience as close to a live performance without hitching a flight to the Malian capital of Bamako, hear Samaké effortlessly weave his masterful deep, bluesy poly-rythmic n’goni solos changing time signature at will.

Not since 1995 has this revered donso released an album.  Much anticipated Dambe Foli, meaning traditional music, is a fresh take on grassroots Mande music. It showcases the musicality and technical acumen found within a cultural phenomenon that has stood the test of time and one that Sibiri Samaké has belonged to for more than three decades.

Endemic to western Africa, this somewhat elusive yet highly revered society of alchemical sages known as the hunters' society or the Donsoton, maintain an indigenous culture that has underpinned Malian society and dates back to the 7th century, pre-Islam, pre-Christianity and colonization.

"Music in Mali" TEASER from Kanaga System Krush on Vimeo.

Their rich musical culture laid foundations for the birth of the blues, rock, jazz and other genres that have beckoned the likes of filmmaker Martin Scorsese to take a closer look at the regions historical implications in the documentary, The Blues (2003).

This album will bring audiences around the globe one step closer to some of the keys to understanding and further appreciating a musical tradition that in modern times continues to influence African pop music and musicians, the likes of Salif Keita and Oumou Sangare as well as contemporary artists such as Vampire Weekend and Damon Albarn. “At a time where more and more contemporary artists are turning to world music as a source of inspiration, Dambe Foli stands as a great example of the complex musicality to be found in traditional African cultures” says Salvatore.

Trace the sacred traditions of the Manding empire and its folkloric stylized hymns and gritty sounds found in Sibiri Samaké's raw bluesy vocals and trance inducing hard plucked n'goni riffs that are sure to capture a new kind of prey, a global audience.

In addition to Dambe Foli, Samaké joins other renown Malian musicians to be featured in "Music in Mali: Life is Hard, Music is Good" a feature-length documentary on musicians and musical traditions from West Africa also produced by K.S.K. and due out Spring 2012.

Dambe Foli Scheduled Release Date: October 25, 2011  
About Kanaga System KrushKanaga System Krush (K.S.K.) is an independent record label, operating on a fair-trade principle, focused on the preservation and promotion of traditional music from West Africa. By bringing this music to the world market, K.S.K. is opening new channels to an old tradition, as well as providing direct support to the carriers of this ancient knowledge. K.S.K. and acclaimed producer Oz Fritz have produced and released nearly a dozen albums over the last five years, most notably Lobi Traore’s career-topping electric live set Bwati Kono.

Bebe Neuwirth Hosts the Bessies - Oct 24 at the Apollo Theater New York

From a media release:

Hosted by Bebe Neuwirth
Monday, October 24, 2011 at 8 p.m.

at the Apollo Theater, Harlem


New York's most renowned dance awards come to Harlem's world famous Apollo Theater for the first time! On October 24, the Bessies, which have saluted dance in the city since 1984, will honor outstanding work in dance performed during the 2010-11 season.

Host for the evening will be Bebe Neuwirth. The evening will include a dance performance by some of today's most exciting young dancers, videos of all of the nominated work, and award presentations by a stellar lineup of internationally acclaimed dance artists.

The Bessies seek to recognize work from all corners of the city's wide ranging dance world, granting awards for choreography, design, composition, and performing to innovative artists from many dance disciplines. The awards also honor those who have helped shape the dynamic world of dance in the city with awards for lifetime achievement in choreography and outstanding contribution to the field of dance. This is a not-to-be-missed event for any and every dance lover.

Special Awards announced
TRISHA BROWN to receive the Bessie Award for Lifetime Achievement
FREDERIC FRANKLIN, CBE to receive the Bessie Award for Service to the Field of Dance
VIOLETA GALAGARZA to receive the Bessie Award for Special Achievement in Dance
The Bessie Selection Committee made their final decisions and will honor these three legendary dance artists with special awards at this year’s award ceremony.

Tickets $10
In person at the Apollo Theater Box Office
By phone call Ticketmaster (800) 745-3000
Online at

Get Animated! with the NFB Across Canada Oct 22 to Nov 6

From a media release:

Get Animated! October 22 to November 6, 2011

Toronto, October, 2011 – The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is launching the fifth edition of Get Animated! from October 22 to November 6, 2011, and offering an expanded array of FREE animation screenings and activities in over 20 cities across Canada. Get Animated! is being presented by the NFB in partnership with local organizations, showcasing great animation on the big screen in YOUR community, in celebration of International Animation Day, October 28.

