Friday, October 29, 2010

Jephté Bastien: 'Sortie 67' Not a Film On Street Gangs

Canadian director Jephté Bastien talks about why he wanted to do Sortie 67, his first film.

Jephté Bastien doesn't believe that his film Sortie 67, which will come in Quebec's theatres on November 5, has to "improve" the image of Montrealers of Haitian heritage who mostly live in the district of St-Michel and North-Montreal. According to him, "the film's story is about an individual instead of a whole ethnic group". Moreover, Bastien said that he sees it that way, because he wants to avoid "abusive generalizations".

Having worked as a video editor and also in the music industry, Jephté Bastien makes his directorial debut with the independent film Sortie 67, which a reference to a bus line that passes through St-Michel and North Montreal. The film follows Ronald (Henri Pardo), a young biracial man who's been involved in a street gang in the Montrealer district of St-Michel ever since his adolescence. Now that he has a daughter and that his wife is ashamed of him, Ronald strives to get out of criminality. Bastien sat down with The Cultural Post to talk about the importance of making a film in the vein of Sortie 67.

The Cultural Post: Why did you choose to make a film on street gangs in Montreal?

Jephté Bastien: In my opinion, Sortie 67 isn't about street gangs even though the leading character is involved in one. It's rather a film centred on an individual who tries hard to get out of this dark world because of what happens in his family. Moreover, I wanted to show a human being - not a monster - living in a world of violence.

Did Freddy Villanueva's death at the hand of a policeman in a park of North Montreal during the summer 2008 give you the envy to write Sortie 67?

The first draft of Sortie 67's script dates back to 2008 before Freddy Villanueva's death. Moreover, no one chooses the circumstances in which his/her film project comes to life. I wrote the script of the film right after I had learnt about my sixteen-year-old nephew's death. He was involved in a confrontation between street gangs.

Authenticity seems to be your motto when making this film. How did you make sure that the details in the film look close to reality as much as possible?

During my research, I talked to former and current members of street gangs. When I wrote the dialogues, the challenge was to combine French, English and Creole, because the youth in the street gangs constantly switch languages when they talk. As for the filming period, I wasn't afraid to be on location in St-Michel and North Montreal despite what many think about these two districts of Montreal. Even if I had the budget to recreate these two districts in a studio, I would rather be on location. As a movie director, I'm trying to depict what I see through my eyes.

In the film, one of the characters say that in Canada, it's impossible to succeed in life if we're a black. Is such a mentality still alive in the 21rst century even though we hear about successful blacks like Canadian boxer Jean Pascal or the American president, Barack Obama?

Obama's election might be a good thing. Nevertheless, he's not a black; he has mixed blood. Those who believe that this event has put an end to racism against blacks in North America are wrong. In Quebec, many blacks believe that without a Quebecker accent, you will be a failure. For those who have the Quebecker accent, just like a few characters in the film, some of them are not even sure if they'll succeed. On a personal note, I feel like a Quebecker whenever I'm outside of Quebec.

What will non-blacks learn about black people from Quebec as a whole after they had seen Sortie 67?

I relied on two things to build the characters, who are mostly blacks. The first one is this idea some people have about American blacks, because I once lived and worked in the USA. The second one is my understanding of what it means to be black and of Haitian heritage in Quebec. All in all, this film is an alternative to the image of blacks that is given to us by the media.

Yet, American journalist John Howard Griffin (who is white) passed himself off as a black in order to understand the psychological effect of racial segregation on blacks and to write his bestselling diary Black Like Me in the 1950s. If we fast-forward to 2010, are you saying that a Canadian journalist wouldn't understand blacks even though he darkens his skin?

With such an approach, you might become an observer. However, one won't understand everything, because there are things that we, whether we like it or not, can't grasp. For instance, even though I know Asians, I will never know what it truly means to be an Asian. Even though I'm able to imitate the Quebecker accent, I wouldn't do film centred on a Québécois. In short, even though your writing is fraught with good intentions, your vision of other people is unconsciously distorted.

Just by looking at Sortie 67's poster, we see that it's not distributed by one of the four biggest Quebecker distributors: Alliance Vivafilm, Remstar, Les Films Séville and Métropole Films. Does it mean that your film will get a limited release in Quebec just like The Trotsky and Serveuses demandées, two films about Quebeckers from ethnic minorities?

I don't fear a limited release in Quebec for Sortie 67. I don't want to sound political, but if the film doesn't breach the doors of movie theatres outside of Montreal, their owners must have their own reasons. However, I know that the public will respond to the film. First of all, whether a Quebecker viewer is from Montreal or not, he/she already knows that the film deals with a hot topic: the criminality among some Montrealers of Haitian heritage. Secondly, I dropped my prejudice regarding people's indifference to black Canadians when Sortie 67 received fundings from Téléfilm Canada and the SODEC (note: respectively the cinematographic funding agency of Canada and Quebec). I was surprised to see that my film was selected by both agencies as one of the few independent films that will be funded.

Many Québécois complain that Quebecker from ethnic minorities boycott French Quebecker cinema, because the market share of Quebecker films in Montreal is only 7% according to the latest study of the Observatoire de la culture et de la communication du Québec (OCCQ). Will your film change that tendency?

If it does, it would come to me as a surprise. When it comes to showing ethnic diversity on screen, there are students in a classroom who either sit at the front or at the back. Quebec's cinema, unlike that of the rest of Canada and the USA, is that student at the back despite some small progress. The debate about Quebec's cinema whiteness isn't young. Given that most of Quebec's films are filmed in Montreal, I don't understand why Montreal looks like a city without ethnic diversity most of the time. If Quebec's ethnic diversity was shown on screen more often, I'm sure our films would be more popular than they currently are. Unfortunately, Quebeckers from ethnic minorities are responsible for the lack of ethnic diversity on screen. They expect the Québécois to tell their own stories without thinking that the Québécois have a distorted idea about them. All in all, we're not going to get out of the woods anytime soon, but I'm sure Quebec's cinema can pull itself together.

