TIFF 2021 observes May as Asian Heritage Month, presents films & talks on Asian excellence in cinema
#Toronto; #TIFF2021; #MayAsianHeritageMonth; #AsianExcellenceInCinema;
Toronto/Canadian-Media: 2021 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) observes May as Asian Heritage Month by presenting a series of films and talks celebrating Asian excellence in cinema.
TIFF. Image credit: Facebook Page
The films being shown by TIFF in the honor of Asian Heritage Month are 'Ramen Shop' that explores identity across two Asian cultures of Japan and Singapore; 'Spa Night' highlighting the cultural clash between Koreans and Americans, 'Eve & the Fire Horse' embodies a fusion of Buddhism and Catholicism, 'Centre Stage' depicting Chinese culture, 'Better Days', and 'Meditation Park' showcase Chinese drama.
TIFF’s Asian Heritage Month program is made possible due to the generous assistance of Blockchain Venture Capital Inc., Andy Chan, Elegant Financial Inc., Sharifa Khan/Balmoral Marketing, Alan Kwong, Ben Leung, Irwin Li, Nobis Inc., and Justin Poy.
Asian Heritage Month facilitates all Canadians with an opportunity to learn more about the many Canadians of Asian descent's achievements and contributions throughout our history, to make Canada the amazing country we share today.
The theme for Asian Heritage Month 2021, "Recognition, Resilience, and Resolve" is also a call to action for all Canadians to come together to celebrate the incredible diversity that is our strength in our stand against all forms of anti-Asian racism and discrimination. It also embodies the myriad of sentiments that peoples of Asian descent in Canada have experienced and honors their contributions and their diverse stories rooted in resilience and perseverance.
#HalleBerry; #AmandaParis; #TIFF2020; #AfricanAmerican
Amanda Paris, the author for the weekly column CBC Arts and the host of CBC Arts exhibitionists, the filmmaker, writer of stories for the stage and the screen, an educator, researcher, actor, and community organizer and had hosted many events for TIFF.
Halle Berry is an icon and had spent more than 3 decades breaking down barriers and helped in impressive filmography both in front and behind the camera. This year she returns to 2020 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) for her very exciting directorial debut film Bruised in which she also stars. The highly anticipated drama is set in the world of MMA fighting.
Halle Berry in MMA fighting. Image credit: TIFF
Toronto/Canadian-Media: During one of the conversations series organized by the TIFF 2020 held at Toronto Amanda in a Q&A session with Halle brings out the salient features of Halle’s career, especially her directorial debut.
Amanda (left) in conversation with Halle (right)
Asha Bajaj, Editorial-Director of Canadian Media brings you the excerpts of Part 1 of the conversation between Amanda and Halley:
Amanda to Halle: In 1986 you were the first African-American entering the Miss World Competition and then decided to move into acting. What were you looking for in the acting world that you could not find in modeling?
Halle: I was looking for a voice, looking for an outlet where I could express myself, and explore what I had to say. Initially, I wanted to be a journalist and travel for it all over the world and report on world news. Acting happened with my directorial debut. Not usually following the path that I had set for myself, I followed the path that set before me and has served me really well in my life.
To Halle: One of your breakthrough television roles was the first episode of living dolls. Your first breakthrough film role was playing a woman with a drug addiction in Spike Lee’s ‘Jungle Fever’. Can you elaborate on what happened between these two roles? How did those early acting experiences lead you to that place?
I was modeling during my first real acting gig as a TV role. During modeling, I always felt like a token on that show with not much to do. I had no real character, or a part to play. To be taken seriously as an actor, I realized that I have to replace this physical self with my acting skill. When I was offered a role in Spike’s film’ ‘Jungle Fever’ to read for the part of his beautiful wife I realized I would be showing a different side of who I was. Spike also recognized that I could bring some life and realized that this crack affects whoever it is going to affect so.
To Halle: In the film ‘Jungle Fever,’ you play Vivian a woman with drug addiction with the scene containing crude language and content. What strategy did you follow to go against the ‘pretty face’ type and how did that shift the way to reveal your own talent and your own potential?
Halle in Jungle Fever. Image credit: Pinterest
I grew up in an environment where I did not always fit in. Being aware that I am more than the show while modeling and that I was full of substance and had many stories to tell. So, the role of a drug addict that I was offered in Spike’s movie really set my career off in a good direction. From that moment on I felt that I could show something different about myself, my artistry, and my talent that people took notice of.
