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Defining Gravity

Defining Gravity

When you hear the word parkour your mind might leap to that hilarious skit in “The Office”, or the insane building jumps in any Bond-cum-Bourne type film. But put your preconceptions aside for a moment and consider what it might be like for a woman to participate in this most macho of extreme activities.

Enter Jo, Mandy and Christie. Three women who push themselves to their physical and psychological limits – and learn just where those limits lie.



ImageThe Bob Marley music doc simply titled “Marley,” enjoying two Special Presentation screenings at this year’s Hot Docs, is one heck of an excellent music doc. It accesses all the family members close to Marley, his wife, children, distant relatives, who speak candidly about “Robert.” The film travels to the lush, mountainous village of his childhood to the streets of Trench Town. It contains footage from his years in London, his travels on European and American tours, to his trip to Africa. The film recounts Bob’s relationship with Rastafarianism, touches on his infamous virility (12 children by 7 women), and illustrates the politics and social movements of his time which injured him with bullets and tear-gas, and left him shaken. Despite this, he never gave up “music for the people.”

Though the film hears from his band-mates and musical colleagues, what this documentary thankfully avoids is a bunch of contemporary musicians extolling his virtues ad nauseum. Bob Marley’s musical talent and innovation clearly has left a lasting mark on our culture, and in my heart particularly. I certainly don’t need to be told of his talent. When music documentaries resort to this “filler” I am always tempted to tune-out.

“Marley” is a gorgeous, interesting, wholistic journey about a fascinating man and his soulful music. It will probably come to be known as the difinitive Bob Marley film.

For more about the film:

For Hot Docs screeening times:

And Now For Something Crazy Beautiful

Yesterday’s Genie Awards celebrated a short documentary that I just had to share. “Sirmilik,” a ten-minute meditation on Canada’s national park in Nunavut, is a stunning feat of poetry by director Zacharias Kunuk of “Atnarjuat” fame. The short is part of a larger documentary/cross-media exploit “National Parks Project” that itself is well worth exploring.

Take a few minutes right now to allow yourself to be entranced by the images and incredible music of “Sirmilik.” A hearty congratulations to Kunuk.

INPUT 2012 Canadian Call for Entries

INPUT is now accepting entries for the 2012 conference in Sydney, Australia May 7-12. INPUT isn’t a competition or festival. It is an international conference that aims “to celebrate and encourage the development of public service television.”

 INPUT is looking for innovative, courageous and provocative programmes from all TV genres – programmes that show fresh ways of catering to new audiences, destined for public television.

*Please note, as you consider whether to submit, that if your program is selected you must send someone to present it. Funding from INPUT for Canadian productions is very rare so it is also advisable to consider how you would pay for your representative to attend.

 DEADLINE: Please note the deadline for Canadian selections is Friday November 18, 2011.

DVDs and copies of the online entry forms should be sent to:

Ilka de Laat at CBC Toronto in room 5A300-A of the Broadcast Centre, no later than Friday, November 18, 2011.

(See below for the full shipping address).

 Submitting a production for INPUT means to submit a filled out submission form found at with two DVD copies of the production and accepting the following 10 conditions and rules that apply:

 1. Productions produced or broadcast after January 1, 2010 are eligible. It is not essential that the programme has already been broadcast, but it must be clear that programmes have been produced for television. 

2. Productions submitted to the conference may not include any commercial advertising.

3. A co-production will be regarded as the submission of whichever organization submits it.

4. All co-production partners must be named on the submission form. It will be presumed by INPUT and the conference host that the other co-producers have agreed to the programme being submitted.

5. All productions screened at INPUT will be presented by a Key Staff member such as the Director, Author, Commissioning Editor or Producer. The submitting company is responsible to bear all registration and traveling costs to and from the conference for this staff member. A production will not be screened unless a presenter for each production is present during the conference.

6. The conference host and/or INPUT shall have the right to release stills and excerpts of up to 3 minutes from any submission for screening free of charge by TV stations reporting on the conference or for use in the internet or other media.

7. All graphic material sent in by the entrants is released free of charge for use in all publications about the conference (Press, Printed material, Internet etc.).

8. Freight, customs and insurance costs for the shipment of entries and accompanying material shall be borne by the submitter.

9. INPUT will keep the all submitted material (DVDs, DigiBeta cassettes, press material) of all submissions and all productions screened during the conference for use in the INPUT archive.

10. INPUT may use all productions screened during the annual conference strictly for non-profit and educational events such as Mini-INPUT, Best of INPUT, Post INPUT etc. The screening of the submitted production – in full or in part – shall not occur until the organizers of such INPUT events have informed the submitters beforehand about their intention to use the production at such an event.

 Thank you for participating,

   Jim Williamson

   Canadian Coordinator (English) INPUT

 Send submissions to:

 Shipping Address:

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

205 Wellington St. West, Room 5A300-A

Toronto, Ontario

M5V 3G7

Tel: 1.416.205.8646

Attention: Ilka de Laat (that’s me)

Meeting Werner Herzog And Drawing a Blank

I met Werner Herzog yesterday. I came across him standing alone in the CBC atrium. He was waiting for a TIFF-related interview to begin. My heart stopped in my throat. Of all the artists for me to come across during this celebrity-soaked time in Toronto! He is one of my heroes after all. I took a deep breath and stepped towards him.

