Issue: January 2015

Local brilliance: an interview with Mpho Koaho

Toronto continues to be a growing influence on the film landscape, with more stars and productions coming from the city. One Toronto native that everybody should be paying attention to is Gemini award-winning Mpho Koaho, one of the stars of the new film, Black or White. The film stars Academy Award winners Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer as grandparents who battle for custody of their granddaughter which leads to family tensions. Within the heart of the film is Koaho’s character, the brilliant tutor Duvan, who is one of the shining points of the film. Toronto Film Scene was able to speak with Koaho about his role in the film. TFS: Duvan is an interesting and intelligent character within the films story. What led you to choosing this role in the film? MK: I initially read for the Reggie character. Mike didn’t think I was right and had me read for Duvan. Duvan is a very interesting and extremely intelligent character. He breathes life into every scene he is in. A pleasure to play and such a fun, endearing young man. TFS: How much were you able to relate to the character of the Duvan? MK: A great deal. I can relate to his awkwardness, the way he doesn’t fit in. Culturally I can relate as well. My family in South Africa has experienced similar loss. My mother escaped Apartheid riddled South Africa to immigrate...

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The Taken franchise is an extended, rotten dream sequence

The Taken franchise, which devotes 294 minutes over the course of its three films to retired CIA operative Bryan Mills’ various missions to save his daughter and ex-wife from impending gang-induced doom, is, quite obviously, not real. The plotting of Taken 1-3 defies credulity. The tenuous connection between bullets fired and human deaths suggests that gun control is frankly unnecessary. If you attempted to explain the Taken films to a complete stranger, they could be forgiven for thinking you were describing a strange parallel universe. And yet – Taken is also supposed to be very real, at least by action film standards. Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills, unlike most ass-kicking action leads, is not a set of washboard abs out of which have sprouted some limbs and a head. He is a creaky old man, particularly in Taken 3. Likewise, the cities in which the Taken films are set–Paris, Istanbul, and Los Angeles, respectively–are real places. With a few minor exceptions in Taken 3, the franchise shies away from fancy gadgetry. The franchise, then, is insistent that it does not take place in a parallel universe. The tension between the real and unreal is at the heart of the Taken experience. To the extent that it has any meaning, the franchise is the embodiment of the phrase “every father’s worst nightmare.” The Taken films are figurative works made by a...

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Media Impact: how programming works

In our efforts to better understand the landscape of film in the city and Canada as a whole, we caught up with Colin Geddes and Katarina Gligorijevic of The Royal cinema to talk about the challenges of film programming for independent theatres. Since joining as Co-Programming Directors, Geddes and Gligorijevic have endeavoured to introduce innovative film programmes to the theatre, including the series Kid Power!, Royal Retro and The Royal Mystery Movie Night. In addition to his Royal duties, Geddes has served as a long-time programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival, and Festival Director of ActionFest, a film festival dedicated to international action cinema. Gligorijevic is a writer and producer who has also worked with the traveling film festival Reel Canada. The two also run Ultra 8 Pictures, a Toronto-based film production, distribution and consulting company. Few couples have their fingers in as many pies in the Toronto film scene as these two. We spoke to Geddes and Gligorijevic as they were busy putting the final touches on The Royal’s final February schedule. Toronto Film Scene: Is there a guiding principle or philosophy that drives your programming? Colin Geddes: Kat and I took over programming duties at the Royal just over a year ago. We really went in to change the mandate of the theatre. We really wanted to bring the cinema back to being a fun, enjoyable...

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Are Canadians really interested in watching Canadian films?

