Dance Preview – Life Eternal choreographed by Janak Khendry

Janak Khendry

Introduction to Janak Khendry and his new dance piece Life Eternal

Life Eternal is at the Fleck Dance Theatre Nov. 9-11.

At 78, choreographer/designer/sculptor Janak Khendry is the doyen of Indian classical dance in Canada. Roughly every two years, he produces a gigantic dance piece of sumptuous beauty and deep philosophical inquiry. This year’s offering is Life Eternal, which examines the pathway to immortality in three great religions – Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism. When it comes to themes, Khendry is always willing to take on the big picture, so to speak. His repertoire is filled with epic works of lofty purpose. He also designs the gorgeous array of costumes.

Khendry was born in Amritsar in the Punjab, North India, and was a dancing whirlwind from the age of five. His forward thinking parents allowed him to study dance as long as he maintained a high level in his academic studies. Over time he became proficient in four distinct styles of Indian classical dance: bharatanatyam, kathak, sattriya and manipuri. He maintains that his years spent with bharatanatyam guru Swami Muttukumar Pillai in a tiny village in South India were the happiest of his life. After graduating with a B.A. in English and Art History, he took a second B.A. in metal sculpture.

Khendry moved to the United States in 1961, where he attended Ohio State University for his Masters in sculpture. He also studied modern dance, including Graham, Limon and Cunningham techniques. He then relocated to New York City where he spent 16 years, both as a performer of Indian classical dance, and as the gallery director of the New York Sculpture Centre.

Canada became his new home when he met Toronto dentist Herschel Freeman who became his life partner. Khendry moved to Toronto in 1979 and opened the first gallery in Canada specializing in glass sculpture. The gallery was a fixture in Yorkville for 22 years. He also founded his dance company which has been going strong for almost four decades.

The Interview (wherein Janak Khendry talks about Life Eternal).

Paradise Lost

I have to say, Janak, that you don’t shy away from vast topics when you make your dances.

Simple themes are not for me. I’m a sucker for punishment, but I also want to create a work of art on the stage.

Where did the idea for Life Eternal come from?

It was during a conversation with friends when we were discussing different paths to immortality. The idea just jumped out and I grabbed it. I envisioned a work showing three different religions, each with its own language and traditions, and all of them striving for the universal truth of immortality, but in different ways. It was very tough creating the piece because I had to come up with three parallel stories. I did not want to preach religion. Rather, I wanted to explore the philosophy behind achieving immortality. Originally, I wanted to call the piece Immortality, but my advisors felt the word had too much religious connotation.

Life Eternal

I know you consult with what you call your research advisors as part of your mammoth preparation for a new work.

Dr. Tulsiram Sharma and Dr. Narendra Wagle are both specialists in South Asian Studies. Their input and guidance is invaluable. I’ve known them for years.

Why did you not include Islam in Life Eternal, the other great religion of the Indian subcontinent?

I’m very careful. Religion in general is a touchy subject, but with Islam, especially so. I felt I would need permission from Moslem leaders to broach the subject, so it seemed easier not to go there.

What is your next step in the creation process after research?

Women Liberated

I write a complete step-by-step draft of the story line, which I send to my music director, Ashit Desai, in Mumbai. Ashit and I have worked together for over 20 years. I also send the lyrics I want, which for Life Eternal, are verses from the sacred texts, the Vedas and the Gita. When the music is composed, Ashit then sends back a CD. This is done three or four months before rehearsals start. I listen to his compositions over and over again until my body absorbs the music. Slowly, movement starts to come in my head, and I make drawings of the choreography under the musical notes on the score. I document everything.

I see that to explain something so abstract as striving for immortality, or freedom that transcends time and space, as you call it, you use concrete narratives to illustrate the concept.

Yes. The Buddhist section has four characters: the Buddha, his young son, who is about 14, and two converts. One is a poor, downtrodden female street sweeper, while the other is a cruel man, a murderer, a thief, yet, as followers, both come to sit at the feet of the Buddha. The have all found love, peace and happiness.

