Culture/Film: Mightier than the Sword

Film for Thought

When you believe in something that’s bigger than yourself you fight to make yourself heard.

Journalist Roberta Staley is fighting for women’s rights in Afghanistan.  Having traveled  undercover to Afghanistan on several occasions,  she took risky chances trying to create positive change.  She’s responsible for the award winning documentary entitled  “Mightier than the Sword” which has helped enpower women over there by giving them a voice to be heard.  A major accomplishment.

Rahibib Rahimi (L) and Roberta Staley (R)

I first met Roberta in a Spanish class over coffee in 2012 and was intrigued when she said she’d be leaving for a few weeks to go on assignment for Elle Magazine. In Afghanistan no less.

The Story (in brief)

Roberta went back to Afghanistan three years later to tell the story of Mozhdah Jamalzadah, a regular person here and a superstar in Afghanistan, where she’s a powerful voice for women similar to that of Oprah.  The Vancouver raised woman is actually referred to as the Oprah of Afghanistan.

This 48-minute documentary focuses on Afghan female journalists and filmmakers and their impact on gender perceptions and gender equality. In Afghanistan, a significant advance since the fall of the Taliban has been the entry of women into the media as reporters, directors, writers, producers and authors.

Excerpt by Lucas Aykroyd from Vancouver Magazine:

The powerful debut by Vancouver filmmaker Roberta Staley examines the impact of female media personalities in Afghanistan’s fight for gender equality. Staley, an award-winning editor and longtime contributor to Vancouver magazine, created the new 48-minute film to complete her Master’s degree in graduate liberal studies at SFU. After spending three weeks in 2012 in the Central Asian nation on assignment for Elle, she returned there in 2015 to shoot Mightier Than the Sword in 35 C weather during Ramadan. Staley remortgaged her condo to finish the film, which cost her more than $80,000. “That’s what you do when you believe in something,” she says. “I was obsessed with telling this story about the media and how it was changing gender perceptions and gender equality.”

View Trailer:

http://www.mightierthanthesword.ca/videos/

More to come

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Documentary: Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood

As you may know I’m in Palm Springs where the International Film Festival (PSIFF) is still in full swing until it ends on the 15th.

Scotty Bower then

As you may also know I very unfortunately had to miss a whole bunch of great story telling due to some kind of awful virus I picked up.  So for my second movie only since arriving here on December 31st, just beginning to feel myself again, I chose a documentary. Documentaries are some of my favorite story telling because of the truth involved.

Also, this one was directed by Matt Tyrnauer who directed the phenomenal documentary feature Valentino: The Last Emperor (2009), which was short listed for an Oscar Nomination in 2010.  He’s also a special correspondent for Vanity Fair Magazine.  He was in attendance as was his subject, Scotty Bowers, a now 94 year old man with a carefree attitude and great smile.  And one amazing story.  Oh do tell…

Scotty and the Gang

After returning from Marine Corps combat during World War II, this handsome young man arrived in Los Angeles and started pumping gas and pimping (for lack of a better word although he’d prefer to say he ran an introduction service) at 5777 Hollywood Blvd. The gas station is no longer, but the memories are.

As Bowers tells it, an overture from a seemingly unlikely customer, the tweedy gentlemanly actor Walter Pidgeon, led to Hollywood connections with some of the biggest names at the time.  Names I won’t repeat here (you’ll have to see it yourself). Scotty got some of his pals into the act and pretty soon the Richfield station was flooded with customers looking for a quick trick.  The town pump.

Well this is old Hollywood news, is it not? I mean Hollywood has a history and we’ve heard the stories before (yawn, yawn).  Well….not exactly…like this Trust me when I tell you there’ll  be some new and eye raising reveals.  Really!

And then you’ve got to ask yourself “why am I here?”  I mean in the sense of being in a sold-out audience room full of voyeurs like yourself finding out personal information on people you’ve only heard about going back years before your time.  With a little bit of embarrassment for being party to it.  But then relishing the wicked information told through Scotty’s adventures.

As the story delves into his tortured past we can’t help but wonder if Scotty was making his own escape from reality.

The story is told extremely well, it flowed perfectly with just the right amount of interviews, humor involved and naughty intrigue.  A perfect afternoon escape with a man who makes no apologies for his choices – having been the discreet pleasure pleaser of the past to both sexes. Until aids came around to claim the life of Rock Hudson and he decided to shut it down.  As he put it “I enjoyed helping others.

