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  • Montrealer Joseph Antaki Presents His First Feature Film at Image+Nation

    • Film still from My Guys courtesy of Image+Nation

    He started his career in film as an actor, where he gained a lot of support. “People always told me I had a lot of imagination,” Antaki said.

    Later, he contacted a friend who studied in film to help make a pilot of a feature, which he jokes was his master’s in filmmaking since it ended up taking three years.

    Antaki co-wrote the feature film Rouge Sang (The Storm Within) two years ago. The film had financing from the Société de développement des entreprises culturelles and a $3-million budget.

    His latest feature, My Guys, had a much smaller budget, which limited how much he was able to film. My Guys won Best First-Time Feature at Fort Worth’s Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival.

    “When you write the screenplay and you know the budget is $3 million, you write for the scenes you know you can film,” Antaki said. He did not want to make a bad movie, so he had to balance his act.

    My Guys is inspired by a novel of the same name that Antaki wrote. The novel was released in June at the same time as the limited release of the film in Montreal at Cinéma du Parc.

    Antaki grew up around “fag hags”—a term within the LGBTQ community used to describe women whose close friends are mostly queer men—throughout his life. He thought they were interesting people and wondered if a movie about them had ever been made in Montreal or Quebec. He saw the opportunity to make a “fag hag” the main character and jumped on it.

    The main character of the film, Georgette, was not inspired by anyone in particular. However, some of her experiences are based on those of one of his friends’.

    Antaki compares the roles of actor and director to night and day. “As a writer, director, producer, casting director, catering service, I had so many hats,” he said. “The biggest challenge was dealing with such a small budget and wanting to [maintain] quality—because of course you can do it on the cheap for nothing, but then it shows.”

    The movie was entirely shot in Montreal over two years. Montreal studio Peak Media, itself new to the film production industry, took care of post-production free of charge.

    Antaki says that once you produce your first film and show it in theatres, you are eligible for grants by Telefilm Canada. “Making movies is how I spend money and being an actor is how I make money,” he joked, adding that he must be a masochist to enjoy making movies.

  • Review of the Latest AC/DC Album: Rock Or Bust


    It’s not the first time that significant line-up changes have occurred in the band’s history, but that never stopped the biggest hard-rock band of all time from continuing to make platinum records.
    Right after the release of Highway To Hell in 1979, singer at that time Bon Scott died of alcohol poisoning. However replaced by Brian Johnson, current singer of AC/DC, they released Back In Black in 1980, a tribute to Scott that sold millions of copies worldwide, making it one of the most sold albums of all time.

    We can already expect that Rock Or Bust will be a tribute to Malcolm Young, founding member and guitarist of the band who currently suffers from dementia, which forced him to leave his bandmates.

    2014 has been a sad year for the music industry, with no platinum certification, but should we expect this album to revivify the sales of this dying field? Rest assured, we can rely on replacement rhythm guitarist Stevie Young, nephew of Angus and Malcolm, to keep the Young legacy steady as they go.

    “Play Ball” clearly confirms that the band still has its chemistry. A rock single worthy of their name, driven by the fresher-than-ever vocals of Johnson, reminding us of their 80’s records, Angus Young’s characteristic fingerpicking playing and Rudd’s steady-as-a-rock drum beats.

    Few would argue that AC/DC have put in very little effort to change their songwriting style. Nevertheless, one may consider this as one of their biggest strengths as many fans still admire their ability to sound the same since 1973, more than four decades after their formation. A characteristic sound that no other band has managed to come close to, even though the guitar riffs may be some of the simplest ever played in rock history. It is precisely this chemistry present in the Young fraternity that truly produces the sounds of stadium rock across the planet.

    The sweaty arena’s screaming fans can be heard from miles away in “Miss Adventure” just as in “Thunderstruck” from The Razor’s Edge. “Rock The Blues Away” comprises of chords reminiscent to their Blow Up Your Video era of the late 80s.

    It is fairly common to misbelieve that AC/DC members are Australian, due to their notoriety in Australia, but their music stems from Scottish roots, just as the Young brothers’ origins. In fact, their first ever single, “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)” prominently uses bagpipes played by Scott with a strong blues groove. It is sad to say that Rock Or Bust neither pays tribute to Scotland nor the blues.

    It is the lack of originality in musical structures and songwriting topics in this latest release that blinds AC/DC’s 40 years of legacy, lowering them to their relatively recent Australian musical siblings, Airbourne. Unfortunately, Rock Or Bust seems to fall on the commercial side of modern rock music with a short 35-minute long album of radio-edited, loudly-mixed tracks.

    The second single “Rock or Bust” that leaked on the web earlier than expected, opens the album with a modern mix, closer to the feel of Black Ice, their previous release from 2008. “Dogs of War” is just a “War Machine” twin in need of mixing effects to compete against its older Black Ice brother.

