FringeBlog

What’s your scene? Lit, food, arts, music, theatre, find out what’s happening in the city of churches.

  • Two 4 One at Image+Nation

    Maureen Bradley’s first feature film tells the story of a female-to-male transgender person who accidentally gets pregnant while trying to help his ex-girlfriend get pregnant through artificial insemination.

    Bradley first read about trans men six years ago when she and her partner and were trying to get pregnant. She read an anecdote in a book written by a midwife about a trans man who accidentally got pregnant many years ago. She had also heard about trans persons getting pregnant intentionally, such as Thomas Beatie who bore three children.

    “Becoming accidentally pregnant when the goal of your life is to become a man is just such a great story,” Bradley said, mentioning that nobody wants to watch movies about people having a great life when it does not reflect everyone’s reality.

    A study in the American medical journal Obstetrics and Gynecology on a sample of 41 transgender people showed that more trans men were getting pregnant in the last decade than ever before.

    “[The film] touches a lot on the whole queer baby boom with intentional families and artificial insemination,” she said.

    Bradley never dreamt she would be making a feature-length film; her experiences beforehand were mostly in creating short films.

    “It was like a roller coaster ride, it was absolutely terrifying sometimes,” she said, comparing directing a feature to running a marathon.

    It took her about two years to get the story off the ground. She was amazed the actors and crew dedicated themselves to the project for the love of cinema and not money.

    Her first film, which screened at Image+Nation in 1990, was the documentary We’re Here, We’re Queer, We’re Fabulous.

    The documentary was inspired by events in Montreal in July 1989, when the police beat up and arrested LGBT protesters during a sit-in and “kiss-in.” It was the first time Bradley made anything other than short films.

    “The impetus for me was getting our lives on screen, telling our stories our own way and not being demonized by Hollywood,” she said.

    She mentions the examples of cross-dresser or transgender serial killers from the movies Silence of the Lambs and Dressed to Kill, which had a huge impact on how the general public perceived transgender people for decades. One of her goals was to play with that stereotype.

    “It’s not about creating positive images of queer people, it’s about really asking some interesting questions,” she added. The movement of queer festivals in the early ’90s was amazing to her, as no popularized venue for viewing LGBT cinema had been created yet.

    It was important for her to make a film with humour. Bradley hopes viewers leave the room with a sense of catharsis.

  • Image+Nation Nudges the Horizon

    • Photo courtesy of Image+Nation

    • Photo courtesy of Image+Nation

    The 27th edition of Canada’s first LGBT festival Image + Nation runs from Nov. 20 to Nov. 30. During these 10 days viewers will have a choice of 22 feature films, 12 documentaries and six short films from the four corners of the world.

    One of the festival’s mandates is to screen local films from across Canada. This year’s festival will host three features and four documentaries by Canadian producers including a handful of Canadian short films.

    “We do have a record number of Canadian films this year,” said Katharine Setzer, the festival’s programming director, who is pleased with this year’s selection.

    The festival started in 1988 with a small group of queer artists and academics who wanted to see reflections of queer culture they could relate to. They got together as volunteers and began organizing and screening films. The ‘90s saw a deluge of what came to be called New Queer Cinema—films by and for the queer community. These new empowering images went against the negative stereotypes of Hollywood films: they portrayed LGBT people and their stories.

    Among the Canadian films Setzer mentioned are Guidance by Pat Mills, True Love co-directed by Kate Johnston and Shauna MacDonald and Two 4 One directed by Maureen Bradley, a Concordia graduate. She also mentioned local documentaries XYZ—Portraits d’un transformation and _Guilda: Elle est bien dans ma peau. _

    Queerment Québec will also be screened at the festival, a collection of local shorts that promote the work of Quebec and Canadian artists.

    This year, the festival also puts a strong focus on films coming out of Latin America.

    “In the last three years, there has been a watershed of images that come out of Latin and South American countries,” Setzer said.

    The opening film The Way He Looks is a Brazilian award winning film. The festival also includes a “New Latin Voices” segment, a collection of Latin short films.

    The Vanguard Series is a collection of documentaries celebrating queer mavericks. The documentary Limited Partnership talks about the first couple to challenge marriage laws in the United States and their fight of 40 years.

    When asked which movie was a must-see, Setzer recommend three.

    The first is Appropriate Behaviour by Iranian-American filmmaker Desiree Akhavan. She writes, produces and stars in the movie as a bisexual reminiscing about her relationships.

    The second is Of Girls and Horses by German filmmaker Monika Treut. This film is about a depressed teenager who finds comfort in the use of drugs. She arrives at a farm where she cares for horses and builds new relationships.

    Her last recommendation is Lilting by Cambodian-British filmmaker Hong Khaou. Setzer described the film as a difficult but touching, nuanced and beautiful film about a complex triangle between a Cambodian-Chinese mother, her departed son and his lover.

    Setzer strongly encourages everyone to view the different programs of short films this year, including Homomundo and Lesbomundo.

    Image+Nation has something for everyone; many of the films touch on deep human issues. The festival is not restricted to queer people only.

