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Female Eye Film Festival handles tough topics

In the city that holds the record for the highest number of film festivals per capita, the Female Eye Film Festival (FeFF) is not a festival to be missed. Coming to the Carlton Theatre from June 26 to July 1, the FeFF marks its 16th edition this year. Since its quiet inception, the “little festival that could” to quote Angela Argento, Chair of the FeFF, has come a long way. What’s more, in light of the most recent events that hit the film industry and the subsequent viral spread of the #MeToo movement, this independent and thought-provoking festival is perhaps even more relevant.

In a recent interview with Lesley Ann Coles, Founder and Executive Director as well as an accomplished film director herself, she summarizes very well the rationale behind such lack of morality: “Regardless of gender, if you pursue a career that is a dream, the film industry is a killing field for perpetrators who will take advantage of people’s dreams.” As festival director, Leslie Ann sees many films, reads many scripts, and knows all too well that gender identity, gender imbalance, sexual abuse are constant themes in women’s films. The short Cross My Heart by Jamaican Director, Sontenish Myers, is just one of the films in the program which features this uncomfortable truth.

Leslie Ann is very proud of the Female Eye. Beyond the obvious fact that the festival is a window for independent female writers and directors to showcase their work, she says “it’s a relationship building festival, a networking opportunity for directors, writers, and producers coming together and creating friendships.” One of the films showcased this year, The Plural of Blood, is a testimonial of the sisterly spirit that forms at the Female Eye and generates work partnerships: Mary-Lyn Chambers, director, and Roxy Shih, executive producer of the film met at the FeFF two years ago.

The festival begins on June 26 at 6:30 p.m. with a film by Valerie Buhajar, It’s Hard To Be Human, followed by a Q&A with the director. Valerie is a frequent visitor of the festival; her previous feature film The Anniversary, was screened at the FeFF in 2014. She is a living example of how the FeFF is a space where filmmakers’ talent is nurtured and encouraged through the years. Particularly noteworthy is the script development program, a “creative incubator for screenwriters” where panels of experts and aspiring writers and directors meet and discuss the potential of future storytellers and film directors. The script development program is free and open to the public.

Unlike other film festivals, the Female Eye is very keen on ensuring that women are firmly seated in the director’s chair. The director has the “key creative control when it comes to films, especially independent films” says Leslie Ann. However, the script development program is also open to male writers whose screenplay’s protagonist is a female character, and that is to address the gender imbalance and inequity on screen and behind the camera across the board. That is not to say that the Female Eye excludes men; on the contrary, men are involved in the making of the festival, men go and see the films. Interestingly, the tag line of the festival used to be “Female Eye, Flicks Not Just for Chicks” to help dispel the myth that women make films just for women. The festival stands at the forefront in the fight against the stereotype that wants women only watching fluffy rom-coms; women’s films are accessible to everyone and for everyone. In more recent years, the tagline has changed to “Always Honest, Not Always Pretty,” just like the truth, and as such it resonates with the films that women make where characters are complex, as are their relationships.

Finally, every year, the Female Eye awards an Honourary Maverick and an Honorary Director to women who have excelled and given a significant contribution to the film industry. The 2018 recipients are respectively, Debra Zimmerman and Liz Marshall. Debra runs a distribution company out of New York, dedicated to women documentary makers. Liz is a Toronto-based documentarian with a focus on social justice and environmental themes. These events take shape of intimate conversations with the recipients. All industry programs which include panel discussions with leaders in Canada’s film and television industry, script readings and the much-celebrated Live Pitch are free and open to the public.

The Female Eye Film Festival opens on June 26 and runs until July 1 at the Carlton Theatre. Tickets ($8 two-hour film program) are available for purchase online. $10 at the door. Audience Q&A with the directors follow each screening.

Do Toronto women need another gender-flipped film?

The trailer for the gender-flipped Ocean’s 8 movie dropped last week.

It does look good. The cast is amazing — Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling and Rihanna to name a few — and the one-liners made me chuckle. I was a fan of the original Ocean movies, so I will probably see this one. It is being described as not a remake, but rather a spin-off or a sequel. It follows the storyline of Debbie Ocean, sister of Danny from the original films, who wants to steal an incredibly expensive diamond necklace worth one or one and a half billion dollars (unclear). She assembles seven other women to help with the job.

This is the second “gender-flipped” film set to be released. The first was the all-female Ghostbusters reboot and there are rumours of more on their way.