And the Jain story?

The main character is King Payesi who is a horrible person until he hears the sermon of a Keysi, a holy man, that touches him deeply. Everything changes for him and he gives up his earthly treasures. In disgust, his wife Suryakanta poisons him, but he is reborn as a very pious human.

And the narrative that illustrates the Hindu path to immortality?

Markhendye is a sage who has reached a high level of spirituality. The god Indra sends all kinds of things to tempt the sage to betray his spiritual self, but Markhendye does not react. The gods are pleased that a human being is so pious, and he is given the blessings of the supreme god Shiva and his consort Parvati.

These are three very distinct sections. Do you bring them together at the end?

Three dancers, one representing each story, are seen walking to the back of the stage together. They symbolize freedom.

How did three different stories, representing three different religions, impact the choreography?

The movement came about according to what the subject matter dictated. Some of it is in definite styles of dance, other parts are my own movement creation. There is no end to what the human body can do to be expressive.

There are 14 dancers, seven men and seven women. Are they all local, or did you have to import some from India?

Life Eternal Dancers

All of them are from Toronto, but have different backgrounds. Most are of Indian descent, but there are dancers from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, for example. The dancer playing King Payesi is a Moslem. I treat my dancers with love and respect because they give life to my work, which makes them a very important part of my life.

Eternal Life, choreography by Janak Khendry, is at the Fleck Dance Theatre, Nov. 9-11.

Dance Preview: Choreographer Kathleen Rea’s Men’s Circle – Dance Meets Psychotherapy

Kathleen Rea
Photo Simon Tanenbaum

Introduction to Kathleen Rea

Men’s Circle (Nov. 3-5) is Rea’s exploration of the vulnerability of men. She is the creator, writer, director and choreographer.

As a parallel career to her dance projects, Rea has maintained a private psychotherapy practice for 15 years. The wellspring of Men’s Circle was inspired by her own clients. Her life progression has been a journey from a troubled ballerina with an eating disorder, to a well-adjusted mother of two.

Rea studied at Canada’s National Ballet School, and was a professional dancer in Canada and Europe until she was 30. She performed with Ballet Jorgen, the National Ballet of Canada, and Tiroler Landestheater in Innsbruck, Austria. According to Rea, her body was too voluptuous for ballet standards, so her solution was bulimia. From the age of 15 to 25, her life was dominated by the eating disorder. Only during her last five years as a dancer did she have her health back.

Frames of Control (1996) choreographed by Kathleen Rea
Photo by David Hou

Her interest in psychotherapy was an outgrowth from her battle with bulimia, and she practices a specific type of arts-based treatment. Her acclaimed work Frames of Control (1996) signalled her victory over both the eating disorder and her poor body image. The clever ending featured a naked Rea jumping through a door frame to freedom. The ballet years also took their toll in other ways. Rea stopped dancing when her knees ran out of cartilage. Happily, she discovered contact improvisation, which allows her to keep moving, as it were. As a choreographer, she regards herself as a storyteller.

The Interview

We should really start with how and why you became a psychotherapist since there is a direct connection to your new piece Men’s Circle.

When I sought out treatment for my eating disorder, I looked for arts-based therapy because I’m an artist. Most therapies for eating disorders involve a reward system through food, but my treatment involved working out problems through the arts – healing through the arts, and I fell in love with it. I studied at The Create Institute which offers a three year Masters program in expressive arts therapy training. It’s affiliated with the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. I spent the winters in Toronto and the summers at the school. My Master’s thesis ultimately grew into my book, The Healing Dance: The Liife and Practice of an Expressive Arts Therapist, which was published in 2013.

Can you give me an example of arts-based therapy?

Having the client draw pictures as a way of expressing a problem. Telling stories opens up new perspectives.

You call yourself a storytelling choreographer. Can you explain?