To Halle: It opened up options as supposed to being typecast. There are so many other iconic movies about black people at that time from comedies like ‘Meringue’ to ‘Biopics’ like ‘Why Do Fools Fall in Love’ and introducing ‘Dorothy Dandrige’. How did you be a part of that movement? Did You feel that doors were finally opening for the black actors and creators because when we look back we realize that it was a movement that also ended and we are getting back to it now?
Dorothy Dandrige. Image credit: Pinterest
When we shot the film ‘Boomerang’, I think that we were slightly ahead of our times because the film industry was really not ready for a movie to see the black people in that way. I knew that we had pushed the envelope forward and had made a way out of no way for finding a new way to tell our stories and to represent ourselves. Although it did not feel really powerful at that time, I knew that it would matter more one day than it did that day.
Boomerang. Image credit: Pinterest
To Halle: The self-knowledge you revealed that you are a little bit ahead of your time is interesting. In ‘Monsters Ball’, you play Leticia, a mother and a waitress consumed with grief. I again re-watched this film in preparation for our conversation and realized that I had forgotten about the degrees of tragedy that these characters endure. Can you talk about what attracted you to this really challenging story?
Halle Berry in Monsters Ball. Image credit: Pinterest
I am always most drawn to fractured and broken characters, or misunderstood characters, who are fighting to survive. By enacting these roles, I find an outlet to express some of my own brokenness and my own life experiences. I feel a healing experience and a chance to portray the hidden characteristics that I do not always show. So, when I was offered the role of Leticia Musgrove I right away accepted it. I know exactly where the pain and torture of this character resides and I fought really hard for that movie.
To Halle: When I watched the film, I could see the similarity between you and Leticia. This is because you were her. You channeled her from inside and that’s what it is. So let us take a look at that scene from that film where Leticia and her son say goodbye to her husband before his execution played by Sean Diddy Combs. What does it feel like re-watching that scene?
While re-watching that scene after 20 years I felt that I was a baby 20 years ago. I never go back and watch them. That is the hardest thing to do and I had to discover how actually hard that is with my directorial debut to have to watch myself over and over and over.
#Halley Berry; #TIFF2020; #Bruised; #CameronBailey
Toronto/Canadian-Media: During one of the conversations series organized by the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) held at Toronto, Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director & Co-Head of TIFF discusses with Halle Berry her feature directorial debut, ‘Bruised’ following a former MMA fighter struggling to regain custody of her son and restart her athletic career. Cameron also encourages Berry to open up the challenges she faced as a woman of colour, and a black woman in the entertainment industry.
Cameron Bailey: Left; Halle Berry:Right
Asha Bajaj, Editorial-Director of Canadian Media brings you the excerpts:
Cameron To Halley: As an actor you played superheroes, supervillains and people who were just struggling to survive like Jackie. What was it about Jackie and her story that drew you to her?
Halley: I think I understand what it has meant to being a black woman in this industry fight over the years to make a way for myself out of no way. That’s what connected me to this character. Having felt like an underdog both in my personal life, and in my professional life, I wanted to be connected to the underdog and understand the struggle, the fortitude, and the tenacity to survive and to rise above the odds. Whenever I think of a character, I have to feel like they can sit in my body and she sat squarely in my body the first time in the script.
It is also a very physical role that you had to play. This is a mixed martial artist, a fighter and I am just curious for that part of the role for the physicality of it. What did you have to go through or did you have some MMA background that we do not know about?
I did not have any MMA background but had a supreme love of the sport and an interest in learning everything I could about it. I went on a two and a half year journey of training and learning many of the different disciplines from Jui-Jitsu to TaekwonDo, to Judo, to wrestling, to boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai. I studied many of those different disciplines and sort of came up with a fighting style for this character, but it was about a two-and-a-half-year proposition.
Halle Berry. Image credit: TIFF
It feels real. Although I don’t follow MMA in a big way, those big fight scenes of the climax are really spectacular. There are so many boxing movies, not that much interims of MMA. Did you have to come up with a visual style as the director in terms of how you are going to shoot the fights?
The genre being very popular, my aim was also that the film should be in the genre so that the that the film should blend with the genre. But I challenged myself to bring innovative changes in the genre and I wanted everyone around me to think of new ways to shoot fighting. By introducing many of the different elements to these training sequences, I made the boxing in the film different from English boxing. I also was keen that the fighters in leagues such as the UFC, the MMA community, Bellator and Victor to see these movies to realize that it was an accurate depiction of their world.
This movie is just not about fighting, it is also a very powerful emotional story with remarkable actors you have cast alongside you. Could you tell us a little bit about why you cast each one?
