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  • An Overview of Le Festival Du Nouveau Cinéma

    • photo courtesy by The Festival Du nouveau cinéma

    Le Festival Du nouveau cinéma has been over the past decade, the best film fest in Montreal. Year after year, the organizers have practically outdone themselves in concocting a program that would satisfy the most fervent of cinema fans.

    Over the next 14 days, I will be cramming into my schedule close to 40 movies from more than 20 countries. You can call it a film geek’s wet dream or you can call it movie overload. If you are a fan of cinema and always think outside the box, Le Festival Du nouveau cinéma is for you with its eclectic selection and all around satisfying vibe.

    A Selection a Movies to catch at this year’s FDNC

    David Cronenberg’s Map to the Stars got pushed back to 2015, in spite of the probability that Julianne Moore’s performance could have easily nabbed a best actress nod. She plays a down-and-out actress, desperate for her next big shot. In fact, every time she’s on screen the film ignites with excitement. Moore hasn’t been this fascinating in years and fully deserved her Best Actress prize at Cannes earlier in May. In Map to the Stars she plays a down and out actress desperate for her comeback role, suffice to say, it never comes. Cronenberg pushes every character in his movie to the furthest edge possible, no one leaves unscathed and the results –however over the top they may be-are pure Cronenberg: served black. It’s a Hollywood satire that pokes fun at the elite, the characters remind you of stars like Lindsay Lohan and Justin Bieber among others. The darts are toxic and the end result is disturbing.

    In Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal lost close to thirty pounds to give his creepiest performance ever as Lou Bloom. With shades of Travis Bickle, this astoundingly intense movie has Gyllenhaal chasing down murder scenes and videotaping them for L.A news outlets in exchange for cash. It’s a shady business and Gyllenhaal’s character is a dirtbag trying to make it to the big time, even if it means having to blackmail, lie or murder his way through fame and fortune. Bloom is a driven man, reminiscent of a sociopath, whose motivation and seeming lack of empathy make him successful at what he does. As a character, he grows more and more “motivated” and seems to learn his business in such a way to bring him amazing success, but to the determinant, perhaps, of his assistant and the victims of these crimes. This was the best acting performance I saw at TIFF and at festival’s end everybody was still talking about Gyllenhaal. It’s the kind of performance that can’t be forgotten—and the best of his exceptional but young career.

    Jean-Marc Vallée struck gold last year for Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club and this year he might do the same magic for Reese Witherspoon’s passionate performance in “Wild” as a grief-stricken woman who decides to go through a gruelling 1000 mile hike through the pacific crest trail all by herself. The highly talented actress has never been better than in this movie, and the film itself is bravely directed and shot by Vallée. The film recalls Sean Penn’s Into the Wild and Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours in its main characters’ brave and isolated searches for their own identities and self worth.

    Belgian Director Fabrice Du Welz doesn’t make safe, comforting movies. His movies are raw, edgy and tremendously provoking to the senses. His newest film is called Allelujah and is his twist on the Honeymoon Killers. Starring Lola Duenas and Laurent Lucas in memorably twisted performances, it’s the kind of movie that it’s better to know nothing of before immersing yourself into its no-rule world. I can say this: A man and a woman fall in love and decide to go on a Bonnie and Clyde-like killing spree filled with jealousy, violence and lustful vengeance. The result is unshakeable and the kind of film with the potential to achieve cult status.

  • FlashMode: A Way to Enhance Old Montreal’s Creatives

    The Société de développement commercial du Vieux-Montréal held FlashMode, an evening to showcase local fashion designers and boutiques, at the Darling Foundry on Oct. 1, opening the city’s fashion events calendar for the month.

    For its second edition, the invitation-only event began with a cocktail from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Guests helped themselves to free sparkling wine and appetizers. Approximately 400 people then watched a runway showcase featuring designs from the Old Montreal’s boutiques.

    Clothes were chosen by nine fashion bloggers, including Lolitta Dandoy (Fashion is Everywhere), Jean-Pierre Desnoyers (Ton Barbier) and Camille Dg (Le Cahier). A photography exposition by stylist Simon Venne and photographer Anouk Lessard was also presented to guests.

    Moreover, temporary tattoos were offered to everyone. The Centre Phi’s pop-up boutique used the event as a way to advertise its limited-edition prints. By putting the images on their skin, fashion influencers promoted the boutique’s printing experience.

    SDC Vieux-Montréal executive director Mario Lafrance said the event’s goal was to create anticipation and excitement around the district’s fashion market.

    ‘‘Tonight is an exclusive event reserved for the industry’s most influential players,’’ said Lafrance.

    Lafrance is conscious of how difficult Quebec’s fashion market can be. ‘‘Quebecers are not inclined to buy local fashionable clothing. I find it important, as a developing organization, to emphasize the presence of Old Montreal’s boutiques.’’

