Arts Arts and Culture

Má Sài Gòn: Documenting Queer Vietnam

Vietnamese-Quebecois director Khoa Lê’s new documentary highlights queer lives in Saigon.

On Friday, Feb. 2, Cinema du Parc hosted the much-anticipated Montreal premiere of Quebecois director Khoa Lê’s documentary, Má Sài Gòn—which has been making the rounds in film festivals since 2023. Má Sài Gòn, which translates to“Mother Saigon” in Vietnamese, fixes its bold and inquisitive gaze upon Saigon’s queer communities, all while triumphing its subjects in their most mundane acts of courage.

Though not explicitly autobiographical, for Lê, Má Sài Gòn represents a profoundly “personal quest” of reckoning with his conflicted feelings towards Vietnam—a motherland that feels both familiar and foreign, both loving and suffocating. “Should I live again one day, I still want to be your son,” is a refrain that echoes throughout the documentary. 

Having moved from Saigon to Quebec at the age of six, Lê is now a successful queer filmmaker who seeks to explore the imagined, alternative paths he could have lived if he had stayed in Vietnam. “Connecting with that landscape and those people helps me search for the person I could have been,” he said. 

Má Sài Gòn. Photo by Danny Taillon

Indeed, there is an undeniable poetic and surrealistic quality to Má Sài Gòn, especially in its dream-like sequences which feature distorted visions of Vietnamese flora and fauna. Borrowing the naturalistic qualities of cinéma vérité, the loving way that Lê’s camera captures hidden beauty in even the most mundane scenes astounds in its subtlety: the studied, careful peeling of a pomelo, framed with the glow of an afternoon sun; the soft bickering of two husbands snuggled up in the same train cabin; the proud, adoring gaze of a mother watching her son’s drag performance for the very first time. These snippets of everyday life—offering so little yet so much—allow viewers to understand Má Sài Gòn’s protagonists in intimate and unexpected ways.

Mimi Ha, a fellow Vietnamese-Quebecois and recent graduate from UQAM who attended the screening, expressed how moved and excited she was to see more diverse representations of Vietnamese people in a Quebecois-made film: “Vietnamese people and culture is so much more than just the typical immigrant boat people story. It makes me feel good to see that, even in Montreal, we can see another side of Vietnam that no one’s really seen yet.”Lê hopes that his work’s resonance with audiences will open up more opportunities for fellow Vietnamese filmmakers to challenge the white-dominated, homogeneous standard in Quebecois cinema: “That is the engine that motivates me to work harder,” he said.

Arts Arts and Culture Community Student Life

Student Organized Day of Screenings: Rethinking Palestine Through Films

Don’t miss the films screened during Concordia art history student-organised week of events for Palestine.

On the week of Jan. 29, a group of Concordian art history students organised a week of events for Palestine. Their intention was to host meaningful sites of horizontal solidarity, seeking to platform Palestinian artists and stories of resistance in conversation with decolonial art histories and artworks.

Their events included a teach-in on Jan. 29, with Palestinian artists Jenin Yaseen and Sameerah Ahmad, whose work was briefly censored from the Royal Ontario Museum’s exhibition Death: Life’s Greatest Mystery, which opened on Oct. 28, for its depictions of Muslim mourning traditions and the presence of Palestinian subjects. The works of Jewish artists were also removed from display. Following an 18-hour action of solidarity where the artists and 50 supporters rallied outside the museum to challenge its censorship, the pieces were reinstalled. However, the museum placed warnings and context panels next to the artists’ works. 

At the date of this article’s publication the group will host a Day of Film Screenings in collaboration with Raah lab, Raah, a research lab aiming to examine the intersection of migratory processes and media practices, entitled “Decolonizing Memory: Heritage, Displacement and Narratives of Resistance.” The films will screen in Raah Fab, FB. 630.17. Not sure which screening to attend, or missed one you were interested in? Here are details about each screening:

12:30-2pm: The Truth: Lost at Sea (dir. Rifat Audeh, 2017) is an award-winning film that discusses the Israeli attack on the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla, consisting of a convoy of six civilian boats from various nations, including Canada, carrying humanitarian aid. The Freedom Flotilla refused Israel’s demand to turn away as they neared Gaza on international waters, and were raided by Israeli Occupation Forces in an overnight attack. Numerous unarmed civilian human rights activists were killed, and the film details the story of this attack and its resulting media coverage from the perspective of one of the survivors. The screening will be followed by a discussion with the director, moderated by Claire Begbie, a PhD candidate in film studies at Concordia. 