    “It is a collection of the most amazing, independent cinema that has been made in the past year,” Setzer said.

    Student ticket prices: $9.50
    Cinephile pass: $110 for 10 tickets
    Special events tickets: $13+

  • The Double Edge of Relevance: Iñárritu’s “Birdman”

    • photo courtesy Associated Press/Fox Searchlight.

    As a theatre geek, I was more enthralled with Alejandro Iñárritu’s masterpiece Birdman than, say, The Boyfriend sitting next to me trying to cop a feel during the last 25 minutes (I mean, who hasn’t in a dark theatre watching a seemingly dreary hollywood drama?) wondering idly if the movie was almost over.

    Iñáritu’s Birdman tells the story of a washed-up actor (played with distinction by Michael Keaton) struggling to stay relevant amidst the “cultural genocide” of the Marvel juggernauts and social media titans. A cultural icon of the ‘80s, Riggan Thomson puts his heart and soul into a production he wrote, directed, and starred in (a production which is unfortunately and obviously a thinly veiled parallel of his own life) hoping to create art from the fragments of his past life as a mass-produced, all-American family-approved consumerist good.

    However, his highly-developed schizophrenia (also apparently residual telekinesis from playing Birdman) and consequent unreliability as a narrator makes the audience wonder whether or not he even cares about making art, forcing the audience to question whether art itself can have any relevance.

    I had mixed feelings about Keaton’s character. Clearly he cared about his craft, but his desire to stay relevant in a society that turned him into a cult icon and had all but forgotten him overshadowed any possibility for him to truly be considered an “artist.” But what’s the mark of an authentic artist anyway? According to Iñárritu, it doesn’t even matter. All that matters is that you put everything you have into your craft and do the absolute best that you can (Oh no, this review just got suspiciously self-reflective).

    Iñárritu’s production was a satire of a satire on art that was able to make fun of people who decide what art is and isn’t, while simultaneously presenting itself as a Hollywood drama under the guise of an art house movie. It made fun of everyone and everything, from Justin Bieber to the entire Marvel universe (taking a few jabs in particular at Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark).
    Ultimately, this was a movie about not being forgotten, culminating in a painful minute-long segment of Keaton unabashedly walking around Times Square in nought but his tighty-whities whilst passersby flock about in droves, filming and documenting every humiliating moment. It may have been possible to be forgotten 20 years ago, but the advent of social media and accessibility to WiFi and 3G everywhere has allowed every instance of our lives to be perpetually available on the Internet.

    During a shouting match with his daughter, played by a barely recognizable Emma Stone (though that may have been due to the fish-eye lens used to film the whole movie, to great effect), Riggan is forced to confront the reality that he doesn’t matter anymore and the only way to resurface is to throw in the towel and join the masses on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
    The film also touched upon the continuing debate between stage and screen: which is the purer art? It’s true that film allows for more room to manoeuvre (multiple takes, fed lines) while the stage is immediate (if you mess up, everyone will know). Although film demands an incredible ability to pretend, particularly on the actor’s part when, for example, acting in front of a green screen, there is a sense of heightened reality when acting on stage; it is truly in-the-moment and can feel real in the way that no screen production can.

    With unflinching shots that could last up to five minutes, the cast and crew of Birdman managed to recreate the heightened reality of a staged production with the edgy yet graceful feel of an indie movie. Accompanied by erratic and electric jazz drum beats, juxtaposed with Strauss-esque orchestral breaks during moments of recollection of past triumph, Iñárritu’s Birdman is sure to be a contender in the Gladiator arena of the 80-somethingth annual Academy Awards.

  • RIDM Review: Stop Making Sense

    To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Jonathan Demme’s exhilarating live concert film Stop Making Sense, Montreal’s RIDM film festival screened the Talking Heads’ explosive performance in Concordia’s Hall Building, as part of the festival’s ‘Beat Dox’ section. Why? “Just for pleasure,” programer Bruno Dequen explained. Shot during three performances in Los Angeles in December 1983, the film was a unique rock’n’roll event and modernist performance piece, involving a highly creative band at the height of its popularity. (The Heads had just scored their biggest mainstream success with the album “Speaking in Tongues”).
    Seeing the film in this setting was a thrill and the small audience came out deliriously restless, forgetting the season’s first snows and end of term stress.
    The film’s virtuosity owes as much to the Heads’ musical originality and ecstatic stage presence as to Demme’s skillful filmic orchestration and minimalistic staging, which immerse us in the band’s sonic eclecticism and electric onstage personalities. David Byrne designed the stage lighting and the elegantly plain performance-art environments (three screens used for backlit side projections; no glitter, no sleaze.
    The film opens with a low-key tracking shot of David Byrne’s white sneakers walking on a bare stage. He deposits a ghetto-blaster on the floor, turns it on, straps on an acoustic guitar and fires away with classic “Psycho Killer”. Eventually, he is joined onstage by the radiant Tina Weymouth on bass (she later performs her other band Tom Tom Club’s hit ‘Genius of Love’), and visible stagehands wander out from the wings and begin to assemble a platform for drummer Chris Frantz. Gear is moved into place, electrical cables are attached, so as to clearly strip any illusion of artifice. Then arrive backup singers Edna Holt and Lynn Mabry, to amplify Byrne’s chanting with gospel exuberance, and with each song, the concert gains joyous momentum as more musicians arrive on the vast stage.
    With two handheld and six lock-in cameras, director of photography Jordan Cronenweth tracks playfully across the stage in a series of long shots, to let us relish in each musician’s quirky dance moves close up, or cuts skillfully from one to the other in rhythmic unison with the songs’ dynamic verve. The dynamic cinematography really sets the concert apart by visually replicating the songs’ rhythmic pulse and frenzied repetitions. Sideway profile shots reveal a dynamic row of individually generous characters, each hopping and jiggling, up and down the stage.
    The band’s flamboyant energy emerges solely through their collective performance, often cited as a mix of rock’n’roll, aerobics and pantomime. The group is a superb oddity and its members obviously enjoy nothing more than playing together.

