The art of documentary

Mark Landsman's Thunder Soul at Hot Docs 2010

Considering documentaries represent a large part of my spare time, it surprises me how I’ve never actually been to Hot Docs. How dare I call myself a Torontonian!

I actually paid for a 10-movie pass this year, a whopping $98, which is a bit of money to plop down for a part-time worker and, as a former employee of the Toronto International Film Festival, have seen my share of free movies over the years. However, $98 seemed absolutely acceptable to me, considering documentary filmmakers rarely make the big bucks that their Hollywood counterparts make.

As a hobby documentary maker — albeit in still image form — this makes me sad. It’s widely known that the whole photojournalism field is suffering now that the traditional newspaper is facing a big blow from the Internet. I mean, how hard is it to create an income model? The Internet is a freaking cash cow, but no one’s able to get their act together and see how advertising can fit in. Hurry up, already! Grr!

Despite this, I feel the people who really shine at documenting will be given their due soon. Mobile twitpics still have their place, but the newspapers will really have to focus on what voice they want to spread across the Internets, and it will require some trained, paid staffers to do that properly. Is this just a pipe dream? I certainly hope not.

I’ve been thinking narrative slideshows are a start. I’ve seen a few on the NY Times site, and they were really impressive. Though I do appreciate standard videos, still photography makes me grip my arm rests; in slideshow form, it becomes a striking movie in itself, and with adept use of sound, it can be even more powerful. I keep meaning to turn my Goodbye, Sunshine series into something of that nature, but things like work and clicking on gmail, flickr, and facebook tend to encompass most of my day. Why do personal projects require so much discipline? You’d figure it’d be a priority, but it stays on the backburner. How do people do it?

As for Hot Docs, the $98 pass was well worth it, and I was so happy to see most of the shows sell out. Gives me hope that maybe there is a future for the documentary filmmaker. Fingers freaking crossed.

May 10, 2010 at 7:02 am Leave a comment

Jane’s Walk 2010

Patisserie Royale, 1801 Lawrence Avenue East

Despite what seems like a Jane’s Walk tradition of rain, I was pleased to see people up and at ’em, jumping on the walking tour bandwagon last weekend.

I guess I’m most pleased that younger people are starting to surface at these events; in my years as walking tour junkie, I felt like I needed grey hair, a blue rinse, and an art history degree to fit in. Time’s a-changing, though, and everyone’s coming out. Yes! [Let’s pause as I do the walking tour dance.] [Okay, done.]

My personal favourite was the Hidden’licious tour at Lawrence + Warden led by Councillor Michael Thompson, with support from the Ministry of Health. There were about 20 people on the tour, I’d say — much less than I imagined for a tour that offered free food samples, but it was still quite impressive given the inclement weather and the distance from the downtown core. What’s more is it opened my eyes to a new (and very tasty) district of the city, one that I can visit in a mere 45 minutes for the sole purpose of stuffing a 5-star falafel, a Lebanese pastry, palouries, fried jack fruit, mutton rolls, veggie patties, and a steak pie down my throat. And yes, I did all of this as part of the tour.

(Don’t you worry: I walked it all off.)

May 9, 2010 at 6:02 pm Leave a comment

RIP Otis

Otis, top right, in his more active days

At approximately 1:42pm, en route to a Hot Docs screening, my bike — affectionately named Otis — screeched a final “ca-chunk” and refused to transport me anywhere past Spadina and Sullivan.

Of course, I’m being a little melodramatic here. I’m sure if I had actually gotten it repaired and tuned up two years ago, it wouldn’t have come to this sad end so early. But honestly, I didn’t have the stomach to shell out more money to repair the damn thing than it cost to ride away on ($55). I mean, seriously. Would you?

In my heart, I knew this end would happen, and I knew it would happen this year. The battle wounds began early, almost as soon as I rode it off the lot. First came the brake cables, then the ill-functioning gears, then the front wheel. The back wheel burst ceremoniously after a trek down to the Leslie Spit, and the brake pads started crumbling soonafter. It soon evolved into its current tattered mess, its old beauty hidden behind various textures of duct tape.

But I have to say these quirks have made me love it more. Ever since I was a child I had a hard time owning nice things. The nicer things I had, the more upset I would become when they were gone. Take, for example, my beautiful Apricot Strawberry Shortcake doll and my brightly coloured Mickey Mouse towel that I left in the Simcoe Swimming Pool locker room. The latter, in fact, still pains me to this day.

These blatant flaws gave me firm confidence that no one would take Otis away from me. I knew I would adapt to love him, despite his quirks. He was mine. All mine.

Until now.

He’s dead, and I’m… well, I’m kind of sad. And it’s made me realize that it doesn’t matter how beautiful or how ugly it is: my heart still breaks when I have to let go and move on.

And now that this new bike chapter is nigh, I’m realizing that I have to be a little more discriminate, find something I am truly in love with rather than taking whatever cheap thing that rolls my way. I want to invest in something a little more reliable, nurture it, take it in for a tune-up once in a while, make it last.

Hmm. Sounds oddly like my perspective on relationships. Slowly but surely, methinks I am growing up.

New, beautiful bike: here I come.

(After thought: Heck, who am I kidding! I am clearly a cheapskate, and any prices above $100 makes me choke. Garage sale, here I come.)

May 3, 2010 at 4:12 pm Leave a comment

Matt + Kim’s “Lessons Learned”

By a loooooooong shot, here’s my favourite video of 2009, featuring the eternally peppy Matt + Kim.

February 22, 2010 at 10:51 pm Leave a comment

Goodbye, Sunshine: Available now!

Goodbye, Sunshine: photography memoir by Connie Tsang

It’s here! I received my copy in the mail today, just in time for the show on Saturday. Very satisfied with it, especially after two years of uninspired procrastination.

Give momma some love and get your copy now.

“Hei Shou and Maryam retired from the Chinese restaurant world in 2007, bidding farewell to a lifestyle of 40 years.

Goodbye, Sunshine is an ode to their final business — Sunshine Restaurant — a small-town diner they called home for almost half this time.”

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

October 21, 2009 at 10:55 pm Leave a comment

Fucked Up takes the Polaris Music Prize cheque

National broadcasters are probably up in arms now that Fucked Up nabbed the Polaris $20K cheque for their album The Chemistry of Modern Life.

The music prize barely gets enough press as it is, so I’m curious if the news outlets are actually going to pick up on the story. What? A hardcore punk band with a name unsuitable for playgrounds? Humph!

Whatever the media opinion on their music, though, Fucked Up’s live show is epic; their show at last night’s gala awards ceremony was a case in point, with guests Final Fantasy and Lullabye Arkestra joining in to take the freaking cake.

My full coverage of the presentation is now up on CBC Radio 3’s flickr page.

September 22, 2009 at 11:03 am Leave a comment

Conjunction Collective show set for October in The Junction

My buddy Jennifer and her friends are curating an awesome multi-disciplinary art show titled Civilization + Its Discontents in the Junction, on display from October 24th to November 14th.

I’ll be participating in the photography room, showing snaps from my parents’ old restaurant (Goodbye, Sunshine)… IRL.

Details to come later, but for now, mark your calendars for October 24th, 2009, and check out the website for general exhibit information. WAHOO!

July 12, 2009 at 8:09 pm Leave a comment

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