July 2014 Issue

July 2014

Canada’s Call Sheet

By Judith Klassen

Vancouver comes to Toronto: Hot Docs and Big Thoughts

July 2014When Toronto hosts the annual Hot Docs Film Festival the city takes on a healthy, defiant buzz. For 10 days every year this documentary love-in brings together myriad passionate people who are channeling their creative genius to change the world. With all of the problems currently plaguing the planet there’s plenty of room for each doc maker to have an individual focus, and according to award-winning veteran Canadian filmmaker Velcrow Ripper (ScaredSacred), that’s the way to roll. Ripper suggests that acknowledging our interconnectedness, and taking small steps toward positive change, is our species best chance at halting the sixth extinction. Says Ripper, “It’s time for people to unwrap their gifts and bring them to the table. You don’t have to fall into despair because it’s too big.”

Despite a heightened awareness of all that could go wrong with our sweet old world, Ripper and his life & filmmaking partner, Nova Ami (producer on Occupy Love), radiate hope and happiness. Currently, Ripper and Ami are working on the Super Channel funded project, Metamorphosis that looks at how humans are transforming the eco system. Ripper is also developing the epilogue to his Fierce Light Trilogy, Illuminate.

Ripper has made over 30 films, and has created the sound design on countless iconic documentaries including The Corporation (Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott, & Joel Bakan), CultureJam (Jill Sharp) and Nettie Wild’s A Place Called Chiapas. “I like to get in as early as possible,” says Ripper. “I’m blessed to work with people who understand the importance of sound design, and I always work with [sound & music] creative genius Daniel Pellerin (In Darkness).”

Just Eat It!

July 2014Another filmmaking couple from Vancouver, Grant Baldwin and Jenny Rustemeyer (The Clean Bin Project), decided to live strictly off discarded food for six months: That’s right, they became dumpster divers! “Not the shopping experience I’m looking for!” says Rustemeyer. “Have you ever gone shopping at night with a flashlight – and there’s a camera in your face?”

For their second feature documentary, Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story, Baldwin and Rustemeyer created a simple list of rules: they couldn’t buy anything, but they could accept meals generated the old fashioned way when visiting friends and relatives. Says Baldwin, “We found everything: maple syrup, cocoanut oil, a dumpster filled six feet deep with packaged olives. We even found a brand new cook book in a dumpster—like, oh, and here are the instructions!”

According to the filmmakers, if you just quote stats at people, such as: 40% of food is discarded – humans can’t really connect with the issue. However, when you show them a dumpster filled with packages of still-fresh hummus, or point a camera at rows of discarded crates of packaged juice, stacks of organic chocolate bars, and other emergency-shelter worthy supplies, it might just start a much-needed conversation.

Says Baldwin, “It wasn’t that long ago that people were unaware of organic products. We’re hoping that very soon it will be as taboo to throw out your leftovers as it used to be to litter.”

May You Live in Interesting Times

July 2014Everything Will Be is a stunningly shot documentary that records the dying days of Vancouver’s unique and affordable Chinatown and its rebirth as an upscale place to buy condos and designer coffee. When Sun Dance award-winning director, Julia Kwan (Eve and the Firehorse) first approached Chinatown’s citizens she had a hard time coaxing them to be in the film.

Says Kwan, “They are very private people, elderly and working class. They don’t understand the process of filmmaking and they were worried it might interrupt their lives — and maybe their livelihoods.”

July 2014The Chinatown elders who do appear on camera are sage, steadfast, and occasionally hilarious. A 92 year-old woman asserts that despite her many years on the planet she’s still got the stuff, “My punch can kill a tiger.”

From its poets, artists, strippers, and shopkeepers to its newspaper stands and noodle houses, the Chinatown that is disappearing with the greatest generation is going down with Zen-like dignity.

In Big Brother fashion, a neon art installation hovers from the sixth storey of the historic Wing Sang building and silently bleats its message to the downtown eastside,
“EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT”. Created by minimalist, British artist, Martin Creed in 2008, the controversial piece was commissioned by real estate mogul, and Chinatown enthusiast, Bob Rennie.July 2014 Rennie, a central character in the documentary, is hard to decipher. There are those who love that he’s saving pieces of Chinatown’s history—even if it means turning the once vibrant, gritty neighbourhood into a kind of museum. As the title suggests, the elders in the community calmly accept gentrification: Yes, everything will be, but it won’t necessarily be alright.

Judith Klassen is a Toronto-based writer, comedian, filmmaker, and host of the celeb talk show Judecast.

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