Thursday, 18 September 2014

Book Prizes and Outdoor Festival in Toronto. City Busy Busy Busy for Book.

A Prize Week For Authors In Canada
By Stephen Weir 

Published September 17, 2014 Huffington Post Story

Yesterday it was the Giller. This morning it was the Griffin and the Weston Prizes and this weekend Word On The Street. This week is the busiest time of the year for authors, readers and the nation's book industry.
On Tuesday it was the Scotiabank Giller Prize announcing their longlist of a dozen authors for the 2014 Canadian Fiction Prize. The Giller also dropped a bomb - they aare doubling the prize purse given to the winning author - first prize is now $100,000. Runner-ups will receive $10,000 each.
The Giller is Canada's most prestigious fiction prize, and, with the new $10,000 award, it is now also one of the world's largest English language prizes. Usually the Giller announces here Toronto, but this year's shocker was made at McGill University'sMoyse Hall Theatre in Montreal. The award will be presented on November 10 and will be broadcast by the CBC.
This morning - Wednesday - the world's largest cash prize for poetry - the Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry - announced their 2015 jury. The three member jury is made up of Canadian poet / author Tim Bowling, American poet Fanny Howe and Polish poet/author Piotr Sommer.
There was also a press conference held this morning in downtown Toronto to announce the shortlist for the Honourable Hilary M. Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction. Held in the aisles of the Loblaws store at Maple Leaf Gardens in downtown Toronto (pictured), the press conference introduced the five Canadian authors now in the running for the $60,000 2014 Prize.
Hilary Weston at the podium. Press conference was held in the aisles of a downtown Toronto Loblaws food store.

Nominated Weston Prized authors are:
Susan Delacourt for Shopping for Votes: How Politicians Choose Us and We Choose Them 
Naomi Klein for This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate 
Charles Montgomery for Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design 
Paula Todd for Extreme Mean: Trolls, Bullies, and Predators Online 
Kathleen Winter for Boundless: Tracing Land and Dream in a New Northwest Passage
The Weston Prize also announced that Indigo Books is now one of the marketing sponsors. As well they added two Canadian celebrities - CBC's Peter Mansbridge and Filmmaker Deepa Mehta - to their jury pool.
Four of the Giller Prize longlisted authors will be at the other big literary event being held this week in Toronto - Sunday's Word on the Street Festival. The free outdoor event will be held on University Avenue from Bloor Street south to College St. Word On The Street is a celebration of literacy and the written word and annually attracts over 200,000 book lovers of all ages to Queen's Park Circle in Toronto.
There will also be Word On The Street festivals in the cities of Halifax, Lethbridge, Saskatoon and Kitchener, The Word On The Street festival describes itself as the event that "unites the country in a national celebration of literacy and the written word'.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Monday Night At The Movies - Caribbean Tales Film Festival Continues In Toronto

Haiti, Guyana and America - Three Films, Three Views on Political People in The 
Caribbean - by Kevin Relyea

Caribbean Tales International Film Festival 

Films shown on Day 5 of the Festival at the Royal Theatre, Toronto

The Royal, home of Caribbean Tales International Film Festival- Relyea

Showing at the Royal Theatre as part of the Caribbean Tales International Film Festival, Political People is a trio of films that detail the domestic problems of a less than thought of region that deserves western attention. The three films are related thematically but are all drastically different in their  message, approach and style.

The Caribbean Tales International Film Festival is a celebration of Caribbean art and culture that will excite any casual movie-goer or anyone with a political background. The films shown are more than just entertainment as they can be educational as well featuring history and politics of the region.  Now in its ninth year the festival and related events have taken place in Toronto, New York, and Barbados.

The Joy of Reading
2014 | Haiti |   Kreyol with English subtitles | 14 minutes
Director: Dominique Telemaque

The Joy of Reading is a short film that tells the tale of a Hatian boy named Lolo who is kicked out of school after he loses a book and his subsequent attempts to find the money in order to buy a replacement. In just fourteen minutes this film is filled with ups and downs and ends off on a somber note with Lolo making a plea for parents to invest in children’s educations so they can better their lives.

The film is very well shot and edited to provide a very succinct yet deep in its emotion and colourful cinematography.

Rebecca’s Story

2014 | Guyana/USA | English | 12 minutes
Director: Alysia S Christiani

Rebecca’s story is much like the first film. It tells the story of a Rebecca, a young Guyanese girl who is forced to live with her abusive grandmother after he parents are killed in a tragic car accident. This film has the same message of the importance of literacy but also has a theme of personal freedom being essential to people advancing in life as well as advancing society as a whole.

This film features comparison shots of a jungle serving as a great tool for the narrator’s metaphorical dialogue and the internal shots and cinematography give the impression of a person who is living in a cage. Great care was given to ensure that this short feature’s visuals fit the tone.

Thunder in Guyana

2003 | USA | English | 50 minutes
Director: Suzanne Wasserman

If you are a history buff then Thunder in Guyana is a hidden gem among political documentaries.  The film covers the lives of the late Janet Rosenberg Jagen and Cheddi Jagen and their   fifty year stuggle to free Guyana from the influence of British Imperialism and an American backed rightwing dictatorship. 