3-4:30pm: A series of short films by Forensic Architecture, a research agency, based in Goldsmiths, University of London, which investigates human rights violations including violence committed by states, police forces, militaries, and corporations. The featured shorts focus on investigations of Palestine/Israel, including:  Conquer and Divide (2019),  Living Archeology in Gaza (2022), Executions and mass graves in Tantura, 23 May 1948 (2023), Destruction and Return in Al-Araqib (2017), Sheikh Jarrah: Ethnic Cleansing in Jerusalem (2021), and Herbicidal Warfair in Gaza (2019). These films employ cutting-edge techniques in spatial and architectural analysis, open source investigation, digital modelling, and immersive technologies, as well as documentary research, situated interviews, and academic collaboration to discuss the history and current situation in Palestine. The screening will be preceded by a presentation on Forensic Architecture by guest Dr. Tracy Valcourt.

5-6pm: Un-Documented: Unlearning Imperial Plunder (dir. Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, 2019) discusses the treatment of plundered objects in European museums and asylum seekers in the same European countries. Arguing these migrations are interrelated, the film juxtaposes the generous hospitality stolen objects receive by the same countries who deny entry and care to people to whom the objects truly belong. Un-Documented articulates the power of material culture as a bastion of human rights, illuminating the violence of plunder and the urgency of repatriation. This screening will be introduced by art history doctorate student, Alexandra Nordstrom.

6:30-8pm: La Piedra Ausente (The Absent Stone) (dir.  Sandra Rozental and Jesse Lerner, 2013), which details the 1964 theft of the Tlaloc stone, the largest carved stone of the Americas from the town of Coatlinchan to the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City. The film explores the importance of so-called ruins of the past in the present day, to shore up the living injury of extraction, the technologies of violence, and the construction of nationalism. This screening will be introduced by art history masters candidate, Karina Roman Justo.

The remainder of the week of action include a Day of Action, including zine making and letter writing, on Jan. 31; a group gallery tour of Velvet Terrorism: Pussy Riot’s Russia at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal to critically engage aesthetics of resistance on Feb. 1; and a vigil in collaboration with Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) Concordia on Feb. 2. 

Arts Arts and Culture Student Life

New Year, New Films on Campus

What to watch on campus this month.

There is perhaps no better way to start the new year, and indeed the new semester on campus, than watching some excellent films. Concordia university welcomes back its students with what is sure to be a fantastic selection of films screening on campus this month. Unfortunately, at the time of this publication, not all schedules have been released—so keep your eyes on Cinema Politica who will return on Jan. 29.

Lucky for us, on Jan. 26, in collaboration with SHIFT Concordia, the Centre for Social Transformation which supports existing and emerging social transformation initiatives and artists, there will be a screening of Aking Senakulo (2023). Film director Jela Dela Peña is currently pursuing a BFA with Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. 

Aking Senakulo is a short film they completed in their second year under the supervision of Professor Marianna Milhorat. The film is a speculative experimental exploration of Indigenous Filipino ancestry, queerness, isolation and belonging juxtaposed with the everlooming spectres of religions and colonial histories and powers. The brief synopsis shared by Dela Peña on the director’s website paints a haunting image of what is sure to be an excellent film:

In a church, the golden light hits a figure’s wing scars. Their rosary sways from one hand, as sounds of leather against skin rings throughout the air. As they reach the altar on their knees, their hands come together in lieu of prayer. They find themselves transported to a place where they share food offerings and intimate touches with another being.”

The screening will be preceded by opening remarks from the director and followed by a Q&A session.

A welcome back to campus cannot forget to include catching this incredible film by a Concordian student, as well as the other excellent films Cinema Politic is soon to screen.

Arts Arts and Culture Community Student Life

December films at Concordia

What to watch on campus this month.

As the year comes to a close and exams, final papers and projects loom ever nearer, there are a number of excellent films screening on campus to help motivate you through your finals and make the long, cold and dark nights of December a little warmer with the gentle glow of the silver screen. 