Scotty and his wife Lois Now

And in the manufactured Hollywood of yesteryear there was definitely a time and place for Scotty’s services and that of his posse.  Full Service indeed and Full Steam Ahead!

For tickets (while available):

https://www.psfilmfest.org/2018-ps-film-festival

 

 

PSIFF Documentary: Bright Lights

Mother/Daughter: Hollywood Stylebrightlights2The bittersweet and timely HBO documentary “Bright Lights” about Debbie Reynolds and her extraordinary relationship with daughter Carrie Fisher was screened last night at the Palm Springs International Film Festival to a sold out audience.

Even though HBO decided to air it recently (months ahead of schedule) due to the tragic untimely deaths of both women, I enjoyed watching it on a big screen with director Fisher Stevens there to talk about the film and answer questions at the end.  Debbie Reynolds lived in Palm Springs and had circumstances turned out differently then Carrie Fisher would have been in attendance at the screening.

It’s still shocking that only one day after Carrie died, her mom, the dancer who rose to stardom in Singin’ in the Rain and earned an Oscar nomination for The Unsinkable Molly Brown died at 84 with so much life ahead.

Still, the show must go on

Debbie Reynolds, recipient of the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, and her daughter, actress Carrie Fisher, pose in the press room during the 21st Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on January 25, 2015.(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Debbie Reynolds, recipient of the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, and her daughter, actress Carrie Fisher, pose in the press room during the 21st Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on January 25, 2015.(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The documentary which was filmed over the course of 2014 and 2015, and ends with Reynolds receiving the 2015 SAG Awards Life Achievement award was touching, funny and very candid.  Even with her frail health towards the end, Reynolds was a real trouper not ready for retirement. The private family film clips from early on are entertaining and you get more than a little glimpse into the world of this legendary talented Hollywood family including Reynolds marriage to singer Eddie Fisher and references to Elizabeth Taylor.  Carrie Fisher and her brother Todd have wonderful singing voices too.

Sometimes you can only find Heaven by slowly backing away from Hell.” ― Wishful Drinking (an autobiographical humor book by Carrie Fisher, published by Simon & Schuster in 2008 based on her one-woman stage show).

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the 13th!

Life at Large: the HUMAN condition

 Paraphrasing Janis Joplin: Happiness/Freedom are just two words for nothing left to lose.

Last week I watched a gripping, disturbing and captivating docudrama (with lightness at times) which was part of the VIFF screenings on….everyone…everywhere…everyday…appropriately entitled…human1

And guess what?

We’re pretty much all the same in the sense of what we all really long forsimple happiness.

I think that’s what first attracted me to the title of an Italian subtitled film that was on my list to see called “The Complexity Happiness.”  Without knowing a thing about the film I wanted to see it…because happiness is a complex thing and not so simple for many to attain after all, is it?

Because everyone wants something…else. We’re different in the sense of what we own, the clothing on our backs, our environment which of course encompasses our living conditions, language, family and our bank accounts. But other than that we only really want happiness.  And we all know by now that happiness does not come from having more money.  Money minus love equals emptiness.  End of story.  There’s only so much pleasure you can attain by buying more….things.  Having said that, there are more people in the world who have nada, but many are happy with what little they have if they have a strong family connection or for many, faith (in whatever they believe in).  And we would be stupid to assume having no money at all is a good thing even if your family situation is balanced.

Balance in life is important for everyone and how can you be truly happy if you’re always fighting to find a way to feed your family, find a job, look after yourself and those around you?

It’s a BIG WORLD out there and for the most part…it’s out of whack and completely and unfairly UNBALANCED.human2

WHAT I’VE LEARNED FROM THIS POWERFUL FILM overall is… the world we live in can be a pretty sad place!  I mean even checking out what’s going on with the U.S. election campaign…who would have ever thought it would come to this for the most powerful position in one of the most powerful countries?  It’s a bit of a joke like a Jerry Springer gong show. And just before this film I saw “American Honey” which deals with misfit millennials looking to find work and fit into society and have some fun. The list goes on.

So yes, it was depressing to see more than enough faces from all over the world talk about their personal living conditions and socio-economic situation.  It was meant to inform and upset from where we were sitting, in comfortable seats in a warm movie theatre with our popcorn & sodas.  On a more uplifting note, there are some feel-good parts to the film as well. And we find out that some of the monetarily poorest people on the planet are the happiest.

