Hot Docs: New Castle [2011, Guo Hengqi]

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Toronto – China’s rise from impoverish nation to economic power has not come without costs. New Castle is a documentary that provides us with a quick but devastating glimpse at the high prices the Chinese people had to pay for their country to prosper. Taking a no bullshit approach, film maker Guo Hengqi shows the entire film without narration, relying on conversations and testimonials from people to provide the tale. A three part act, we are first taken to the hillside and meet a group of roving miners who have arrived for a quick job. if the job did not pay sufficiently, they seek out another place. The group of miners decide to stay and we are shown the lives of a miner. It’s as what you would expect – dirty, dangerous and unforgiving. The first time you see a pitch black minor returning from a day at the mind will have you thankful for whatever boring desk job you might have. The next two acts play out in Xinbu, an ancient village located in the remote province of Shanxi. People have been leaving this village in droves for the larger cities and now with a population of less than a hundred, the government has decided to move the people of Xinbu and destroy the town. Obviously, the citizens of the city are not pleased and we follow the villagers as they attempt to make sense of what is becoming of their life as traditions are abandoned and they are basically forced to move into government built row houses.

Ultimately a rather depressing documentary about the state of rural China, New Castle does not paint a pretty picture but it paints a truthful picture. While a lack of narration might have the viewer’s guessing at some points, the conversations between villagers, minors and family members will keep you engaged. Some of the visuals within the documentary are breathtaking and this documentary will definitely be interesting to those who wonder about some of the costs of rapid modernization of any country. My only complaint is that the pacing is rather pedestrian and so the 112 minute documentary feels like a 112 minute documentary.

Co-presented with Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival

Fri, Apr 29 6:15 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 Rush Tickets
Sun, May 1 1:30 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

Hot Docs: Opening Night Previews

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Toronto – It’s the end of April, and that means two things – hockey playoffs and Hot Docs. Now in it’s 18th year, Hot Docs is once again bigger and better then previous years. This year’s film festival will feature 200 hard hitting films from 43 countries, none of which is Rickaslavia, the imaginary country in my head that I am the overlord of. Why did I write that? I don’t know. 200 movies is a lot of movies to go through and can be overwhelming, so as the days roll on, we will be providing you with some previews for films we think are interesting. There’s only two films tonight, but they both look awesome.

POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

With such documentaries such as Super Size Me and Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden under his belt, Morgan Spurlock is a bit of a documentary superstar. It’s no surprise his latest documentary – POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is the opening film for this years’ festival. It’s a documentary about branding, product placement and corporate entertainment. It will most likely be hilarious.

Screens: Thu, Apr 28 6:30 PM @ Winter Garden Theatre, Fri, Apr 29 4:15 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre


WHAT TIMING! With Toronto getting ready for it’s first ever UFC event this weekend, the film Fightville will provide many people and fans with an engaging perspective about the world of UFC and mixed martial arts in general. The documentary follows a few young competitors (not GSP) as they go through the painful trials and tribulations of being a MMA fighter. This film will definitely open up some eyes as it tries to show views that ultimate fighting is just not about brutality.

Thu, Apr 28 9:30 PM @ Winter Garden Theatre, Fri, Apr 29 1:45 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre, Tue, May 3 3:45 PM @ Cumberland 2

Song Of The Day: Sleepy Vikings – Calm

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Toronto – Sleepy Vikings are a six piece band out of Tampa who like to refer to themselves as “sleazy’ in their bio and who totally came out of nowhere during last year’s NXNE fest to totally impress me with their set at The Boat

“Calm” is a nice jangly/noisy tune off their debut album, They Will Find You Here, which  is out on May 10th. They’ll be embarking on a tour of the Eastern U.S. and hopefully will make it back to Toronto sometime soon as well. Here are the dates:

Saturday April 30 – Tampa, FL @ Crowbar
Friday May 6 – Orlando, FL @ Will’s Pub
Saturday April 30 – Tampa, FL @ Crowbar
Friday May 6 – Orlando, FL @ Will’s Pub
Friday May 13 – Gainesville, FL @ Club 1982
Wednesday June 8 – Tampa, FL @ Cappy’s Pizzeria
Friday June 10 – Athens, GA @ Caledonia Lounge
Saturday June 11 – Charleston, SC @ Tin Roof
Monday June 13 – Richmond, VA @ Sprout
Tuesday June 14 – Charlottesville, VA @ The Box
Wednesday June 15 – Chapel Hill @ Night Light 
Thursday June 16 – Newark, DE @ MOJO Main
Friday June 17 – Baltimore, MD @ The Metro Gallery
Saturday June 18 – Washington, DC @ Axum’s Level X Lounge
Sunday June 19 – Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Neck Tie
Monday June 20 – Somerville, MA @ Rosebud
Wednesday June 22 – New York, NY @ Piano’s 
Saturday June 25 – Nashville, TN @ Foobar Too
Sunday June 26 – Atlanta, GA @ Club 529

Song of the Day: Mylittlepony – Stories About Love

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Toronto – Mylittlepony are a five piece band from Norway whose wonderful twee-like qualities makes them sound like one of those legendary Labrador bands that have been perfecting this craft for years and years. Originating from the beautiful (I am guessing) city of Oslo, mylittlepony has recently released their record Making Marks on their native soil. I have heard only a few tracks, but it has your classic twee music elements – toe tapping beats, pleasant melodies, strings, banjos, banjo, brass … glockenspiel, all those instruments you think a band would be playing with a dorky smile on their faces. Have a listen to one of the tracks, the Stories About Love