Cinema Politica, a non-profit media arts organization dedicated to socially engaged cinema, has two final screenings for their Fall 2023 programming. On Dec. 4 at 7 p.m., Cinema Politica will host the Queer Cinema for Palestine event and premiere Foggy: Palestine Solidarity, Cinema, & the Archive (72 min). This collection of short films juxtapose archival footage, re-enactments, and present and past histories into a dialogue in tribute to historic and current activism and resistances Palestinian people. 

The films include Sultana’s Reign (Hadi Moussally), Homecoming Queenz (Elias Wakeem), Tempest In A Teapot (Amy Gottlieb), Knobs & Chai (Noor Gatih),  Nazareth (Mike Hoolboom), My Whole Heart Is With You (Essa Grayeb), Even A Dog In Babylon (Lior Shamriz) and The Poem We Sang (Annie Sakkab). This screening is dedicated to the ongoing struggle for Palestinian liberation, and not only offers film viewings, but also a vibrant space to gather, to learn, to grieve and to celebrate ongoing strength and resistance together.

On Dec. 11 at 7 p.m., Cinema Politica will screen Tautuktavuk (What We See). Co-directed by Carol Kunnuk and Lucy Tulugarjuk, this film explores the story of Inuit sisters Uyarak and Saqpinak as they attempt to connect during the beginning of the pandemic, each dealing with their trauma in their own ways. The film explores the intersecting and compounding impacts of pandemic measures, intergenerational trauma, domestic and sexual abuse, primarily through a series of video chats which attempt to bridge the physical and emotional gaps.

From Nov 3 until Dec. 15, the FOFA Gallery is hosting daily screenings between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. of Looking In, Looking Out, a new Black Arts Series presented in collaboration with the NouLa Black Student Centre and the Visual Collections Repository (VCR). The screening will showcase the work of six filmmakers of the Concordia community. This selection promises to meditate on familiar emotions and experiences, intertwining word and moving image alongside pasts, presents, and potential futures to speak to the concept of Black aliveness while still honouring the nuanced multiplicity of Black experience. The films include elemental (Ra’anaa Yaminah Ekundayo), I’m Glad You’re Here (Karl Obakeng Ndebele), Mango Lemon Soda (Emem Etti, ASK ME WHAT MY NAME IS (Desirée de Jesús), Chez Dr. Bello (Badewa Ajibade), and halves & doubles (Adam Mbowe). The series explores themes of intergenerational strength and trauma, personal grief, collective love, and more. 

More information about these films and events can be found on Cinema Politica and FOFA Gallery’s websites. With only a few weeks left in the semester, make sure to catch these films before the end of term.

Arts Arts and Culture Community

Bar Milton-Parc hosts their second film screening in solidarity with Gaza

Less than a day following Cinéma du Parc’s abrupt cancellation of their film screening event, BMP presented five films by Palestinian women to a full house.

This fall, Bar Milton-Parc (BMP) Co-op has hosted two Palestinian film screening fundraisers for Gaza. Most recently, on Nov. 7, they collaborated with Another Gaze Journal and Another Screen to present a selection of experimental films directed by Palestinian women. The proceeds were divided between Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and local organizational efforts, including mutual aid for a Palestinian refugee living in Montréal who is in need of stable housing. The space was filled with supportive attendees—the venue notably ran out of chairs. 

This event was less than 24 hours after Cinéma du Parc’s abrupt and controversial cancellation of their participation in Regards Palestiniens and Hors Champ’s Gaza solidarity fundraiser screening series, From the River to the Sea, which was scheduled to take place on Nov. 6. According to a joint statement from ten cultural organizations in Montréal, the decision was made to cancel the event due to “security concerns” and the “political nature of the screening.” 

The joint statement explains: “We learned from our own research that these issues were the result of a petition claiming to represent the Montréal and Canada Jewish Community, falsely accusing the title of the screening series of being antisemitic. We see this deliberate conflation between anti-Zionism and antisemitism everywhere in Canada and in the West in general, and we’re unfazed by it. These false accusations are launched at Palestinian Solidarity events regardless of the content of the event, with the objective of suppressing any expression of solidarity with Palestine.” Read the full joint statement here

On Nov. 14, Cinéma du Parc issued a statement on their instagram story, stating that “the meaning of the slogan used for the title of the event, From the River to the Sea, varies amongst communities, bringing a sense of insecurity for some, while being a call for liberation to others.” The statement continued; “We were worried for the security of the participants, our clients, and our employees. We would like to apologize for cancelling the event without conferring with the organizers, and for the lack of communication with our public once our decision was made.” 