 I first fell in love with ballet through the amazing stories it told through movement. In contemporary dance, stories are not popular, but all my dance pieces have a narrative line. The stories in Men’s Circle are told through text, song and dance. Tristan Whiston is my dramaturge, and we’ve worked on nine projects together. He helps me with the script, and sits with me in rehearsals making sure that the stories are getting told. He works on acting moments with the dancers.

How did you discover contact improv?

Bill Coleman
Photo by Olya Glotka

I had done some contact in Innsbruck so I was familiar with it. When I came back to Canada in 2000, I missed the feeling of family that you get from dancing in a company. I founded the Wednesday Contact Jam at Dovercourt House so I could be surrounded by a community of dancers. About 30 to 40 people show up each Wednesday, and I bring in a different musician each time to provide the live music that we move to. Dancing with people makes me so happy. I also teach contact at George Brown College.

What is it that you love about contact?

For me, it’s about following momentum, in your own body or with a partner. In contact you’re a momentum surfer.

Besides your clients being an inspiration, Men’s Circle also has a connection to your oldest son.

Wyatt, who’s seven, was diagnosed with high functioning autism. In marking his symptoms, I saw that I checked all the boxes when I was younger. I was extremely sound sensitive and socially awkward. It explains many things about my life. When there is an autistic meltdown, I know that we have to be removed from the sensory overload. I know what situations we have to avoid. Autism does not mean that something has to be fixed. Autism does not mean that you have to figure out what’s wrong. Autism means you accept what you have to do. One of the characters in Men’s Circle is inspired both by my son and by my own experience.

Photo by Olya Glotka

Men’s Circle is all about vulnerability. You certainly have taken a very sympathetic approach to the male experience.

There’s not a lot of room in our culture for talking about men’s vulnerability issues. The Movember movement, which wants to raise awareness about men’s mental health, calls the suppression of male emotions and feelings “the silent epidemic”. Suicide is the number one cause of death in men between the ages of 19 and 35. As well, men make up 75% of all suicides in Canada. The discussions about rape culture and accusations of sexual assault and harassment where women are victims dominate the news, but there is a “nurturance” gap in terms of men – by that I mean the physical and emotional nurturing of men. If we taught boys compassion and empathy, if we let boys cry, there would be less women victims. We have to create a world for boys that is not so narrow. We need to have a bigger conversation about men and vulnerability. Men’s Circle is about letting men tell their stories – giving them a voice.

Since your piece is storytelling, there must be characters.

There are seven characters, each with his own vulnerability. All of them belong to the same therapy group. Actually, the idea of a therapy group came later because I needed a connective tissue to link the stories together. The narrative follows the characters as they go through their individual journeys which all involve a learning curve. I gave them regular guy names so the audience could relate to them.

Rehearsal photo by Olya Glotka

Can you describe each man?

Joe holds back on his emotions, hiding behind bravado humour. He learns to weep. Kevin is high functioning autistic, a music savant who still lives with his parents. He loses his virginity and learns how to make friends. Matt is the most unstable and his emotions overflow. He becomes suicidal, but then he does find some grounding. Ran is the youngest. He’s at the group because it is court-mandated. He was caught selling drugs, and feels he’s “too cool for school”. Hercules grew up in a rough neighbourhood where he saw a lot of death. He wants a career as a ballet dancer, and is a perfectionist because he believes that, for a black man to get ahead, he has to be better than everyone else. He has faced systemic racism. Frank is the ghost of a client who killed himself, and he follows the therapist around. He can’t leave until the therapist forgives himself. And finally, Michael is the therapist, and he needs healing too. Frank was in a previous group. He had called the therapist for help, but Michael was too late to stop Frank’s suicide. When Michael is finally able to forgive himself, he can help the men in his present group. Incidentally, Harold Tausch who plays the therapist started a men’s support group 25 years ago, and it’s still going strong. (For the performances, the role of the therapist was played by Paul Lewis, due to Mr. Tausch’s illness.)

