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 took big chances to fight for women’s rights in Afghanistan to enpower them by helping to give them a voice that would be heard.  She was responsible for creating an award winning documentary entitled “Mightier than the Sword”.  It’s 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 undercover on assignment for Elle Magazine. In Afghanistan no less.

The Story

She went back to Afghanistan 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.  The Vancouver raised woman is 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

Monday Mood:  Sinatra state of mind

The Place He Called Home

I could change the heading to Melancholy Mood a song sang by Frank Sinatra but that sounds pretty gloomy.  After viewing a special screening of the fabulous documentary film by *Leo Zahn which ended Modernism week here in Palm Springs, we know Sinatra’s life was anything but gloomy.

Sinatra in Palm Springs – The Place He Called Home.

I, like so many others have always loved Sinatra’s music, his style and well…the lifestyle was anything but dull. Because I’ve spent the last several years coming to Palm Springs and now live here part of the year I was really looking forward to seeing this film if only because it explored Frank Sinatra’s deep attachment to Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley, his primary home for almost 50 years.

His wife Barbara called him a desert rat.  Meaning he embraced the dreamy “desert rat” lifestyle of tennis, golf, cocktails, cards and entertaining.  Very similar to my lifestyle minus the tennis, golf and cards.

Nelda Linsk, one of the subjects of “Poolside Gossip,” the famous photograph shot by Slim Aarons in 1970, was Barbara Sinatra’s best friend (she’s the one in yellow).  She is also interviewed in this doc.  She’s still beautiful.

The film captures the spirit of the Sinatra era and pays tribute to the unique lifestyle especially surrounding the renowned racquet club. Revealing interviews bring to life a bygone era . . . beginning with the post-WWII years and Sinatra’s 1947 home in Palm Springs, tumultuous times with Ava Gardner, his 1954 move to Rancho Mirage, his marriage to Barbara, and life at the “compound.” Major sequences are dedicated to historic restaurants Sinatra frequented for decades.  Many still here and some I’ve gone to.  My husband and I had the pleasure of meeting and sitting with Mel Haber who owned the historic Ingleside Inn and Melvyn’s cocktail bar which Sinatra frequented.  He described Sinatra as having “an aura” about him. He’s the first and last person to be interviewed in this wonderful documentary.  It didn’t matter which president or other famous person frequented your estabishment.  Everyone wanted to know if Frank or “Mr. S” as they referred to him came in.  If he showed up with his entourage and liked it, you were good.  If he didn’t like the pasta it could get thrown against the wall.

‘Sinatra in Palm Springs’ tells the story of a man whose generosity and compassion for his fellow citizens had no bounds. He loved the desert and its people. He loved the local restaurants and bars. His best friends lived nearby.

How many people can aspire to live like him?  It’s a large, legendary life and that’s why the screening was sold out.  He really did do it HIS WAY.

At the end of the screening Mr. Zahn (*the filmmaker) was here for an audience Q&A.

And that’s another thing I love about being here.  The filmmakers are on hand to answer questions especially during Film Fest and Modernism.

 

 

 

 

 

Film/Culture: Le Ride

A bad attitude is like a flat tire.  If you don’t change it, you’ll never go anywhere.

Cycling is an enjoyable sport.  Recently I’ve gotten on my bike to do a grocery run,  pick up pizza from a nearby restaurant and meet friends for coffee.  Sometimes it’s fun to be part of a local event even if you’re not a big enthusiast.  But I might become one.

The *Tour de Palm Springs may not be The Tour de France but there are some similarities.  For instance, thousands of cyclists riding along gorgeous scenery while challenging themselves for many miles to help fundraise for a variety of charities.

February 10th: I just did the 100 10 mile tour which although hardly challenging, was worthwhile and rewarding in the sense that I tried it out for the very first time.  It wasn’t a race, it was a ride – there’s a difference. Bands and cheerleaders entertained us by playing the American anthem & then as we began filing out, the theme from Rocky.  With so much energy it made us feel like athletes.  Actually, there were some authentics. 

What was really great was attending a carb loaded dinner with outdoor seating the night before, then watching an award winning documentary at the **Palm Springs Cultural Centre (used to be the Camelot Theatre).

In partnership with the American Documentary Film Festival, Tour de Palm Springs presented Le Ride The story of the first English speaking team to ride the Tour de France.  Multi Award winning producer Phil Keoghan (creator The Amazing Race) showed us what it was like to do the ride in 1928 when he re-created a history that many are not aware of.  He challenged himself to the toughest road race in the world by retracing the 1928 Tour de France riding an original vintage bicycle with no gears, breathtaking scenery all along the way.  Keoghan was in attendance for the screening and for a Q&A at the end. He was also riding on the Tour de Palm Springs. But I have a feeling he did the whole 100.