    Incontestably, Angus Young still has the guitar chops for his burning solos, but this release invokes too much rock and not enough blues. The power riffs become overwhelming at last, while Angus merely doubles Stevie in useless layers. Lacking bluesy licks which add nuances and depth to the songs, it’s as if Angus had to fill the spot for both Malcolm and Stevie due to a lack of confidence in the latter fulfilling his duties.

    Nonetheless, if Rock Or Bust ends up being their last effort, I salute them for their perseverance. For those about to rock, we salute you.

  • The Unbreakable Allure of Emmure

    • Photo from Wikimedia Commons

    Hailing from Queens, NY, Emmure’s music is as filthy, bitter, cold and ragingly violent like their city. A mark of their music is the infusion of urban elements such as brief sparks of rap (which came to peak in their 3rd album Felony) or unexpected record scratching in a breakdown. Vocalist Frankie Palmeri embodies the band’s look and sound: on their latest album cover, Eternal Enemies, Palmeri is pictured with a bandana wrapped over his mouth like a straight-up gangbanger.

    Heading into Club Soda, a St. Laurent venue that appeared to me like a more modern clone of Metropolis just down the street, I didn’t know what to expect. For one, I was very interested that Emmure was co-headlining a tour with The Acacia Strain, a metalcore band from Massachusetts that Emmure has famously had a rivalry with since the late 2000’s. The marketing for this tour cashed in on this, too—the tour was titled “Emmure Vs. The Acacia Strain,” with the posters featuring Palmeri and The Acacia Strain’s vocalist Vincent Bennett facing off Mortal Kombat-style.

    But seeing the show featuring both former feuding bands was not meant to be: on the day of the show, The Acacia Strain’s tour van was hit by a drunk driver. No one was injured, but their ride was smashed and could not make the journey to Canada.

    I arrived at Club Soda to catch the end of Fit For a King’s set, a Christian metal band from Texas. Over 500 people filled the fizzy-drink venue—I knew from my coat check number being 498. The crowd was a sea of modified bodies: stretched earlobes and tattoos aplenty (myself included), facial piercings and dyed hair galore.

    As the lights dimmed for Emmure, a comically large 20’ by 20’ void opened in the centre of the mass of showgoers—whether the more brutish hardcore kids forced open the gap or whether the moshpit materialized by its own accord, the crowd simply respecting its power and making room for it, I wasn’t sure. Emmure’s introductory song while they lurked offstage was the horrible “Bring a Gun to School” instrumental. It was mostly drowned out by the crowd’s cheers, thank God.

    *Emmure “Nemesis” *

    The opening song as they stormed the stage was the new single “Nemesis” off their latest album, a bouncy breakdown-fest of a song about them “not giving a fuck what people think.” The massive moshpit raged like a battlefield, while I forced my way to the front to be directly before the stage, the crowd-surfing danger zone. Right away, kids were scrambling to hop on stage, scream lyrics with Palmeri, then toss themselves onto the unsuspecting heads of their fellow showgoers. If a moshpit is a battlefield, then the compressed crowd at the stage are the front lines. You gotta watch your ass.

    No matter what people think of Emmure’s sound or overall image, you gotta give Palmeri credit for being a damn good frontman. Most metal vocalists tend to overdo it—there’s only so many times you can pace back and forth onstage and throw your head back in reckless abandon with the mic. Palmeri’s style was totally subtle: standing still onstage and letting his legitimately frightening eyes do the heavy lifting. In “Drug Dealer Friend,” there’s a brief electronic bridge, and Palmeri actually did a brief pop-and-lock with his hands, which drove some girls beside me wild.

    The guy-to-girl ratio around me at the front was actually surprising and refreshing. Who would have thought the front lines at an Emmure show would metaphorically pass the Bechdel Test? I couldn’t help be feel proud of the hardcore scene when I saw girls throwing elbows and shoving hard to the murderous “Bars In Astoria.”

    Emmure’s set raged on for a full hour, playing songs from every album of theirs, including fan-favourites “I Thought You Met Telly and Turned Me Into Casper” and “Solar Flare Homicide.” Their finale was the somber anthem “MDMA,” but of course, after a few minutes of chanting “Em-mure! Em-mure!” they took the stage once more for the song that catapulted them into being a household hardcore name: “When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong” (referencing the Dave Chappelle skit of the same name).

    *Emmure “When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong” *

    I went home drenched in sweat with a sore neck and a seriously raspy voice, signs of a successful hardcore show experience.

    Find more hardcore shows in Montreal by Extensive Enterprise here.

  • Raving about Reveena’s: Delicious, Vegetarian Food at the Heart of Reveena’s Kitchen

    When we went over for tea on a cold November afternoon, Reveena discussed some of the myths about food, particularly the misconception that anything healthy doesn’t taste good. Many of us are terrorized by words like “whole wheat” and “gluten-free” but, according to her, those foods will keep you feeling healthy and energized.