OMG. Being the biggest job as a director was to find the actors, I succeeded in bringing in actors who were not only masters of their craft, but also to bring the talent to this movie. Starting with Sheila Atim, who plays Budhakhan, was the first character I actually cast. I was charmed with her appealing sincerity, her acting ability, and her command of the character. Even though I did not talk with her about the character, she she stood above everyone else during her audition, and blew me away with her own interpretation of the material. Besides her acting, I also found her to be a beautiful singer, a stage actress that English track over in the United States.
Top left to right: Cameron Bailey, Halle Berry, Sheila Atim. Bottom (left to right) Adan Canto & Shamier Anderson
Then we had Adan Canto, my Desi. I spent a long time looking for him to fit in the character with a sex appeal because he does play the main role of my love interest. Although formerly a fighter, there was something dangerous about him, but at the same time he very likable. In his audition, he really brought Desi to life in a beautiful way.
Then Shamier Anderson who has to carry the name Immaculate and has to have a bit of bigger life persona when they walk in the room. You have to feel his commanding presence while standing behind and without opening his mouth he says so much. Not only does he have acting chops, but also a talented born actor. When I got to meet Shamier right away I thought he is exactly the person I was looking for.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)
#TIFF2020; #GretaThunberg; #Documentary; #NathanGrossman; #IAmGreta
Toronto (Canadian-Media): Tom Powers, documentary programmer for Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2020 discusses with Nathan Grossman, director of TIFF 2020 film, ‘I Am Greta’, about Greta Thunberg’s climate change activism.
Asha Bajaj, Editorial-Director of Canadian-Media brings you the excerpts of Part 2 of the conversation between Nathan and Tom:
Greta Thunberg. Image credit: TIFF
Tom to Nathan: Can you describe the sailing boat journey, which looked harrowing just to be a passenger, let alone trying to film it. Can you talk about how that was captured?
It was captured by me. During the entire film I have had the camera on my shoulder and had taken 95% of the audio myself. When the boat ride came up, not having much of the sailing experience, I was a bit afraid. I would have maybe considered going on a regular sailboat over the Atlantic. But on this kind of a race boat, by which Greta and her father were traveling, made me nervous. But I could not come to terms with the idea of another photographer to be hired, I decided to go to the trip to shoot this myself. The boat ride being very bumpy, it was hard for me to hold the camera stable. But when the days were less rough, it was more boring as you just sit and wait so that the parts of the boat to be filmed for the movie are most calm. When that happens, the boat stinks, but it was a very special two weeks experience on that ocean.
To Nathan: What challenges did you face by Greta’s values like not flying on a plane for instance, or her taking on positions that many people in a consumer society find challenging?
I have two small anecdotes on that. During one of the earliest trips that I did with Greta and her family travelling on a train, I bought lunch salad in plastic jars at Copenhagen and put it on the table. Greta took a picture of the salad and posted it on her Instagram account, which showed plastic jars on the table. Since then Greta has been attacked by the media and in the film by right wing media questioning her why she was eating from plastic? From that time, I became more aware of not buying plastic stuff. The second anecdote was that for shooting this film I had to travel on electric cars and trains with Greta and her family all the time which was more time consuming. But I tried hard to make the film from her point of view.
Greta on boat in Atlantic Ocean
To Nathan: How did you benefit from your relatively early move to film Greta compared to other people looking for the same access?
I think this movie would never have had the same kind of tone if we did not get to know each other so early on. I had plenty of time with all these frenzy starts till it became more of team going into the frenzy than an external part trying to portray it. So that was one advantage I had over other filmmakers. I also I decided very early on that I was not going to keep anyone away. For that I took a step back. We benefited from lots of scenes in the film to cover Greta, where she talks to media. I could use other media comments and surf a little bit on that, which was beneficial for both me and Greta as Greta did not have to repeat answers to me.
Nathan Grossman in Conversation with Tom Powers. Screenshot
To Nathan: You actually took away a lot of pressure from a young person having to answer those questions on a constant basis and in a backdrop like the UN summit. The film gives us a really privileged view of those pressures. Can you elaborate on that based on your experiences with Greta and her family, that outside world cannot see what it is like to live when you have that much attention on you?
One thing was to create a timeline for stop filming. I could follow this because I was very ethical in producing earlier documentaries, which are a hard genre in that sense. So, lots of discussions we had after may be eight o’clock, are not part of the film. Both Greta and I were very strict with that. Greta waned to keep some hours exclusively for herself before she goes to bed, during which she neither did any interviews nor looked at her phone. I think that is a really smart thing that we should actually learn from her.