    The event allows fashionistas to share their vision of 2014-2015 styles and trends available in the district’s shops. Montreal Graduate School of Fashion Design coordinator Stéphane Jean believes bloggers and trendsetters will promote the event to their followers. According to him, this communication strategy is the ideal way to highlight fashion designers. ‘‘In only one post they will share their favourite discoveries to more than 500 000 people,’’ said Jean.

    Fashion student Marie-Michele Larivée questioned FlashMode’s impact on clothing. Larivée says guests will certainly talk about the evening, but is uncertain whether the creations will be highlighted. Larivée suggested clothes should have been displayed on the walls. In her opinion, to improve the interaction with the public, models could have paraded among the guests all night and not only during the runway presentation. ‘‘People who come to these events are passionate about clothing. I would have liked to see more of the creations,’’ said Larivée.

    Mario Lafrance was optimistic in saying fashion events are characterised by their surprises and new guests could have arrived at the last minute. Most of the guests left around 7:30 p.m., after the runway show. The crowded atmosphere was rapidly transformed in an even more private event. It showed most of the guests were coming for networking during happy hour while discovering the fashion exhibition.

    All of the clothes presented at Flash Mode will be available this fall in various shops in Old Montreal.

  • James Brown and Chuck Berry Have a Son: He Was a Troublemaker

    • photo by Noah Dayan.

    • photo by Athina Lugez.

    You might have caught Vintage Trouble’s energetic performances during last summer’s Montreal Jazzfest or as a supporting act of Rock giants, The Who. Formed in Hollywood in 2010, the quartet from California screams the music of the 60s. You can think of them as James Brown meeting Chuck Berry. They mesh good ol’ rock n’ roll with some soul, blues and R&B roots, resulting in a surprisingly bombastic new musical genre.

    Lead by singer Ty Taylor’s astonishing voice and Nalle Colt’s bluesy electric guitar riffs, the band takes you back to the 1960s resurrecting the music that made people twist.

    From the very first opening song of the night, Vintage Trouble took control of the entire crowd and space at the Cafe Campus. Despite the usual age demographic associated with the venue, baby boomers invaded the bar and shamelessly rocked their socks off; unlike our generation who just bop heads or grind booties in clubs.

    The highly charismatic singer showcased neither fear nor timidity on stage. He naturally bonded with the audience and used all possible means to make the show engaging and entertaining. Stepping in the crowd and singing from the balcony were some of the many tricks up his sleeve.

    It is fairly obvious that the pace of the show was carefully thought out. Energetic songs were spaced out with acoustic sessions and the show’s mood swings were transitioned with unexpected surprises, such as additional performers invited onto the stage. Symbolising lust in the song “Jezzebella”, a local female burlesque dancer made a shocking appearance.

    Fans — nicknamed the “Troublemakers” — and first-time attendees were also taken aback by the band’s vigorous performance of “Blues Hand Me Down” — a fast-paced song with lyrics retracing the roots of blues. Poignant emotions of stories that genuinely affect relationships between human beings are shared between performers and spectators in songs such as “Nobody Told Me” and “Total Strangers”.

    It is somewhat reassuring that in a world dominated by EDM, we still find a few gems who have a strong desire to revive music created with real instruments. It is unfortunate that our generation doesn’t express further interest in the history and origins of popular music.

    The Cali band kicked off their North-American “Swing House Sessions” tour with a setlist of new acoustic compositions found on the latest EP “The Swing House Acoustic Sessions” released this year, along with acoustic arrangements of previously recorded electric tunes from their debut album “The Bomb Shelter Sessions” released in 2012.

    If you haven’t already seen their performance on the “Late Show with David Letterman”, check it out, it surely is worth the procrastination.

  • FRESH PAINT Exhibition Binds Art and Community

    Local artists are pushing the boundaries of Street Art and redefining accessibility by bringing together the community of Montreal North through a collaborative exhibition put on by the Maison culturelle et communautaire de Montréal-Nord and the Fresh Paint Gallery.

    The Fresh Paint Gallery originally began as “more of a joke,” said manager Adrien Fumex, when asked about the connection between Street Art and Fresh Paint.

    The gallery actually first opened its doors thanks to the development of Under Pressure, Montreal’s own international graffiti convention. Having just put on its 19th edition early in August, the convention has been growing for several years, establishing a network of artists in the process—enough of a network to form Fresh Paint.

    The sidewalk art promoting the 18th edition of Under Pressure caught the attention of a representative from the Maison culturelle et communautaire de Montréal-Nord. They saw the street art as a way to reach out to the Montreal North community, especially youth.

    Having the second largest high school on the island, “Montréal-Nord has a massive student population isolated from the street art and graffiti culture of downtown Montreal,” Fumex explained.

    “There are so many great new spaces in Montreal waiting to be discovered so I think that was part of my motivation for this project, to bring more cultural events there,” Fumex added.

