Hot Docs: The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 [2011, Göran Hugo Olsson]

Posted on by Ricky in Hot Docs | Leave a comment

black power

Toronto – The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 is an engaging and powerful look at the black power movement in the United States. Combing the Swedish video archives, director Göran Hugo Olsson and producer Annika Rogell have put together an amazing assemble of footage from that era, including rare behind the scenes footage of marquee historical figures such as Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael and the Black Panthers.

Between the wars, political assassinations and the rights movements of various groups, the 60s and 70s was a time of great change. The documentary does a great job capturing the equal amounts of hope and frustration that dominated that era. The emotional charge speeches of Angela Davis, Huey Newton and Stokely Carmichael highlighted a lot of the issues as to why the movement was necessary and provides a nice punch to the film. Tender moments with these leaders are also captured, showing them to be more than just political figures in the war for civil rights. The film also enlists contemporary comments by figures such as Eryak Badu, Taliban Kweli and ?uestlove to give you a modern insight on what it was like to grow up during that time and how it has affected them. The beauty of their commentary is that they are talking over the extraordinary footage, rather then the usual talking heads method which seems to be a documentary norm.

Backed by a lovely soundtrack (courtesy of ?uestlove), The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 is a documentary I highly recommend. By splicing together footage from the vaults of Swedish television, Göran Hugo Olsson has created a spirited documentary about the civil rights movement in the 60s and 70s. Check it out.

Other screenings:
Mon, May 2 1:00 PM @ Cumberland 2
Sat, May 7 9:00 PM @ Bloor Cinema

Concert Review: Rural Alberta Advantage, April 29, Phoenix

Posted on by stacey in Concerts | Leave a comment

Toronto – Having spent the past few years in a part of this country that is more rarely toured, I’ve been waiting a long time to see the Rural Alberta Advantage play live. Selling out the Phoenix several weeks before the show, I wasn’t the only person teeming with anticipation for this long-touring Toronto band as they approached their instruments at the front of the stage. We collectively held our breath until the first note rang out – the band exploded with electric energy, and the crowd responded by bursting into a singing, dancing, and clapping frenzy that didn’t stop until long after the show had ended.

Back in town to promote their sophomore album Departing, the RAA remarked on many occasions how happy they were to be home… and it showed. The band played songs from both the new album, as well as from their already acclaimed Hometowns, along with a few covers for fun – a throw-down version of Eye of the Tiger, and a quiet Nils-only Littlest Hobo that got the audience swaying. Many songs came with short stories or explanations, such as the rockslide in Frank, AB that buried an entire town, serving as the inspiration for the song of the same name, the anniversary of which was on the night of the show. In typical fashion, Paul Banwatt’s contagious smile lit up the room as his drumming skill and agility amazed. Nils Edenloff sang every note with the strained passion that tells of every emotionalmoment behind each lyric, highlighted by the beautiful harmonies of Amy Cole, who somehow also managed to be playing a xylophone, keyboards, a bass drum and tambourine – often all at once!

For more than the RAA’s energy and obvious musical talent however, this show had epic quality for the bands genuine moments of awe and humility at the outpouring of support from the hometown crowd. Within 5 minutes of each other, Amy took a moment offstage as she blinked back tears following roaring applause, and then Nils asked the AV guys to turn on the audience lights so he could see the whole crowd and ‘remember this moment forever’. While the band saw this as the biggest show they have ever played at home, I have no doubt that their popularity will only surge further, and will also hope to remember the moment when I was able to be close enough to the stage, to see tears well up in Amy’s eyes.

