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An uber movement: Women share their journeys

 

Share Her Journey’ is a five-year TIFF initiative, which aims at reversing the current situation of underrepresentation of women in the film industry through a mix of concerted advocacy and fundraising efforts to achieve gender parity in film both on screen and behind the camera.

Last year’s data show that of the top 250 films, only 18 percent employed women directors, writers, producers and editors. In the same year, of the top 250 films 30 percent employed women in technical jobs behind the scenes.

Yesterday, I attended the ‘Share Her Journey’ rally where a few thousand people gathered on King Street to hear a panel of well-respected women in film speak in the name of all the women in the industry to advocate for gender parity and diversity. According to one of the speakers on the panel, Geena Davis, who looked out from the stage, the crowd was full of men, which is significant evidence that change is actually happening. Men are listening and perhaps rethinking behaviours that may not have not violated basic rules of consent, decency, and respect, but were still a reflection of gender inequality.

Geena Davis delivered a very inspiring speech which can be summarized by her statement “no more missed opportunities.” Since 2009, Geena has devoted herself advocating for more gender equality on screen through the Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media. She said that in order to move forward and in the right direction, the leaders in the industry need to shift from an “unconscious gender bias” to a more “conscious gender bias”. The gender imbalance issue can be solved very quickly almost instantly by changing male first names into female first names in scripts, turning male characters into female characters, “If a script says ‘a crowd gathered’, add comma, ‘half of which is female’.”

Dr. Stacy L. Smith, Founder and Director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, took the stage later “to depress” the crowd with some more stats that confirm a lack of inclusion and diversity in the entertainment industry. Stacey describes the steps that she feels need to be taken in order to move forward. The first step is accountability: “Companies need to set inclusion goals, and the public needs to hold those companies accountable.”; second is community: She has worked with the Geena Davis Institute for a number of years and she knows that connection is empowering. The third step is tenacity: in other words, never give up. “We must feel that our voices and our stories matter” Stacey said.

Other speakers on the panel included director Nandita Das who shared her experience as a “female director”. She explains that after years of taking offense about being addressed as a female director, she started to own it.

Mia Kirshner, Canadian actor and co-founder of the #AfterMeToo movement, talked about the lack of resources available to survivors of sexual harassment.

Amma Asante relays her experience as a director of colour being told that her project to make a film about World War I was too big for her.

Actress Amanda Brugel brought in the perspective of a mother and the necessity to teach young boys the proper way to behave so that they will not have to unlearn later on in life. She calls herself a “male mobilizer” as opposed to a “male sympathizer”. She urged everyone to call out inappropriate behavior, not to support the work of people who have been found guilty with sexually-related charges, and to support the work of women.

Finally, another accomplished woman took to stage, Cathy Schulman, film producer and winner of an Academy Award for Crash in 2004. Cathy urged artists to create art that makes a difference and executives running companies, to hire people who reflect diversity.

Sharing ideas and stories with others on social media has helped to create powerful movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp which have forced everyone to rethink, refocus, regroup, reframe, and relearn. In other words, let’s keep talking about it, let’s make some noise and let’s share the journey.

Where to go stargazing for celebrities at TIFF 2017

Toronto is getting glamorous! The Toronto International Film Festival is in town and along with several red carpet premieres, there will be lots of hot and exciting things to do in the city. The official TIFF guide  can help you choose the best film, but if you are just into stargazing and possibly meeting celebrities, check out some popular places to explore for TIFF 2017.

Restaurants

Frings

This popular King-West restaurant has attracted a lot of attention since it opened in 2015. Managed by Executive Chef Susur Lee, this resto-lounge lists Toronto’s very own Aubrey “Drake” Graham as an owner. This comes as no surprise since the star is often spotted here when in town with his celebrity friends. Drake is expected to be in town for this year’s TIFF, as he is the executive producer on a basketball documentary called The Carter Effect.