    The motivations of Fresh Paint and the Maison culturelle et communautaire de Montréal-Nord aligned instantaneously when conceiving the project back in the winter of last year. The cultural centre wanted to bring in something fresh to engage the community and to bring some positive attention to the area.

    As for Fresh Paint, they’ve always been dedicated to making art and urban culture relatable and accessible to the general population as well as bringing the community together through artwork.

    “One of the goals of the project was to make links with the people that are there by piquing their interest and making the artwork relatable. We tried to bring a lot of different kinds of work, many different mediums so that at the end of the exhibition, people can point out at least one piece and say, ‘oh I can do that, in my own way I could appropriate that and do my own thing,’” said Fumex.

    The Fresh Paint exhibition features nine emerging artists—XRay, Isaac Holland, MonstR, Hoarkor, Adida Fallen Angel, MissMe, Carolina Espinosa, Gawd and Mc Baldassari. Four of them—MonstR, Adida Fallen Angel and Hoarkor, a duo made of Hoar & Kor—also collaborated to paint the sidewalk outside the centre. All artists were also previously featured in the gallery’s latest exhibition.

    “This exhibition mirrors what has been done in the gallery; it’s a mashup of work to represent what we do downtown,” Fumex said.

    “Their artwork explores many different techniques and aesthetics to reach a range of people.”

    Both organizations’ open-minded spirits and optimism in terms of the artists and communities involved has made the collaboration between the two a success.

    Having already done workshops in the cultural centre, Fresh Paint hopes to return, offering more workshops to a larger range of age groups in order to continue to inspire and educate though artwork.

    “This collaboration was a first step,” said Fumex. “If people actually asked for more workshops, that would be a success for us.”

    The plan is to continue connecting different areas of the city of Montreal through artistic initiatives.

    FRESH PAINT // Sept. 11 – Oct. 19 // Maison culturelle et communautaire de Montréal-Nord (12004 Rolland Blvd.) // Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. // Free

  • A Weekend Full of Hip-Hop

    • photo by Michael Dorado.

    It was a great weekend in Montreal with Elementakiza and Hip Hop You Don’t Stop coming together to celebrate hip-hop music.

    “I think hip-hop brings what’s best out of everyone, and that’s what people can recognize,” said Gabriel, chief editor of Elementality. It was easy to see, because all eyes were on the local b-girls, b-boys, poets, rappers and graffiti artists that kept bopping their heads, clapping their hands and two-stepping throughout Friday and Saturday.

    Elementality’s goal as a Montreal hip-hop news provider is to raise awareness on the diversity of this genre and the different initiatives that encourage positivity within the culture. It was therefore only common sense to work with grassroots community organization Prevention Côte-Des-Neiges Notre-Dame-De-Grâce (CDN-NDG).

    “Prevention CDN-NDG has been active in the community for over 25 years; and they have great expertise organizing Hip Hop You Don’t Stop, so we thought it was illogical not to work together,” Gabriel said. On Friday, Prevention CDN-NDG presented Girlz N’ Hip Hop, a night devoted to honouring women in the movement and dissociating rap music from the stereotypes sometimes depicted by mainstream media.

    It was ladies’ night, with special guests such as Strange Froots, Malika Trirolien and IamBlackgirl from Nomadic Massive performing all night long. They spit knowledge on gender issues within R&B, rap and spoken word. Girlz N’ Hip Hop was a reminder about just how powerful a woman’s voice and persona can be.

    “There is still a lot of work to be done before hip-hop reasserts itself as a truly universal culture,” said Gabriel. “The objective is to bridge the gap within every community until everyone’s voice has been heard.”

    According to Mutatayi ‘Tshizimba’ Fuamba, an artist at NoBadSoundStudio, “The culture was created as a means to fight oppression. It is the music that helps express the harsh realities all while being free of censorship.”

    On Saturday, Elementakiza took over NDG park and lent it a 70s block party makeover. “Our event is community-centered and we want participants to see all of the elements of hip hop culture interact together,” said Gabriel.

    It was a sight to behold with intense breakdance battles, graffiti murals, barber shop haircuts, live performances and the delectable tacos. It was a conglomerate of positivity where young local artists could share their talent.

    “Hip hop influences the youth because it is a vibrant culture. It lets us boost our confidence, share our feelings and let people know that we’re alive and that we’re making noise,” said Tshizimba.

    With every rhyme, with every six-step and with every empty spray can, the passion was overwhelming and kept the energy alive. “There’s a lot of youth who participate at this event, and we want them to carry the torch and remember that it’s all about having fun,” said Gabriel.

    All in all, Elementakiza was a huge success and Hip Hop You Don’t Stop’s 9th edition came to a close exemplifying how much Montreal’s scene has grown and diversified. Even though people tend to overlook Montreal when thinking of hip hop cities.

    “We’re here and we’re making ourselves heard,” said Tshizimba.

    This weekend showed that urban arts can connect people from all facets of life, and revealed the brighter side of a culture we don’t always get the chance to see.