From the River to the Sea fundraiser screenings have continued to be held at other venues. The next few will be held at Cinéma Public on Nov. 28, 29,  30, and Dec. 3.

BMP’s screening event began with Layaly Badr’s 1985 animation The Road to Palestine, which centres the experience of a young girl whose father is killed in an air raid. This heart-wrenching short film imagines a free Palestine through the hopeful eyes of a child living in a refugee camp. This was followed by Larissa Sansour and Søren Lind’s eerie science fiction film In the Future, They Ate from the Finest Porcelain (2015), which speaks to the role of archeology in the construction of national identity.

After a brief intermission, BMP screened Your Father Was Born 100 Years Old, and So Was the Nakba (2018), directed by Razan AlSalah of Concordia University’s communication studies department. This liminal film captures the invisible protagonist’s meanderings through the city of Haifa via Google Street View. Her disembodied voice cries out for a loved one who may have been inside one of the buildings shown in the street view—buildings that no longer exist.

Basma Alsharif’s artful and layered 2009 film We Began by Measuring Distance and Larissa Sansour’s surreal Nation Estate (2013) drew the evening to a close. 

The popularity of the event makes it likely that more screenings will be held in the near future. Learn about these films and more by Palestinian women at Another Screen’s website here. Stay tuned for more of Bar Milton-Parc Co-op’s programming on their instagram.

Arts Arts and Culture Culture Student Life

November films: What you may have missed and what’s coming up

Did you manage to catch all the films screening on campus this month?

Many exciting films were screened on campus this month. Cinema Politica’s Montreal chapter, founded in 2004 at Concordia University, screened Labor (dir. Trove Pils, 2023), a Swedish film which explores sex work, sexual exploration and self discovery as protagonist Hanna moves to San Francisco on Nov. 6, and La bataille de La Plaine (The Battle of La Plaine, dir. Sandra Ach, Nicolas Burlaud and Thomas Hakenholz., 2021), a French documentary which follows the gentrification and resistance efforts of the district of La Plaine in Marseille, France, on Nov. 13. 

Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema screened Geographies of Solitude (dir. Jacquelyn Mills, 2022) on Nov. 10. Mills graduated from Concordia’s BFA program in 2008. Her film is a documentary about Sable Island and Zoe Lucas, the woman who has spent a large part of her life studying and documenting everything about it. Mill’s film is an immersion into this life and its landscapes.

One screening remains for November: The Society of the Spectacle (dir. Roxy Farhat and Göran Hugo Olsson, 2023). On Monday, Nov. 27 at 7 p.m., Cinema Politica will host the Montréal premiere the latest film from acclaimed Swedish director Göran Hugo Olsson and acclaimed artist Roxy Farhat. The film is an adaptation of Guy Debord’s prophetic 1967 essay La Société du Spectacle (translated as The Society of Spectacle), which is an indictment of the image-saturated consumer culture of his time. 

In this essay, Debord argues that representation has replaced authentic experience and interaction. The text analyses the concept of “spectacle,” which is Debord’s term for the everyday manifestation of capitalist-driven phenomena, which includes advertising, television, film and celebrity. Debord describes how spectacle functions to obfuscate the past and future into an undifferentiated mass, creating something of a hyper and perpetual present. Here, the spectacle is a social phenomenon where life recedes into a representation, which Debord describes as a “a separate pseudo-world that can only be looked at.” 

Six decades later, Olsson and Farhat utilise found footage, contemporary images and original scenes to examine and illustrate Debord’s indictment of consumerism and the ways the unending circulation of images impacts how we see ourselves and interact with each other. Images of the climate crisis and selfies are in dialogue with renowned scholars, as Olsson and Farhat unpack the society of the spectacle. 

Visit the Cinema Politica on Nov. 27 to witness Olsson and Farhat’s attempt at the daunting challenge of creating a film tackling a complex theory that critiques the notion of image itself. Cinema Politica asks that audiences wear a mask to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. 


