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On Wanting The Goldfinch: Donna Tartt’s Book of Cravings

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Shortly after finishing Donna Tartt’s masterpiece, I stepped into a bookstore eager to buy another book but immediately spotted The Goldfinch on a table. All sorts of novels lay around it, but I thought, petulantly—No! Only The Goldfinch! The book had made me hungry to keep reading, but I wasn’t ready to leave its story behind. Since it appeared last fall, efforts to find comparisons for Tartt’s...

Concerning Violence by Göran Hugo Olsson

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This post is the last in a series on Hot Docs 2014 films that reorganize and reimagine the limits of documentary. Viewers familiar with Swedish filmmaker Göran Hugo Olsson’s 2011 The Black Power Mixtape will be already acquainted with three of the narrative and formal tropes also present in his follow-up film, Concerning Violence: Nine Scenes from the Anti-Imperialistic Self-Defence—racialized...

Out of Mind, Out of Sight by John Kastner

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This post is the third in a series on Hot Docs 2014 films that reorganize and reimagine the limits of documentary. Like John Kastner’s 2013 documentary NCI: Not Criminally Responsible, his follow-up film, Out of Mind, Out of Sight, is also a powerful reminder of what a traditional, made-for-television film can do without experimentation. It can haunt, and it can devastate. It can also leave us...

Guidelines by Jean-François Caissy

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This post is the second in a series on Hot Docs 2014 films that reorganize and reimagine the limits of documentary. This quiet, patient NFB-produced film by Quebec visual artist and filmmaker Jean-François Caissy watches adolescents in and around a high school in rural Quebec. The film is stitched together as a series of observant tableaux that move back and forth between youth, on the one hand...

The Measure of All Things by Sam Green

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This post is the first in a series on Hot Docs 2014 films that reorganize and reimagine the limits of documentary. The Measure of All Things is not so much a screening as a feature-length “live documentary” enacted at the Isabel Bader Theatre early in the festival’s run. U.S. filmmaker Sam Green, best known for his Academy Award-nominated The Weather Underground, “performed” a one-night-only...

Really Seeing: An Interview with Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer about All The Broken Things

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SP: In your remarkable and moving All The Broken Things, Toronto’s CNE, bear-wrestling, Agent Orange, and Bo’s family life and history all work together to filter sadness, rage, love, regret, guilt, and joy to a pure and human core. What was the writing process like? Did you ever find a tension between the documentary facts you use and writing the fictional story? KK: With the work I’ve been...

We Can Never Tell the Entire Story of Slavery: In Conversation with M. NourbeSe Philip

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M. NourbeSe Philip is an Afrosporic Caribbean writer/poet, novelist, playwright, and essayist known for her dedication to social justice, as well as for her experiments with literary form, particularly her well known 1989 text, She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks. In all of her work she examines themes of gender, race, colonialism, and the effects of language, playing with words with...

Rereading Fear of Flying: On Not Being Pregnant in Mid-Air With Isadora Wing

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“One of the strongest motivations for rereading is purely selfish: it helps you remember what you used to be like. Open an old paperback, spangled with marginalia in a handwriting you outgrew long ago, and memories will jump out with as much vigor as if you’d opened your old diary…” –Anne Fadiman, “On Rereading” The flight from Toronto to London in September 2002 had been my...

The Razor’s Edge: The Erratic Brilliance of Martin Scorsese

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It all begins in a bloody bathroom. A young man shaves at a mirror, his body arched over a porcelain sink. With each new stroke, a torrent of blood gushes down his cheeks, streaking across the tiles in a crimson cascade. A romantic ballad floats over the soundtrack and the young man’s gaze is as placid as the singer’s voice. He slits his throat without a sound. The Big Shave is the 1968 student...

Portrait of a Record Store: Soundscapes

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Soundscapes (572 College Street) is for all intents an art gallery that treats cover-art like Pollocks and Mirós. Step through the ever open front door (10AM-11PM daily) and notice how books, records and CDs are stacked vertically so your neck doesn’t tire from looking down. Observe the two kinds of light, the fluorescent rectangles across centre-ceiling, spreading their mellow glow as if coating...

Maritime Life at Fredericton’s Westminster Books

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Westminster Books, 445 King St, Fredericton, New Brunswick Westminster Books, Fredericton’s only independent bookstore that focuses on new books, has been a community staple for over thirty years. The brother-in-law of the current owner, Janet North, opened the store in 1975. He ran it for two years before moving back to Ontario and selling the store to Janet, her husband, and another couple. “We...

Hidden in Plain Sight: The Dedalus Book of Lithuanian Literature

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Reviewed in this essay: The Dedalus Book of Lithuanian Literature, edited by Almantas Samalavičius (Dedalus, 2013) If Alice Munro’s recent Nobel win demonstrates that writing about small places can illuminate the human condition internationally, then the same can be said of writers working in languages whose speakers are not numerous. The literatures of small countries tend to be backwaters...