-Interview by Anh Khoi Do

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Helene Joy: 'Durham County' Is Almost A Mirror of Our Society

According to Helene Joy, Durham County, a TV series she stars in, is a slap in the face for those who believe that life is a fairy tale.

For this Canadian actress, the show's dark tone isn't exaggerated. In fact, this gives a "bleak theme to Durham County", something that she feels necessary. After all, even if our life more or less borders on a fairytale, Durham County puts us in front of truths about our society in her opinion.

In Durham County, Joy plays Audrey Sweeney, a nurse who lives in a fictitious suburb of Toronto and who is married to Mike Sweeney, a former homicide detective who is now the superintendent of the Durham Police Department. Besides, her husband is investigating on murders related to drug trafficking along the corridor of the 401 highway. Now that the dust has settled at the end of the second season, Audrey is expecting a baby and her relationship with Mike is fine. As for Sadie, Mike's and Audrey's elder daughter, she's about to graduate from the police academy. I sat down with Helene Joy and she talked about what it means to play in Durham County.

Anh Khoi Do: Given the dark atmosphere in Durham County, how did you react when you read the script for the first time?

Helene Joy: Before the first season was shot, I had a big reaction when I read the script. Besides, I even gave the script to my friends in order to know if I should star in the TV series. In the end, I accepted to join the cast of Durham County even though it's disturbing, because its creators smartly deal with the show's violence. In other words, there's no such thing as a shock value in the way the atmosphere of the show is presented to us. With that said, if I read a script of a Hollywood action movie, I would've just taken it for what it is.

Given that the leading characters' life in Durham County is rather depressing, do you believe that someone's life can be that depressing?

Yes. Having a depressing life also does happen to middle and upper class people. Speaking about these people with very depressing life, they exist. However, I got to say that only a small part of the Canadian population will live that. The fact that some viewers reproach Durham County of being gritty tells a lot about the society we live in. It means that we live in denial and don't want to admit that it's an ugly world out there.

Now that we've talked about the depressing life the show mirrors, what does Durham County reveal about any human being's potential capacity for being dangerous?

Well, I don't have that. Nevertheless, Durham County reveals how much we're intrigued by those kind of people. For instance, lately in the news, we've been hearing about Russell Williams, this former colonel of the Canadian army who got sentenced to life imprisonment for murder and rape just to name a few charges laid against him. Like some characters in Durham County, Russell Williams looks like a normal person on the surface. However, a person like that has a dark secret and even a double life. In relation with the third season, we can think about a character who, at the beginning, beats up his wife and hides it from his colleagues. More importantly, Durham County reflects the fact that we're more likely to be hurt by by someone we know than strangers.

Tell us about what we should expect to see with your character, Audrey Sweeney.

In the third season, she's a reborn woman and she's come full circle with her husband, Mike. The reason why she no longer contemplates divorcing from her husband at the beginning of the third season has something to do with a narrative choice made by the writer, Laurie Finstad-Knizhnik. As a married woman, Laurie knows that life isn't black and white. Moreover, at some point in your life, you move on.

How about the relation between Audrey and the character of Eva (Bénédicte Décary)?

I don't want to give away so many details, but I can say that there's a feminine connection between Eva and Audrey. This begins with a dance scene you see in a party in the first episode of the third season. Needless to say that the men around Audrey and Eva find it titillating. However, I wouldn't go as far as saying that Audrey will explore, in the third season, her bisexuality. In fact, this is just a relation between women who just talk between women.


Durham County is aired on the Canadian premium cable network HBO Canada on Monday nights at 10 PM. Note that this is the third and final season of this Canadian procedural drama.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Laurie Finstad-Knizhnik Wrote 'Durham County' With No White Gloves

As it begins its third and final season on the Canadian premium cable network HBO Canada, the TV series Durham County promises to be darker. For the show's creator, Laurie Finstad-Knizhnik, life as it is shown in TV series doesn't need to look full of joy.

With splashes of blood, guns, corpses and even psychologically disturbed characters Durham County will leave a lasting impression on viewers. However, specified Finstad-Knizhnik, the violence you see in the show she created with Janis Lundman and Adrienne Mitchell isn't "gratuitous".

Shot in Montreal, Durham County follows Mike Sweeney (Hugh Dillon), a homicide detective from a police department of a suburb of Toronto. In the third season of the show, he's investigating on a very brutal double homicide of two teenagers. This double homicide is related to drug trafficking. Moreover, Mike is also helped by a colleague (Michael Nardone) who, behind his mental armour, is an ex-military hiding a dark secret. Mike's daughter, Sadie (Laurence Leboeuf), just graduated from the police academy and his wife, Audrey (Helene Joy), is expecting a baby. I sat down with Finstad-Knizhnik and she talked about why Durham County is the way it is whether one feels comfortable with it or not.

Anh Khoi Do: Honestly, Durham County is by far the darkest and most violent cop show I've ever seen. Why is violence the central theme of the TV series?

Laurie Finstad-Knizhnik: With all the crime TV series on the market, you feel that this genre can be brought in other waters. The reason why Durham County is an analysis of violence in the society is because this idea wasn't the reality of other dramas you see. In fact, many TV series or even films do talk about the presence of violence in people's behaviour, but they don't look at the way how people actually feel when they confront violence.

With a constant use of a grey sky and a heavily dark tone throughout each season of Durham County, don't you feel that the atmosphere in Durham County is a little bit exaggerated?

No, because TV is a medium that allows us to elaborate a hypothetical analysis of how people would feel if they were put in tragic and depressing circumstances. I'll also add that this dark atmosphere even allows a multi-dimensional depiction of the female characters in a show that deals with violence. With that said, the idea of creating Durham County was born because I didn't want to create another show that just uses women as mere props who witness violence or are, on the surface, victims of it.