This article marks the start of a regular column at The Concordian, where I will round up films screening at and around Concordia. Stay tuned for December films coming in our next print issue.

Arts and Culture Culture Opinions

Martin Scorsese is wrong about Marvel, but he’s right about Hollywood

There’s a cry for artistic freedom in the Academy-Award-winning director’s latest rant that sympathizers and dissenters alike should find common ground with.

Martin Scorsese is yet again bemoaning the sweeping influence and thronging presence of Marvel movies in the modern cinema. In pre-pandemic years, Scorsese had lamented that the characters in these films lack complexity, the plot stakes are illegitimate, and that they provoke neither novel reflection nor genuine emotion for the viewer. In a recent interview with British GQ, Scorsese reiterated with more grave urgency the need for a radical upheaval in the industry. 

As he sees it, true cinema is a dwindling art form—surviving only by virtue of legacy filmmakers, like the Safdie brothers and Christopher Nolan—that must be rescued from the grips of increasingly parochial executives lest a new generation come to view blockbusters as the cinematic standard. 

It is far too tempting to dismiss his polemic as yet another quasi-existential fret on the part of an octogenarian who refuses to come to terms with changing tides and generational proclivities. And this would be in many ways correct. Scorsese’s assessment of Marvel movies crowding local theaters is largely exaggerated—we typically receive only a couple of them each year. His casual assumption that all films within the genre are essentially indistinguishable from one another is demonstrably crass, for there are notable character-driven complexities to be found in Marvel’s cinematic universe when we pay close attention. While there is something to be said for the lack of “real danger” posed to many of Marvel’s heroes, the happily-ever-after eludes many of them, as evidenced by the bittersweet conclusions to Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Scorsese himself is renowned for directing several classic gangster movies. Prior to The Godfather, the predominant view of these films was equally as dismal as Scorsese’s perception of the superhero genre, as they were commonly decried for their glorification of crime and even denied the honorific of “art.” Coppola, Scorsese, and others in that lineage redefined what “real” cinema came to be understood as. 

If Scorsese’s gripe with superhero movies has to do with a perceived simplicity of character and narrative, we would need to throw out a great deal of films produced every year. And even so, who should we then designate as the arbiter for the requisite degree of sophistication a production must exhibit to qualify as “true cinema?”

Yet Scorsese’s sorrow is not unjustified. It is incontestably true that filmmakers are being constricted and prodded to respond to market interests in increasingly narrower ways. Even as decorated a filmmaker as Scorsese himself was left with no other resort than releasing The Irishman as a Netflix exclusive, for no other outlet would grant him the big screen while producing the film in the manner he intended – that is, to have the freedom to make creative decisions without having to consider the needs of an endless franchise. Scorsese lamented to British GQ about his experience with Warner Brothers when producing The Departed, noting that executives were more concerned with the potential for sequels than the integrity of the story Scorcese wanted to tell. 

Increasingly intolerant attention spans have exacerbated the demand for fast-paced plots instead of character-driven narratives—something that, as Endgame’s director Joe Russo acknowledged, has impacted the direction of the Marvel franchise. James Gunn, who directed the Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy, expressed similar laments, saying that “Movies in general are not as good as they used to be” as a result of the creative inhibitions that film executives have saddled writers with. 

It is, therefore, not strictly Scorsese versus Marvel, but rather a clash between creatives and an industry that seeks to commodify art. It is pointless to engage in semantic gatekeeping over what constitutes “true cinema,” and one need not agree with Scorsese on every level—he is in many ways mistaken—to recognize in his words a plea for upholding cinema as an art form instead of an adaptive commodity.

Arts and Culture Festival

A brief history of one of Canada’s oldest film festivals

Since 1971, Montréal’s Festival du Nouveau Cinéma has transformed audiences through their dedication to independent films, and this year was no exception.

We go to the cinema expecting to be changed in some way. To be reprieved, perhaps, from malaise, boredom, or a Tuesday afternoon with forgotten responsibilities. Or rather to be fed when hungry for new stories, perspectives, knowledges, colours, textures, and realities—or maybe that dimension of flavour in popcorn only the concession stand can produce. It may be that we wish to be held by that particular fabric that is always tender (if not a bit scratchy) or by an emotion released by a skilled performance. We go to the cinema because we seek to be transformed, even for a moment. 