While I’m all for seeing films with strong female characters, I have to wonder why they are all remakes or sequels to pre-existing films in which the cast was dominated by men? Can anyone come up with a movie script that has a predominately female cast, with complex characters and a decent storyline. Wonder Woman was a good film, but those characters were also pre-existing in lore and comics.

Other original films revolve around romance or motherhood — and most of them are really terrible. They tend to make fun of women more than they empower them. What the world needs isn’t another remake, but rather an intense drama or action film with a diverse range of female stars. Preferably, this original film would be written, directed, and produced by a woman. 

I know it may be a long time until something like this is produced. But, I think the challenge is worth it. In light of feminism being the word of the year and sexual harassment being the story of the year, maybe it’s time to start considering real, strong women as inspiration in film.

Toronto: A Christmas Prince is the worst holiday movie ever

I hated Netflix’s A Christmas Prince. There, I said it! This royal holiday-themed rom-com is terrible and you should stop watching it right now!

Warning: Spoilers!

The storyline follows journalist wannabe Amber, who finds herself thrust into an assignment covering the return of a playboy prince to his homeland for, potentially, his coronation. After being unable to get any information from the official press sources, Amber sneaks into the castle and poses as a tutor for the Prince’s younger, wheelchair-bound sister. Cue family drama, adoption papers, a coup, romance, and of course, a fancy ball with beautiful gowns.

Sure, some of it is quite cute. The younger sister, Emily, is probably the only good thing about the low-budget film. But, for a journalist, the movie is excruciating. I watched A Christmas Prince with my sister, who got a little frustrated when I kept yelling at the television saying things like “that would never happen” or “my god woman, are you an idiot!”

How on earth did some people watch this movie 18 days in a row! Even Netflix couldn’t believe it.

Suffice to say, I will not be one of the people watching this movie again. Here are a few of the journalistic problems I caught while wasting away for an hour and a half:

Word length and quote misinformation: Before we get into the drama with the prince, Amber is tasked with re-writing a colleague’s article that was double the word limit. His piece also included a quote from someone Amber says was not on the floor, meaning the quote was made up. That is a serious infraction of journalistic standards and would result in a firing of that reporter — or at least a stern talking to by a senior editor.

Newsroom budget: There is no newspaper in North America that would be able to send a random copywriter to a foreign country to cover an inauguration. Either they already have boots on the ground, or they aren’t interested in the Royal Family. Whatever budget this newsroom had — I want it!

Lack of ethics: This woman (I refuse to call her a journalist), sneaks into a home and pretends to be a child’s tutor. In any real scenario, this would get the woman arrested, fined, and possibly jailed. But, in A Christmas Prince, her editor actually encourages her to get lots of photographs and video of the Prince with her phone. While there are instances of journalists going undercover in order to get a story — the rules for doing so are quite strict. Amber is not exposing mistreatment or abuse. Rather, she is invading the personal privacy of a family, including a minor, for personal gain. She is also stealing the identity of a woman who is supposed to be Emily’s tutor. This is unacceptable.

Side note: how come no one in the castle checked Amber’s identification to make sure she had the credentials to spend time alone with a child?

Amber’s “notes”: I want to know how she wrote this story. The film allows viewers a sneak into the “questions” Amber has about the prince, all of them really simplistic. She also includes little tidbits like “I have to dig deeper”, as if, as a journalist, she needs to remind herself to do her job. In fact, her notes read more like a diary – “I think I’m finally starting to get to know the real prince…so not what I thought” or “The prince is definitely starting to trust me…but can’t seem like I”m prying.” All of these notes indicate a malicious attempt to invade someone’s privacy, not a journalist objectively writing down the facts of a story.

Objectivity and blackmail: At some point in the movie, Emily finds out that Amber isn’t actually her tutor and is, in fact, a reporter. Instead of kicking her out of the castle, Emily blackmails Amber into writing a positive story about her brother, or rather “the truth” as she puts it. Amber agrees. While the prince may not have been a playboy, Amber is still negotiating with a source.

Theft of private property: Amber finds the prince’s adoption papers in his father’s cottage getaway and takes them with intent to print. First of all, these documents were procured out of a lie. Second of all, they were not simply sitting on a table where Amber happened to come upon them. She searched through desks, diaries, and papers, and stole them!