Still, can someone's life be as depressing as the life of the leading characters in Durham County?

Without a doubt, it can be. It must be cool for some TV characters to be part of a Glee club or a constantly happy family. However, this kind of TV writing is formulaic and doesn't deal with other things that unfortunately can be part of life. After all, given all the topics that Durham County deals with, I just took any people who are initially happy in order to wonder how they would feel if they have to face tough facets of life such as divorce or death.

With that in mind, how close is the show Durham County from our reality?

In the department of realism, we've seen cop shows like NYPD Blue and The Wire, which both are rooted in reality in their own way and have a wonderful story. When I wrote the show, I thought of some cops I know who married nurses (note: the character of Audrey is a nurse). I was imagining how it's like for a cop to marry a nurse in the first season. As for the second season, the challenge consisted in imagining how a married couple made of a cop and a nurse would deal with divorce.

Just by the way you describe the show's plot, are you surprised that the first two seasons of Durham County didn't create much of a controversy in the USA when they got picked up by the cable network ION?

Well, I was quite glad that the show interested an American cable network, because Durham County is definitely not the kind of show that will be on a TV network. Besides, the show even got a nice review from American newspapers just like the New York Times. At the same time, if a fascinating show like Dexter, which talks about a normal-looking serial killer (Michael C. Hall) who works as a blood spatter analyst for the Miami police department, didn't avoid controversy, don't expect Durham County to get away with its content. Indeed, besides being introduced to criminals, viewers from Durham County also come across a cop (Hugh Dillon) who isn't diagnosed as a serial killer and travels in the darkest area of his psyche. All in all, I'd say that any work of fiction reflects the mentality and the fascinations of the people who live at the time when this work was created.


Durham County is aired on Monday nights at 10 PM on HBO Canada. Moreover, stay stuned, because an interview with Helene Joy, a regular actress on Durham County, will be published tomorrow.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Score: A Hockey Musical (2010)

After Saint Ralph and One Week, Canadian director Michael McGowan dabbles into commercial cinema with Score: A Hockey Musical. The result: be prepared to roll your eyes.

In a Toronto where people often sing by dialoguing, Farley Gordon (Noah Reid) is raised and home-schooled by green, pacifist and vegan parents (Marc Jordan and Olivia Newton-John). Even though Farley has never played in an organized hockey league, Farley excels at this game. Obviously, this dismays his parents who hate team sports. One day, the owner of the Blades (Stephen McHattie), a junior team from Brampton, recruits Farley after he had seen him play hockey on an outdoor rink. Despite his parents' objection, Farley rises to the challenge and becomes, overnight, a national sensation. Besides, some TV analysts consider Farley as "the next one".

However, the Blades' coach (John Pyper-Ferguson), Farley's teammates and his opponents want him to throw the gloves because "it's part of the game". Besides, his relation with his best friend Eve (Allie MacDonald), the girl who has been living next door since Farley's childhood, takes a beating because he has less time to spend with her. All in all, will Farley find a way to stay in hockey without infuriating his parents, his coach, his teammates and, above all, Eve?

If you liked Saint Ralph, a film about a teenager from Hamilton who wants to win the 1954 Boston marathon, you won't like Score: A Hockey Musical. Even though the former recycled old clichés of teen comedies, it casted a irreverent glance at adolescence. With that said, Score: A Hockey Musical is as pleasant to watch as a string of generic suburb houses, because it unashamedly uses clichés from teen comedies about a hero who faces a lot of obstacles in his search of his passion. Besides, the film is so predictable and the so-called plot twists are not convincing. If you don't believe me that the plot is predictable, read carefully my description of the synopsis.

In all fairness, with this commercial film, Michael McGowan shows us that he's not Atom Egoyan (Chloe), Peter Stebbings (Defendor) or David Cronenberg (Eastern Promises), three Canadian directors who did brilliant Canadian commercial films with taxpayers' money, mind you. Even though Score: A Hockey Musical is not the smartest film I've seen, I'll watch it anytime after a rough day because it's fun. As for fans of the musical TV series Glee, I don't know if you'll like it, because I haven't seen Glee.

Rating: 2.5/5

Origin:Canada (2010)
Genre:Musical comedy
Screenplay:Michael McGowan
Director:Michael McGowan
Starring:Noah Reid and Allie MacDonald

Curling (2010)

The latest film from Canadian director Denis Côté, Curling, might bore many and look incomprehensible. However, it's only after you had seen the film that you realize how eloquent the film is with its moments of silence.
During the winter in a remote area of Quebec, we follow Jean-François Sauvageau (Emmanuel Bilodeau) and his 12-year-old daughter Julyvonne (Philomène Bilodeau) who both live in a country house on the edge of a highway. Jean-François is a maintenance clerk at a bowling club and a motel. He's overprotective to the point that he doesn't want his daughter to get out. Moreover, Julyvonne doesn't go to school.

Since he takes Julyvonne out once in a while, she begs him more and more to let go out. According to Julyvonne, this will allow her to play with kids of her age. When Jean-François isn't at home, Julyvonne decides to go out in the forest near her house. Moreover, Isabelle (Sophie Desmarais), Jean-François's new colleague in the bowling club, would like to play with Julyvonne more often.

As a former journalist/film critic, Denis Côté has no difficulty to build his lead. Right from the beginning, we get a glimpse of what's wrong with both Jean-François and Julyvonne. Unfortunately, one might believe that the film loses its steam in the second half. With a deliberately slow pace and a seemingly wooden performance by the cast, it's very tempting to write Curling off as an amateurish film. Moreover, Côté keeps us at an arm's length from the leading characters. This is because the film doesn't reveal enough information on Jean-François's fear of seeing his daughter being in contact with the outer world on a daily basis.