    “Think of the last time you went to someone’s house for tea. Did you not end the day feeling heavy and lethargic? Don’t you feel light after this?” Reveena asked me and Alex once we had cleared the dishes after the interview. We did (mostly) feel pretty good.

    “Your body literally runs on what you put into it. You owe it to the only frame you will ever be given to treat it properly. Eat food that doesn’t hurt your stomach and figure out what that means for you. It’s different for every person.”

    The menu included homemade chai lattes with almond milk and brown sugar, banana chocolate chip cake, and fresh fruit with coconut whipped cream. The pièce de résistance was a plate of individual raw-vegan cheesecakes made with coconut milk, blanched cashews, dates and pecans. Although perhaps better suited for a high-calorie snack after an intense workout, the not-cheesecakes were quite possibly better than actual cheesecake. The only reason we didn’t feel entirely light and ready to work after the meal probably had something to do with the copious quantities of food we ate. You could say we were impressed, but that would be an understatement.

    Reveena recently started her own online cooking show, Reveena’s Kitchen, in order to spread her love of cooking. “Cooking is my form of artistic expression and my way of being in touch with other cultures,” she explained in the interview. “Feeding others is my way of saying ‘I love you.’”

    Given her skill with video editing and, more importantly, her passion for cooking, it made sense for her to cook for a wider audience on camera.

    “I had been thinking about doing a cooking show since grade eight, and now I finally have a way to accomplish this goal,” she said.

    This system includes up to a full day of filming with fellow classmate and videographer Ruth Stewart-Patterson. “We’ve started filming several episodes at once,” Reveena explained. “Six hours of straight filming and episodes are uploaded consistently every Thursday.

    “I want to make food for everyone,” she said. “Someone who is gluten-free or vegan, or even a dedicated carnivore will find recipes on my site.”

    Luckily, Reveena’s recipes are incredibly versatile and easy to alter for your own personal preferences or, in her case, dietary restrictions.

    Diagnosed with Crohn’s disease (a chronic inflammatory disorder in the digestive system) at an early age, it took years for her to realize that certain foods were “off the menu.” Although there is currently an upswing in the number of people choosing to go gluten-free or vegan, Reveena—a longstanding vegetarian—didn’t have a choice in the matter.

    As a first-year university student, she also understands the difficulty of eating healthy, balanced meals that taste good but that can also be prepared quickly. A typical exam-period student diet consists of a coffee and red bull IV drip, Nutella sandwiches and halal pizza. Not exactly what one would consider brain-food.

    “It’s easy to forget that what you put into your body affects the way that you’re going to feel,” Reveena explained. “You don’t realize how tired you are after eating a big dinner of pasta until you’re sitting on the couch and falling asleep when you should be studying.”

    Alternative staples, such as canned beans, brown rice, quinoa, couscous and quinoa pasta, are easily available and can leave you feeling lighter and ready to get to work once dinner is over. The best part is that it’s so easy to make a delicious meal out of them. Although canned beans have “all the sex appeal of a baggy t-shirt,” according to Reveena, they are also one of her most important ingredients.

    “Think about it: you have 10 minutes to make dinner. What do you do? You open a can of beans, you put them into a pan with a little bit of onion, garlic and salt. You add whatever veggies you have in the fridge and, depending on what kind of meal you want, you throw in some spices,” she said.

    “You want Italian? Add some basil and oregano, salt and tomatoes. Craving Mexican? Go for a can of black beans and add some cinnamon and cumin. Want Indian? Add turmeric, chili and garam masala to some chickpeas.” For Reveena, a fully stocked spice rack is almost as important as a plentiful fridge.

    So what are her main tips for the hungry student with a limited budget and even less time to cook?

    • Always keep vegetables, healthy starches and carbohydrates (quinoa, brown rice, couscous, whole wheat pasta or quinoa pasta), beans and spices in your fridge and pantry.
    • Don’t throw anything out. Discarded pieces of vegetables can be thrown into a pot of boiling water to make vegetable stock, which you can use as a soup base another time.
    • Fruits and vegetables make great snacks. Remember your lunches from when you were a little kid? Munch on grapes, baby carrots or cucumber slices in class. Pair it with some hummus for added protein.
    • Buy cheap fruit, even if it’s a little overripe. Brown bananas make the best smoothies and banana bread. Cut off the brown spots on apples or throw them into a pot and make applesauce.

    Although Reveena verges on the vegan side of the diet spectrum, she stresses that eating healthy is not about going vegan. It’s about thinking of all the unhealthy things that you eat (Nutella on white bread, for instance) and eating them in moderation. You don’t need to eliminate them entirely—where would be the fun in that?

    You can find her cooking show here.

  • 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.