Get Animated! features the finest—and some of the funniest—new releases from the NFB’s Oscar-winning animation studios, a family program for all ages, master classes by renowned NFB animators, workshops on how to make your own animated films and meet-the-director sessions.

Get Animated! is coming to a location near you: Abbotsford (November 1); Calgary (November 6); Charlottetown (October 26–30); Edmonton (October 29); Flin Flon (October 30); Halifax (October 27–28); Kitchener (November 5); Moncton (October 29); Montreal (October 27–30); Prince George (October 30 & November 4); Regina (November 2, 5, 6); Richmond (October 22–23); Saskatoon (November 1); Stephenville (October 28); Toronto (October 27–30 & November 2); Vancouver (October 26 & November 5); Whitehorse (October 30); Windsor (October 26 & 29); Winnipeg (October 28–30 & November 5); Yellowknife (November 5), and more!

To view Get Animated! online, or for the complete schedule of screenings, visit
New Releases
Ten exciting new animated releases, as well as a kids’ program, are featured in Get Animated! this year, which includes Big Drive by Anita Lebeau, the story of a family road trip across the Canadian prairies set in the 1970s. An exuberant exploration of childhood imagination, Big Drive invites audiences of all ages to see the world as it appears from the back seat.

Other new releases in Get Animated! are Wild Life, by Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby, the story of a dapper young Englishman sent to the wild west of Alberta to try his hand at ranching; Juliette Loubières’ puppet animation film Pumpkins and Old Lace; Patrick Doyon’s Sunday, recipient of a Special Mention at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival; and Marv Newland’s CMYK, a dizzying celebration of sound, colour and movement.

Highlights also include acclaimed new shorts such as I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors, director Ann Marie Fleming’s adaptation of Bernice Eisenstein’s celebrated illustrated memoir, and Koji Yamamura’s Muybridge’s Strings, a poetic exploration of the irrepressible human desire to freeze our fleeting moments of happiness.

Family Program
This year, Get Animated! offers a fun-filled selection of some of the NFB’s newest animation for kids of all ages. Anita Lebeau’s lively Big Drive; Phyllis Grant’s Waseteg, the story of a young Mi’kmaq girl; Nicola Lemay’s Private Eyes, about a visually impaired boy with great powers of observation; and, one of the most-watched films on, Jo Meuris’s The Girl Who Hated Books.

Master Classes
Get Animated! offers a unique opportunity to learn from animation masters and discover the techniques—and challenges—behind a variety of NFB animated films.
• Oscar-winning director Co Hoedeman (The Sand Castle) will lead animation master classes on the creative process, working collaboratively and making peace through animation.
• Composer Luigi Allemano offers interactive exercises and discussions demonstrating the process of creating music for animated film.
• Animator Marv Newland gives a master class revolving around the techniques he used to animate his new film, CMYK.
• Producer Marc Bertrand and director Nicola Lemay discuss the challenges of adapting the book Private Eyes into a hand-drawn 3D film.

Meet the Directors!
Acclaimed animators will be available to take questions and to discuss the art of animation in Calgary (Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby, Wild Life), Montreal (Patrick Doyon, Sunday), Vancouver (Marv Newland, CMYK, and Ann Marie Fleming, I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors) and Winnipeg (Anita Lebeau, Big Drive).

Hands-on Workshops
Hands-on workshops will accompany the Family Program in Charlottetown, Montreal, Prince George, Richmond, Toronto, Vancouver, Whitehorse, Winnipeg and Yellowknife. These workshops demonstrate the basics of animation and give participants the chance to make their own short animated film.

About International Animation Day
International Animation Day, October 28, is an annual celebration in over 40 countries, initiated by the International Animated Film Association (ASIFA) in 2002. Norman McLaren was the first president of ASIFA, and the NFB is proud to be bringing this global celebration to Canadian communities for the fifth consecutive year.

Dub Theatre: d'bi.young's Sankofa Trilogy in Toronto to December 4

From a media release:

the sankofa trilogy
written and performed by d'bi.young anitafrika
October 22 to December 4, 2011

at the Tarragon Theatre, Toronto

featuring word!sound!powah!
in repertory with blood.claat, and benu
Trilogy Premiere

word! sound! powah! (part three of the trilogy)

yuh tink you can stop the people?
my granny told me about you.
she prepared me for you.

A storyteller emerges from the darkness. She sings the story of her people, beginning with their hope-filled birth to their decline into destruction and despair. She implores them to wake from their slumber, remember themselves, and return to the land they love.

