Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I WANT TO BE A DESI wins 2nd place and premieres at GRFF

My short comedy, I Want To Be A Desi, took second place at the 2010 Grand River Film Festival's BMO SHORT Shorts Competition and premieres there on Saturday.

At a recent ceremony held in Kitchener, ON, the judges praised Desi for its witty writing, assured direction and smart cinematography, and for addressing the issue of identity in modern Canada. "The acting was excellent, the editing thoughtful, and the use of music very clever," announced one of the judges, Phillip Bast, a Kitchener filmmaker and journalist. "I Want To Be A Desi is a delightful film, a comic social investigation into multicultural identity for second generation Canadians in large urban centres, particularly the Greater Toronto Area."

Fellow judge and Toronto filmmaker, Benjamin Rousse, added that Desi is "a solid film with no weaknesses in any area of film production. Writer/director Allan Tong demonstrates a firm grasp of the art of filmmaking."

Desi bride (Tari Joshi on left) and Pal Uncle (Jazz Mann at right) celebrate with wannabe Desi, Roger/Raj (David Yee)

I Want To Be A Desi will screen in a program devoted to the BMO SHORT Shorts on Saturday, October 23, 1:00 p.m. at the Galt Little Theatre in Cambridge, next to Kitchener-Waterloo. The screening will be the World Premiere of I Want To Be A Desi. Click here for schedule and tickets. Waterloo Record article about GRFF.

Click here to see the trailer.

SAVAC launches film program in GTA schools

The South Asian Visual Arts Centre has launched a pilot project to place short films from its annual MONITOR film screening into schools across Greater Toronto. Students from the Toronto and Toronto Catholic district school boards from grades 7 through 12 will be taught these short films throughout 2010-11. A more detailed announcement will be made by SAVAC and the TDSB later this fall.

Allan teaches Tapestry at the TDSB's Asian Heritage Month Symposium at OISE last May (photos: Allan)

SAVAC's Education Officer, Allan Tong, spent the better part of 2010 contacting individual schools in the school boards and wrote the teacher's lesson plans for all 12 short films, which include Rex vs. Singh directed by Ali Kazimi, Richard Fung and John Greyson. Many of the films are documentaries though some are animated and experimental. The themes touch on human rights, immigration, Canadian history, racism and gender roles.

TDSB's Asian Heritage Month Symposium

One of the films, Tapestry directed by Sharlene Bamboat, was already taught at symposiums during Asian Heritage Month last May. Allan taught those workshops himself and wishes to thank Karlo Cabrera at the TDSB for co-writing the Tapestry lesson plan with him and for organizing the TDSB event which take place at OISE in downtown Toronto.

Allan also thanks Christine Jackson, the Program Coordinator of The Arts at TDSB, and his colleagues at SAVAC, Srimoyee Mitra, Koko Kurunathan and executive director Haema Sivanesan. This is merely the beginning of the Films Program at SAVAC.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Planet in Focus Film Festival wraps with sold-out Industry Day

Toronto's Planet in Focus just wrapped, boasting sell-out audiences at its Industry Day of panels, pitches and networking sessions.

Industry Day took place at the Miles Nadel Jewish Community Centre last Friday amid the eleventh edition of North America's premiere environmental film festival (October 13-17).

The morning began with an overflowing Green Networking Lounge, where sudden demand forced Industry Programmer Allan Tong to increase the number of micro-meetings from seven to 10. That meant there were 10 simultaneous one-on-one meetings happening between filmmakers who signed up and industry leaders they wanted to meet. Those industry folk included the heads of Telefilm Canada, Astral's Harold Greenberg Fund, NFB, The Canadian Film Centre's NFB Feature Documentary Program, White Pine Pictures, BravoFACT, Vtape, The Toronto Arts Council and LIFT. Filmmakers pitched ideas and sought career advice.

Joan Prowse, co-producer of Eco Heroes TV/web series and Ron Mann, director of In The Wake of the Flood

Directors such as Peter Mettler (Petropolis), Ron Mann, whose In The Wake of the Flood, opened Planet in Focus, and Liz Marshall whose Water on the Table won PIF's Best Feature Documentary prize, spoke at panels later in the day.

Directors Peter Mettler and Liz Marshall

A special panel was devoted to Green Screen Toronto, a new initiative to reduce the carbon footprint of film productions, notorious to wasting everything from gasoline to plastic water bottles. Lead consultant Melissa Felder moderated the panel that included Avi Federgreen, the producer of Score: A Hockey Musical which recently opened the Toronto International Film Festival.
Green Screen's Melissa Felder and Avi Federgreen (producer, Score: A Hockey Musical)

All panels were heavily attended mostly by those who had purchased the $50 ($40 for students) Industry Pass which include the Networking Lounge, a vegetarian lunch and a licensed reception in the early evening. Filmmakers shed light on how they made their pictures and discussed the nature of today's environmental film, the role of advocacy in films, and non-traditional forms of distribution.

Director Malcolm Rogge pitching green

Industry Day climaxed with the annual Green Pitch in which six teams of filmmakers presented their eco-film ideas to a live audience and jury made up of producers from CBC's The Nature of Things with David Suzuki, TVO and the NFB. The jury was deadlocked and did not arrive at a decision for over an hour. The eventual winner was Katarina Soukup for Under The City, a documentary currently in development about vanished waterways running beneath the world's major cities.

As Industry Programmer, Allan thanks all his PIF colleagues including executive director Sarah Margolius, director of programming Kathleen Mullen, and his assistant Majid Kholdabandehlou.

Given the popularity of Industry Day, perhaps Planet in Focus will expand it next year. I'm purely speculating, but all the written feedback I received suggests this.