#Toronto; #TIFF2020; #ChaitanyaTamhane; #KhayalMusic; #IndianClassicalMusic; #TheDisciple
Toronto, Nov 3 (Canadian-Media): During one of the conversations series organized by the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) held at Toronto, Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director & Co-Head of TIFF discusses the film 'The Disciple' with Chaitanya Tamhane, the director of the film -- winner of TIFF 2020 Amplify Voices Award, and Best Screenplay award at Venice Film Festival -- in which he examines a lifetime journey devoted to the art of Indian classical music.
Asha Bajaj, Editorial-Director of Canadian-Media brings you the excerpts:
Chaitanya Tamhane. Image credit: Official Facebook
Cameron to Chaitanya: Can you talk a little about the form of Khayal music, that your disciple is learning and that you’re exploring in the film?
Chaitanya: Khayal, a form of Indian classical music, a complex art with its strict framework of rules, believed to be 5000 years old with its foundation to be improvisation. Khayal translates literally to a state of transformation of an artist’s performance expressed through the music similar to the Western classical meeting jazz because the performer is a singer-composer.
Khayal music. Image credit: Facebook page
To Chaitanya: Is the improvisation provided primarily by the singer, the soloist, or by all the members of the ensemble?
The accompanist’s presence is mandatory to adapt to that art to respond, because it like a conversation between the musicians on stage, a kind of being brought into being as it is going. Once you start understanding and appreciating it, its similarity to the original version of rock and roll becomes obvious. The suspense and thrill are being unfolded slowly to the audience how a performer resolves that particular beat cycle or how he lands again on the resting note.
To Chaitanya: How did you become interested in Indian classical music and decide to make it the subject of your film?
When I was younger, I did not like the traditional setting of the music with its rituals such as extreme reverence, submission to your guru, or to your elders. But gradually I developed an interest in the stories, the history, and the anecdotes and learned how to separate the music from the facets of unappreciated elements of the world. Once attracted to it, I started following musicians on social media, attending concerts, reading books on the subjects, watching documentaries. I realized the richness of the well-documented subject with an endless ocean to dive into and decided to make this the subject of my film.
Indian classical music. Image credit: Wallpaper Cave
To Chaitanya: Fans of Western classical music might find the element of the music a little bit different when they watch ‘The Disciple.’ Sharad, your disciple in the film, is not appreciated for studying this very complex ancient Indian art form. Where does this music stand now in Indian society?
This is something that even I thought as well. After I started researching and attending concerts, I realized that it was a very dynamic thriving subculture in the country, though with a limited, niche audience similar to arthouse cinema, in being a much younger media. Although not a part of the mainstream dialogue, or pop culture, practitioners, and performers of this art form are fully committed and have an audience, and are adapting to changing times. It is not a dying art form.
To Chaitanya: As a maker of arthouse films, was this film then kind of a personal story for you?
Yes, it is a kind of exploration of personal life, but it is slightly different when it comes to films as opposed to music. I was born in 1987 and while growing up films had a very different value, mystery, and position in popular culture. Today there is a great change where media, memes, video games, etc. are competing for people’s attention. Although different in some ways, the film is universal and could be the story of a ballerina, an athlete, or a dancer.
To Chaitanya: Being part of one of the world’s most famous mentorship programs, the Rolex Mentoring Protégé Initiative with Alfonso Cuaron as your mentor as well as the executive producer of this film. What was your experience working with him as a protégé and what was his contribution to this film?
It would take me approximately 10 or 15 years to fully comprehend and realize what all I learned from Alfonso as my learning is an ongoing process. Although Alfonso calls it a two-way process and considers it to be a dialogue between two artists, one relatively younger and upcoming, and the other more experienced, I consider him to be my mentor. Watching him work expanded my vocabulary of filmmaking. He constantly pushed me to be fearless, to have a strong vision, to pursue it with conviction, and to demand the best. And although not being experienced in editing by myself, he insisted that I edit this film with his reasonings, “Who will know better than you?” and provided me with valuable feedback. When faced with challenges to communicate this complex art form with a context to a lay audience who knows nothing about this music, he just said ‘Don’t even try, just do it. Just tell your story. And trust the audiences’ intuition.’ Alfonso’s advice to just grant intelligence rather than being expository to the audience was very valuable.
Alfonso Cuaron. Image credit: Facebook page
To Chaitanya: The visual style of the film, although meditative, never feels slow. There is a discipline in framing each image, making them move from one to another. Did you follow a particular strategy to approach the visual style and the rhythm of the film?