The **Palm Springs Cultural Center, a non-profit organization, was established to encourage the development of the cultural arts in the Coachella Valley with a specific focus in the areas of film, fine art, live performance, dance, music, and community festivals. The Center is dedicated to advancing education, to nurturing community-wide participation in the cultural arts, and to sponsoring scholarship awards for deserving individuals.

*Tour de Palm Springs is a sponsored event designed to raise money for nonprofit organizations in the Coachella Valley and helps support more than 100 local charities.  It’s also great exercise.

  Have you ever done one of these?

The Last Movie: The Last Movie Star

The closing choice to end the Palm Springs International Film Festival was a movie about faded fame and growing old.It was also a movie about a small town film festival awarding a lifetime achievement award to an over-the-hill beloved ex movie star.

An overall great character study with an ageing Burt Reynolds in the starring role and a precociously under dressed, depressed, complex young woman perfectly played by Ariel Winter (Modern Family).  An almost unrecognizable Chevy Chase plays Sonny, friend to Vic Edwards (Reynolds character) who urges him to go to Knoxville, Tennessee to collect his award.

I loved this movie by Adam Rifkin (in attendance) who said that Burt Reynolds was his childhood idol.  He wrote the movie specifically for Burt and sent the script to his agent saying that if he decided not to do it, he would not make it period.  He got a call the very next day from Burt Reynolds.  Reynolds said that if the script was sent to him ten years ago the answer would be “no” but at this stage in his life he was ready.  I loved that he spliced film clips from Reynolds old movies like Deliverance & Smoky and the Bandit alongside what he looks like now.  It’s quite bittersweet to witness the differences between now and then.

And it’s a movie that makes you think about life in general.  Not just that of an ex-famous movie star.  It has all the necessary elements for audience appeal.  Humor, feel-good, sadness, regret, choices.  Some of the scenes brought tears to my eyes.  It was completely human and utterly charming.

What woman did not fall for the charms of Burt Reynolds in his glory days?  What a hunk he was with personality to top it all off.  Handsome, funny, talented with substance.  I mean just look at the women he used to date from Sally Field (the one who got away) to Dinah Shore.  How time flies.

I found this film to be a refreshing and honest look at life.  I highly recommend seeing it when it comes to a theatre near you sometime this year.  Especially if you like (or used to like) Burt Reynolds.

Then. It was a centrefold from Cosmopolitan Magazine. Yes, I had it!

Tomorrow: Best of Fest.  If you’re in the Palm Springs area you will want to check this out:  https://www.psfilmfest.org/2018-ps-film-festival/films/best-of-the-fest

 

 

 

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

 

 

Art/Culture/History: “The Post”

OPENING NIGHT – Palm Springs International Film Festival 2018 (PSIFF)

Clip from the film

There is a saying about relationships in Washington: If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. – Katharine Graham

The feature film began with a panel discussion with the key players on the stage of Palm Springs High School.

Streep, Hanks & Spielberg

Katharine Graham for those of you unfamiliar, was America’s first female Fortune 500 CEO. As the renowned publisher of ‘The Washington Post,’ she guided the newspaper to national prominence, most notably when it published The Pentagon Papers and reported on the Watergate scandal.

Meryl Streep stars as Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham and Tom Hanks as editor Ben Bradlee in Steven Spielberg’s gripping true life drama behind the publication of the Pentagon Papers in Nixon’s White House. This history making movie at the time of an incensed, vindictive president meant risking careers and the future of the newspaper.

A cover-up that spanned four U.S. Presidents pushed the country’s first female newspaper publisher and a hard-driving editor to join an unprecedented battle between journalist and government.

Decades of government lies which led the U.S. into the mire of the Vietnam War were lifted from top secret files. The risk of publishing them was greater than great.

Spielberg, Streep, Hanks

Words to live by:

It’s hard to remake decisions and even harder to rethink nondecisions. Sometimes you don’t really decide, you just move forward, and that is what I did—moved forward blindly and mindlessly into a new and unknown life.

A long time ago I had to decide whether to be a lady who lunched or a women who worked. – Katharine Graham, Personal History

The festival runs until January 15th.  Check out the film and events lineup here:

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

 

Art/Culture/Film – Palm Springs International Film Festival 2018

Movie Magic 2018

Can you keep a secret?

The Palm Springs International Film Festival tradition of the Secret Screening continues, sharing a brand-new, yet-to-premiere film with only the most discreet of discerning filmgoers. You won’t know the title of the film until you see it on the screen, and once you’re in on the secret you can’t spill the beans. No talking, texting or tweeting before, during or after. While we can’t disclose specifics, we can tell you that this classified title features one of this year’s Film Awards honorees alongside one from 2017. It’s a story that may be familiar, but we promise you’ve never seen it like this before. Ohhhh….

Alongside Films and Documentaries from…

Pop Eye

The heartwarming journey of a man and his elephantThailand

To

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood

A fascinating, dishy documentary about the life and times of Scotty Bowers, who, after serving in the Marines in WWII stumbled into a career satisfying the sexual desires of some of the most famous people in Hollywood, both male and female.