 

Bosk

Comfortably located at the Shangri-La Hotel on University Avenue, this popular Asian-themed restaurant is familiar to many famous faces. The distinct menu features modern Asian dishes with a Canadian touch. In the past, celebrities such as George Clooney and Johnny Deep were spotted dining here.

STK

This hotspot made its debut after TIFF 2016 and is nestled in the heart of Yorkville. As you can guess by the name,  this restaurant serves up delicious steaks among other bites. This year, the restaurant will host the Creative Coalition Spotlight Initiative gala on September 8. This gala is organized to honour certain celebrities that have contributed in some form. This non-profit charity is concerned about issues in the creative community. This year they will honour Jason Biggs, Zachary Quinto, Julienne Nicholson and Matthew Newton.

Luma

It won’t be right to have this list and not mention the official restaurant at the TIFF Bell Lightbox building. Located on the second floor at the spacious King-West space, this restaurant serves up authentically Canadian dishes in an upscale environment.

Bars

Everleigh

With so much happening for TIFF this weekend, there are expected to be lots of glamorous after parties hosted by celebs. On September 8, King-West hotspot Everleigh will be hosting musical sensation Akon. Akon has sold over 35 million albums worldwide and he’s come to share some of his talent in Toronto for TIFF.

Lavelle

This rooftop bar has gained a lot of momentum since its debut in 2016. What makes this party place lively is its location 16 storeys up in the busy King-West area and a sprawling 16,000 sq. ft lounge space. With an indoor and outdoor dining space, and a glamorous rooftop pool, this hotspot also boasts a great view of the CN tower. In 2016, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and John Legend all attended the Hugo Boss party hosted for La La Land.

 

RBC House

RBC is an official sponsor of TIFF so its no surprise they will be hosting many parties for the celebs. Storys Building at 11 Duncan street will be the location for RBC House and will lay out the red carpet for many A- listers. Expected to make appearances are Nicole Kidman and Penelope Cruz. RBC House will also host many press junkets and a RBCX music party headlined by Canadian rock band, Arkells.

 

The Drake Hotel

This boutique hotel on Queen West is often more than just a hotel. With three levels of partying, the Drake Hotel has a lot of offer. From delicious brunches and a café in the day, the main level of the hotel bar often hosts live bands or dj’s by night.

Hotels

Bisha Hotel Toronto

This newly opened hotel is sure to be busy during the TIFF weekend. This luxury hotel located on Blue Jays Way in the heart of the city has a stunning rooftop pool and patio — 44 floors high. This hotel is classed as a luxury 5-star experience, so expect celebrities to be checking this one out.

 

Ritz Carlton Toronto

The Ritz is a classic hotel name and one where you may see many stars. This luxury five-star hotel is in the heart of the city, and just steps away from the official TIFF headquarters. One of the many delights you can enjoy at this hotel is their themed afternoon tea. This September there will be a Great Gatsby theme. Afternoon tea at the Ritz will cost you $54 dollars per person, but it’s a small amount to pay to possibly see a famous face.

The Four Seasons Toronto

This classic hotel is in the heart of Yorkville. After changing locations, they reopened doors in 2012. The Four Seasons is now located at the corner of Bay and Yorkville avenue and is also home to the Four Seasons private residences. Soaring 55 stories above the city, this hotel often has many special offers and packages such as a bed and breakfast package, a spa package and even a limited ‘Canada turns 150’ credit. These packages only require a stay of 1-2 nights.

The Hazelton Hotel

This Yorkville luxury hotel is only a few doors down from the Four Seasons, but is still a celeb favourite. Blake Lively, Ben Affleck, Julia Roberts, and Brad Pitt have all reportedly stayed here. If you want to scope this hotel out, the best bet is having a drink at the hotel’s famous ONE restaurant, featuring a lovely tree lined patio.

 

Where have you gone for stargazing? Let us know in the comment below!