Every story and every narrative demand its own cinematic language and is a constant process for the artist to discover that language while shooting, while prepping, and while editing. I felt it unethical to impose a certain style on a film or to give set motions to it. In spite of my affinity towards continuous stakes and wide shots, and a certain kind of pacing, compared to my first film ‘Court,’ the language has taken a new turn in “The Disciple”, in being more dynamic, subjective, and more emotional. I followed the strategy of sensitivity and openness, to what the film itself demands, and then to follow your intuition in finding that language.
To Chaitanya: In both your previous film “Court,” also widely celebrated, and ‘The Disciple,’ you mentioned that you filmed not only just portraits of individual characters, but also of institutions in India, the justice system, and in this case, Indian Classical Music. Are you inclined towards exploring institutions?
Being raised in a very insular middle class set up compared to the diverse and dynamic Mumbai, I was completely driven by curiosity towards different subcultures, different worlds, and different settings, than the institutions. Having a similar approach to the journalist, I wanted to engage with something totally new and alien, and then to marry that external stimulus with something deeply personal. You begin to realize that people and cultures, at the core essence, are universal, and similar at the end of the day. I am still in the process of searching for what I would explore in the future.
The Disciple. Image credit: Twitter handle
#TIFF2020; #GretaThunberg; #Documentary; #NathanGrossman; #IAmGreta
Toronto, Nov 1 (Canadian-Media): Tom Powers, documentary programmer for Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) discusses with Nathan Grossman, director of TIFF 2020 film, ‘I Am Greta’, about Greta Thunberg’s meteoric one-year rise from high-school climate strike organizer to inspiration for a global movement.
Asha Bajaj, Editorial-Director of Canadian-Media brings you the excerpts of Part 1 of the conversation between Nathan and Tom:
Greta Thunberg. Image credit: TIFF
To Nathan: What drew you to Greta’s story and what allowed you to get in before other people were paying attention?
It was that classical documentary serendipity. I learned from a friend of mine, who knew the family, that she was going to do this school strike before the Swedish election. Having covered environmental issues earlier in my documentaries I was interested to portray children and their relationship with climate change. So, I decided to take my camera and go down to Rick Scott street, outside the Swedish Parliament. That was how I came across Greta in the beginning.
To Nathan: A film about Greta Thunberg could take many different forms. When people come to see this film, they would have got some preconception of what it will be in mind. How did you choose your focus on what you were going to keep in and what you were not paying attention to?
I could see that Greta is picked up by the media very quickly and Greta is very articulate about how she speaks about this matter. When I listened to her answers to the journalists, and while listening to her speeches, I wanted to understand her inner monologue, which is the background noise that spins in our head before the formation of words that come out of our mouth. Anxious to get beyond those words that just came out in the media, I tried to get her point of view which would enable me to portray her much from her perspective. There were no interviews with Greta’s family. I mostly relied on her narration, based on her interviews and to a large extent to her diary notes. We also worked very hard to get the camera down to her level as I am fairly tall being 190 cm. while she is very short. So, I really scrunched my back to be able to film what I was interested in about Greta.
Tom Powers (left) with Nathan Grossman (right). Image credit: Screenshot
To Nathan: How did you handle the sensitivity with Greta and her family when she is retreating to her room, understandably needing a break from all the pressures of the world?
My early acquaintance with Greta and her family before she became an activist star, resulted in Greta and I became very close friends. I also had this deal with Greta and her family not to film something, they did not want me to. But actually, that seldom happened because we filmed only when we were in very close contact, as I could not always follow Greta and her family on their expensive traveling.
To Nathan: Around the world, we see climate activists, who are black, indigenous, people of color, who do not receive the same attention that Greta does. I remember last December at a UN meeting in Madrid, Greta was trying to put more of an emphasis on turning the microphone over to other people. Can you reflect on the way that the media focuses on Greta?
Recalling one of her quotes during one scene in the movie, when she sits with another activist in Belgium when she says what’s so good about this movement is that everyone is important in this broad, and inclusive movement. The core of what she has been speaking about is a lot about climate justice. Being aware that this will affect people of color disproportionately, and also that she comes from a privileged background, she speaks for these less privileged people to the media by diverting media’s attention to these people. As I did the film from her point of view, I had a chance from the beginning to show the variety of tasks and activities that are out there.
#TIFF2020; #Nomadland; #ChloéZhao; #FrancesMcDormand; #Nomad; #AmericanWest
Toronto, Oct 25 (Canadian-Media): During one of the conversations series organized by the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) held at Toronto, Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director & Co-Head of TIFF catches up with Chloé Zhao, director and producer of the film, ‘Nomadland’, winner of TIFF 2020 People's Choice Award, in which Chloe balances the successful creation of the larger landscape of the vast portrait of contemporary American West against more intimate portrait of Fern.