Who goes to see Canadian movies? It is quite sad to think that Canada’s locally produced film industry goes mostly ignored. There can be a million reasons why people won’t give Canadian movies their due. The biggest of these reasons is the fact that, like most countries around the world, the majority of the films released and watched in Canada are produced in the United States. This bombardment of American pop culture is somewhat worse in Canada, since there are so many similarities between the two countries. This can make Canadian films hard to distinguish from the films from the United States, which would even result in some considering the movies that come from Canada to be quite inferior to the output from their American cousins. Of course, there is also a very important distinction that has to be made. When the question is asked about whether Canadians go to see Canadian movies, it is in reference to the films produced in English Canada. This is because Canada has a very thriving French-language film industry, which is a beast onto itself. In fact, one only needs to look at the box office rankings for Canadian films to see how dominant the films that come from Quebec and other French-speaking areas of Canada are. The goal here is to look at some of the English-language Canadian films that broke into the national rankings...

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Obsession and the problematic portrayal of women on screen

After seeing Gone Girl a few months ago, I remember hearing people’s commentary as they left the theatre. One person’s comment, although it was probably a joke, was particularly memorable: something along the lines of “marriage turns women batshit crazy.” It is an unsettling reality that we live in a world rampant with sexism, and this carries through to Hollywood films. Rosamund Pike’s performance in Gone Girl is arguably the most recognizable female performance of 2014 in mainstream cinema – certainly not the only one, but the most widely recognizable to the general, non-movie-aficionado public. This is highly problematic because Gillian Flynn’s Amy Dunne was already written through a fairly misogynistic lens to begin with; the film seems to take this and dial it up several notches. Amy is a character who repeatedly fakes her own rape in order to exact revenge on various men in her life. This is not only a disturbing representation of the female gender as a whole, but it is also unfortunately the prevalent view in the general movie-going public’s eye due to its popularity in this past year’s mainstream movie line up. This type of representation only adds fuel to the misogynistic fire. It was a fire that was burning fairly bright to begin with. Amy Dunne may be the most recent woman obsessed with revenge, but she is far from the only...

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Essential Canadian Cinema: Maps to the Stars

Surprisingly, there has never been a David Cronenberg film featured in the Toronto Film Scene column, Essential Canadian Cinema. This isn’t something that has been overlooked at TFS, it was just always thought that just about any Cronenberg film would have to be Essential Canadian Cinema, as the director is an icon of Canadian film. With his latest film, Maps to the Stars being included in the 14th Annual Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival, it seemed like it was time to look at the director for inclusion on our list. There’s a bit of a secondary reason for this finally happening now, and that’s the fact that not everybody believes that Maps to the Stars should be on this list. Is the film actually worthy of being on this list, or is it simply because it was created by David Cronenberg. TFS writers Will Brownridge and Sean Kelly discuss whether Maps to the Stars is Essential Canadian Cinema, and if that has more to do with the quality of the film, or the fact that it was directed by an important Canadian director like Cronenberg. Sean: Before talking about Maps to the Stars, I would like to begin by going over David Cronenberg’s career for the last few years.  Over the course of the last decade or so, Cronenberg has been moving in somewhat more of a mainstream direction.  This on...

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Beating the blockbusters: how smaller studios schedule films

In 2014, if you went to see one new movie each day, you would not have covered the whole spectrum of titles playing in Canada all year. With more and more titles asking for your hard-earned cash and a broader selection of stories available on TV, movie studios have to work even harder to put butts into seats. The odds of an art-house title finding and building an audience in Toronto become lower by the year. With so many fruitful moviegoing options, how can smaller studios make their mark at the box office? A lot of it has to do with film scheduling. Canadian distributors like Elevation Pictures, Entertainment One Canada and Mongrel Media have to place their specialty titles in an often crowded slate without cannibalizing their chances to earn a solid box office gross. Timing may be everything, but it takes a lot of strategizing to figure out when the time is right. “It’s a little bit like dancing between raindrops,” says Mark Slone, the executive vice president of theatrical distribution for eOne Films Canada. “You really just have to find that place to stay dry in a rainy field.” While there are several independent theatres in Toronto, eOne tries to build attention for their specialty films by dealing with Cineplex. (That exhibitor currently controls more than 85 per cent of Canada’s movie screens.) The hard part is...

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