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Taien Ng-Chan
Category Curator

lives in: Montreal
Let me introduce myself! As Film Curator here on Art+Culture, my interests tend towards the exploration of our media-driven image-based society, and the ethics and responsibilities of being the audience, the viewer, the receiver of all these images. I’ve written a... [more]

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“ I've written about the Top Ten Food Movies, the Top Ten Zeitgeist Music Movies, the Top Ten Movies I Won't Watch, plus Gallows Humour, Mad Science, Weird Sex in Canada... Do you have a suggestion for a Top Ten movie list theme? Let me know!”
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In celebration of Asian Heritage Month, Reel Asian presents its first cross-Canada tour SENSE OF WONDER, a dynamic selection of thought-provoking Asian Canadian shorts from across the country. This program will be seen in four different cities this May including Winnipeg, Montreal, Ottawa, and Vancouver, thanks to four presenting partners: Winnipeg Film Group, Accès Asie, Ottawa Asian Heritage Month, and Explorasian.

Reel Asian is Canada's premier pan-Asian international film festival, fostering the exchange of cultural and artistic ideals between east and west. It provides a public forum for homegrown Asian media artists and their work, and fuels the growing appreciation for Asian cinema in Canada.  The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival is a unique showcase of contemporary Asian cinema and work from the Asian diaspora. Founded in 1997 by producer Anita Lee and journalist Andrew Sun, this non-profit community-based festival has grown into an eagerly anticipated annual event that attracts thousands of attendees to 6 exciting days of screenings, industry sessions and special events.  The 2010 festival will take place from November 9-14 in Toronto.

Inspiring our imaginations in the darkest of moments, this year’s selection of the best Asian Canadian shorts invokes a playful outlook on tragedy. Guest directors will be visiting each city for screenings and Q&As.

SENSE OF WONDER includes three of the 2009 festival’s award-winning shorts, including:

REX VS. SINGH (Canada 2009) by Richard Fung, John Greyson and Ali Kazimi
This four-part drama, documentary, musical and conceptual video provides an insightful perspective on the history of homophobia and racism towards Sikhs in Vancouver, Canada. The video won the NFB Best Canadian Film Or Video Award at Reel Asian in 2009 “for the artful mining of archival material, for great cast and production, and for the inspired multi-POV structure that looks at how history is interpreted and then re-interpreted.” 
Ali Kazimi was born and raised in India and is an internationally acclaimed documentary filmmaker. He currently teaches film and video at York University in Toronto. His documentary Continuous Journey is a provocative and multilayered film essay that interweaves photographs, newsreels, home movies and official documents.
John Greyson is a prolific video artist, filmmaker and writer whose work has been screened in numerous international festivals and venues. Greyson currently teaches film and video at York University and recently completed his new feature, Fig Trees.
Richard Fung is a Trinidad-born, Toronto-based video artist and cultural critic whose work deals with the confluence of race and queer sexuality and with issues of post-colonialism, diaspora and family. Winner of the Bell Canada Award for Outstanding Achievement in Video Art, Fung currently teaches at the Ontario College of Art & Design.
Richard Fung will be in attendance in Montreal and Ottawa for a Q&A following the screenings.

FOUND (Canada 2009) by Paramita Nath is about Toronto poet Souvankham Thammavongsa, who was born in a Lao refugee camp in Thailand. Nath beautifully brings together Thammavongsa’s words and his father’s abandoned scrapbook into a moving visual poem.  Found was awarded the TSV Visionary Video Award at Reel Asian 2009 for being “a memoir film done exceptionally well and for its haunting poetry.”
Paramita Nath was born in India and moved to Canada 12 years ago to pursue studies in music. She received a BA in music from Memorial University of Newfoundland and an MA in interdisciplinary fine arts from York University in Toronto.
Paramita Nath will be in attendance in Montreal and Ottawa for a Q&A following the screenings.

FISH IN BARREL (Canada 2009) by Randall Okita.  In a stunning cinematic exploration of a young man’s internal struggle, director Okita questions what lies below the surface. Fish In Barrel won the Centennial College @ Wallace Studios Most Innovative Film Production Award, where it was described as “brilliantly shot, with a potent and evocative integration of music and sound with image.”
Randall Okita was born in Calgary, lived in Vancouver for a number of years and is currently a director-in-residence at the CFC in Toronto. Fish In Barrel screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and has screened internationally. The Vancouver screening will be the Vancouver premiere of FISH IN BARREL.
Randall Okita will be in attendance in Winnipeg, Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver for a Q&A following the screenings.

The tour will also include Q&A’s with the following directors:

Leslie Supnet  (A SMALL MISUNDERSTANDING, Canada, 2008) is a Filipino illustrator and animator from Winnipeg, who imparts a touch of whimsy in an exploration of isolation, nostalgia, place and identity in a humorous animation about a hungry bird. 
Leslie Supnet will be in attendance in Winnipeg and Montreal for a Q&A following the screenings.