Drain The Blood by theraa

Hot Docs: Who Took The Bomp? Le Tigre on Tour [Kerthy Fix, 2011]

Posted on by Ricky in Hot Docs | 1 Comment

Toronto – Who Took The Bomp? Le Tigre on Tour is a damn good rock documentary that chronicles the life and times of feminist electro-clash band Le Tigre as they embark on a world tour following the release of their last album This Island. Often labelled as icons for many different groups including queers and dykes, the documentary dives right into the lives of the three Le Tigre members – JD Samson, Johanna Fateman and Kathleen Hanna. We get to see backstage footage, archival interviews and of course, concert footage. Some of the fashion styles and stage show antics of the band are explained, along with the usual story of how the band got together. The documentary highlights some of the struggles the band endures – being an all-female rock band, dealing with the labels associated with them and of course, whether or not to compromise some of the bands vision for publicity. Through it all, the members of the band remain incredibly entertaining, fun and all appear to have outstanding personalities. I have seen many rock documentaries and it’s refreshing to see a band whose personalities shine as much as Le Tigre’s. There is a particular gym scene that showcases the bands sense of humor and is one of the many memorable scenes in the film. There are also cameos by other bands including the band Hatebreed, who delivered the following quote “We rage harder in one minute then some people do in their lives”. I wanted to see a documentary on them afterwards.

Highly recommended for any music fan.

Wed, May 4 7:00 PM, The Royal Cinema
Thu, May 5 11:45 PM, Bloor Cinema
Fri, May 6 9:30 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

Hot Docs: Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then, Fightville, Magic Trip

Posted on by Paul in Hot Docs | Leave a comment

Toronto – Hot Docs is upon us once again.  And in the interest of cleaning my plate before I see too many films and get backlogged, I’ll be killing three birds with the proverbial one stone by offering up reviews of three films at once.  On the surface of things, these docs have nothing in common.  One is the story of a man’s quest to somehow heal his sick wife, one is about ultimate fighting, and one is about LSD.  But in a sense, they have one thing in common: they’re all about people expressing individuality and finding new ways to look at the world.

Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then [Brent Green, 2010]

I’m not really sure if this even counts as a documentary.  Director Brent Green presents a quirky, stylized portrait of a man named Leonard who builds a special house in the hopes of somehow saving his wife Mary from cancer.  Green rebuilt Leonard’s house based on blueprints he found and with the help of some actor friends, recreated events the way he thought they happened.  While much of the film was rather sweet and endearing, I found Green’s voiceovers to be a bit  overbearing at times, especially when he went off on tangents about liking The Mountain Goats and Leonard Cohen and getting into some angry sounding rants against religion.  Actually, his narration sounded kind of frantic and nervous (and often annoying) throughout.  It got old quick.  Despite these stylistic digressions, I found the film to be somewhat effective and interesting, even though at the end of it all I was left wondering how much (if any) of this doc was actually true.  Maybe that was the point.  “You have to build your own world,” Green says at one point.  In telling the tale of Leonard Wood, he has certainly shown us such a world.  Still, I wish he wouldn’t try so hard.        

Wed, May 4  7:30 PM @ Cumberland 3
Fri May 6  6:15 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 4

Fightville [Michael Tucker, Petra Epperlein, 2011]

Fightville, on the other hand, was a totally satisying film.  A portrait of the World of mixed martial arts and the men who populate it (colourful characters, all of them), it’s a fascinating look at a handful of fighters, trainers and promoters and what it is that drives them exactly.  A common thread amongst them all is the notion that fighting is something real, true, and primal.  They not only see the world through the eyes of a fighter, but they kind of look at fighting as the most important thing in the world.  If you’re an ultimate fighting fan or a novice who’s curious what the appeal of it all is, this is definitely worth watching.

Tuesday, May 3 3:45 PM @ Cumberland 2

Magic Trip [Allison Ellwood, Alex Gibney, 2010]

The 1960s was a time of great social change and great musical milestones.  And drugs.  Lots and lots of drugs.  Magic Trip examines the exploits of writer Ken Kesey and his band of “merry pranksters” as they embark on a journey across America and within their own minds.  After volunteering himself for some early government sponsored experiments with LSD, Kesey becomes a proponent of the drug and it’s effects.  In fact, one of the most compelling scenes in the film revolves around an audio recording made of Kesey during one of these experiences as he describes what he sees.  Most of the information in this film is pretty much common knowledge to anyone who’s looked into the ’60s counterculture movement, but to see the footage and hear it in the words of those involved is still pretty interesting. 

Sat, Apr 30 9:45 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre
Mon, May 2 3:30 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre