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Three to see at the Forest City Film Festival

Keith Tomasek, Oct. 18, 2019

The Forest City Film Festival brings films and filmmakers from Cannes and the Toronto International Film Festival to downtown London Ontario.

Unlike most film festivals, the Forest City Film Festival selects films that are geographically connected to Southwestern Ontario. These connections make the festival unique as it paints a picture of the world-class talent that remains a hidden gem in Southwestern Ontario.

For example, did you know that Robert Budreau, who directed Ethan Hawke’s film “Stockholm,” grew up in Ingersoll? Budreau spent much of his youth visiting the New Yorker cinema in downtown London.

Budreau is attending the festival and will be available to answer your questions after the screening of Stockholm on Friday, October 20th.

Budreau is just one of many creative people returning to the region to celebrate Southwestern Ontario and the community that helped launch their careers.

With so many films to see, I asked three Londoners to each select the three films they are most interested in seeing.

Larry Cornies

Larry is a London-based writer, columnist and post-secondary educator with a long-standing interest in arts journalism. Some of his recent work can be found at artsbeat.ca.

Larry’s selections:

Forest City

Could there be a film more suited to the Forest City Film Festival than a documentary titled “Forest City?”

Producer-director Caroline Nolan’s film sprang from her perspective, as a resident of a 12th-floor condo in London’s Hyde Park neighbourhood, on the clearing of a six-acre mature stand of trees to make way for 66 single-detached homes.

I’m interested in this doc because it’s a common storyline in London, not often told through the medium of film. Many of us have witnessed the destruction of woodlots for the sake of development, without sufficient regard for the tangible effects of such clear-cutting: loss of habitat for wildlife essential to the ecosystem, negative effects (both physical and mental) on human health and the further deterioration of London’s reputation as the Forest City.

I’ve lived here for 34 years and it’s a story that seems to repeat itself far too often.
Click to reserve seats to Forest City on Saturday, Oct. 26.

Goliath
This new film’s synopsis is cryptic enough: A woman, returning home for her father’s funeral, must confront “the damaged family she left behind,” while sorting through personal demons and the revelation of an “unsettling secret.” So far so good.

But I think what draws me to this feature is the timeless subject matter: family secrets and lore, whether they be myths, fictions, failures, infidelities or other unmentionables, that have a way of contorting relationships. Every family has them — and they are fertile ground for potentially impactful storytelling.
Click to reserve seats to Goliath on Friday, Oct. 25.
Click to reserve seats to Goliath on Sunday, Oct. 27.

La Mentirita Blanca (Little White Lie)

Foreign films frequently offer an escape from the movies of Hollywood, with their formulaic plots, familiar actors and North American sensibilities. For that reason, I’m a fan.

This 80-minute farce from 2017 offers all that, plus a novel twist on the notion of “fake news.” The story concerns a small-town Chilean journalist who runs out of good news and so is forced to begin making up stories to keep his job.

In Spanish, the film’s subtitle is “la verdad no vende” — the truth does not sell. To what extent is that true on today’s media landscape? How do lies and planted fictions affect our communities and our politics? Questions worth considering once the laughter subsides.
Click to reserve seats to La Mentirita Blanca on Friday, Oct. 25.
Click to reserve seats to La Mentirita Blanca on Sunday, Oct. 27.

 

Jeff Culbert

Jeff is a theatre actor, director and playwright based in London, Ontario. He works on grassroots theatre, touring solo shows and professional stages. Current projects include directing “The Designated Mourner,” by Wallace Shawn (Oct 17-27 at Procunier Hall in London)and writing a play about Richard B Harrison, the Londoner whose parents both escaped slavery in the US, and who became the toast of Broadway in the 1930s.

Jeff’s selections:

Jason Rip: A Tombstone Epitaph
Jason Rip has been tirelessly plugging away as London’s unofficial playwright-in-residence for over 20 years, and this documentary, along with the lifetime achievement recognition that he received at the Brickenden Awards for outstanding theatre in London last year, is the one-two punch that proves that his long years of artistic labour are finally being recognized by the wider community.

Jason has always done things his own way, at the grassroots level, creating plays about local history, adapting the classics, writing original biographies of characters that he finds fascinating, taking on social issue plays for charities, staging the odd Shakespeare play, trying out as many genres as he can, and generally putting out whatever he feels like working on.