Founded in 1971, the Festival du nouveau cinéma (FNC), one of Canada’s oldest film festivals, lets you do just this as it continues to reveal new explorations in the style, story, and structure of film to Montréalers and its visiting national and iInternational audience.

Originally known as the Montreal International 16mm Film Festival, founders Claude Chamberlan and Dimitri Eipides created the festival out of a desire to provide space for films possessing urgent, experimental and exciting aesthetic, narrative, and structural explorations—but lacking distribution. This first festival offered selections such as “Political and Social Cinema” and “Visual and Structural Cinema” alongside “European Short Films”—revealing a dedication to social struggle as well as to aesthetic exploration. In 1980, the festival changed its name to the Montreal International Festival of New Cinema, dropping 16mm to signify the festival’s embrace of all practices devoted to explorations in film structure and content. 

Other names through the years include the Montreal International Festival of New Film and Video (1984), New Montreal International Festival of Cinema, Video and New Technologies (1995), and Montreal International Festival of New Cinema and New Media (1997), until it was named Festival du nouveau cinéma in 2004. 

Despite these changes in names, what remains constant is an ardent devotion and respect for evolutions in cinematographic language and form. Indeed, FNC has continued to evoke empathy, excitement, and exploration at the shores of the familiar, providing festivalgoers with unique experiences for over 50 years. The urgency and importance of such a festival cannot be understated: at $13 a ticket for students (or $11 if you go in groups of ten), FNC makes the magic of cinema accessible. It provides the opportunity to learn, grow, and take an hour or two of your day to be changed, quite possibly forever.

Visit the FNC’s website here to see what films were screened this year and to check out the winners of their various contests.

Arts Arts and Culture

Someone Lives Here: A fight for affordable housing

The documentary depicts one man’s efforts to heal his city.

Concordia’s Cinema Politica hosted the Montreal premiere of the documentary Someone Lives Here on Oct. 2. Producer Zack Russell and protagonist Kahleel Seivright attended the event and took part in a Q&A after the screening. 

The documentary was shot in Toronto during the pandemic. Homelessness had increased dramatically during that time and winter was coming. Kahleel Seivright, a carpenter from Toronto, decided to start building what he called “tiny shelters,” which are insulated wooden boxes big enough to fit an adult and started distributing them in Toronto parks. The tiny shelters were designed to retain body heat. People without housing could therefore keep warm during the night instead of sleeping outside in the snow or under tents. 

His project quickly attracted attention and generated a lot of media coverage as well as generous donations through GoFundMe. During the winter of 2021, he built about 100 tiny shelters and planned to keep going. However, the city of Toronto decided to forbid the distribution of tiny shelters and got rid of every single one of them the following summer. 

The movie raises many questions regarding big cities’ management of the housing crisis. It depicts suffering and gives a voice to those who are neglected and rejected by society. It highlights the unfair distribution of resources and the challenges people face when trying to get off the streets, such as the lack of social workers, the limited and insufficient space in homeless shelters, stigmatization, and unaffordable housing. It is a hard watch,  as stated by a woman in the audience who was holding back tears.

Even though the movie ends on a discouraging note, Seivright and Russell made a point of telling the audience after the screening that they are working on new projects and are continuing to fight for better resources to help people who are suffering from the housing crisis.

“The ongoing conversation needs to be about why housing is continuing to be so expensive, [ …] regardless of the majority of people’s ability to afford it,” Seivright said on Instagram on the night of the premiere. He encouraged everyone to join him in his fight for affordable housing, saying that if everybody does their part, things will inevitably change.
Seivright also hosts the podcast Someone Lives Here, available on YouTube. It consists of interviews of people’s experience with homelessness and helps spread awareness.

Arts and Culture Student Life

Elvis impersonator presents experimental films at MIA event

Concordia’s Moving Image Arts Collective organized a completely sold-out screening of student films. 

On Sept. 15, as the penultimate event of FASA Fest, students gathered in the VA building auditorium to watch a selection of student work that varied widely in aesthetic and approach. At full capacity, this screening had the largest turn-out of any MIA event so far. 