Basic security notes: After finding the adoption papers, Amber is interrupted by the prince, who asks her to go for a walk. She says “one minute,” throws her coat on, and leaves the room — leaving all of the private documents on her bed for anyone to find! Journalism 101 indicates that if you have a private document or source, you should do all you can to secure those documents.

I’m not even going to touch upon the bias that presents itself when you fall in love with the subject of your story.

In the age of fake news, it is incredibly important to represent journalism in a fair and accurate way. A Christmas Prince should be ashamed that it is catering to the

What did you think of A Christmas Prince? Let us know in the comments below!

10 movies to put you into the Christmas spirit

By no means do you have to agree with me, but I feel like I’ve watched enough Hallmark/Lifetime Christmas movies to rank the best Christmas movies of all time. I have become an expert. There are the classics, the romantic comedies, and the plain silly ones, but some remain stuck in our hearts and minds and we end up watching them almost every time Christmas rolls around. Here are 10 Christmas movies that will make your holiday season. Grab your hot-chocolate and let’s go.

10. Love Actually

If Love Actually was not on this list, something would be severely wrong. This holiday favourite is a must watch on my list. Since it’s release in 2003, there is something about the unique story pattern of the several characters that remains to be sweet, honest, loving and romantic. The classic cue card scene is Love Actually will always give me goosebumps.

9.  The Holiday

The Holiday remains one of those feel-good romantic comedies, that will leave you inspired and hopeful, even if you are suffering from a breakup during the Christmas season. It will make you laugh and it will make you cry. Also – Jude Law, am I right ladies?

8.  The Santa Claus

I don’t recall how old I was when I first saw the Christmas movie. Released in 1994, this family comedy served up Tim Allen as an accidental replacement to Santa Claus. The Santa Claus is the first of a trilogy and gives a modern twist to a classic tale. It’s cute, cheesy, and just entertaining to watch. Apparently, our editor watched all three movies in one day!

 

7. Bad Santa

Bad Santa is definitely not your classic family-friendly film, but it will leave you laughing all the way through. Santa is unlike anything you expect and proves that the holiday season isn’t for everyone !

6. Elf

This 2003 light-hearted comedy tells the story of Buddy, played by Will Farrell, who as a human,grew up in the North Pole amongst Santa’s elves. However, he always feels like he doesn’t fit in, so he travels to New York in search of his real family. This movie provides lots of fantasy, laughs, fun, and a touch of romance.

5. Family Man

This is one that I always end up watching during the holidays. Released in 2000, this romantic comedy, explores thephrase, “be careful what you wish for”! It’s a reflection of the choices we make in life and how it impacts our future. It definitely causes you to reflect during this holiday season and be thankful for your family.

4. La La Land

While technically not a christmas movie, it was released during the holidays of 2016 and starts with an opening winter scene in balmy LA. This musical/romance flick starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone is whimsical, dramatic, and will leaving you dancing amongst the stars. Its a reflection of life, love and how our careers can inevitably take over our lives.

 

3. Serendipity

Serendipity is one of those moves that will always leave you hopeful and touched. This romantic comedy sticks true to its name. It revolves around events that happen by chance that result in a happy or magical situation. It taught me that what is meant to be will be. Love finds a way.

2.  Home Alone

Home Alone is without a doubt a holiday classic. Many people feel like it’s not Christmas time unless Home alone is on television.  Home Alone and the subsequent movies to follow in the franchise always provide fun entertainment for the family. The message is always the same: no matter how much you fight with your family and friends, nobody wants to be alone at Christmas.

The Polar Express

This 2004, 3D animated film transports us on a magical and inspiring adventure based on the children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg. Viewers are invited along for ann adventure on a magical train ride to the North Pole. This movie heightens the sense of imagination and self-discovery, especially for children.

Hope you enjoyed this list of Christmas movies? While many classics like Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas, and A Christmas Story were omitted, that doesn’t mean you can’t fit them into your viewing schedule.

Happy Watching and Happy Holidays. Comment your favourite movie below!

Here are the most Googled terms for 2017

So what’s the most Googled term for 2017? It seems like this year went by quickly, but at the same time it was a never ending year of controversy and natural disasters with a few light moments thrown in just to make sure humanity didn’t go insane. Since we spend most of our time on the Internet, it’s only natural that Google, one of the world’s most popular search engines, has released some of the most Googled search terms for 2017.