 

 

Life-changing documentaries released in 2016

Documentaries are one of the most influential tools of education in our modern world. People are constantly immersed in images, video, multimedia, and social media, creating an information-overload culture that sometimes makes it difficult for messages to get through. That’s what’s so great about documentaries. There is nothing more thought-provoking than showing people through the lens of a camera the realities of the world we live in and the importance of changing it.

Which documentaries are the best so far in 2016? Here is a list worth checking out. Get ready to think, learn and discuss.

Before the Flood (2016). Directed by Fisher Stevens.
Before the Flood (2016). Directed by Fisher Stevens.

Before the Flood

Before the Flood was a documentary that was all the buzz at its release at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) last month in Toronto. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, the main subject leads an investigative journey around the world about climate change. The documentary was directed by Fisher Stevens, who made The Cove. Martin Scorsese is an executive producer for the film.  DiCaprio is a UN Ambassador of Peace and is dedicated to raising world awareness for climate change. Barack Obama, an avid environmentalist as well, is featured in the film. This is arguably one of the most awaited environmental documentaries of the year. It will be released on October 21 2016 by National Geographic.

Amy (2016). Directed by Asaf Kapadia.
Amy (2016). Directed by Asaf Kapadia.

Amy

Directed by Asif Kapadia, Amy takes the viewer on the life journey of singer Amy Winehouse, including her downhill climb into drugs and alcohol, ending in her death on July 23, 2011. The documentary explains how Winehouse began as an aspiring jazz singer and her soulful voice led to her success relatively quickly. It then describes how her complex relationship with her father and a troubled relationship led her into drug and alcohol addiction. Winehouse deteriorates and becomes severely anorexic, leading her to be the butt of many international jokes by tabloid media. The documentary gives an intimate background into how a life of fame can make a person crack, and how despite her fame and success, she felt quite alone. This documentary is definitely worth watching. Amy won a 2016 academy award for best documentary feature this past year.

 

The power lines. Provided by Koneline.
The power lines. Provided by Koneline.

Koneline

Koneline is a Canadian-made film and focuses on the Tahltan native clan, located in Northern B.C. It features the various elements that affect people of Northern B.C., ranging from the impact of the mining industry to hunting in the region. Director Nettie Wild portrays the northern landscape in such a beautiful manner, it becomes mesmerizing to the viewer and tells the story of the land, highlighting the influence imagery and filmography can have on expressing how land affects people. Wild attempts to demonstrate how the various people who live n Northern B.C have a story and perspective into their struggle to survive in the area and how working together will bring peace and understanding. Koneline won Best Canadian Feature Documentary award at Hot Docs in 2016, and is being screened at several venues across Canada.

Amanda Knox (2016). Directed by Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn.
Amanda Knox (2016). Directed by Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn.

Amanda Knox

Amanda Knox follows the life of American college student, Knox, who was falsely charged with the murder of her roommate, British student, Meredith Kercher. Knox was sentenced to jail in 2017 for 26 years and served four years before being acquitted in 2011. The documentary focuses strongly on the negative power of media sensationalism and how it can ruin people’s lives. The story is told from Knox’s perspective and also includes her then-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, who was also convicted and later acquitted. The film is directed by Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn and was released on Sept. 10, 2016 on Netflix.

Cameraperson (2016). Directed by Kirsten Johnson.
Cameraperson (2016). Directed by Kirsten Johnson.

Cameraperson

Cameraperson is an autobiographical account of the influence of filmmaking on director Kirsten Johnson. She creates a compilation of work and combines it into a fascinating journey of how filmography can impact the person who creates it. The film showcases postwar Bosnia, a housewife in Nigeria, and other glimpses into Johnson’s 25-year career. The documentary runs deep and lends a glimpse into the rarely seen perspective of the filmographer as the main subject. Previously Kirsten Johnson has received a Sundance Film Festival Excellence in Cinematography award: U.S Documentary for The Oath (2010) that told the story of Osama Bin Laden’s driver, Abu Jandal. She was the cinematographer for Citizen Four (2014), which was the documentary that told the story of Edward Snowden, a previous employee of the NSA. Cameraperson was released on September 9 2016.