The Moving Image Arts Collective (MIA) is a student organization funded by Concordia’s Fine Arts Student Alliance (FASA) that aims to build a community of film enthusiasts within the university.  Through their screenings and roundtable events, MIA offers opportunities for students to present their completed or in-progress work to their peers, gain invaluable feedback, and forge connections that lead to collaboration. 

A highlight of the event was the persona of Elvis Presley acting as the moderator—a presence that truly enlivened the energy of the space. In an art world that can often be characterized as stuffy, serious and pretentious, this generous degree of playfulness and comic relief offered a refreshingly light atmosphere. 

The range of filmmaking styles included in the screening showcased the brilliance and creativity of Concordia’s fine arts students. The films shown were both independently-produced and affiliated with course assignments. All of them stood as testaments to the unique vision of each filmmaker and their dedication to quality work. 

MIA film screening, VA 323. Photo By Emma Bell / The Concordian.

The screening opened with an emotional and captivating poetic monologue piece on the precarity of pursuing one’s passion as relationships slip away to time. As the line-up progressed, a few recurring themes emerged that would transcend through many of the films: self-discovery through a sense of loss—be that the loss of childhood, homeland or family members—or through transgression, exploration and dreaming. 

A home video sourced from family archives told a nostalgic coming-of-age story; an irreverent documentary charted the mission of three roommates to gain roof access through a portal in the ceiling; a disturbingly corporeal claymation toyed with the limits of intimacy between partners. The threads of identity and investigation weaved through all of the pictures as they followed one another.

The event did not include a discussion or Q&A with the filmmakers—a choice that stole the opportunity to hear more from the artists on their motivations and process. Rather, the audience followed Elvis to a karaoke night complete with a raffle and snacks to Concordia’s campus bar, Reggies. 

Elvis impersonator singing karaoke at Reggies bar. Photo By Emma Bell / The Concordian

Stay tuned for more FASA and MIA events and opportunities through their Instagram accounts: @fasalovesyou and @movingimagearts.


PHI Centre’s Horizons VR brings a whole new form to film

The multipurpose venue displays award-winning virtual reality works

The PHI Centre reopened its Horizons VR exhibition on Nov. 9. The installation consists of four different rooms, each designated for a virtual reality exhibit, some including user-interactive elements. These award-winning pieces were all breathtaking in their own unique ways. Each one had me pulling off my headset either in complete awe or in intense reflection on the content I had just experienced.

Goliath: Playing with Reality is about a man who is diagnosed with schizophrenia after losing his parents, after which he spends several years in isolation taking strong medication. The protagonist, who goes by Goliath, finds solace in connecting with the outside world through video games after his return home. 

This piece is a true sensory overload. Bombardments of colours, shapes, and creatures create an intense feeling of hallucination and detachment from reality, all while keeping a video game theme as the virtual world demonstrates pixelated elements over many occasions. A few interactive moments involving first-person shooting and old arcade games allowed an extra level of immersion, and Tilda Swinton’s partial-narration was a soothing contrast to the chaos displayed throughout. 

Adil Boukind/Centre PHI

A following room is designated for the viewing of Reeducated, the animated true story of three strangers who were placed in a Xinjiang “reeducation” camp. The three men were caught in the middle of quite possibly the “largest internment of ethnic and religious minorities since the second world war,” according to The New Yorker

Displayed as a 360° VR short film, the memoir strikes emotion visually and through storytelling. The animation, created with a nod to Chinese ink wash painting, exposes the bleak horrors that average citizens must endure if they come from circumstances that aren’t to the government’s liking. As for the narrators, their friendship formed through hardship is poignant and tear-jerking, and it can be felt through the story they recount.

The third VR work, Kusunda, brings the viewer to rural Nepal, where they are placed in an interview conducted as a POW with shaman Lil Bahadur, who has forgotten his dying native dialect of Kusunda. Meanwhile, his granddaughter Hima takes initiative to revive the language of her family and ancestors. 

The heartwarming film tells their story through colourful CGI animation as well as live-action, splitting between informative and artful entertainment. The learning experience is topped off interactively, as the viewer is asked to pronounce words of the Kusunda language in order to resume the experience, which in turn spreads the subtle revival of the dialect. 

