Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Umhambi Keeps Travelling

Good news for the fans of Umhambi! My short film is an official selection at the Croatian One Minute Film Festival from May 27-29, 2010.

Featuring the wonderful Tholakala Mbombo, the beautiful folks at the Hillcrest AIDS Centre and the riveting voice of Gcina Mhlope, the film gives audiences a glimpse of living with AIDS in rural South Africa. It's a story about searching for hope.

The one minute film is based on the Little Traveller dolls created for Woza Moya, the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust's income generation program outside Durban in the the province of KwaZulu Natal. Since it's world premier in 2007, Umhambi has been seen internationally as an official selection in several film festivals, and screened in art galleries and design exhibitions.

The Little Travellers have made their way  into the world, and the dolls have enabled beadworkers to feed their family, provide fresh water, buy medicine, connect electricity to their homes, pay school fees and purchase school uniforms.

"The Little Travellers HIV/AIDS project is totally inspired,” says Stephen Lewis, Board Chair of the Stephen Lewis Foundation. “I endorse it every stitch of the way. It raises consciousness in Canada and hope in Africa. In my mind's eye, I can just see the women of Hillcrest (a project the Stephen Lewis Foundation strongly supports) beading, and spectacularly artful "Little Travellers" emerging. Then the sales are made in Canada, and money flows to the heroic women and children and families battling the pandemic on the ground. What could be a better act of human solidarity? Buy one, buy two, buy dozens. They speak to the best of the human spirit. "

Please, take a look at Umhambi, share it and visit the Hillcrest AIDS Centre's site to see what other incredible projects they have.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Talented Mr. Brittle

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Lex Vaughn at a Peaches concert. Vaughn is a fantastic artist and performer, and I interviewed her for the TVO profile I was producing on Peaches. A few years later, I had the good fortune to spend time with Vaughn when she was at her "WEZY" exhibition at Katharine Mulherin’s Contemporary Art Projects on Queen Street West in 2006.

"WEZY" is the name of her performance piece in which she performs her role as Peanut Brittle. "WEZY" is also the handle of Peanut Brittle's ham radio station. In the piece, Peanut Brittle hosts his radio show that features jazz and talk, while hosting guests in his studio which also doubles as his apartment. As Vaughn says on her website, Peanut Brittle is a “stylish old codger who inhabits the installation that represents his world."

I was fascinated by Vaughn's character and the experience of spending time in Peanut Brittle's space. I  felt the world should learn more about him, so I pitched the idea of making a short film staring Peanut Brittle. I made the film independently in a documentary style set in Peanut Brittle's bachelor apartment where he spins jazz records while hosting a ham radio show on "WEZY". Entitled The Duke, the film was included in the Aarau Film Festival last year, and was screened earlier this year at the AKA Gallery in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.