As she finishes her song, we suddenly find ourselves in a police interrogation room in 1980s Kingston, Jamaica. The brutal Constable Brown relentlessly interrogates a young woman named Benu. He suspects that she is an accomplice in a heinous politically-motivated crime - but he has no proof. All he knows is that Jamaica is in the midst of a tense and hotly contested election campaign that has cost many politicians and supporters their lives, and it's his job to find the culprits.

In word!sound!powah! young dub poet Benu Sankofa is swept up in the violence of the infamous 1980 national election in Jamaica. The country is on the cusp of a political coup, and in the heat of the struggle between young radicals and the establishment, Benu is arrested. She finds strength in her maternal ancestors to fight for the freedom she believes in.

blood.claat (part one of the trilogy)

mugdu sankofa, a fifteen-year-old girl from Kingston, Jamaica, begins her journey into womanhood under the watchful gaze of her granny. With her mother gone to Canada, Mugdu chafes against the limitations imposed on her by her grandmother's generation - even as she looks to her ancestors for strength. Like her mother and grandmother before her, mugdu attempts to embrace her femininity as she navigates the perennial danger that plagues the young women in her family: pregnancy. blood.claat received two Dora awards in 2006.

benu (part two of the trilogy)
mugdu's daughter sekesu a new mother. Painful memories of her upbringing - her separation from her mother - surface with the pregnancy and birth, and collide with her expectations of motherhood. Can she be the mother she never had? There is hope in her daughter, benu, named after the mythical Egyptian predecessor of the phoenix, which rises from its ashes.

d'bi.young anitafrika is an internationally celebrated afrikan-jamaican-canadian dubpoet, performer and educator. The published author of two collections of poetry, six plays and six dubpoetry albums resides in Cape Town, where she is Curator of Badilisha Poetry and of the Pan Afrikan Performing Arts Institute.

about the trilogy
blood.claat will be performed on Nov 23, Nov 26 (mat), Nov 27, and Dec 3 (mat).
benu will be performed on
Nov 29, Dec 1 and Dec 3 (eve).
word! sound! powah! is performed at all other times

70 minutes with no intermission.
sensitivity warning: incense is burned during the performance.

written and performed by
d'bi.young anitafrika
set and costume design by Camellia Koo
lighting design by Michelle Ramsay
musical direction by Waleed Abdulhamid
musicians: Jeff Burke, Kurt Huggins and Laurence Stevenson

From her latest CD:

Live at the Apollo Theater New York - LEDISI Tonight (October 23)

From a release - still time to pick up tickets for tonight:

Mary Flowers Entertainment Presents
LEDISI at the Apollo Theater
Sunday, October 23 at 7 p.m.

Get Tickets

Harlem, New York - With the release of her latest CD entitled Pieces of Me, R&B recording sensation Ledisi comes to the Apollo Theater live in concert.   The Grammy-nominated singer performs tracks from her albums Lost and Found, Turn Me Loose, Soul Singer and more.  The concert opens with a performance by singer/songwriter Timothy Bloom whose latest release is The Budding Rose.

• Tickets: $45, $55, $65, & $75
• In person at the Apollo Theater Box Office
• By phone call Ticketmaster 1-800-745-3000
Online at

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Reviews: imagineNATIVE 2011 - Two Features & a Short

imagineNATIVE 2011 - Two Features & A Short
Continues to October 23, 2011
See below for the closing gala film

2011, Canada, 96 min, DCP, 18A
French and Innu with English subtitles
Director: Yves Sioui Durand
World Premiere

Mesnak is a strong and even brilliant film that takes Hamlet, the timeless Shakespearian tragedy, and seamlessly weaves it into the story of an Innu village in northern Quebec. Montreal actor David was adopted when he was three years old, and now in his twenties, gets a cryptic note that calls him back to the First Nations community where he was born, and where his mother - a former alcoholic - is about to be married.

From the beginning, he encounters the dark undercurrents and corrosive secrets that run through his family history and the town at large. The family drama is tied to the town's future under a potential deal with a white-owned forestry company. That and other details make this an organic telling of the tale - this never has the feel of a transplanted story. Yves Sioui Durand has gotten all the details right here and nothing feels less than authentic.