How do these stories play out in choreography?

The other dancers are support people for each story. For example, Matt comes from an unstable family, and this is shown through the other dancers lying on the floor, and Matt walking on the unstable surface of their bodies. Or, Joe reveals he failed grade two, so they all celebrate with a failed grade two party.

Contact improv is done in the moment. How is this handled in Men’s Circle?

Rehearsal photo by Olya Glotka

The show will be different at each performance because 25% is completely improvised. It’s structured improv so there are rules. For example, the dancers are given an emotional task and a specific shape that is different each night, and that they have to work out. There is also the breath canon. A dancer can only breathe when they touch a different part of a person’s body each time, or touch a different person. They perform in their underwear and they look both beautiful and vulnerable. The most impactful kind of theatre is when someone on stage doesn’t know what to do because its spur of the moment. It’s enhanced vulnerability.

You’ve got some really well-known dancers like Allan Kaeja and Bill Coleman. How did they happen to be in the piece?

All of them come to the contact jam. That’s how I know them. I just asked them to work with me, and they all said yes.

Men’s Circle, presented by REAson d’être dance productions, Betty Oliphant Theatre, Nov. 3-5. Tickets: www.reasondetre.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dance Preview: Catching up with Matjash Mrozewski – the choreographer/director has two premieres

Introduction to Matjash Mrozewski

The next two weeks feature two Mrozewski premieres. Future Perfect Continuous, created with Anna Chatterton, (ProArteDanza, Nov. 1-4), and Abiding, a solo for Evelyn Hart (Older & Reckless, Nov. 10 & 11).

Mrozewski graduated from the National Ballet School in 1993. During his career as a dancer, he performed with the National Ballet of Canada, Le Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, and Les Ballets de Monte Carlo. Early on he had shown a penchant for choreography, and his promise was revealed in the widely acclaimed A Delicate Battle created for the National Ballet of Canada in 2001. That year he stopped dancing, and given his enormous gifts as a dancesmith, it was expected that he would launch a successful international career. The proof lies in his creations for over 13 ballet companies that span the globe. He also choreographed for films, flash mobs, galas, classical music concerts and musicals. The road ahead seemed very clear – a lauded career as an international choreographer.

While the dance pathway is still very much in his life, Mrozewski has also added a new skill set. In 2016, he graduated from the two-year York University/Canadian Stage MFA program, whose focus is large-scale theatre direction. Subsequently, he has directed Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors in High Park, and Jordan Tannahill’s Botticelli in the Fire, which won a Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Production, and netted Mrozewski an Outstanding Direction nomination, which joins his two Dora nominations for Outstanding Choreography.

Mrozewski’s world premieres for ProArteDanza and Older & Reckless, which debut over the next two weeks, reflect both his choreographic and theatrical hats. (Note: in the next few months, he also has new dance and/or theatre pieces for Ryerson University, George Brown Theatre School, the George Randolph Academy, and a Secret Shakespeare performance.)

The Interview (where upon Mrozewski, now 41, talks about his MFA and his two new pieces).

Let’s begin with your going back to school. That was a big bite of two years out of your life.

I had been a dance professional for 20 years, but at that point, I felt I needed to take stock of where I was in my career. I needed different challenges. I had a hunger to learn something new – to step away from the obvious track. A lot of needs were colliding together, and the MFA program seemed to provide a solution.

Why stage direction?

I had always had an instinct for text, and I felt that this MFA course would put me in touch with the tools I needed to work with language and dramaturgy – to develop my theatrical side. It would also open doors to the worlds of theatre and opera. My main motive was a desire to become an opera director – it still remains a strong interest.

How different was it to work with actors?

I love working with actors, because I really enjoy analyzing text. With dancers, you guide them from the outside. With actors, you give them clues to manifest ideas internally. Words are concrete and can get to the heart of things, while movement deals with abstract states. When I started the MFA program, my eye was strong but my ear was weak. The greatest lesson I learned was how to lift the text off the page – to develop a point of view about what the playwright is trying to say. I was clear in my mind on the “why” of the text, but I had to learn to articulate these thoughts in words.