Here were the top 10:

  1. Hurricane Irma
  2. Matt Lauer
  3. Tom Petty
  4. Super Bowl
  5. Las Vegas Shooting
  6. Mayweather vs Mcgregor fight
  7. Solar Eclipse
  8. Hurricane Harvey
  9. Aaron Hernandez
  10. Fidget Spinner

This was not the only list released by Google. The popular search engine was able to compile a list of different popular categories including most Googled songs, season finales and people.

 Top three people include:

Matt Lauer

Maghan Markle

Harvey Weinstein

Top three television season finales include:

The Bachelor

This is Us

Game of Thrones

Top three movies include:

It

Beauty and the Beast

Wonder Woman

 Top three songs include:

Despacito

Humble

Bad and Boujee

and my personal favourite…

 Top three ‘how to’:

How to make slime?

How to make solar eclipse glasses?

How to watch the solar eclipse?

The ‘how to’ section remains to be the most popular according to Google data. ‘How to’ questions ranged from natural disasters to politics. ‘How to make slime?’ was the most popular question asked in the United Kingdom and the United States. Strangely, the iPhone 8 was searched for more times than the iPhone X. In terms of the most searched woman, Meghan Markle — no surprise since she stole the heart of one of the most eligible bachelors in the world. There was also an increase in the question of ‘How to buy bitcoin?’

In a statement released by Google, they said the most googled terms say a lot about the last year. “These questions show our shared desires to understand our experiences, to come to each other’s aid, and ultimately, to move our world forward.”
For the full recap, click here.

What do you think of the most googled terms for 2017? Comment below

The way we view powerful men is about to change

One by one, they all fall down — men of power, men of money, but clearly not men of finesse. Simply put, men that are lacking any form of respect for their female peers, co-workers, or acquaintances. The movement that started with the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, has grown into a festering and disturbing monster over the past few months, with almost daily cases of high-profile men who are now being exposed for their alleged sexual misconduct. What do these stories prove to us? How has society allowed these powerful men to dominate and get away with locker-room talk and disgusting predatory behaviour?

For me personally, it started with watching the fall of British actor Ed Westwick. I was a fan of his work and I grew up watching soapy drama’s like Gossip Girl. Sure, his character on the show lacked morals, and the way he played with women’s emotions was atrocious, and that time he attempted to ‘rape’ a fellow character on the show…that was all teenage drama. After all, he was playing a role. He was being ‘Chuck Bass’ . But, when this transferred into real life, and woman after woman described similar scenarios where he pinned them down and forced himself upon them, I knew he had no right. I feel terrible for the women in these situations. While no charges have been filed against Westwick, his reputation is certainly paying the price, as his shows have either been cancelled or halted.

Matt Lauer is a face I grew up watching. I thought of him as a respectable and well-known journalist on NBC. Waking up and watching the today show with Matt Lauer and Katie Couric was a tradition that many people can recall over the 20 years he has been working at the American network. And it was all ruined in a few minutes after hearing he was terminated for sexual misconduct. Lauer allegedly sexted interns and gave co-workers sex toys with notes about how they should use them. There is also the tape that TMZ found of Lauer telling once co-host Meredith Vieira, to ‘keep bending over like that’, when he thought the cameras were off air.  My view has certainly changed. How was this behaviour tolerated? Obviously the fact that he was the highest paid reporter and attracted over four million viewers with his charm each morning have him a lot of sway.

I’m now prepared to be disappointed by the familiar faces I see in the media and whose work I once admired as brilliant. Just this morning, entertainment mogul Russel Simmons stepped down as CEO from his string of companies after he was accused of “sexual misconduct”, where a woman alleged he forced her to have sex with him

Nothing gives these men the privilege to put women through years of mental and physical abuse? Probably just that — they are…. so-called men.

Let us continue to speak out against any form of abuse to women and may the fall from grace for these powerful men mark a turning point in history for women around the world .

 

Snowstorm a sign of the apocolypse or just normal Canadian weather?

The late winter weather in Toronto has left many people feeling shaken. It appears that climate change is rearing its ugly head, making spring something akin to living in an ice box.

This change in the weather has left many struggling to prepare for a severe winter storm set to hit the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area — because apparently, as Canadians, we are easily frazzled by the mere possibility of this newfangled thing called snow. It is the Great White North after all. Snow in March isn’t that unusual. Still feel the need to bunk down in your basement and prepare for the next 48 hours of high winds and below freezing temperatures? Don’t worry, Women’s Post is here to help.