He has 84 plays to his name at this point, and I always imagine some local historians in the future finding the cultural treasure trove of his plays and wondering whether one person could really have written them all.
Click to reserve seats to Jason Rip: A Tombstone Epitaph on Saturday, Oct. 26.
Click to reserve seats to Jason Rip: A Tombstone Epitaph on Sunday, Oct. 27.

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band
I grew up listening to The Band, and I loved the music and the lyrics, but there was always an extra point of attraction in the fact that most of them rose up out of the soil of southwestern Ontario.

When I went to Medway High School, Garth Hudson was the school’s legendary alumnus, the musical genius that provided the connecting tissue for The Band’s sound. Richard Manual was from up the road in Stratford, and Rick Danko was from a farm just outside of Simcoe.

Robbie Robertson had roots in both Toronto and the Six Nations Reserve at Brantford. The only far-flung member of The Band was Levon Helm, from Arkansas, who added the distinct southern US personality and sound to the mix.

The Band was famous for the brilliant offbeat musicality of the songs, the innovative chord structures, and the lyrics, mostly by Robertson, that always felt original and evocative. Wherever Robbie pulled them in from, they always felt like windows into a well-defined world, and I’m hoping that this documentary will offer some insights into where it all came from. Let’s start with this line, from “The W. S. Walcott Medicine Show”, from the album Stage Fright: “I’d rather die happy than not die at all.”
Click to reserve seats to Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band on Saturday, Oct. 26.

Iskwe – Little Star
Sarah Legault is a London-based visual artist and creator who can sit down with a ball point pen and come up with an eye-popping drawing that’s both haunting and amusing.

When she turned to stop-motion animation, she got to take full control over the miniature worlds that she was creating, and the results are stunning and fantastic.

Billy Talent got wind of what she was doing, and got her to create the visuals for their music video “Ghost Ship of Cannibal Rats,” and now she has made the video for Iskwe’s song “Little Star.” It’s about the murders of First Nations youths Tina Fontaine and Colten Boushie, and particularly the way the media handled these tragedies. There are images of wind-swept grass that, upon inspection, turn out to be thousands of strips of newspaper, and urban buildings that are covered in newsprint with headlines about the murders. Gorgeous imagery and a beautiful tribute.
Click to reserve seats to Iskwe – Little Star on Friday, October 25, 10:00 am.
Click to reserve seats to Iskwe – Little Star on Friday, October 25, 8:45 pm.

 

Ryner Stoetzer

Celebrating 26 years in business, Ryner Stoetzer is a prolific and diversified composer, sound recording engineer, and producer, who has composed original score, for more than 800 episodes of over 30 television series, 160+ tv commercials, dramatic films, investigative docuseries, tv specials, music for ballet, modern dance, dressage, and synchronized swimming, as well as for album tracks for a variety of recording artists.

Ryner’s selections:

Who let the Dogs Out

 

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DOGS HAVE HIT #SXSW !! ?: @magdazofia #wholetthedogsoutfilm

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(Instagram post from the film’s screening at 2019 South by Southwest in Austin, Texas)


Answering the age-old question of who exactly let the dogs out. Ben Sisto has dedicated seven years to exploring and exposing a story steeped in show business, legal battles, female empowerment, artistic integrity and one very catchy hook. It’s always fascinating to see an idea that captures the imagination of people all around the world, and track its impact over time.
Click to reserve seats to Who let the Dogs Out on Friday, Oct. 25.

Icons of Soul
Luke McMaster’s film about creating a Lamont Dozier tribute song in honour of one of the architects of the Motown sound. A genre that has had huge impact around the world and developed just up the road from here. I look forward to experiencing the magic all over again.
Click for showtimes and to reserve seats to Icons of Soul.

Once were Brothers Robbie Robertson and The Band
Offering unprecedented access to rock history, “Once Were Brothers” tells the story of one remarkable Canadian’s contribution to the music we now call Americana. I have a personal story or two with these fine men, and it will be a pleasure to hear and watch their amazing influence portrayed on the screen, once again confirming the massive contribution they have made.
Click to reserve seats to Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band on Saturday, Oct. 26.

Details, Details:
Forest City Film Festival
October 23 – 27
Various locations in Downtown London
forestcityfilmfest.ca

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Three to see at the Forest City Film Festival

Keith Tomasek
16 October 2019
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