Your ProArte piece, Future Perfect Continuous, is certainly text driven, which is a departure for the company.

Artistic director Roberto Campanello wanted to push his dancers in new directions, and he thought they were ready for that kind of stretch – the marriage of text and movement. In truth, the performing arts are all playing in the same zone. The walls are blurring between the disciplines, and I had been moving in this direction. A recent work I did for the National Ballet School included a long spoken monologue, while a new piece for Ballet Kelowna used the dancers’ voices.

How did you come to work with playwright/librettist Anna Chatterton on Future? She’s a really creative force in both the theatre and opera worlds.

A mutual friend suggested her, and I saw her work Quiver at Buddies. She’s certainly very versatile. We met for dumplings and really got along. In our first workshop, it was inspiring to watch Anna toss around language and text.

What is your point of departure for the piece?

Anna and I started with a discussion about the future – what in our lives were we most concerned about? For both of us, the question was, how do hope and optimism cope with denial and ignorance? We discovered that the place of hope was high in both our lives. It was important, however, that we not make the work a lecture. The dancers are not on a soapbox. We wanted to leave room for the audience to reflect on the subject, to relate to the dancers in their feelings of frustration and inadequacy, to think about the concerns we raise. Things are not tied up neatly.

 

Just how much text do the eight dancers have to deal with?

 

It’s 35 minutes long, and contains about 25 minutes of spoken word, which includes monologues and conversations. The dancers are really meeting the challenge of moving and talking. The audience is going to need their ears opened as much as their eyes to catch what they’re listening to.

What’s the choreography like?

It’s not classical dance, but there is still formality in the structure. It’s very physical – ritual-like gesture, floor work, contact partnering. It’s fluid, responsive and quite earthy.

What about Anna’s text?

The dancers are seen working out their frustrations about the future in both rage and hope. As the size of the problems facing them grows, the text descends into doubt and vagueness and incomplete sentences. It’s very human. It’s about life. There is also humour, which is one of Anna’s trademarks.

Did you fit in music with the text?

The underscore is an orchestral version of songs by the alternative British rock supergroup Minor Victories.

Let’s talk about your Older & Reckless piece for the great ballerina Evelyn Hart, although in terms of dance, she’s a senior citizen.

Claudia Moore, O & R’s artistic director, wanted Evelyn on the program, and she thought of me as choreographer. Like Evelyn, I’ve had the experience of ups and downs. The solo is a character study of a woman of a certain age, which utilizes Evelyn’s remarkable skill as a dramatic actress. I’ve set it to a luminous Handel aria.

Is Evelyn still a perfectionist? She used to demand a lot from her choreographers and dance partners.

We spent ten hours in a rehearsal room, meeting once a week. Dancers are trained to make choreography work, but with Evelyn, if something didn’t fit right, we fixed it. She’s very organic, quiet, delicate and powerful. Abiding is about her in this moment. Because it’s a piece for Older & Reckless, time has a bearing.

ProArteDanza, Fleck Dance Theatre (Nov. 1-4); Older & Reckless #40, Harbourfront Centre Theatre (Nov. 10 and 11); both shows are part of Harbourfront’s Next Steps Season (www.harbourfrontcentre.com/nextsteps).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Concert Preview: Unsound Toronto Does Halloween

Introduction to Unsound Toronto Does Halloween

Two extraordinary concerts are taking place at the Bluma Appel Theatre on Fri. Oct. 27 and Fri. Nov. 3, which marks the third incarnation of Unsound Toronto, the brainchild of Unsound Festival artistic director Mat Schulz and executive director Malgorzata (Gosia) Plysa, based in Krakow, Poland.

Those first two ground-breaking manifestations took place at the derelict Hearn Generating Station in 2015 and 2016 as part of the Luminato Festival. They created a sensation with their unique sound and light show that included experimental music and innovative visuals. The 2017 edition continues with the same sort of brilliant programming.

