Tag Archives: montreal

a note on incendies, québécois cinema and its race politics

posted by jroselkim

If you haven’t marked Denis Villeneuve’s new film Incendies as one of the films to check out this year, you should. It’s a beautiful and compelling story of two Montreal siblings on a journey of self-discovery to their homeland Lebanon (which they left as infants with their mother). The film screened at TIFF to a very positive and receptive crowd and opened in Montreal on September 17 – I believe (I hope?) there will be a Canada-wide screening soon. The non-linear storytelling is both intricate and startling, leading to a very shocking twist at the end – which, I must say, does not really make sense chronologically. I can’t say much else about it, because I would have to spoil the ending for you.

However, the movie still displays some problems when it comes to its casting. Both of the main actors, Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin and Maxim Gaudette, are of Québécois decent and not Lebanese. This leaves Lubna Azabal, who plays the mother Nawal, as the only actress of colour in a film that centres around a Lebanese-Canadian family (Azabal is a Belgian-Moroccan actress).

This is not to say that white people can’t “act” in other ethnic parts. But when opportunities for actors of colour are already so limited as they are at the moment, why is it that studios would give opportunities to other white actors where an actor/actress of colour would be perfect for the part?

I am reminded of Jacob Tierney (director of The Trotsky, yet another excellent Québécois fare, anglo-style)’s recent interview with La Presse, where he bluntly stated: “Quebec society is extremely turned in on itself. Our art and our culture shows only white francophones. Anglophones and immigrants are ignored. They have no place in the québécois dream. It’s shameful.”

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free & cheap: mtl edition

posted by jroselkim

Tam Tams - aka MTL having a good time, every Sunday

After reading missmsian’s post on free and cheap things to do in Toronto, I wanted to write one for my adapted “home” Montreal immediately. For someone recovering both mentally and financially from grad school, the city has offered numerous diversions and fun nights which often don’t cost a thing.

Sure, the streets are a little grungy, the construction may be ongoing, and the French might sound weird to non-Québecois ears, but the city is literally full of things to do for 10 dollars and under.

1. Tam Tams – Mont-Royal park
Every Sunday in the spring/summer*, Mont-Royal park is filled with a drum circle that goes on almost all day (anytime between noon until 8-9pm), medieval live battles, line-walkers, jugglers, and picnic-ers out to enjoy the spectacle and the beautiful weather. Want to see a guy in full samurai armour battle against an aspiring sword-wielder (made out of duct tape and broom)? Check. Sketchy people whispering “weed” on every corner of the mountain? Check. Handmade jewellery? Check. It’s a truly unique event to Montreal and a great place to people-watch.

*when the weather is nice enough for everyone to be sitting outdoors

2. Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (185 rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest)
The Contemporary Art Museum presents many exciting multimedia pieces and interdisciplinary exhibits, including past exhibitions like Sympathy for the Devil – which examined the intersection of rock and art. Admission is $10 for adults and $6 for students, or free every Wednesday evening from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. The museum has also started a special series called Musée Nocturnes with live music performances (one of them featured the dynamic Tune-Yards, whose live performance will seriously blow your mind) every first Friday of the month, which can be enjoyed with a regular admission ticket.

3. Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal (1380 rue Sherbrooke Ouest)
The permanent collections at the Museum of Fine Arts are always free to the public. And while exhibits will cost $15 for adults and $7.50 for students, the museum still makes it under the $10 mark every Wedesday evening (5-8:30pm) when it offers half-price admission . Don’t let the somewhat restrictive name fool you – the museum offers a diverse range of exhibits – from the beautiful art of J.W. Waterhouse to the love story of John Lennon and Yoko Ono – and collections.

4. A Bixi adventure
Last year, Montreal rolled out Bixi bikes – public rental bikes with stations all around the city (with the exception of the Westmount borough). You can sign up for a yearlong membership for $78 (which comes with 6 transit fares until Jul. 30) and enjoy the beautiful scenery of Montreal instead of smelling someone else’s armpit on the bus or the metro. It’s great for visitors too – it costs $5 to use the service for 24 hours. This means that you can use a Bixi bike to ride for 30 minutes or under each time (be sure to check the time – the service will charge a $1.50 fee if you go over the designated half-hour time). It’s a handy way to get around the city and much more economic than using the transit system, too. Make a day of biking to different areas and exploring the distinct neighbourhoods of Montreal.

