Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sbusisiwe Myeni's Journey of Hope

Sbusisiwe Myeni, or Sbu to her friends, is a successful South African. She lives in Johannessburg, the financial heart of the country, works at a large bank, and has earned the things that indicate success -- a house, a BMW, international trips.

Johannesburg is a long way from home. She is originally from KwaNyuswa, a semi-rural community in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. It's a place with the highest rates of HIV and AIDS in the world. Some statistics estimate that a third of all adults are HIV positive. It is also a place that saw extreme violence during the final days of apartheid.

Sbu's also a twin. Her sister, Seni, was a successful doctor who moved to Canada. But after being diagnosed with brain cancer, Seni returned to their mother's home in KwaNyuswa to die.

Sbu's journey to help the children and youth of HIV/AIDS and poverty-ridden KwaZulu-Natal begins now in memory of her sister.

A Journey of Hope is my short documentary about Sbu's story and what inspires her:

This is a map I created which traces Sbu's journey from Johannesburg to KwaNyuswa, a semi-rural village that isn't on Google Maps:

View A Journey of Hope in a larger map

Monday, September 20, 2010

Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Jason Reithman and Roger Ebert: Toronto International Film Festival, Part 2

A big part of the fun of your city hosting an international film festival is all the visiting celebrities. For me, TIFF is mostly about movies that have little chance of snagging a distributor thus little chance of being shown at another time. But who doesn't think spotting a celeb isn't fun?

I saw Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, director John Cameron Mitchell, playwright/screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire and Miles Teller at the Q & A for their film Rabbit Hole. It's a strong film with an excellent script based on a Pulitzer Prize winning Broadway play about a couple and their grief after their son died in an accident.

Here's a short video I shot:

I also spotted filmmaker Jason Reitman slip into a screening of the Russian film My Joy. It's a rather bleak film about life in rural Russia. The film was an official selection at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. Reitman ducked out before the ending of the two hour movie.

My favourite sighting was of film critic Roger Ebert. I've been following him on Twitter. And if you thought his television reviews were fabulous, you'll love his writing and his tweets. It was heartwarming to see him after losing his jaw to cancer. He was strolling with his nurse along Blue Jays Way in Toronto without fuss or fanfare.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Toronto International Film Festival, Part 1

For many years, I covered the Toronto International Film Festival as a journalist. Covering TIFF, as it is known, involved interviewing filmmakers and actors about their films and, if I was lucky and time allowed, I asked them about the craft of filmmaking. It was a sweet part of my job as an arts producer.

One thing that stood out -- apart from Francis Ford Coppola giving me parenting advice, discovering how friendly Heath Ledger was, and cajoling Jeanne Moreau into wonderful conversation the day after 9/11 -- was talking to film fans.

Even though my press pass gave me access to industry screenings, I met many film lovers in the rush lines. We'd talk about our favourites and the various buzz films. These are the folks who would play hookie from work to catch a film or simply take their vacations to attend the festival.

I vowed to myself that I, too, would do the same: take some vacation time around TIFF so that I could quite simply watch films for the sheer pleasure of it. I'd simply watch movies by filmmakers I admire, or films from interesting parts of the world, or galas, or documentaries, or avant-garde experimental films, or whatever peaked my interest, or whatever I could squeeze into my schedule.

Well, that's what I'm doing this year. Please keep watching this space for updates and reviews. You can also find me on Twitter. I'm @albertwisco.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Suspended Animation

Imagine being suspended high above a crowded intersection. Imagine being suspended high above a crowded intersection performing on a trapeze.

Suspended Animation is a Toronto-based performance troupe, and they transform urban settings into places of marvel.

Here is a 30 second slideshow of their aerial circus act at Toronto's Buskerfest in August 2010.