What documentaries have you watched? Let us know in the comments below!

Gingger Shankar’s Nari premiers at TIFF

Gingger Shankar is a singer, violist, and composer. She comes from a musical family and has toured the globe for a long time. With a couple of film scores already under her belt, fans can now look forward to Shankar’s own project, Nari, which celebrated its world premier at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film captures the story about the singer’s mom and grandma and their involvement with the huge Indian music explosion into the West in the 1960’s and 1970’s with George Harrison and Ravi Shankar.

When and why did you decide to be a singer?

I grew up with music my whole life. I can’t even tell you when it started. I just remember being around a lot of concerts, being around musicians and rehearsals. I think it was sort of natural that I became a musician. I don’t think I could’ve been anything else.

You’re the only woman in the world that plays double violin! What sparked your interest in learning how to play it?

The double violin is an instrument that covers the whole orchestra range. It covers the piano, viola, bass, and cello. The reason I wanted to play it was because I travel to a lot of music festivals travelling and with a violin, viola, and trying to take everything was really difficult. I wanted one instrument that covered the whole range. The double violin did this and it’s amazing because it has a very unique sound to it and it covers the whole orchestra range. I’ve been playing it for over 10 years. It’s a great instrument to sort of use for live performances and my film scores.

Tell me about Nari.

It’s a short film documentary and performance piece. So altogether, it’s a multimedia piece. My grandmother passed away a couple of years ago. And she gave me these scrapbooks. I knew [my mom and grandma] were part of the music scene at that time but I didn’t know how much. Once I knew they were on every record cover, and they recorded music, conducted orchestras, sang, and travelled, I knew there was a story to be told, especially as women. I think sometimes women get overshadowed by the men so it was important for me to tell their story.

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Shankar’s grandmother and mother; Lakshmi and Viji Shankar.

What was your thought process during the making of this project?

I was talking to my partner during this project, Dave Liang. He’s from the Shanghai Restoration Project. We had worked on another project before. I was telling him about these scrapbooks and he immediately looked at me and said “You have to do something with them!” We started on this journey together and then we brought on our artistic director, Yunfan Sun, who took these beautiful photographs and started animating them. It really started from the music, though. We had these recordings of my mother which had never been released and they were so beautiful. We started remixing them and building a whole new record out of them. It was from this that the whole project sort of came about.

How was the experience of bringing Indian influences into Western culture?

It’s basically North and South Indian culture. We were really lucky because we had talked to Cameron Bailey about this project, as well as Nobu Adilman. He completely got the music and knew what it was about. There’s also a very large population of South Indians in Toronto so we were welcome with open arms. It was very exciting.

Who are your musical inspirations?

My mother is probably my biggest musical inspiration. I also listen to a lot of Indian and Western music. I love Madonna as much as I love a classical Indian artist.

Any upcoming projects for your fans to look forward to?

Yeah! I’m currently working on my own eclectic pop record called Beautiful Imperfections. We’re starting to do a lot of shows on that and it will be released early next year.

Follow her on Twitter @GinggerShankar!

WATCH: This TIFF short about Facebook will make you hate your computer

This unique Canadian short film, Noah, explores something we don’t see in too many other movies: just how much our online lives have supplanted our real interactions.

“In a story that plays out entirely on a teenager’s computer screen, Noah follows its eponymous protagonist as his relationship takes a rapid turn for the worse in this fascinating study of behaviour (and romance) in the digital age.”

The film by Walter Woodman and Patrick Cederberg explores the concept of isolation in a world where we are so connected to everyone around us all the time and has the added benefit of making you want to disconnect from Facebook and throw your laptop out the window.

Let us know what you think in the comments below. Is the strange girl on Chat Roulette right to think that Facebook is destroying our lives? Have you ever done the not-so-unthinkable and hacked your significant other’s Facebook account to get dirt on them?

 

Follow Travis on Twitter at @TravMyers.