If by some random chance, the weather does become catastrophic, it is important to have an emergency kit. Everyone needs to have an emergency bag on the off chance that a natural disaster occurs, but what should go in it? Definitely include a flashlight with extra batteries and an extra phone battery if possible. Being able to contact people in the case of an emergency, especially when the power is out, is incredibly important. Also have a few non-perishable foods, toilet paper, and a first aid kit on hand. Some reports say to keep cash on hand to purchase goods if the ATM machines spark out, but it’s also handy to bribe people to help you in the case of an apocalypse. You can also burn it to stay warm!

If this “storm” turns out to be a few snowflakes and a slight chill wind, which is the more likely option here in every-centimetre-of-snow-is-a-disaster Toronto, take the time to hang out with family and enjoy yourself. Read a few good books and catch up on a Netflix series, and try not to let the cold air depress you. It will pass soon enough and spring will be well on its way. Take advantage of being able to cozy up in your slippers and cuddle with your loved ones. This final stretch of winter is manageable as long as chocolate and warm drinks are involved. If you have an indoor fire, make sure to turn that on for an added touch.

Winter is almost over (unless the apocalypse really is upon us) and doing relaxing indoor activities in the last stretch is the best way to survive this last big snow storm.  Be sure to enjoy how bright and beautiful the snow really is. Try and appreciate how that fluffy white stuff clings to the trees and makes everything so silent and still. Soon it will be gone for good and the warmth will set in. In a way, won’t you miss the ethereal beauty of the snowy weather.

Or will you? Just kidding…you definitely won’t!

I got a tattoo alone — and it gave me strength

People are constantly distracted and surrounded by other people all the time — talking, thinking, and spending time with people. Maybe you are collaborating on a project, working with a team, or eating dinner with family or friends. Someone else is always there!! So, let us ask you this: doesn’t it make you exhausted? When are you able to spend some quality time with the one person you wake and go to sleep with? Yes, yours truly!

I asked myself this very question. Though most of these human interactions were special and lovely, I found myself growing more exhausted because I wasn’t replenishing myself with any much-needed ‘me’ time. I decided I was going to take myself on a date. Instead of inviting someone out with me for an evening, I challenged myself to hang out on my own. Though this is initially very uncomfortable, I knew it was necessary.

I embarked out on my own for the evening with no set plan, but I was excited and nervous for the realm of possibilities. I was walking down the street in the drizzling rain, feeling a bit lonely, and I nearly pulled out my phone to call someone to distract myself. I stopped myself just in time, and that’s when something caught my eye; a tattoo parlour.

Right then and there, I knew what to do. I was planning to get a second tattoo on my wrist for years, but had put it off due to financial constraints and fear. With my previous tattoos, I had always brought a friend or partner with me for support and to hold my hand. I resisted the urge to call a friend that lived nearby and forged ahead bravely. I opened the door, linked up with a great tattoo artist and signed the consent.

That’s when the panic set in.

I was alone — who would hold my hand? I almost walked out of the salon right there and then, but a voice in the back of my head said no. I knew I had to stay and do this on my own.

I needed an opportunity to show myself that I could be my own support. I breathed deeply and coached myself through the pain. I told myself I could handle it and everything was okay. I knew that I was capable. I calmed down and in no time, the tattoo was complete and I felt amazing. I walked out of the tattoo place with more than a new tattoo on my wrist. I had a new sense of being grounded in my own life.

We all choose where we go and what we do each day. It may seem like circumstances are out of your control, like you have to spend most of your time living for others, but this is a choice. Supporting yourself through something scary or new without needing another person to be there is strengthening and creates spiritual renewal. So, get out there and take yourself for a night on the town! Start with someone simple like a movie on your own (and a giant bag of popcorn), and work your way up to a dinner out. Then, if you are feeling brave, try something new and fresh solo (as long as it is safe to do alone, no hiking trips up a mountain!).

After I left with my new tattoo, I treated myself to a dinner at my favourite restaurant, which I only attend alone. I make a point to have a secret restaurant that I only go to when I have date nights with myself. It’s a place where I order a meal and eat it nice and slowly. I let my thoughts take over. These nights are always a time of peace and solitude. Find a secret spot you love and keep it for you.

If you have personal time, you will learn to really love yourself — there is always time for that.