5. Piknic Elektronic
Every Sunday in the summer, Parc Jean-Drapeau (a short metro stop away from the central Berri-UQAM station) becomes a big dance party with 6 hours of electronic/house/techno beats by artists from Canada, US and Europe. It is as fun and exhausting as it sounds, all for a modest cost of 10 dollars.

6. Lachine Canal
Located near Lionel-Groulx metro station, this beautiful canal has great waterfront green space ideal for a picnic and a bike ride. It’s also home of Atwater Market, one of the Montreal public markets, where you can buy locally grown produce or delicious Quebec beers such as La Fin du Monde and L’Éphémère Cassis (my personal favourite), and some squeaky cheese curds too.

7. $2 chow mein at Chez Mein
You’ve hit the clubs hard, or are pulling an all-nighter and need a midnight (or post-midnight) snack, there’s only one place to go and one repulsive/awesome snack to have. On St-Laurent at Pins, you’ll find “Chez Mein” – a little shack (really, just a window with a counter – I have yet to see anyone go inside to eat). Their specialty is the house “chow mein” for $2; I put these in quotation marks because these are not your regular greased-up chow men of Chinese restaurants. No, they are something much more – first you see them pan-fry the noodles with a bit of soy sauce and oil. When you order one, they ask if you want “sauce” with it – this sauce is straight-up melted peanut butter, no joke. It’s a delicacy that cannot be captured until you try it out for yourself. I will say this: it has a special place in my heart for those brutally cold nights when you’re walking home from a party or a bar far away, and have forgotten all feeling on your feet.

If you live in MTL, or have visited it often that you have your own events/spots in mind, I’d love to hear’em.

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fantasia international film fest 2010: azn films galore!

posted by jroselkim

Poster for the South Korean film 'A Little Pond,' official selection of Fantasia Film Festival 2010


If you’re a fan of independent/sci-fi/azn films and are in Montreal, check out Fantasia International Film Festival for some great film gems, including many fine azn films. The festival kicked off on Jul. 8, but there is still plenty of time to catch numerous film screenings – many of them North American premieres – including free outdoor screenings until Jul. 28.

Here are some azn films I’m particularly excited about:

The Executioner (South Korea, 2009, North American premiere)– this film drew a lot of attention and controversy as it was the first film to be shot in an actual Korean prison. The story is about a rookie prison guard learning the harsh and brutal realities of the Korean prison system through a jaded, senior guard. The arrival of a notorious serial killer, whose crimes have garnered much public outrage, opens up the possibilities of a death sentence – a first since 1997 – which threatens to change the lives of the guards forever.

J.A. de Seve Theatre, Concordia University (1400 de Maisonneuve West)
July 18, 9:30pm and July 20, 3:20pm
$8

A Little Pond (South Korea, 2009, North American premiere): This is another film that met a lot of resistance from the Korean government (and public) due to its critical nature of the American troops (who are often seen as heroes who saved Korea from the Evil Communists). But after 8 years of planning and financial struggle, it’s finally here! The film takes place in a peaceful village in Korea, which turned upside down when the Korean war breaks out, with one of the most brutal massacres of the war on Nonguri Bridge.

J.A. de Seve Theatre, Concordia University (1400 de Maisonneuve West)
July 25, 9 :30pm and July 26, 5 :30pm
$8

Power Kids (Thailand, 2008): Move over, Nickelodeon, here comes the muay thai champions. Four friends must unite their muay thai powers to save their friend in a hospital with a heart condition.

Free outdoor screening, part of ‘Fantasia Under the Stars’ – at Parc de la Paix (Boul. St-Laurent, between Ste-Catherine and Rene-Levesque), 7pm

Other highlights include a digitally restored, original cut of Fritz Lang’s classic film Metropolis at Place-des-arts on July 28 (along with the Fantasia gala) and “Le sang d’un poète,” where Steven Severin (of the Siouxie and the Banshees) performs a live score to Jean Cocteau’s avant-garde film of the same name at the Rialto Theatre on July 22.

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