Halloween High (Oct. 27) features live music with dance and film. The program opens with a screening of Jonathan Glazer’s 2013 sci-fi thriller and cult film, Under the Skin, starring Scarlett Johansson, based on Michel Faber’s unsettling futuristic 2000 novel. Academy Award-nominated composer Mica Levi’s original soundtrack is played live by the Unsound Toronto Ensemble led by rising star Canadian conductor Evan Mitchell. The second part features revered American electronica musician Jlin playing her original score for Autobiography Edits, a new dance piece by acclaimed British choreographer Wayne McGregor, associate artist at London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre. The movement is inspired by McGregor’s DNA and the sequencing of his own genome.

Halloween Hangover (Nov. 3) is all about international, cutting edge new music and mind-blowing visual technology. Poland’s legendary Ksiezyc (which means “Moon”) kick-starts the evening. The five-member experimental group performs a mysterious and haunting combination of ancient Slavic music, minimalism and psychedelia soundscapes using a bizarre mix of instruments and vocals. American Emmy Award-winning composers Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein (from the Austin, Texas-based band SURVIVE) perform their eerie, original, synthesized music written for the hit Netflix TV series, Stranger Things. This sequence includes a specially commissioned lighting installation /stage design/video projection environment created by acclaimed German visual artists MFO (a.k.a. Marcel Weber) and Theresa Baumgartner. Influential German minimalist techno artist, Wolfgang Voigt, closes the concert with GAS, his unique ambient symphonic score inspired by the dark forests of his homeland.

The Interview

Unsound executive director Gosia Plysa was reached in Krakow, Poland via Skype.

What’s the background of the Unsound Festival?

It began as a small annual new music festival in Krakow founded by Australian writer Mat Schulz and a friend in 2003. The emphasis was on electronic music, a keen interest of Mat’s, which was virtually unknown in Poland. It sort of had a DIY ethos. I came on board as a volunteer in 2006. At that time everyone was a volunteer. In 2008 we got extra funding which meant we could grow the festival to include smaller touring versions we call Dislocations. We also were able to establish cultural exchanges, co-presentations, and satellite festivals all over the world. Our big international breakthrough was the incredible success of Unsound New York in 2010. Besides the yearly flagship festival in Krakow, this year Unsound is taking place in Toronto, Adelaide and London.

Where did the name “Unsound” come from? I think it’s really clever given what the festival entails.

I’m not sure. I think it was suggested by Mat’s brother in Australia.

How did Unsound move beyond being just an avant-garde, electronica music festival?

The heart of Unsound has always been artistic risk-taking and experimentation, so it was a natural outgrowth to connect new music with other art forms. We began by setting up collaborative projects, even putting people together from diverse geo-political backgrounds. We see Unsound as facilitating creative collaboration. We love pushing artists into new formats, and doing things for the first time. For example, musician Jlin had never composed music for dance before working with choreographer Wayne McGregor.

The piece that McGregor recently premiered at Sadler’s Wells is called Autobiography. What is Autobiography Edits that’s being performed in Toronto?

It’s a condensed touring version of the piece using less dancers, but it still captures the intense essence of the original. Jlin’s driving rhythms underscore the restless movement that represents the continual evolution of the human body.

Unsound is now also known for an eclectic range of new music, as well as state of the art visual technology – in other words, eye and ear grabbing light and sound shows.

That’s true. We are very conscious of the development of contemporary music and what new sounds are coming from the latest technology. Unsound concerts can feature electronica, acoustic instruments, improv jazz, club music.

One of your earlier concerts took place in a Polish salt mine. Your first two events here in Toronto transformed the Hearn Generating Station into a mind-boggling audio/visual palace. Now you’re performing in the traditional seated Bluma Appel Theatre. Does a traditional venue cramp Unsound’s style?