However, a well-peeled eye might be able to discern the sense of Curling. One day, we see Jean-François allows his daughter to go out and the other day, he asks her to stay at home for her well-being. Is he progressing or relapsing? The film doesn't offer a satisfying answer, but it's a touching and even funny film about the inner fight of Jean-François (a subtle Emmanuel Bilodeau) against his inner demons.

Finally, Curling might not win the Golden Reel Award, an award given by the Canadian Academy for the most profitable Canadian film at the box office. However, it will certainly please to a handful of patient movie lovers.

Rating: 4/5

Origin:Canada (2010)
Length:92 minutes
Genre:Psychological drama
Screenplay:Denis Côté
Director:Denis Côté
Starring:Emmanuel Bilodeau and Philomène Bilodeau

Mad Dog Morgan (1976)

Philippe Mora's Mad Dog Morgan is not a generic cat and mouse game between a criminal and policemen. It's one of those rare biopic that can almost be watched like a documentary.

In the 1850s, Daniel Morgan (Dennis Hopper), an Irish immigrant, comes in the Australian state of Victoria during the gold rush. Because he's unlucky, Morgan will be poor and lose hope. In order to survive, he commits armed robberies, but will end up in prison. He initially has a penalty of 12 years, but will be on parole after six years because of his good behaviour. Once he's out, Daniel will become a bushranger in the outback. With the help of Billy (David Gulpilil), an Aboriginal who teaches how to survive and defend himself in the wild, he steals from rich landowners and passersby. Of course, the states of Victoria and New South Wales will devote a lot of manpower to catch Daniel Morgan until his death in 1865.

With its seemingly ordinary storyline, Mad Dog Morgan doesn't reinvent the wheel when it comes to making a film about criminals who end up being killed by policemen. However, unlike Michael Mann's Public Enemies, which was a decent summer blockbuster, Mad Dog Morgan doesn't just limit itself at being a banal cat-and-mouse story. Behind each robbery by Daniel Morgan, director Philippe Mora perspicaciously wonders if Australia's colonial era rooted in some people's mind the belief that criminality is an alternative for survival.

Add to that the solid performance by the late Dennis Hopper. Whether his character laughs, drinks or steals from people, Hopper makes us feel the loss of hope by Daniel Morgan. In fact, we feel that the character blames the Australian society of the time for promising to newcomers glory and fortune along with letting them dry if they fail. Of course: never does Mora glorify the crimes of Daniel Morgan and sticks to a factual presentation of what Morgan did.

Finally, Mad Dog Morgan might appear very ordinary at the first look. However, behind this deceiving look, this Australian film gives us the feeling that we're actually seeing life through the eyes of a criminal.

Rating: 4/5

Origin:Australia (1976)
Length:102 minutes
Genre:Historical drama
Screenplay:Philippe Mora
Director:Philippe Mora
Starring:Dennis Hopper, Jack Thompson et David Gulpilil

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Gordon Pinsent Reads Quotes of Justin Bieber's Memoirs

In a sketch of the show This Hour Has 22 Minutes, actor Gordon Pinsent poked some fun at singer Justin Bieber by reading some passage of Bieber's memoirs. Apparently, Bieber said on his Twitter page that he liked the sketch.

As of now, the video has gone viral on the web site YouTube, because it has 87,247 views.

This Hour Has 22 Minutes is broadcasted on Tuesday nights at 8:30 PM on the Canadian TV network CBC. It stars Mark Critch, Gavin Crawford, Geri Hall and Cathy Jones, who cover news stories with a humouristic touch.

Guest Stars Confirmed for Tomorrow On 'The Ron James Show'

The Canadian TV network CBC confirmed that Devon Bostick (Adoration), Debra McGrath (Little Mosque on the Prairie), Eric Peterson (Corner Gas) and Patrick McKenna (The Red Green Show) will guest star tomorrow in The Ron James Show.

In the fifth episode, Canadian comedian Ron James talks about our rapidly changing world, is at a moral loggerhead with his son and thinks about a possible bailout plan for Canada. Moreover, there's a segment of the show that will be devoted to the industry of oil and cowboys in Alberta.

The Ron James Show is broadcasted on Friday nights at 8 PM (8:30 PM NT) on CBC.

Denis Côté Talks About His Film 'Curling'

Canadian director Denis Côté talks about his latest film Curling. The film will close the Festival du nouveau cinéma (FNC) on October 23 and will be in theatres on November 12.

During the winter in a remote area of Quebec, we follow Jean-François Sauvageau (Emmanuel Bilodeau) and his 12-year-old daughter Julyvonne (Philomène Bilodeau) who both live in a country house on the edge of a highway. Jean-François is a maintenance clerk at a bowling club and a motel. He's overprotective to the point that he doesn't want his daughter to get out. Moreover, Julyvonne doesn't go to school.

Since he takes Julyvonne out once in a while, she begs him more and more to let go out. According to Julyvonne, this will allow her to play with kids of her age. When Jean-François isn't at home, Julyvonne decides to go out in the forest near her house. Moreover, Isabelle (Sophie Desmarais), Jean-François's new colleague in the bowling club, would like to play with Julyvonne more often.

The film also stars Muriel Dutil, Johanne Haberlin, Roc LaFortune, Anie-Pascale Robitaille and Yves Trudel.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Trailer of 'Durham County' Season 3

The trailer of the procedural drama Durham County's third season is already online. The show will premiere on October 25 at 10 PM on HBO Canada.

In this season, Mike Sweeney (Hugh Dillon) is now the Superintendent of the Durham police precinct. His life seems to be going well: his wife, Audrey (Hélène Joy), is expecting a baby and his elder daughter, Sadie (Laurence Leboeuf), is about to graduate from the police academy. Speaking about his job, Mike is investigating a gruesome murder that occurred on the 401 Highway corridor.