The film shows off the early life of Janet Rosenburg. Growing up in Chicago, intellectual adventurous free spirited woman with a tendency to push the boundaries set by society. She ran off to Guyana with her husband Cheddi and never looked back. 
Cheddi being the first peasant worker to gain an education returned to Guyana and dedicated his life to improving his impoverished country to gain independence from Britain and put an end to racial violence between the Indian and African population. His efforts over the course of four decades are sabotaged by British military intervention, and CIA covert ops due to his unabashed Marxist-Socialist beliefs. The film focuses heavily on the progressive leadership and unprecedented actions and unorthodox lives of this beautiful couple.

Thunder in Guyana features a great depth of footage and pictures that elegantly portrays the lives of these revolutionary political figures in stunning depth.  The interviews glean a further understanding of their personal character, motivations, and the overall political climate over the course of five decades. This film does a fantastic job of blending history of a nation and personal biography. What I loved about this film is that Guyana is not a country you would learn about in a history class as it is simply not taught. This film shows just how important Guyanna is in terms of political and racial turmoil Guyana suffered combined with the personal struggle of Janet and Cheddi Jagan whose actions could be compared to Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi. 

When the lights come on you begin to wonder if their actions set Guyana on a better path or these two people were foglights in a haze of corruption. What is truly unique about the documentary is that the production of the film as well as its content displays a bond between the Caribbean and Jewish community. Perhaps this is the reason why all those Caribbean people kept asking me where the manischewitz wine was when I worked for the LCBO

Political People enlightens the audience as to a basic plight of Caribean people such as literacy, something that we take for granted and the political reasons as to why the people of these nations still suffer. The overall message this group of films displays is the need for society to be flexible and progressive for development to occur as holding on to political and social tradition invariably is a recipe for human suffering and stagnation of society.

I whole heartedly recommend this trio of films although Thunder in Guyana is the clear frontrunner due to its content and length and is definitely something you might want to better educate your friends and family with or just something worthwhile for yourself. At the very least it might help you one day beat the Jeopardy contestants in the comfort of your living room. 

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Watch This Documentary Before the Glamour is Gone

 The Mighty Sparrow on stage at the Royal Theatre - Photo by Weir

From my Huffington Post feature about the Mighty Sparrow and Lord Superior in the movie The Glamour Boyz Again -
Toronto's Caribbean Tales International Film Festival kicked-off its ninth annual season last night at the Royal Theatre with a world premier screening of a new documentary about the Mighty Sparrow (Dr. Slinger Francisco) and Lord Superior (Andrew Marcano). Once dubbed the Calypso King of the World, an obviously failing Mighty Sparrow appeared on stage after the first showing of the Glamour Boyz Again: The Mighty Sparrow and Lord Superior on the Hilton Rooftop.
Written and directed by American author/filmmaker Geoffrey Dunn, the feature length movie follows a very simple format: two famous aging Calypsonians on a roof with one guitar and a bucket of Caribe ale. The two men are on top of Trinidad's swankiest hotel drinking beer and fruity cocktails while they sing and swap memories of the emergence of Calypso music in Trinidad back in the 1950s.
While the movie might has a basic premise its message gives deep deep insights into the maturation of Calypso, Carnival and the cultural independence of Trinidad and Tobago. Dunn filmed the Mighty Sparrow and his long-time friend and accompanest as they joyfully sing songs they had written while Trinidad was starting to come out from under strict British Colonial Rule.
"The Glamour Boyz," Dunn recently told the Trinidad Express Newspaper, "presents this single acoustic performance by these two giants of the art form. It's an absolutely brilliant performance. I still can't get enough of it! The energy between the two of them -- their friendship now goes back nearly 60 years -- is lively and dynamic."
The concert was was filmed in Port Of Spain during Trinidad's 2002 carnival. The two men are seen in excellent health, fine voice and high spirits. A dozen years later, both men face serious health challenges. Lord Superior was not well enough to travel to Toronto, the Mighty Sparrow did make an appearance but needed considerable help to make it into the theatre and onto the stage.
Macomere Fifi sings Before Yuh Gone while Sparrow sits on stage - photo by Weir
Macomere Fifi (Tara Woods), Canada's ruling Soca Monarch joined Sparrow on stage last night following the screening of the Glamour Boyz Again. Often with her arm around a seated Franciso Fifi performed the song she sang to win her 6th Calypso Monarch title during Toronto's Carnival this summer. The song? "Before Yuh Gone" - a tribute to the Mighty Sparrow. In that song she prophetically says she wants to tell the Mighty Sparrow before he dies how great he really. She got that wish, and the Mighty Sparrow seemed to enjoy her singing about his impending doom!
Geoffrey Dunn is a Santa Cruz, California award-winning author and documentary filmmaker with more than three decades experience as an investigative reporter. His books include the American bestseller "The Lies of Sarah Palin: The Untold Story Behind Her Relentless Quest for Power". His documentary films include the award-winning "Calypso Dreams," "Miss...or Myth?," "Chinese Gold," and "Dollar a Day, 10¢ a Dance."