Finally, Marco & Polo Go Round tells the story of a couple facing problems in their relationship, which takes a severe anti-gravitational twist. As we follow the couple around their messy apartment, many objects around the kitchen fly up in the air, sticking to the ceiling. This is a reflection of the gradual dissolution of the protagonists’ love. 

Marco & Polo Go Round is about half the length of all of the other pieces, so it only has enough time to strike hard with its surrealism. The message, while not up-front, is especially thought provoking given the minimal context provided. It’s a beautiful animated metaphor.

It’s clear why the PHI Centre selected these four works to display. Each one deserved to win their multiple respected awards. Virtual reality, if done correctly, can definitely be an art form.


Another film stemmed from white guilt disguised under the title of Love

 Review of Cinemania Festival’s opening film Chien Blanc

Acclaimed author and filmmaker Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette brought forth her new film Chien Blanc as the opening film of the 28th edition of the Cinemania Festival. 

Her 2015 novel La Femme qui fuit received a lot attention owing to its  second-person narration of Lavalette’s grandmother’s life. 

Because of the acclaim she received from her novel and the various films she has made in the past such as Nelly, from the novel Putain by author Nelly Arcan, it was fair to have high expectations for this release. 

Cinemania hopes to bring francophone cinema to an international spotlight and help these films achieve recognition. For this year’s edition of the festival, organizers hoped to engage audiences with relevant socio-political issues. The festival’s country of honour this year is Luxembourg, which will bring the country’s French cinema and culture to the foreground. 

Beyond film screenings, the festival also organizes roundtables, conferences, concerts and an exhibit at the PHI Centre. 

Chien Blanc was a result of Barbeau-Lavalette questioning her identity as a white person. For many, the murder of George Floyd in 2020 was a reality check. It brought more awareness to the struggles of people of colour — and for Barbeau-Lavalette, this awareness translated into a historical film. 

“This is not a documentary,” states Lavalette in the Q&A session. The film, however, is composed in parallel to the narrative of archival footage of Black struggles from the Civil Rights movement of 1954-68 to the Black Lives Matter protests from last year. 

It is controversial that, though a Canadian artist herself, Barbeau-Lavalette chose to depict racism in the U.S.but ignored similar racist trends in her own province of Quebec, whose prime minister openly stated that “systemic racism does not exist.” 

Even though the film only has a runtime of ninety minutes, it seems to drag on much longer. This was in part due to the awkward editing. The audience barely had the opportunity to draw breath after dramatic scenes before the narration would quickly resume. 

It is noticeable that Barbeau-Lavalette does not come from a filmmaking background. The metaphors used in the film were too on-the-nose, and provided little credibility. 

For instance, the first scene shows a boy playing with a toy dog, foreshadowing the upcoming story with a dog as the central character. In another instance, Romain Gary (author of the original novel Chien Blanc) writes the last words of his book, which seems to symbolize the universal finality of racism. He writes with pen on paper in the film as a metaphor of the final words of his novel. 

Barbeau-Lavalette touches upon the themes of white tears, but does not give them much depth. In a scene at the beginning of the film, a taxi driver is bringing Romain Gary to his home when we hear the news of Martin Luther King’s murder on the radio. Romain Gary overpays the driver — a direct symbol of white tears that  Barbeau-Lavalette herself noted in the Q&A  as “overcompensating his guilt by paying.” 

Strong metaphors can enhance a storyline, but in this case they felt forced — as if they were trying to entirely manipulate the audience’s experience rather than giving them a chance to think for themselves. 

The film does not flow very well as there are abrupt switches between images that make it, at times, an uncomfortable experience to watch. 

Though her initial claim of making the film about what it means to be a white ally is interesting, the angle she has taken in Chien Blanc only serves to further divide. A better angle to take would’ve been centring more Black voices, for instance. Characters like Ballard who Gary gets out of prison, seemed central to the story during the initial scenes were only shown briefly. 

Overall, the film was an interesting visual experience. The Cinema Imperial seating 800 people was entirely full. The audience was a diverse group that included school-going children and teenagers who would applaud at the end of every scene and laugh whenever an intimate scene would pop up on the screen. 

Though Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette is known for her prose, and the film is an accurate adaptation of Romain Gary’s novel Chien Blanc, I’m not sure that filmmaking is the best avenue for her talents. 

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