He graciously accepted my compliments and he signed an autograph (as he signed, I thought “crap, does Herzog even DO autographs?” apparently he does.)

All of his films raced through my mind like a near-death experience. But I failed to come up with a witty remark. How dearly I wanted to make him laugh! How fantastic would it be if somehow he could remember me forever, draw the charicature of Ilka into his travel stories? “Then there was that time I met an uncommon young woman in Toronto…”

It’s been torturing me since I met him. What would YOU have said to Werner if you met him?

I.O.U.S.A.: Byte-Sized

Imagine your debt is 64% of your salary, plus you don’t have any savings, insufficient health benefits and barely a pension to mention.

Where do you go from here?

I.O.U.S.A. the 30 minute byte-sized version is a good introduction to the U.S. Federal debt and what it means for the future of that country. Currently the debt stands at $8.7……. trillion. And rises every minute. What is truly fascinating about this documentary is the United States’ addiction to debt – no, not individual’s addiction – but the nation’s itself. The country has been operating in the red for almost its entire history.

How much debt is too much?

Watch the film here for free.

Sound of Insects: Record of a Mummy

When director Peter Liechti introduced his film at Hot Docs, he said that the impetus for the film occurred while listening to the CD narration of Miira ni narumade (How I became a Mummy) by the Japanese writer Shimada Masahiko which was accompanied by music. He said that it haunted him, that it was a mystery he wanted to solve, and that it remains a mystery even after making this film.

I was intrigued. All I knew was that the film was based on the diary of a man who had walked into the woods and committed suicide by starvation. That it took him over two months to die, and that he left behind a detailed account of his experience.

The film is from the point of view of that unnamed man. We see the woods, the grass, the raindrops on the leaves. We see the plastic tarpaulin he has arranged as a shelter. We see his world in his final days and as we see this we listen to his diary entries. Some entries are perfunctory: how he had bought items to aid him in his quest for death – the plastic sheeting for shelter, shaving items, a radio, even eau de cologne. Other entries are more philosophical: “Listening to Bach, it erases hunger. Is music food?” His connection to the radio is as close as we get to feeling that this man may feel nostalgia for the world he is leaving behind. After several days without food, he hears an announcer’s voice and claims it is “bell-like.” It is so lovely that he remarks that even while starving, he can still fall in love.

The sound recordings of the film are truly eerie. It is the sound rather than the images that create this world of life between death. The dripping of rain, the swooshing of leaves, the sound of insects (naturally.) As the pine needles collect on the plastic sheeting, the man writes about how he would like to reverse the insignificance of his life by the remarkableness of his death.

After 30-odd days sans food, the man begins to hear things. He imagines that a taxi driver has arrived to take him to the other side. He calls out “I’m here!” He thinks, “was I already dead when I started fasting? Death is only the remaining 2%.” And I sat in my seat contemplating how close we are to death at any given moment. I felt my senses open up to the film, and allowed the rain to wash over me, and I accepted the director’s interpretations of what the man’s memories might be – a plane flying upside down, a woman’s face, a tear rolling out, then rolling back in. A boat with two jolly passengers.

But the man will not die. He subsists beyond Jesus’ forty days – and yet he can still write lucidly. As he thinks about his compatriot, Jesus, he does not become religious. He remains a non-believer and his only overarching emotion is fear. Towards the “end” he jokes about his tenacity – how he should be entered into the Guiness Book of Records. I myself, at this point, question his ability to be so lucid – it’s been two months now of no food and very little water. His legs have failed him long ago, but he can still write?

As the credits roll, I notice that the film is based on a novel by Shimada Masahiko. A novel? Instantly I shake my head. If this film is an interpretation of a novel, doesn’t that make it non-fiction? I am curious to hear the Q & A with the director. Sure enough, the very first question that is asked by an audience member is “Was there any truth to this film? Was it based on fact?” The film-maker avoids the question with a “what is truth” kind of answer. The next question is “Was there a diary? Was there a man that died in this fashion and was the novel based on the diary?” Apparently, Masahiko had come across a diary of this sort, but Liechti never saw it. Essentially, the film is an interpretation of an interpretation of a questionable suicide by starvation. At this point, an audience member calls out “Why was this film at Hot Docs?” To me, a reasonable question – it is a festival celebrating and showcasing non-fiction film. I have to say I felt a little bad for Liechti (I always cringe at hecklers – artists have a tough enough time as it is “putting themselves out there”) and I was satisfied with his response: “For the answer to that question you would have to ask the festival programmers.”

So now I have a question for the programmers! And it’s a good question – what is a documentary film? A part of me thinks the programmers allowed this film in the festival in order to spark that very debate.

For more about “Sound of Insects: Record of a Mummy” visit the Hot Docs site here.