And Everything in BetweenAs a member of the PSIFF media to cover screenings and events, I look forward to sharing some stimulating stories with you.

Perhaps with a touch of stimulating Pinot

HAPPY NEW YEAR

VIFF: Borg Vs McEnroe

The Perfect Match

The game of Tennis is somewhat compared to the game of Life

When you commit a fault, you are given another chance to get it right.

If you make the same mistake again (double fault) you pay for it.

When you have an advantage, it’s up to you to make use of it. If you don’t, someone else will.

Any point in the match can be a turning point.

Every new game begins with “love all

All of us make our own unforced errors (we all have our imperfections). That doesn’t stop us from trying.

We always want to ace it.  This movie did.

I’m normally not so into sports movies but this one is about one of, if not the, greatest tennis match of all time. The 1980 Wimbledon Men’s Finals between cool Swede Björn Borg and hot tempered New Yorker John McEnroe. It was a stimulating battle of opposite personalities.

Borg was the top tennis player in the world, dominating the sport both on and off the court.  He had already won four Wimbledon championships in a row and this would be a record-breaking fifth.

McEnroe, considered among the greatest in the history of the sport, was famous for his shot-making skills, as well as his confrontational on-court behaviour.

The players are incredibly acted out by Shia LaBeouf (McEnroe) and Sverrir Gudnason (Borg).  It delves in and out of how they first started out in the game and the enormous pressures put upon them.  You realize they have more in common than what is initially perceived.

In the end I found myself rooting for both of them.

The real deal

Last two days for screenings.  Get your tickets here: https://www.viff.org/

 

 

 

VIFF: The Florida Project

Two things drew me to this film: 1) Willem Dafoe is in it 2) it shows the gritty side of living near a place where dreams come true.

That place is Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

On the other side of the tracks, just outside the magic kingdom lies a bunch of rundown motels originally built for the overflowing tourist trade looking to save a buck but still be close enough to get fairy dusted.

But this is not an enchanting story. It revolves around a specific motel The Magic Castle. A mother/daughter relationship, a place where tough talking families live, barely able to make ends meet, scraping by just to make the monthly rent as the housing crises rises. The inwardly frustrated although patient motel manager, is played outstandingly by Dafoe. But the real stars of this movie are the motel kids who live in a world all their own.  You feel sorry for them, and you also cannot stand them as they go about their precociously uncaring antics. They are, after all, a product of their upbringing.

It is another world to many of us, but too familiar for many others.  A despairing time and place in America; all too real, right now.

It’s a fascinating look from a safe distance into a chaotic world of what is the opposite of enchantment, mostly seen from the eyes of the kids.

Directed by Sean Baker (Tangerine)

One more week left. Check it out @ https://www.viff.org/

 

 

 

VIFF: The Nile Hilton Incident

My reasoning for choosing this feature from the many contemporary world cinema selections were the words “Nile Hilton.”

That’s because I stayed there for almost a month in 1999 (now it’s called the Ramses Hilton) in a beautiful 2-bedroom suite on an executive floor as my husband had business in Cairo.  I would take my coffee on the balcony overlooking the River Nile and enjoy all-day refreshments in the lounge.  It was very decadent at that time and I got to know the staff while Don was working, hung out at the pool and walked a short distance to the Egyptian museum to check out the mummies…more than once.  I got to know a lot of shopkeepers too.  I bought gold jewelry, perfume, leather bags, a silk carpet and a belly-dancing outfit.  I had a lot of time on my hands.  I had my own little incident at the hotel which got resolved quickly with the help of a burly bouncer who came to my rescue, but there were no casualties that I was aware of.

Well that was my first reason. My second was that the movie blurb appeared to be intriguingly film noirish.  It turned out to be better than I had hoped for.  It was a gripping crime mystery filmed on the streets of Cairo; seedy and corrupt. All the elements of a good detective story. It won the grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival. This was the Canadian Premiere and the line was loooong.  I sauntered in thinking I had plenty of time to spare but it was already sold out.  I stood in the standby line even with my media pass (“but you don’t understand…I lived at that hotel”).  Just managed to make it, along with my medium bag of $9 popcorn.

An innocent young maid is witness to the murder of a beautiful singer in one of the hotel rooms.  Noredin, The cop who gets involved, (played by Fares Fares, that’s his name) meets resistance at every step of his investigation and you begin to realize that many people are at play here and politics are involved.  Always, right?

The movie is set in a Cairo on the edge of revolution. On January 25, 2011, all across Egypt, millions of protestors from a range of socio-economic and religious backgrounds demanded the overthrow of Egyption President Hosni Mubarak.  As the engrossing story enfolds, it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

To check out more great cinema at VIFF please visit: https://www.viff.org/