Mike is leading his investigation with Det. Ivan Surjic (Michael Nardone), a man of Eastern European heritage with a dark secret. In fact, Ivan's wife, Katya, has disappeared. At the same time, Sadie’s role in an undercover operation and her contact with a known drug dealer has put her in grave danger. Meanwhile,a sudden tragedy occurs that may tear Mike’s family apart forever.

The third season also stars Greyston Holt as Ray Prager Jr., Krista Bridges as Sabina Leung, Andreas Aspergis as Miro Cercu, Cicely Austin as Maddie Sweeney and Bénédicte Décary as Eva Arcady.

Tom Fontana On Upcoming Series 'Borgia'

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The Canadian TV series The Borgias will compete in 2011 with the French TV series Borgia. Tom Fontana, the show's creator, talks about what we should expect from it.

The series Borgia, which was created by Tom Fontana (Oz; The Philantropist) will be aired in France on CanalPlus, a French premium cable network. As for the Canadian series, it will be on Showtime and CTV, which are respectively an American premium cable network and a Canadian TV network.

The series takes place during the Renaissance in Italy. It follows Rodrigo Borgia (John Doman), who will be the most corrupt pope in history. He will also go down in history with his children: Juan (Stanley Weber), the oldest, a prideful, a sexual predator with no shame; Cesare (Mark Ryder), a violent man; Lucretia (Isolda Dychauk), a young girl who will discover how to use her femininity.

The French series also stars Diarmuid Noyes, Assumpta Serna, Marta Gastini and Andrea Sawatzki.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper On the Set of 'Murdoch Mysteries'

Yesterday, the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, visited the set of the TV series Murdoch Mysteries's fourth season, which is currently in production.

The Prime Minister met the cast and crew of the TV series.

The series is based on a book series by Canadian novelist Maureen Jennings. The story takes place in the Toronto of the 1890s and we follow homicide detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson). As he solves the cases that cross his desk, he tries to integrate modern science in his investigations.

The series also stars Helene Joy, Thomas Craig, Jonny Harris and Lachlan Murdoch.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Competition Jury Announced for the Doha Tribeca Film Festival

The second Doha Tribeca Film Festival (DTFF), which will be held from October 26 to 30, announced the composition of its competition jury. It will be led by Egyptian actress Yosra.

Yosra replaces Hany Abu-Assad. This is because Abu-Assad is still working on the film The Courrier in Louisiana.

The competition jury will also be made of actress Salma Hayek Pinault (Frida), British actor/writer/director Nick Moran (Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels), Indian director Bhavna Talwar (Dharm) and Bosnian screenwriter/director Danis Tanovis (No Man's Land).

An update

The DTFF also announced that it has added seven other films to its line-up: Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen, Stone, Machete, Casino Jack, Paranormal Activity 2, Rakht Charitra and Champs Élysées je t'aime.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Vision (2009)

As a historical drama, Margarethe von Trotta's Vision is easy to appreciate because of its competent execution. Unfortunately, the film might leave enthusiasts of medieval history very hungry because it favours some angles more than others that are more relevant.

The latest film by German director Margarethe von Trotta (Rosenstrasse) follows Hildegard von Bingen (Barbara Sukowa), a German nun best known for her musical compositions, her knowledge in herbal medicine and her religious "visions". In 1106, at the age of eight, Hildegard is sent by her parents at the Benedictine monastery of Disibodenberg. Under the supervision of mother Jutta (Lena Stolze), Hildegard studies herbal medicine, reading, writing and Christianity. Thirty years later, mother Jutta dies and Hildegard is elected as the female abbot by her sisters.

Because she believes she occasionally has "visions" sent by God, Hildegard describes them to brother Volmar (Heino Ferch). With the authorization of the pope, Volmar write about these "visions" as dictated by Hildegard in a book. We also witness the jealousy of Jutta von Sponheim (Mareile Blendl), a sister who was also raised by mother Jutta, because of Hildegard's notoriety. There's also the very intimate friendship between Hildegard and sister Richardis (Hannah Herzsprung), who regards Hildegard as an intellectual model.

Given its tone, Vision differs from Rosenstrasse, another film by von Trotta about a non-Jewish German woman who struggles to get her Jewish husband out of a prison in Berlin during the Second World War. Instead of giving an endless - and yet justified - eulogy of the heroine's qualities, von Trotta offers a distanced homage to Hildegard von Bingen. We get to see a seemingly flawless protagonist who swears to live in abnegation in favour of God and be a role model for the sisters. At the same time, the film makes us grin by dealing with Hildegard's propensity to enjoy her intellectual celebrity because of the "visions" she had had. All in all, expect a very nuanced performance by Barbara Sukowa depicting a character who tried in her own way to stand up against the misogyny of the time.

Speaking about history, Vision doesn't entirely give you the feeling that you're living the Middle Age. Of course, the film does show the contempt some people had for Hildegard's claims of having visions or even her opinions against certain Christian customs. However, Vision only superficially explores the tolerance of the German clergy towards Hildegard's public notoriety. As for the pope's tolerance of some ideas advocated by Hildegard, don't expect to see any explanations.

Despite its flaws, Vision is worth your time if medieval history is your cup of tea.

Rating: 3.5/5

Origin:Germany/France (2009)
Length:110 minutes
Genre:Biographic drama
Screenplay:Margarethe von Trotta
Director:Margarethe von Trotta
Starring:Barbara Sukowa and Heino Ferch

'Sortie 67' In Quebec's Theatres On Nov. 5

The anticipated independent film, Sortie 67, which follows a young member of a street gang in Montreal, will come out in Quebec's theatres on November 5. It hasn't been confirmed if it will be a wide or limited release.

The film was directed and written by Bastien Jephté.