But even happy people are not constantly happy…life gets in the way.  How many people have you heard about in the past couple of years alone who are/were famous with lots of money who died from drug overdose, committed suicide, are or were severely depressed? How many are in rehab?

Maybe the secret to happiness lies in being contented. I think contentment counts for a lot.  It’s a good balance of being mostly happy with a few disruptions along the way.  We are, after all only human.

And unfortunately, unfairness is a way of life…for most.

Human trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-Retnj3TsA

This is my last VIFF review until next year but I want to let you know that my friend Ann Marie Fleming WON for her feature length “Window Horses” – in the best Canadian Film Category. I am so happy for her.  The wonderfully animated movie about poetry has an encouraging message.  I highly recommend seeing it.

We must take happiness in doses…BIG or small!

Style in Film: Yohji Yamamoto – Dressmaker

YOHJI YAMAMOTO | DRESSMAKER  & master tailer is a portrait of more than a Designer

“Live your creative life! Live your creative life!’”yohji2

Last night I attended the Canadian premiere of Yohji Yamamoto, Dressmaker – part of the wonderful lineup of the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF).

The documentary is an intimate look at the life and work of Yohji Yamamoto, one of the most influential and enigmatic fashion designers of the last forty years. yohji3

Not to mention flamboyant in his own disarming way but also non pretentious and a little melancholy. He does admit to putting all his emotion, all his excitement and philosophy into his clothing from the very beginning…all while puffing on a cigarette.  I imagine his own clothing must reek of cigarette smoke.  However…

Fashion editors agree – arriving at a Yohji Yamamoto show stirs a sense of anticipation not experienced elsewhere.yohji4

Love his designs? Hate them?  Unsure?  In any event you cannot deny the remarkable talent and avante-garde spirit of this now 73-year-old Japanese designer/artist who has never followed trends.  He defies them! Extraordinary dressmaking is an ART in itself.

yohji6yohji5

Along with Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo, Yamamoto was, of course, at the fore of an influential wave of avant-garde designers who emerged from Japan in the 1970s and early 1980s.

The film sets out to discover and uncover the many layers of the man, delving into the fascinatingly complex life story of this iconic and visionary craftsman.

Yamamoto opens up like never before.  He invites the viewer behind the curtain and explores his most private and intimate thoughts and feelings. The film sheds light on his artistic approach and creative working process, contrasting them directly with how he sees the “Fashion” industry today and the direction society in Japan and as a whole, is heading towards.

Interviews with key figures – family, friends, employees and closest confidants – provide even more insight into this Japanese artist’s life journey and the core values that he and his clothing embody.  If only we could understand what many of them had to say.

In this version they forgot to add the English sub-titles when they interviewed many of the key figures, mother included. Although Lost in Translation,  I’m sure it was mostly positive.

“I’ve always dreamt of  being free, but it won’t happen in my lifetime.  I have too many people to look after.” – Yohji Yamamoto

Beyoncé wears YY
Beyoncé wearing YY

Condensed from an article in Interview Magazine:

Born into wartime Tokyo in 1943, Yamamoto first studied law, but opted instead to go to work for his mother, a seamstress, and enroll in Bunka Fashion College. It was after a brief sojourn in Paris that he established his first label, Y’s, in Tokyo in 1972, debuting his eponymous line back in the French capital nine years later and blowing away the tight dresses and padded shoulders of the sartorial moment with the billows of dark fabric and a brand of intellectual playfulness that instantly earned him a place as one of the most forward-looking, paradigm-breaking, and versatile artists in contemporary fashion. But for a man whose work has consistently been associated with the cutting edges of things, Yamamoto has always remained remarkably trend-phobic, choosing to operate within a framework that has less to do with the whims of seasons and more to do with the development of ideas, as exemplified by his frequently loose, asymmetrical cuts, enveloping drapes, ample uses of black, and recurring flirtations with sexuality and androgyny.

Never conventionally sexy or trendy (Cathy Horyn of the New York Times has said, “Mr. Yamamoto likes to dissolve sartorial boundaries”), Yamamoto appeals to clients who appreciate wit, romance, and fashion history.

Yamamoto has also collaborated on pieces, collections and lines with a number of other brands, including Adidas (Y-3), Hermès, Mikimoto and Mandarina Duck; and with artists such as Tina Turner, Sir Elton John, Placebo, Takeshi Kitano, Pina Bausch and Heiner Müller.

Trailer:

https://vimeo.com/157722105