Image Chloe Zhao. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Asha Bajaj, Editorial-Director of Canadian-Media brings you the excerpts:
Cameron to Chloe: Chloe, in the film 'Nomadland', how did you balance the successful creation of the larger landscape of the vast portrait of contemporary America against more intimate portrait of Fern?
Chloe: Well from the very beginning I wanted Fern to be a guide to be able to bring us into this vast rich world of Nomadic living. Having tackled a big community with colorful characters on my first movie, I learned to anchor the audience into one person's intimate experience so that they can comfortably experience everything else without any loss.
Frances McDormand playing Fern, nomad. Image credit: TIFF
To Chloe: One of the first things we learn about Fern is her freedom, But as we see more about her on the road, we see more layers including the very self-protective sense she has that may look like freedom to others. Can you comment on that?
I personally think that Fern was always a true nomad deep inside. And when she finally left the house after her husband’s death and hits the road as a widow, picking up odd jobs when she gets them. But mostly she just wanders, meeting fellow wanderers and taking in the beauty of the American frontier. it took her some time to figure out who she really is. I do think hopefully when you watch the movie in the end she is on the road which is not going to be easy
To Chloe: She seems to be at home there. The film shows a lot of reality for many people not just in the United States but around the world, in terms of types of jobs they get, duration and the security of these jobs. But the film does not feel primarily a work of social commentary. How intentional that was and how hard you want it to go on that message?
Pretty hard I think. Based on Jessica Bruder's book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, the film is a portrait of struggle and loneliness of various wanderers, many of them women, and many of them older, in the American West. Some aspects in the book immediately struck a chord like the disappearance of the empire of the vast and the great American country town. Then Linda May as a woman wanted to build the Earthship and art yard. All these people are extremely human in characters and in their experiences. We try really hard to tell a story where the audience, irrespective of their beliefs, or political parties they belong to, can relate to the human level of the story before they make their own judgment. We are not here to teach, but to communicate.
Fern, the nomad lonely wanderer. Image credit: Screenshot
To Chloe: All of your films, including Nomadland, have presented a beautiful setting of the landscape with beautiful images, sometimes just a glimpse as Fern moves through these places and at other times the camera lingers on elements of the landscapes of natural world a little longer. How do these elements of nature add to the human story you are telling?
Being deprived of nature while growing up in the cities, I did not think much of it. I felt the need and the importance of nature while visiting friends in California, or Fern in Bolinas we would go hiking. I have never been to northern California, and the redwoods that I saw only in the movies or when I traveled to and places like South Dakota and Arizona. When you live in a van, or on the reservation you are just exposed to nature whether you like or not, people in cities are not.
Fern, the nomad living in a van. Image credit: Screenshot
I just feel like nature humbles you and always puts you in right perspective. And I think the curse of not having a house, or a traditional house is not a curse but a blessing. Nature changes people. And we wanted to tell the same aspect in Fern's journey. So, it was important for us to actually travel to those places, shoot in places within a fixed time with the right landscape at the right time of the year without extreme weather and just capture as much of that as possible.
To Chloe: The last thing I want to ask is being the co-writer, the director, and the editor is very interesting. How do you feel about this?
It is very humbling because you happen to see all the mistakes you made on set every day. It is both a blessing and a curse, a blessing that you just do not have to go to another person, a curse because you are not having another person's evaluation. It is very important for me to get feedback all the time and go through many cuts because you are in this capsule by yourself. I had felt this quite intensively in my previous two films. Many times I edit with a friend to be able to edit in my head and get all the coverage and then go into the editing room.
I want to die in an environment where my cellular structure can go back in and feed: Frances McDormand
#TIFF2020; #Nomadland; #FrancesMcDormand; #TrueNomad; #ChloéZhao; #AmericanWest
Toronto, Oct 22 (Canadian-Media): During one of the conversations series organized by the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) held at Toronto, Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director & Co-Head of TIFF discusses the film 'Nomadland' with Frances McDormand, winner of various oscar awards, playing Fern in the film and her exploration of the vast landscape of the American West, in Chloé Zhao, director and producer's intimate portrayal of life as a modern-day nomad. Asha Bajaj, Editorial-Director of Canadian-Media brings you the excerpts:
Image: Nomadland. Image credit: Wikipedia
Cameron to Frances: Frances, one of the first things we learn about Fern is her freedom. We see her peeing on the side of the road, not caring about the world. She follows her own schedule in her job. But as the film progresses, we see more layers including her self-protective sense that may seem to others as freedom. Can you describe Fern at her core?