The film takes place in St-Michel, a poor district of Montreal also known for its problems of criminality. Ronald Paquet (Henri Pardo), a young mulatto, saw his dad murder his mom when he was eight years old. This is why he waits for the day when he can finally avenge his mom's death. However, before the release of his dad, Ronald had always been tied to a violent street gang. In fact, this is why he's trying to make a choice: remain a criminal or pull himself together.

The film also stars Benz Antoine, Natacha Noël, Alain Lino, Mic Eli Bastien, Edouard Fontaine, Fabienne Colas, Sophie Desmarais, Danny Blanco-Hall, Natacha Noël, Anthony Clerveaux, Lansana Kourouma and Scott Jimmy Beaubrun.

Finally, here's the full-length trailer of the film.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

CBC Moves 'Being Erica' to Wednesday Nights

Starting with its fifth episode, Being Erica will now be aired on Wednesday nights according to an announcement made by the Canadian TV network CBC.

Up until the broadcasting of the third season's fourth episode, the Canadian TV series Being Erica had always been aired on Tuesday at 9 PM.

Next week, the new episodes of the third season will be aired on Wednesday at 9 PM just after the hit reality show Dragons' Den (8 PM). The latter is one of the 30 most watched shows in Canada and will be used as a lead-in to Being Erica.

Speaking about competition on the same day at the same hour from Canadian and American TV networks, Being Erica will face these TV series: Criminal Minds (CBS), Hell's Kitchen (Fox), Mauvais karma (Radio-Canada), Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC) and Modern Family along with Cougartown, two half-hour comedies from ABC.

The show is about a single woman from Toronto, Erica (Erin Karpluk), who occasionally has some therapy sessions with Dr. Tom (Michael Riley). During these sessions, she gets to revisit her past and fix a regret that has been affecting her.

The show also stars Adam Fergus, Joanna Douglas, Vinessa Antoine, Morgan Kelly, Kathleen Laskey, John Boylan, Brandon Jay McLaren, Michael P. Northey, Billy Turnbull, Jeff Geddis, Melanie Scrofano, Kim Roberts, Joanne Vannicola and Graham Greene.

'Republic of Doyle' Season 1 On DVD On Nov. 16

The first season of the TV series Republic of Doyle - which will return for a second season this January on the TV network CBC - will be on DVD on November 26.

Meet Jake Doyle - rogue, charmer, drinker, brawler, emotionally unavailable, immature - and the handsome P.I. hero of Republic of Doyle. Jake (Allan Hawco) is a new breed of private investigator, cracking cases - and the occasional head - in contemporary St. John's, Newfoundland. His hometown is changing in a big way, transforming from a small seaport to a booming oil town, and where there's cash, there's trash - and lots of it. With his father and partner-in-crime-solving Malachy Doyle (Sean McGinley) by his side, Jake is ready to take on whatever mystery turns up on the Doyle doorstep.

The show also stars Lynda Boyd, Rachel Wilson, Krystin Pellerin, Marthe Bernard, Mark O'Brien and Bob Cole.

TV Series 'Apparences' Begins Production

Production began yesterday for the TV series, Apparences, which will be aired on the French Canadian TV network Radio-Canada on January 2011, in Montreal.

This psychological thriller was written by award-winning writer Serge Boucher (Aveux) and will be directed by Francis Leclerc.

The film centres on two twin sisters, Nathalie (Geneviève Brouillette) and Manon (Myriam LeBlanc ) Bérubé. One left her hometown in order to become an actress and the other became a teacher at the elementary school she herself attended. On the day of their fortieth anniversary, the twin sisters reunite with their family and something will change their life.

This upcoming TV series also stars Daniel Parent, Benoît Gouin, Alexis Martin, Nicole Leblanc and Vincent-Guillaume Otis.

'Goon' Will Begin Production On Oct. 18

While it still has release no release date, the Canadian film Goon will begin production on October 18.

The film will be shot in Winnipeg. Moreover, this comedy was written by Jay Baruchel (Tropic Thunder) and Evan Goldberg (Superbad). The director will be Michael Dowse (Fubar).

The story is an adaptation of the biographic book Goon: The True Story of an Unlikely Journey into Minor League Hockey, which was written by Adam Frattasio and Doug Smith. The film will be based on Smith's life and he'll be played by Seann William Scott (American Pie).

Scott plays a bouncer who dreams of making it to the NHL even though he started to learn how to skate at the age of 19. His first step will consist in integrating a minor hockey league. In order to keep his dream alive, Doug will rely on his fighting skills.

The film also stars Jay Baruchel, Liev Schreiber (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Alison Pill (Milk) and Marc-André Grondin (The Chameleon).

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

V Orders a Series On the Montreal Canadiens

This January, V, a French Canadian TV network, will broadcast a docu-series following players of the Montreal Canadiens.
In each episode of half an hour, viewers will follow a given player of the Montreal Canadiens, a professional hockey team from the National Hockey Leauge (NHL). Through this player, we'll get a glimpse of his personal and professional life.

More details to come and the number of ordered episodes hasn't been made public.

Poster of 'Jaloux'

After it had being screened to the Toronto International Film Festival, Patrick Demers's Jaloux will come to Montreal's Festival du nouveau cinema. While the film's poster is online, the trailer isn't.

This is the story according to the Toronto International Film Festival:
Thomas and Marianne, a feuding couple whose relationship has hit a wall, decide to spend a weekend at Thomas’s uncle’s lakeside cottage. This is their last chance to save their relationship, which has been jeopardized by Marianne’s meaningless flirtations and Thomas’s uncontrollable jealousy. As they arrive, a restless yet charming neighbour welcomes them into their house and, realizing that Thomas’s uncle and girlfriend will not be showing up for days, suggests they share the dinner he has prepared. The drunken night that follows – with this man, who might not be who he seems to be, pushing his charms on Marianne – leads to a weekend of blurred emotions and events, where loyalties, guilt and a shared secret will test the young couple’s ability to survive.