He uses an economical form of visual storytelling that evokes poetry, contrasting the plain manmade elements of the town with the sweeping beauty of the northern forests. He's not afraid to let the camera fall in love with the scenery. He manages to use the symbolism of the snapping turtle - the Mesnak, and totem animal of David's slain father - without being at all heavy handed. In fact, as familiar as the story is, his version is gripping and absorbing.

Tensions build slowly yet relentlessly. We watch as David begins a hopeful romance with doomed Osalic, and as his mother's carefully constructed present begins to unravel. Near the beginning, an acting teacher coaches David on playing Hamlet. He commits, as the teacher explains, the mistake of most young actors in portraying Hamlet as someone who is motivated solely by anger. The truth, he says, is much more complex. All the actors in this film succeed in portraying the many layers and complexities of these characters, particularly Victor Turgeon as the vulnerable and conflicted David and Eve Ringuette who's wonderful in her first role as tragic Osalic.

Originally from Wendake, Quebec, Yves Sioui Durand (Huron-Wendat) is a writer, actor and theatre director. Since 1984, he has developed a unique body of work rooted in Indigenous theatre. In 1985 he co-founded Ondinnok, the first French-language Indigenous theatre company in Quebec. Since then, he has written 15 dramatic plays and has done collaborations with Jean-Pierre Ronfard and Robert Lepage. Mesnak is his first feature film and is based on his 2004 theatrical play Hamlet-Le Malécite.

Mesnak le film - Bande-annonce from Mesnak le film on Vimeo.

2011, Canada, 15 min, 35mm, 14A
Director: Lisa Jackson
Ontario Premiere

Parkdale - the west Toronto neighbourhood - is one of the stars of this short film by a Genie Award winning director. In a short 15 minutes, Lisa Jackson gives us the story of two sisters left on the street by a negligent father. It's Parkdale's still seamy side we're treated to here on screen, not the condo-ized version, and without becoming didactic, the film shows us just how those street kids fall through the cracks - and how wide those cracks are.

With a background in documentary, Lisa Jackson (Anishnaabe) expanded into fiction with Savage, which went on to win the 2011 Genie for Best Live Action Short and was commissioned as part of imagineNATIVE's Embargo Collective in 2009. She recently completed Parkdale as part of the CFC Director Training program.

Wapos Bay: Long Goodbyes
2011, Canada, 74 min, HDCAM, G
Director: Dennis Jackson
World Premiere

Presented as part of:
Closing Night Gala
Wapos Bay: Long Goodbyes
Oct 23 2011, 7:00PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 1

Wapos Bay: Long Goodbyes is a family friendly film that uses a creative and enhanced form of stop motion animation to tell the story of two kids whose father has accepted a political position that will mean relocating to the big city - and their ever more complicated attempts to prolong and pospone their farewells.

While it has all of the hallmarks of the kind of well meaning children's TV programming that the characters and storyline originally come from, including a 'good citizen' message, the clever script also features a few jokes just for the parents. The story is set against elections for the "Assembly of Sovereign Indian Federation" - or AS IF - and there are lines about suing the big pharmaceutical companies. The kids learn about the dark side of politics along the way to a happy ending.

The animation is seamless and slickly produced, with elaborately constructed sets. The amount of work involved must be staggering. The cast features a host of well known actors including the late (and missed) Gordon Tootoosis.

Based in Saskatoon, Dennis Jackson (Cree/Saulteaux) began his career in elementary school watching 16mm prints of animated Indigenous creation stories. Together with his wife and creative partner, Melanie Jackson (Métis/Saulteaux), he founded Dark Thunder Producers and created Wapos Bay, the award-winning animated TV series. The series won four Gemini Awards, Canada’s highest honour in television, and became a landmark of Indigenous animation. For Long Goodbyes, Dennis served as director, writer and producer, with Melanie as producer and writer.

Other Festivals
The movie has also been selected to screen at the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival (Oct. 29), American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco (Nov. 5), LA Skins Festival in Los Angeles (Nov. 16-20) and Message Sticks Indigenous Film Festival in Sydney, Australia.

Broadcast Premiere on APTN
The national broadcast premiere for Wapos Bay: Long Goodbyes is Saturday, Dec. 3 on APTN (8 p.m. ET on APTN HD and APTN East, 8 p.m. MT on APTN West, 8 p.m. CT on APTN North).

imagineNATIVE 2011: Three Short Films

imagineNATIVE 2011: Three Short Films
the Festival continues to October 23, 2011

Dead Creek
2009, New Zealand, 11 min, HDCAM, PG
Director: Benjimin Southwell
Ontario Premiere

New Zealand's lush forest plays a seminal role in this eerie and atmospheric story about what happens when the modern world crosses paths with ancient magic at a sacred pond. The pond or waterhole sits among the rocks in a sylvan landscape, haunted by spirits whose intentions are malevolent towards human beings, including a young Aboriginal soccer player (or 'footy' player as he says) and his uncle. Without giving anything away, I'll say that the old magic of forest and trees wins the day. The visuals are spectacular and quite affecting; my favourite were gorgeous shots of sunlight filtering through the forest canopy.