 We certainly love adapting challenging spaces and creating new environments in abandoned post-industrial venues. By the same token, we also like to play with putting unexpected sounds in traditional theatres. Each context has validity, and our aim for both is to attract new and different audiences.

How important is the home crowd to an Unsound concert?

 Very. For each satellite festival, we connect with the local scene, like the musicians making up the Unsound Toronto Ensemble accompanying the film Under the Skin. Everywhere we go, we are building networks.

I know that each Unsound festival you present, whether at home or abroad, is built around a theme. This Unsound Toronto is clearly inspired by Halloween.

 Both line-ups convey Halloween in different ways. They’re both dark or even spooky, but sit together in unexpected combinations. Halloween High includes Under The Skin, a sci-fi/horror film which has an utterly mesmerizing score by Mica Levi. The double bill also features a show by Jlin – one of the most hyped electronic musicians of the year – with dancers from Company Wayne McGregor. Together they perform Autobiography Edits – a work that tonally, I think, will intersect with Under The Skin in an interesting way, but will leave the audience on a high.

Halloween Hangover features synth musicians Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein playing live music from the hit horror TV series Stranger Things, which very clearly fits the Halloween vibe. The second season will even be launched on Netflix for Halloween! Alongside this is an A/V show from legendary German electronic composer GAS who plays ambient music, often with a deeply submerged techno beat, while the visuals take the audience through dark, almost hallucinatory forests. It’s a very intense experience. Also on the line-up is the Polish band Ksiezyc, channelling ancient Slavic music to create a show that is very otherworldly, even mystical. This is a powerful trio of shows that I think will leave audiences with a mix of contrasting and vivid impressions.

Finally, how would you compare the two concerts?

The second evening is darker – more mellow and mystical. The sounds reflect horror and witching.

Unsound Toronto is presented by Unsound, Civic Theatres Toronto, and the Luminato Festival.

(For tickets to Unsound Toronto: Call 1-855-872-7669 or visit http://bit.ly/UnsoundTix.)

TIFF Movies 2016 – Best and Worst

Saw 21 films, almost all of them enjoyable. Due to a broken neck, (I kid you not), caused by a very bad fall in early August, I had to construct a list of films where I didn’t have to switch theatres during the day. I also needed decent access because of my walker, so there are more big-budget English language movies than I would usually choose. My directors were largely women, although that was happenstance and not design. By coincidence, I also happened to see the top three People’s Choice Award films (La La Land, Lion, and Queen of Katwe) which is a first for me.

tiff-2016Top of the LineA United Kingdom (UK – Interracial marriage of future king of Bechuanaland (now Botswana) and British government’s relentless campaign against the couple).

Very Strong Heaven Will Wait (France – teenage girls being radicalized into jehadis), Aquarius (Brazil – the great Sonia Braga as a woman fighting against developers trying to evict her), In Between (Israel/France – travails of three young Arab women living in Tel Aviv), Christine (USA – news anchor in Florida who committed suicide on air), Burn Your Maps (USA – a little boy who thinks he’s Mongolian), Safari (Austria – droll exposé documentary of big game hunters).

Most Artistic/Cinema As ArtBrimstone (Netherlands et.al. – incest and revenge in the american old west).

Most PeculiarSalt and Fire (Germany et.al. – kidnapped research scientist abandoned in the Bolivian salt flats with two blind Indian children – Werner Herzog strikes again).

Bottom of the Gene PoolLa La Land (USA – a derivative, unoriginal, predictable attempt at a movie musical with insipid score and routine performances – won the People’s Choice Award proving that you can fool some of the people some of the time).

The Rest of My TIFF Films 2016 – The Rehearsal (New Zealand), Brooks, Meadows and Lovely Faces (Egypt), Their Finest (UK), In Dubious Battle (USA), The Exception (UK), The Secret Scripture (Ireland), Loving (USA), Lion (Australia), Queen of Katwe (Uganda/South Africa), Strange Weather (USA), Mascots (USA).