    Byrne is a stupefying performer: gaunt and slick in his oversize, light-coloured suit, handsome yet outlandishly kooky, he never, ever stops moving, whether he is jogging in place or around the entire stage, bobbing his head like a chicken or dancing with a lamp.
    His geeky, birdlike appearance makes a hilarious parody of the usual frontman’s poised swagger.
    Byrne surges and growls, along a driving beat, a slippery bass backbone, funky guitar currents, bubbling percussions, and whining, space-alien keyboard solos.
    The sound engineering is flawless.

    Very little emphasis is put throughout on the audience, but by the last number, several shots do linger on some totally loosened up and euphoric spectators, whose inhibitions have definitely been eclipsed.
    The nine talking heads and their infectious vitality, greatly enhanced by the sound quality, fresh cinematography and state of the art staging, demand to be experienced full-size.
    RIDM certainly supplied that privilege.
    The spectator felt at arm’s distance from the band, and couldn’t refrain from jerking along, exiting happily to “Make Flippy Floppy”! Stop Making Sense, on the whole, made a lot of sense.

  • Creating the Slight Ethos

    The swirling art-pop and psychedelic sounds of Slight will be ringing loud this Friday night, as the Montreal band performs live at Casa Del Popolo on St. Laurent.

    With their new drummer Ryan White, Ontario native guitarist Michael Hahn and Danji Buck-Moore from Maine will be focused on executing their intricate tunes and three-part harmonies with a more eclectic array of instruments than you thought imaginable.

    Ever heard of a 1967 Italian combo organ? “It’s kind of the heart and soul of the operation,” said Hahn.

    Buck-Moore will be the one playing the instrument that he calls his “relentless electric wave of audio current.”

    This alongside the bass on the organ, a 1985 chord-synthesizer, a sampler keyboard and the shared task of singing lead and background vocals.

    “By playing bass on the organ, I’m subtracting what would be another person on the band,” he said.

    Hahn, on the other hand, sings lead and background vocals while filling the spaces with his guitar.

    “It’s logistically easier to work with fewer people, especially in a city where everyone’s overloaded with too many bands,” Buck-Moore said.

    “Trying to get four people on the same aesthetic wavelength is kind of crazy if you’re not a super tight-knit group. Getting it to be coherent as a trio is already difficult enough,” said Hahn.

    For now, they prefer to pull all the weight on their own. They describe their songs as being equally about melody, harmony and texture, despite being a three-person band.

    With McGill music diplomas in their back pockets, both Hahn and Buck-Moore enjoy the creative process of self-producing and working on their songs in great detail.

    “We’re really into the production side of things. It’s always a super learning process,” said Buck-Moore.

    “Every time we go through it I just get so excited,” added Hahn.

    In terms of do-it-yourself recording, Montreal has a wealth of help and resources, as the band has learned through experience.

    “We really take advantage of it,” Buck-Moore said. “So many people are willing to help out and let you lend their stuff or work in their mixing studio. It’s such a good vibe.”

    Their goal is to ultimately put out an album, and eventually get help to put out a commercial release. They have already started writing new material, but the thought of a full record is still something that scares Hahn.

    “To have 10 or 12 songs that are all the best songs you can write and have a stylistic coherence is definitely a big challenge […] we’re working on it.”

    On Friday they’ll be playing a few songs off their self-released EPs. Their favourite thing about performing live is the execution of the arrangements they put together.

    “It’s a really wonderful opportunity to concentrate and milk yourself for all you’re able to do,” said Buck-Moore. “In the end, it’s about communicating to whoever’s in the room [and] performing at 100 per cent of what your ability is.”

    For Hahn, performing live allows for an element of variability between the musicians.

    “It’s the nights when [you’re] really conscious of each other […] and that feeling of communication.”

    Slight’s music is available on their Bandcamp website : http://slightsound.bandcamp.com

    *Slight Concert// Nov. 14 // Casa Del Popolo (4873 St. Laurent Blvd.) // 9 p.m. // $6 *