Yung Chang (ALI SHAN, Canada, 2009) is an award-winning documentary filmmaker who graduated in film production from Montreal’s Concordia University. His work Up the Yangtze recently won best documentary at the Golden Horse Awards in Taiwan. His short film Ali Shan is poetic voyage inspired by childhood memories that takes viewers across the ocean to Taiwan and a breathtaking sunrise at the peaks of a historical mountain.
Yung Chang will be in attendance in Montreal for a Q&A following the screenings.

Lydia Fu (PERMUTE, Canada, 2008) is a Vancouver-based filmmaker. She graduated in chemistry at the University of Chicago and in media arts at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Her short tells the story of existential heroine Lulu who is caught in a film-noir cityscape fraught with mystery, anxiety and apprehension.
Lydia Fu will be in attendance in Vancouver for a Q&A following the screenings.

Sense of Wonder also includes:
NOCTURNE FOR THE FIREFLIES (Dir. Victoria Cheong, Canada 2009) and IRMA VEP (Dir. Jong Wook Choi, Canada 2009).

Festival Accès Asie and the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival will also be presenting a special selection of films and videos from Quebec, À LA RENCONTRE DU PAYSAGE QUÉBÉCOIS. Including titles by Naoko Kumagai, Nguyen-Anh Nguyen, Anh Minh Truong, Jenny Lin, Khoa Lê  and Joanne Hui.

Located at 1564 Rue St-Denis
 Cost: $ 7 (for both programs)

“I know Asians are really good in making indie films. Melbourne Escorts are really loving them. They expose the realities of our world today. :)”
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“Anybody home?! I really want a copy! Do you guys deliver?!”
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“Wow this is great! Do you guys sell the documentary after the showing. Can anyone send me a copy of this... I'm willing to pay. :)”
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“Where can i order this in Australia? I know this is a good film. Please answer me ASAP. Thanks guys”
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Jane Campion
Miranda July
Claire Denis
Shirin Neshat
Matrix Magazine
Agnès Varda


International Film
Hollywood Film
Independent Film
Video Art



Academy Awards
Kathryn Bigelow
Midi Onodera
Mira Nair
Sally Potter
Doris Dorrie
Alanis Obomsawin

(reposted from Matrix Magazine issue #85)

The Old Feminism came up with some pretty good slogans. “The Personal is Political,” for instance, still works pretty well! But when the subject of feminism came up in an art history class that I was teaching, I posed this question to my students, most of whom were freshly out of high school: Do you call yourself a feminist? In each class of 30, only one or two students ever said yes, and even then, hesitantly.
However! Though this perfectly informal and scientifically un-rigorous survey might dismay the Old Feminists, fear not. The New Feminism only rarely calls itself the “F” word, because so many issues intersect, not only gender. The personal is now more political than ever, and whatever you call it, Feminism is still needed more than ever. After all, we haven’t even achieved something as basic as equal pay for equal work, never mind the restructuring of whole value systems.

It’s even worse at the movies. This year, Kathryn Bigelow made cinematic history by winning almost every big award in sight, including the Best Director AND Best Picture Oscars, for her hyper-macho film The Hurt Locker. Congratulations are in order! The question is, in 82 years of Academy Awards, only one woman?

In a recent article on the lack of movies made by and for women in Hollywood, New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis pointed out the sad statistics prior to Bigelow's win: “Only three women have been nominated as directors by the Academy in 81 years: Lina Wertmüller for “Seven Beauties” in 1976; Jane Campion for “The Piano” in 1993; and Sofia Coppola for “Lost in Translation” in 2003. None won. “ (

Dargis points out that Bigelow’s success is important in breaking stereotypes, so that women might someday direct films other than rom-coms or chick flicks.  But that said, an even more pertinent question might be why a "chick flick" is seldom taken seriously, even though it might be as good or better than a "guy flick."

However, the New Feminism isn’t trying to be one of the guys. It’s not so interested in playing by Hollywood rules, trying to get deals, money, Academy Awards. Women directors tend to work outside the system, for the most part. They work in different media, often video, which, because of its accessibility, allows greater expression and control. Video artists often take more risks than filmmakers, and are able to be far more personal (and thus, political). It must be noted that there are a far greater number of video artists who are women. In terms of form, then, it’s video art and not filmmaking that represents the New Feminism (whether we call it that, or not).