Benjimin Southwell (Torres Straits) is an emerging Australian filmmaker and questions the absence of the action genre in Aboriginal Australian film.

Search for the World's Best Indian Taco
2010, USA, 10 min, HDCAM, 14A
Director: Steven Judd

The indigenous tradition of storytelling is given a fresh and funny treatment in this product of the Southern California Indian Center (among others). A Choctaw grandfather tells his grandson the grand tale of Three Shades of Black and his epic search for the world's greatest Indian taco. Three Shades of Black is a super cool contemporary dude who drives a candy apple red 1958 CHevy Impala with a white roof, searching the Western plains and beyond for the best of the best. The story's told in amusing scenes with a surreal and quirky sense of humour, and is driven, I think, by a genuine love of the Indian taco.

Steven Judd (Choctaw/Kiowa) is an Oklahoma-based filmmaker. Judd’s films The Storm and Search for the World’s Best Indian Taco are also showing at imagineNATIVE 2011.

2011, Canada, 5 min, HDV, PG
Director: Travis Shilling
World Premiere

Artist and filmmaker Travis Shilling's meditative work begins with what seems like a traditional kind of story about a wolf that lies dead in the forest, told in a voiceover with a nice sense for a dramatic reading. In the poetic story, the wolf becomes reborn as a man and takes unexpected turns, looping back around to the beginning. Visually, the filmmaker's chosen a simple palette that flickers with the constant movement of the living as an effective accompaniment to the narrative voice.

Travis Shilling (Ojibway) is a painter who occasionally creates films inspired by his paintings. Previous works at imagineNATIVE include The Traveller’s Bones (2004), The River Flows (2004) and Mercy Side (2007).

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Preview Review: imagineNATIVE 2011 Opening Night Oct 19

Preview Review: ImagineNATIVE 2011 Opening Night
Amaqqut Nunaat (The Country of Wolves) & On the Ice
October 19, 2011

TORONTO - imagineNATIVE 2011 kicks off with a pair of films and a party - here's a look at the films.

Amaqqut Nunaat (The Country of Wolves) celebrates the Inuit tradition of storytelling with an animated story that tells the legend of two brothers who go out hunting and get lost in a storm. They endure the darkness, wind and weather to emerge in a strange land - the Country of Wolves.

The story is told in a voiceover and features an interesting combination of flat and layered three dimensional animated effects, aided by the urgent sound of throat singing by Tanya Tagaq Gillis. The effect is eery and atmospheric and suits the dark legend and its theme about the tenuous nature of survival in the harsh landscape.

On the Ice is the feature debut of Alaska native Andrew Okpeaha MacLean (Writer/Director), an Iñupiaq filmmaker. As it begins, two teenagers in an Alaskan town smoke dope, gossip about girls and make up hip hop rhymes in the endless daylight of summer in the Far North. But throw the disruptive element of hard drugs and boozing into the mix and it ends in a death out on the snow.

As the two decide to cover up the tragedy, their lives begin to unravel in morass of lies and complications. They sink deeper and deeper into a moral quagmire - no one without self interest - as the falsehoods pile one on top of the other and tensions mount to an unexpected conclusion.

The film combines artsy camera work with convincing portrayals of the morally ambiguous leads. The scenery shifts between the frozen beauty of the landscape and the manmade awkwardness of the town, the lens lingering on the snowy vistas tinged blue with shadows or pink in the rising sun. It's an accomplished debut, and it's no surprise that Andrew Okpeaha MacLean's short films have won awards at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and at imagineNATIVE in 2008. On the Ice won the Best First Feature prize at the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival.

Amaqqut Nunaat
(The Country of Wolves)
2011, Canada, 14 min, HDCAM SR, 14A
World Premiere
Director: Neil Christopher
Producer: Louise Flaherty

On the Ice
2011, USA, 96 min, 35mm, 18A
English and Inupiaq with English subtitles
Canada Premiere
Director: Andrew Okpeaha MacLean