Frances: In the time that we spent together, I perceived a child-like quality in her that we were interested in for Fern. She has a set of very prescribed rules living in an empire, and once she hits the road the possibilities become open testing her sense of self-sufficiency. Our intention was to make the audience excited about the possibilities of seeing what was around the next corner and leave her alone to become more comfortable testing herself against those her circumstances.
To Frances: How close are you to the character that you are playing do you think?
There is always a part of every character that is true to some part of the actor's life. But in this, it was more. Chloe and I had created a kind of a baseline about Fern and then every situation had to be used as a trampoline.
To Frances: We see more of Fern's past life on empire, and her family as the film moves along. I am curious to know if Fern jumped off that middle-class merry-go-round or was she pushed?
My perspective on this situation is completely different because the main difference between me and Fern was that I left home, and an American working-class background when I was 17 and never went back. Fern made one major choice of aligning herself and falling in love with a man named Boe, which determined the next 45 years of her life. The thread of me and Fern did not pick up until Fern is 61 when she decides to leave her home. Fern starts at 61 what I started at 17. But Fern, being a true nomad, when she finally left the house, it took her some time to figure out who she really is. Fern is still on the road towards the end of the film which is not going to be easy for her.
Frances McDormand. Image credit: TIFF
To Frances: Fern seems to be at home there. Although the film portrays the reality of the work-life not only in the United States but the whole world during that time in terms of the employment situation and the security it offers, the film does not feel primarily a work of social commentary. How intentional that was and how hard you want it to go on that message?
My intention was to take my audience there, lead them, guide them, hold them by their hand, and then push them into a new perspective to let them make their own judgment of what they see and how it affects them.
To Frances: It must have been difficult to plan and to actually travel to those places and also shoot within a fixed time. What do you have to say about that?
It was not traditionally a month or two-month shoot. We shot over 5 months in 5 states and had to wait for seasons to change and to elaborate on the idea of the landscape. And what I love most about the faces of 'Nomadland' is that we are all mature. There is something about being there for a long time and being able to go back into it. One of the most important things for me as I get older is that I want to die in an environment where my cellular structure can go back in and feed. And there is no concrete and brick, it is dirt. So, I think that is a real testament. I also think that Chloe had a real connection to the cycle of human life. The exploration of the group of older people, seniors, or seasoned people is part of the desert landscape, which was a perfect place for us.
To Frances: As a producer, What role did you play in the selection of a director and other casts and then putting the overall team together there?
We have a team of many producers but specifically 5, two of us, and 3 others. The most important thing I did as a producer was to listen to my partner Peter Spears’ suggestion to read the book 'Nomadland'. After reading the book, I was connected almost immediately to the writer which I had seen at the Toronto Film Festival, Chloe Zhao. Just with that synchronicity, everything fell in order and literally played out from there. But from day to day point of view I had to completely step back from my producorial position because I had too much to do. A collage of characters became our cast.
(Compilation by Asha Bajaj)
#FrancisLee #Ammonite; #HeterosexualCouple; #19thCenturyEnglnad; #IntimateBond
Toronto, Oct 10 (Canadian-Media): During one of the conversations series organized by the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) held at Toronto, Joana Vicente, Executive director and co-head of TIFF discusses ‘Ammonite’ with Francis Lee, director of the film.
Asha Bajaj, Editor & director of Canadian-Media brings you excerpts:
To Francis: How did you come to know about Mary Anning (acted by Kate Winslet) and her real-life that inspired you to write this story?
Kate Winslet. Image credit: Instagram
Francis: I started reading about Mary’s life after her name appeared several times on the internet while I was looking for a gift for my ex-boyfriend. I became obsessed with her class. gender and landscape. Born in poverty, with no formal education, she rose to be a leading paleontologist making incredible scientific discoveries in 19th century England’s patriarchal and class-driven society. I also discovered Mary’s several passionate, emotional love letters written to her female friends. Being ambitious to explore same-sex relationships between the patriarchal class-driven society and Mary, who had been either totally overlooked by men or used by men for her scientific discoveries, I wanted to uplift her to a respectful status by giving her a deserving relationship with a woman.
To Francis: So also in your previous film ‘God’s Own Country’, and now Ammonite you focus on characters on the fringes of society, who fall in love with someone outside their social standings. What draws you to those stories and to have the class gap or difference there?
