Planet in Focus

Planet in Focus: Freightened (2016, Denis Delestrac)

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One of the great things about documentaries is that they take you into places you would otherwise never go, and shed new light in places you never looked. Freightened is one of those documentaries. Directed by Denis Delestrac, it was a documentary I was immediately drawn to simply because it was about a topic I don’t know anything about – container ships.

A carefully paced film, Freightened mixes talking heads with good footage to illustrate the hidden world that is the shipping industry. From poor working conditions to loose regulations, the film brings to light a bevy of problems that this largely ignored (publicly speaking) industry faces. I found Freightened to be informative and interesting and that is a great sign of a good documentary.

Go check it out.

Planet in Focus Review: Bugs (2016, Andreas Johnsen)

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If the US Election doesn’t have you wondering about the fate of the world more these days, Planet in Focus is back for yet another round of all too real documentaries. In what is now it’s 17th year, Planet In Focus will take place over the next few days and the topics that surround this festival is growing increasingly relevant as our world starts to undergo increasingly drastic changes. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Bugs is one of the better documentaries I have seen in recent years.

Directed by Andreas Johnsen, Bugs follows around two chefs from the Nordic food lab as they embark on a world wide journey to taste and learn about all the edible bugs in the world. With the world population expected to reach very high numbers in the next few decades, there are strong indications that humans will increasingly rely on insects for their protein. ALthough a vast number of people in the world already partake in the consumption of these multi-legged wonders, us in the Western Hemisphere still look at these animals with unease.

This Western Hemisphere problem is what the two chefs try to solve as they travel across the globe and eat bugs and learn from different cultures – they travel to Africa, Japan, Asia and all sorts of places. Some of the insects they eat are ridiculous and you have to appreciate the eat everything attitude of the chefs. The film not only highlights the many different types of insects you can eat, but also the problems with this new industry which as you would guess, its primed for exploitation. It’s a very real documentary that focus on some very real problems the human race will be facing in the future, but done with a light heartedness that makes it enjoyable and entertaining.

The documentary screens tomorrow at Innis Hall, check it out

Planet in Focus: Darwin [2011, Nick Brandestini]

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In the 1950’s, the town of Darwin was a thriving, raucous and kinda dangerous mining community in California’s desolate Death Valley. After the mine was shut down, re-opened, and shut down again, the population dwindled to just 35 souls. With almost no infrastructure, no church, no jobs, and no government presence save the post office, the people of Darwin were left to fend for themselves.

“If they were to [take away my unemployment cheque today] I’d turn my life over completely to crime. For serious, I’d turn it over completely. I’m a pretty smart boy, I’d be a pretty good fucking criminal.” – Darwin Resident Robin

As you can imagine, a town of 35 people will collect its fair share of colourful personalities. There’s an ex-miner with a talent for art, a postmaster with the only job in town, a 20-year old transgendered youth, some pagans, and some nihilists who are convinced the end is nigh. Oh, and an anarchist that buries rifles in the desert in an anticipation of the apocalypse. Say what you will about the people of Darwin, but when Skynet makes the first move, they’ll be the ones that survive.

“Charles Manson? Well, he’s definitely strange… maybe even nuts … I don’t know, I have mixed feelings about Charlie Manson.” – Connie

“Charlie Manson is a piece of shit and he still is. I met the man and he’s a piece of shit.” – Hank (Connie’s husband)

Although this doc starts off a little slow, it quickly picks up speed as you get to know the inhabitants of the town. It’s an honest look into their lives, equal parts of sad, touching and funny. You may shake your head in disbelief at some of the things they say, but you can’t help but get drawn into this quirky little town.  The pace and the story-telling is bang on, and the one liners alone are worth the price of admission.

Darwin was featured at Toronto’s Planet in Focus film festival on Oct 15th.

Planet in Focus: Brick by Brick: The Story of the Evergreen Brick Works [2011, Catherine Annau]

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The Evergreen Brick Works has become an institute in recent years for urban Torontonians to get a little taste of the outdoors without having to commute too far from home. Mostly known for a burgeoning farmer’s market, the process behind transforming the Don Valley Brick Works from an outdated and abandoned quarry/industrial site to what it is now was a long and difficult task. The journey of this development is the captured this documentary by Catherine Annau.

A fast paced documentary, Brick by Brick quickly dives into the story, introducing you to a variety of men behind the development, including the man at the heart of the story – Geoff Cape, the director of Evergreen (a non profit organization). his bright eye enthusiasm gives the story a lot of warmth and as the project struggle along financially, one can actually see the energy drain from his face at meetings as pencil pushers aim to cut corners to make the project work.

The documentary also briefly touches on the history of the buildings and it was a nice touch to hear what the former workers of the Brick works had to say about the redevelopment. For those interested in the technological perspective, the documentary goes to great lengths to establish that the Evergreen Brick Works is one of the most environmentally progressive buildings on earth.

Given that the this place is one of the most interesting landmarks in our city, I was particularly interested in this documentary and while at times it comes off as an infomercial for the place, it was intriguing to see the concepts and motivations behind transforming that space into what it is today. Go Check it out.

Brick by Brick: The Story of the Evergreen Brick Works
October 15, 2011 – 4:15 at the Rom