Here, then, is the Matrix Magazine List of New Feminist Movies:

Jane Campion’s early films are tough and strange, like Sweetie, or melancholy and exuberant, like Angel at My Table. There’s The Piano, sensual and disturbing, and her latest, the gentler Bright Star. Campion is one of the few women directors who does great work both in and out of the system (though most often, she’s better out).
Mira Nair’s early films, Salaam Bombay! Mississippi Masala, and Monsoon Wedding, were wonderful. The Namesake, adapted from the novel by Jhumpa Lahiri, had great reviews. But her latest is a Hollywood biopic about Amelia Earhart that frankly doesn’t look very good (Hollywood destroys!).
Claire Denis is associated with the New French Extremism because her films are very, very intense. Trouble Every Day is my favourite film by Denis, starring Vincent Gallo and Beatrice Dalle as science lab guinea pigs inflicted with a disease that makes them crave sex and human blood.
Sally Potter’s Orlando was a wonderful adaptation of the Virginia Woolf classic. Tango Lessons was insightful, personal look into gender roles in Tango and life.
Agnès Varda is one of the few women associated with the French New Wave, and her film Cléo from 5 to 7 (Cléo de 5 à 7) is regarded as one of the classics of French cinema, but I think her later works just get better and better. In her documentary The Gleaners and I, she embraces video as an intimate medium and uses it to interrogate her own life, her memories, her preoccupations.
Dorris Dorrie‘s Men was one of the first German films I ever saw, back in 1995. It was funny and moving and full of heart. She has also embraced video for her later works, which are still funny and moving and full of heart.
Shirin Neshat – Beginning with her work in installation, Neshat’s stunning epic film loops often explore the great gender divide, especially in Islamic societies. She recently directed her first feature film, Women Without Men, which is currently making the rounds on the film festival circuit.
Alanis Obomsawin made Kahnesatake: 270 Years of Resistance, for which she’s perhaps the most well known. But Obomsawin has been making films with the NFB for almost 40 years! She recently won the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award.
Miranda July’s first feature, Me and You and Everyone We Know, is quirky and disturbing as hell. She also writes quirky stories and does performance art, often about quirky obsessions and heartbreak. Her participatory website,, with artist Harrell Fletcher, is pretty neat.
Midi Onodera has been making films and videos for over twenty years. In 2008, she made a tiny movie every single day, and posted them on her website. In 2009, she scaled back to produce a tiny movie every single week. These are still on her website at For 2010, she aims to produce a Baker’s Dozen. And there are so many other women media artists that I want to include: Sylvie Laliberté, Helen Lee, Monique Moumblow… check them out at


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Date: Friday, December 4, 2009
Time: 7:00pm – 8:00pm
Location: J.A. de Sève Theatre at Concordia, in room LB-125, 1400 de Maisonneuve W., Montreal, QC (Guy metro).

I’m pleased to invite you to a screening of my film, 80 du Parc, a story about the strangers that you see on the bus but never meet. It’s 25 minutes long and shot on Super 16, Super 8, and cellphone video, starring Monique Phillips and Matthew Forbes, music by Gordon Neil Allen.

I do hope to see you there!

“Looking forward to seeing the final cut!”
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International Film



The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a 1968 film by Jacques Demy (who, incidently, was married one of my favourite filmmakers, Agnes Varda), and is remarkable in that every single line in the script, even the most casual conversation, is sung!  A young Catherine Deneuve, so beautiful and innocent, stars as a girl working in her mother's umbrella shop, who falls madly in love with an auto mechanic, and everything is wonderfully romantic, until the mechanic is drafted into the army, and goes off to war.  The ending of this film broke my heart, not because it was sad, but because it wasn't.  It's more realistic, not tragic at all, and there was something very sad, very bittersweet about that.  I don't want to give it all away, so just see this film.  The colours are amazingly rich and vibrant, and once you get used to everyone singing everything, it is a purely unique experience.


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To wrap up our extended look at music and film this month, I'll be looking at my favourite musicals!  Of course, there are the classics: Singing in the Rain, West Side Story, and The Sound of Music, all of which I've seen hundreds of times, and I could sing along to each and every song.  But it seems that the era of the classic musical is over.  The most contemporary musical that really works for me is from 1986, a six-part BBC series called The Singing Detective, written by Dennis Potter and directed by Jon Amiel (NOT the 2003 remake with Robert Downey Jr.! - though I think Robert Downey Jr. is great, the remake could never live up to the original, and I can't believe Hollywood could even attempt such a thing... but I digress.)  Dennis Potter is the real genius behind this series, as can be seen in his other, brilliant works, such as Pennies From Heaven. The first time I saw The Singing Detective, I was simultaneously repulsed (The main character, a mystery writer named Phillip E. Marlow, is in the hospital for a horrible skin disease), delighted by the surreal lip-synced musical numbers of 1940s-era songs, which Marlow hallucinates, intrigued by clever interweaving of different worlds and noir mystery, and horrified by some of Marlow's dark flashbacks to his childhood.  The juxtaposition of cheerful, catchy tunes, such as ""Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive" - Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters" with dark, bleak settings and sudden bursts of manic choreography, is simply amazing. 


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