God’s Own Country. Image credit: Twitter Handle
Francis Lee with the cast of the film “God’s Own Country” Credit: Twitter handle
Francis: I mean like all the stories I was interested in are very personal to me. Coming from a working-class, and a man from the regions of the United Kingdom, I am myself still trying to figure out these relationships. Having learned that both Kate and Charlotte Murchison were friends, I felt that Charlotte would be a wonderful person to enact this relationship with Kate. Charlotte was also instructed by her husband Rodrigues to stay in Lyme Regis and work with Mary (played by Kate) so that she could become a better secretary for him. And then there is evidence that Mary went to London once had stayed with the Murchisons. So all of these kinds of things collided and then became ‘Ammonite’.
Ammonite. Image credit: Twitter handle
To Francis: Would you like to talk a little about your process of working with your actors? I know that you did a long rehearsal.
Francis: I was blessed with Kate and Ronan for their commitment by starting to work about 4 months before the shoot, trying to explore every single minute detail about Mary. Kate believed that physical work was important to enable characters to inhabit their world, and committed herself to go to cold and wet beaches, climb up cliffs, and to do fossil hunting. Kate and Ronan had to learn to play the piano, to do tiny stitches under candlelight, not because I wanted them to do more work but I think these activities alter them and help them in embodying the characters emotionally, intellectually, and physically. Our efforts were to elevate these women, give them the status that they should have had when they were alive.
(Compilation by Asha Bajaj)
#JoanaVicente, #KateWinslet, #SaoirseRonan, #TIFF, #Ammonite, #Films, #WorldCinema
Toronto, Oct 11 (Canadian-Media): During one of the conversations series organized by the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), executive director and co-head of TIFF, Joana Vicente catches up with Hollywood stars Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan in Francis Lee directed 'Ammonite'. The romantic drama is inspired by the life of 19th century British palaeontologist Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) who was in an all-consuming same-sex love with geologist Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan).
Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan
Asha Bajaj brings you excerpts:
To Kate: Your performance is both beautiful and powerful. How did you approach the character of Mary, who was so brilliant, and yet struggled with the constraints of being a woman and a scientist in 19th century England?
Kate: Women's purpose at that time was to only get married to a man in order to have a life and a livelihood. Being poor, Mary did not marry a man in order to lift herself out of poverty. She continued to do fossil hunting taught by her father and felt that by doing this work she was honoring her father’s memory who was long dead. Not accepted by society, and left to work alone led people to believe she was rebellious or demonstrative. I approached the situation by learning fossil hunting for about a month by working with paleontologists and also got arts training from artists since Mary was a good artist.
To Kate: What was most challenging for you during the filming?
Kate: My most challenging part was embracing Mary’s stillness. Being an animated person, I had to train myself from not moving all the time. Like Mary, I also had to keep myself aloof. The daily routine I followed was to go home, make soups, write and work scenes for the next day, and go to bed until the routine became anchored in me, which helped me to stay rooted in Mary. It also reduced my anxiety and nervousness about enacting same-sex relationships every day or being panicked thinking about people’s reactions to my accent and to my role. I kept reassuring myself that the things I had planned to do and discuss with Francis would hopefully underpin me throughout.
To Kate: What was the chemistry like with Ronan?
Kate: Finally, when Ronan and I started real rehearsals, it was clear that our collaboration would be fun, and rewarding. Having met before and been familiar with each other’s way of working, building our friendship was quite seamless.
To Ronan: You play geologist Martienssen like a real person. What was your approach to this role?
Ronan: It progressed through preparation when Francis and I started talking once or twice a week a month about our relationships, enabling us to take a dip into Mary (played by Kate)'s everyday life. It was important to remember that this was just an imagined version of these people's original stories and their lives and we were giving it a life of its own. I started keeping a diary of Kate, writing down various simple facts like her relationships with family and friends so that when we started rehearsals, we already knew Mary well. Kate and Francis laid more emphasis on my role which built her up.
To Kate: What was your realisation playing a character in love with a woman?
Kate: Although both Ronan and I enjoyed the whole experience, it made me emotional and I questioned myself [on] how I allowed myself to be steered by writing in the past when I had been a part of something that has been a male and female relationship. So often the part of a romance is a man taking the woman and the woman allowing herself to be taken. It made me feel mad at myself. Have I done that? I am used to speaking for myself. I am strong. But things tend to automatically happen in writing when it is about a heterosexual couple in an intimate setting. There was something so incredibly equal about this that it made me feel quite emotional, grounded, and safe. We are women, and women know what they want. So there was a sort of shorthand that we already had that was fantastic and definitely helped.
(Compilation by Asha Bajaj)