Along the way, flashbacks shed light on events that unfold, as Demers – who won the prize for Best Canadian Short Film at the Festival in 1999 for Décharge – begins to introduce information about each character in order to build doubt and ramp up the tension. Jaloux is a tour de force in both its European mood and style and its North American subject and nature, a result which could not have been achieved without the self-assured skills of an expert filmmaker.
The film stars Sophie Cadieux, Maxime Denommée and Benoît Gouin.

Here are the screening schedule of the film at the Festival du nouveau cinéma (FNC):

1. Saturday, October 16 at 7:00 PM at the Quartier Latin Theatre.

2. Sunday, October 17 at 1:00 PM at the Ex-Centris Theatre.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Happy 2nd Blogaversary!

Ladies and gentlemen, it's my pleasure to announce you that the The Cultural Post will blow two candles for this year!

This project started two years ago when I turned my political blog into a cultural blog. In its first year, the blog was about film reviews. However, as time went by, it made a place to news stories about what's going on in the Canadian film and TV industry. Since then, I've reached a bigger community of amazing readers who commonly share with me their love for films, TV and books.

I'd like to thank my best friends, Léonard and Allen, who encouraged me to keep the course right from day one The Cultural Post. Thanks also to Norma (The Flick Chick), Steve (The Film Cynics), Cameron (URBM), Shannon (Movie Moxie), Blake (Bitchin Film Reviews), the folks at, along with Adrienne Mitchell and Janis Lundman, two of Durham County's producers, for making this experience more rewarding than I expected it to be. Of course, there are many other people I'd like to thank.
Here are my objectives for the third year:

  • Reach more readers especially in Europe and Australia/New Zealand.
  • Put eTalk Daily and ET Canada, two Canadian cultural TV magazines who focus too much on Hollywood, out of business. Here's a note to Canadian media: if you want my attention, don't publish cultural news stories that I've already read in American magazines and newspapers or heard on American TV networks! Seriously, be more productive!
  • Continuing to study journalism at the University of Montreal and getting my professional credentials somewhere in 2011.
  • Getting a bigger operating budget in order to go to Toronto once in a while for the TIFF and other cultural events.
  • And many more things
All right, here's to many more years to come!

'Durham County' Season 3 Premieres Oct. 25 on HBO Canada

The premium cable network, HBO Canada, announced that Durham County's third and final season will premiere on October 25 at 10 PM. Also announced were the details of the script in this season.

In this season, Mike Sweeney (Hugh Dillon) is now the Superintendent of the Durham police precinct. His life seems to be going well: his wife, Audrey (Hélène Joy), is expecting a baby and his elder daughter, Sadie (Laurence Leboeuf), is about to graduate from the police academy. Speaking about his job, Mike is investigating a gruesome murder that occurred on the 401 Highway corridor.

Mike is leading his investigation with Det. Ivan Surjic (Michael Nardone), a man of Eastern European heritage with a dark secret. In fact, Ivan's wife, Katya, has disappeared. At the same time, Sadie’s role in an undercover operation and her contact with a known drug dealer has put her in grave danger. Meanwhile,a sudden tragedy occurs that may tear Mike’s family apart forever.

The third season also stars Greyston Holt as Ray Prager Jr., Krista Bridges as Sabina Leung, Andreas Aspergis as Miro Cercu, Cicely Austin as Maddie Sweeney and Bénédicte Décary as Eva Arcady.

Showcase Renews 'Haven' For 2nd Season

Showcase, a Canadian cable network, announced yesterday that it will renew the paranormal TV series Haven for a second season. This also means that Haven will return on SyFy, an American cable network dedicated to science-fiction.

This Canadian TV series based on the novel The Colarado Kid, by Stephen King, will begin production in Spring 2011. The premiere of Haven will be in Summer 2011.

The show follows FBI agent Audrey Parker (Emily Rose) while she takes residence in Haven, Maine. Once she's in the town, she discovers that some of its inhabitants have mysterious powers. While she investigates, she also tries to find the key to her past. She's helped by Nathan Wuornos (Lucas Bryant), a local cop, and Duke Crocker (Eric Balfour), a mysterious man.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Trailer of 'Father & Sons'

The trailer of one of Canadian director Carl Bessai's latest films, Fathers & Sons, is now online.

This film is a spin-off of the film Mothers and Daughters , a comedy that deals with the relation some women have with their mom. In Fathers & Sons, women are replaced by men, and mothers, by fathers.

Here's the description of the story according to the studio behind the film, Raven West:

A middle-aged Jewish man meets his father for the first time at the funeral of his mother. A south-asian accountant introduces his white fiance to his father - a gay, bollywood choreographer. A recently bankrupted wall street broker has come home to borrow money from his music teacher father, and four brothers gather at the paternal home to pay their last respects and to collect their inheritance.

The film stars Stephen Lobo, Manoj Sood, Tyler Labine, Vincent Gale, Hrothgar Mathews, Tom Scholte, Blu Mankuma, Viv Leacock, Jay Brazeau, Benjamin Ratner, Sonja Bennett, Richard de Klerk, Gabrielle Rose and Tantoo Cardinal.

Finally, the film will be presented at the Festival du nouveau cinéma in Montreal.

Fathers&Sons Trailer from Raven West Films on Vimeo.

Other informations:
1. The film's page.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Rosenstrasse (2003)

Once in a while, it's good to be reminded that the Second World War is not just about explosions, but also about people living far from the fronts.

Since the end of the Second World War, Ruth (Jutta Lampe), a German-born secular-minded Jewish woman, has been living in New York City. On the day of her husband's death, she suddenly becomes orthodox-minded. Her relatives, especially her daughter Hannah (Maria Schrader), don't understand why Ruth expects them to stay away from their day job for 30 days or even to stop picking up the phone. In order to understand how Ruth is so shaken, Hannah decides to explore her mom's past after Ruth's cousin (Carola Regnier) had shown her a picture. In this picture, we see a young Ruth standing next to the gentile woman who saved her from the horrors of the Holocaust.

