5 films to watch at the 2012 Regent Park Film Festival
From November 7-10, the Daniels Spectrum arts and cultural centre in Regent Park will be hosting the tenth anniversary edition of the Regent Park Film Festival. This is Toronto's only free community film festival, bringing local and international cinematic fare directly to the Regent Park community. As well, the films spotlight up-and-coming Canadian talent alongside established and international filmmakers. Need a third reason to stop in? The opening night "Star Panel" features four acclaimed filmmakers, including both Clement Virgo and Atom Egoyan, who will speak on the theme of "Where We Come From."
The opening night line-up also showcases a series of 11 short films by young filmmakers (26 and under), based on the experiences of Regent Park and other communities worldwide, called "Community Stories: Youth Media Arts." Look out for a short mockumentary called Life After High School, which spotlights issues in the school system through the filter of comedically clueless guidance counsellors.
The festival features full-length and short fiction, documentary and animation from all over the world, and as such reflects a wide variety of perspectives, but it also includes panel discussions, school programs, installations, and performances. As befits a festival that focuses as much on the surrounding community as it does on the films it shows, free childcare will be provided for all 50 screenings.
Also, on Saturday, November 10, the festival rounds out the week with the (also free) Saturday Morning Breakfast and a Movie. Breakfast comes courtesy of the Christian Resource Centre, with a screening of Tetsuo Hirakawa's animated feature, Light of the River. Does it get much better than Saturday morning breakfast and cartoons? There's definitely a lot to see over the four days of the festival, but here are my top 5 picks.
The Interrupters (2011, USA)
Steve James (Hoop Dreams) brings us this film about three people with a shared violent past (Ameena, Cobe and Eddie), who work on the streets of Chicago as violence interrupters, stepping in to stop fights before they escalate. As dangerous as this sounds, this fearlessness is a reflection of their belief, based on their own life experiences, that violence is an infectious disease that can be cured. The Regent Park Film Festival is presenting this film to underline and discuss violence prevention strategies in Toronto. In attendance for the panel following will be Cobe Williams (an interrupter, via Skype), co-producer Patrick Lile and an array of Toronto community workers including Scott Mckean, the City of Toronto's Supervisor of Community Development.
Screening: Friday November 9, 6:30 pm
Rezoning Harlem (2008, USA)
Set in 2008, longtime residents of a Harlem community go up against a city rezoning plan that threatens to replace their neighbourhood's history and culture with luxury housing and big-box retail. This film follows their efforts to fight against the process, and offers eye-opening insight to how ordinary citizens are shut out of the decision-making process that affects them directly. It also highlights the essential concerns surrounding the politics of affordable housing. If you find the antics of City Hall a popcorn-worthy tragi-comedy, then this documentary is essential viewing for you.
Screening: Thursday, November 8, 6:30 pm
Cry Rock (2010, Canada)
When language dies, what happens to culture? This is the question behind filmmaker Banchi Hanuse's directorial debut, Cry Rock. With only 15 native speakers of the Nuxalk language left, Hanuse embarks on a personal journey to uncover the true meaning of cultural values and traditions through memories and storytelling. The film also tries to understand whether technology can help preserve a language and its culture from extinction. This film screens as part of the "Looking Back, Moving Forward" program of short films.
Screening: Thursday, November 8, 8:30 pm
Doin' It in the Park (2012, USA)
"In New York City, pick-up basketball is not just a sport. It is a way of life."
That succinct description could be a tagline for a blockbuster summer hit about superhero basketball players who save the city with their high-flying hoop skills...but that would be a totally different film. However, Doin' It in the Park is an equally fascinating look at the definition, history, culture, and social impact of New York's outdoor summer basketball scene, as told from perspectives ranging from playground legends, to NBA athletes, to the common ball player.
Screening: Saturday, November 10, 5:00 pm
Besouro (2009, Brazil)
Co-presented by the Brazil Film Fest 2012, Besouro is a fascinating glimpse into the roots of capoeira, an acrobatic martial art that grew out of oppressive conditions faced by Brazilian migrant workers in the early 1900s. The fictional film tells the story of the young Besouro de Mangangá, who is on a spirited journey to fulfil the mission of his former master. Shielded by the mystical presence of his ancestors, Besouro is faced with mounting adversity that he has to overcome to succeed. The film is the first feature for director João Daniel Tikhomiroff, but this doesn't make him a rookie in any way. Tikhomiroff is also an advertising director with 41 Cannes Lions to his name--that makes him the second most awarded commercial director in the world! The Regent Park Film Festival's closing night film, Besouro, is accompanied by a performance courtesy of Axé Capoeira Toronto, the local branch of one of the world's largest capoeira organizations.
Screening: Saturday, November 10, 7.30 pm
All screenings take place at the Daniels Spectrum (585 Dundas St. East).
Writing by Gesilayefa Azorbo. Film still from Besouro