This is why Hannah decides to go to Germany in order to interview this gentile woman named Lena Fischer (Doris Schade) - née Von Eschenbach. In order to get her information, Hannah poses as a historian studying intermarriages between Jews and gentiles during the Third Reich. During the interview, Lena tells the story of a week in 1943. During that time, Lena (Katja Riemann) did everything to get her Jewish husband, Fabian Israel Fischer (Martin Feifel), out of a detention building on the Rosenstrasse Street in Berlin.

Because she's not alone, Lena will join other gentile women who are married to Jewish man and who refused to divorce from their husband despite the pressure from the Nazi government. Together, these women will gather on a daily basis before the detention building with the hope that their husband will be freed. Through this story, Hannah will also discover a past that her mom, Ruth, has always hidden and also how Lena saved Ruth.

Although the film is told from a German point of view, Rosenstrasse is by no means ignoring the fact that German Jews were mistreated by the Nazi government. At the same time, since it talks about mixed marriages between Jews and gentiles, the film doesn't try to make this social fact more important than it was back in the days of the Third Reich. However, the film might leave a bitter taste in the mouth of some people. With that said, Rosenstrasse is a beautiful film about people - in this case the gentile women - finding that they're powerless victims who don't control the historical circumstances they live in. At the same time, these women are characters that one can easily root for because they cling to their individual hopes and also their value of tolerance in a time when this idea wasn't really popular.

Moreover, by going back in forth between the Rosenstrasse Street of 1943 and the one in the twenty-first century, Von Trotta shows her cleverness. Even though, the street doesn't look like the it used to be in 1943, as Von Trotta points it out, it still bears the wounds caused by the Holocaust. As a well-written and uniformly well-acted film, Rosenstrasse certainly has its narrative flaws. In fact, I could have lived without the parts in the present day.

Rating: 4/5

Origin:Germany (2003)
Length:136 minutes
Screenplay:Pamela Katz and Margarethe von Trotta
Director:Margarethe von Trotta
Starring:Katja Riemann, Maria Schrader and Svea Lohde

Monday, October 4, 2010

Comedy Series 'Good Dog' Will Be Presented in Cannes

While it had already been picked up by a network at its home, the comedy series Good Dog will be presented abroad to international buyers.

This Canadian TV series created, written and produced by Ken Finkleman will premiere on HBO Canada, a Canadian premium cable network, in 2011 and is being presented to international buyers in Cannes at the 2010 MIPCOM, an event where buyers reunite to see upcoming things in TV land.

Earlier today, potential international buyers saw an exclusive preview of Good Dog at Cannes's Palais des festivals.

The TV series follows a self-absorbed, neurotic TV producer played by Ken Finkleman himself. His character named George who's involved with a gorgeous model, Claire (Lauren Lee Smith), who is half his age. George also pitch a reality show centred on him and his life.

However, the network executives want Claire to move in George's house, George is forced to escalate the relationship and, consequently, his fears of commitment. When the pitch and his life go sideways, he frets, vents and re-evaluates by soliciting questionable advice from his best friend, Doug (Jason Weinberg).

Friday, October 1, 2010

Easy A (2010)

Will Gluck's Easy A is one of the few films that entice you the moment you see its trailer. As a teen comedy, the film definitely lived up to my expectations. It's one of the few teen comedies - despite a few exaggerations in the story - in which you actually recognize the atmosphere characterizing life in high school.

The story is centred on Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone), a teenager in high school. She's just an ordinary girl that nobody notices up until the day she tells her big-boobed best friend, Rhiannon (Aly Michalka), she dated a college freshman. As Rhiannon aggressively asks for details about the date, Olive knowingly invents a detailed lie about how she lost her virginity. Obviously, because this is high school, this lie travels at the speed of light among students. Shortly afterwards, a bullied gay student, Brandon (Dan Byrd), proposes her to devise a plan. Because he wants to prove to his tormentors that he's straight, Brandon pretends he had sex with Olive.

She quickly becomes her school's trollop and she uses her reputation built on lies. In fact, she solicits fake flings to earn money or gift cards from male students in need for popularity. Besides to top it off, a Christian fundamentalist group in her school wants to "save" her and Olive embroider an "A" on all of her clothes to defy this group. Ironically, the book she has to read for her English class happens to be The Scarlet Letter. Eventually, things spiral out of control and Olive will play all-in to save her reputation in the film's last act.

Obviously, the references to Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter and the confessions to the web-cam made the film a little bit predictable. Despite that weakness, Easy A manages to breathe a fresh puff into the way high school is depicted in films. As much as the film humorously - yet openly - deals with this peer pressure exerted on male students to be straight, it also dissects this desire of high school students to lose their virginity. At the same time, that desire is also hypocrite. This is because some characters don't mind contributing to make Olive look like a slut by pretending they had sex with her and they get away with it. As the film shows it, a "harlot" is more likely to be ostracized instead of the guys who said they had sex with her. Go figure out why!

All compliments aside, Easy A doesn't bring something new to the genre of teen comedies. However, never has a teen comedy looked so smart, well written and well acted. As a smart girl with a lot of confidence, Emma Stone is also well supported by the supporting cast, especially by Thomas Haden Church, Lisa Kudrow and Amanda Bynes, who plays the kind of religious freak you see on TV during the American presidential election or even in the brilliant documentary Jesus Camp.

Rating: 4/5

Origin:USA (2010)
Length:92 minutes
Screenplay:Bert V. Royal
Director:Will Gluck
Starring:Emma Stone, Penn Badgley and Amanda Bynes

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