5 Must-see Movies from This Year’s Hot Docs Festival

There’s a reason we love documentaries: their beauty, power, influence and impact cannot be argued. They can cover any subject and be made by anyone, anywhere. There are no rules not really, except your movie needs to be true. Mostly true, anyway.

Documentaries can be transportive and awe-inducing, like the Planet Earth series or The Eagle Huntress. They can be unexpected and emotional like The Wolfpack. They can be terrifying, mystifying and ridiculous. They can also keep you up into the early hours of the morning, clicking next video after next video, winding up on conspiracy theory films about lizard people and the Illuminati.

I’m speaking from personal experience here.

It’s no wonder why we love watching documentaries and why events that honour them garner a fair bit of attention and excitement. I’m talking, of course, about the Canadian International Documentary Festival, which will take place at the Hot Docs theatre in Toronto from April 27th-May 7th.

This year’s festival packs a stellar line-up into its 11-day run. The documentaries being shown cover continents and topics. I can guarantee you’ll find at least one that interests you, but if you’re stuck, here’s our shortlist of some of the must-see documentaries playing during this year’s festival.

Becoming Who I Was

Via Hot Docs Box Office

Directed by Jin Jeong, Becoming Who I Was tells the story of Padma Angdu, an impoverished boy who discovers he is the reincarnation of a prominent Tibetan monk. The movie covers eight years of Padma’s life, from when he is banished from the local monastery, to his powerful bond with his godfather and journey to return to his rightful place.

Find showtimes and tickets here.

Rat Film

So, there’s a documentary about rats. Specifically, there’s a documentary about how the infestation of rats in Baltimore is a problem born from the segregation of ethnic minorities into impoverished neighbourhoods. Directed by Theo Anthony, this film uses a city’s rodent problem to demonstrate the ways a society has failed its people in the most basic ways. Rat Film is not one to be missed.

Find showtimes and tickets here.

Tiger Spirit

North Korea has become a modern boogeyman to the world, but Min Sook Lee’s 2007 documentary goes beyond the usual narrative of fear and dystopia to look at two nations struggling with closed-off borders and the after-effects of war. Lee also incorporates her own experience shooting the documentary while six months pregnant into the subject matter, asking the question of who is and isn’t allowed to report from unstable countries. In our current political climate, this documentary needs to be seen again.

Find showtimes and tickets here.

Tokyo Idols

In a society where youth and celebrity are vital, Tokyo Idols is a highly relevant look at a culture that makes an industry out of these phenomena. In Tokyo, teenage idols perform lip-synch dance shows for an audience filled with middle-aged men who drop vast amounts of cash to be able just to meet and see them. Competition between the idols is fierce and the criticism from their dedicated fan base is relentless. Kyoko Miyake’s documentary dives into this world of fantasy fulfillment through following a 19-year-old performer and her 43-year-old fan.

Find showtimes and tickets here.

Quest

Via Facebook.

In a basement in Northern Philadelphia, Christopher “Quest” Rainey and his wife Christine’a “Ma’ Quest” create an artistic getaway for their community, allowing young people to express their feelings and frustrations through song on “Freestyle Fridays” and serving as role models to their own children and those that visit them. Director Jonathan Olshefski shot Quest over a 10-year period, following the family in their day-to-day lives. It is an honest, hope-filled look at good people living in a country that is more uneasy than ever.

Find showtimes and tickets here.

 

 

Tried and Tested: Levi’s New 501 Skinny Jeans

It’s hard to argue that Levi’s® is not synonymous with jeans. Over the years, the denim market has grown tremendously, and while some brands have come and gone, the iconic denim brand still remains. When we heard about the next member of the Levi’s® 501® family — the new 501® Skinny — we knew we wanted to try them on and put them to the test. Our fashion contributor Liat Neuman got her hands on the SUPERCHARGER wash for women, and our Editor-in Chief Drew Brown was able to try out the HILLMAN wash for men.

Both pairs of jeans are a new kind of skinny jeans, featuring everything we all love about the classic 501® original, but with that skinnier fit. The 501® Skinny adds an authentic, vintage feel to your closet that only the creators of the blue jeans can offer.

“We are very careful when we touch the 501®, and we do it with a lot of respect,” explains Jonathan Cheung, the Head of Design at Levi’s® Brand. “People have been altering their vintage 501® jeans for a snug, skinnier fit for years, so we followed that as inspiration and created a vintage-looking 501® Skinny.”

Liat and Drew headed to Nordstorm and selected items that will take their jeans from day to night and over the weekends.

Drew’s Day look:

For my day time look, I paired the 501® Skinny with a faux fur bomber jacket from Express and a Trovata t-shirt from my own closet. This look can take me from the office to drinks with friends, or to one of the many work-related events. I have been a fan of Levi’s for many years and I love the fact that they always work well with items from my wardrobe, and, unlike the designer jeans I have purchased, my Levi’s still look brand new.

Drew’s Evening look:

I dressed up the skinny jeans with a Paul Smith printed button-up and a blazer for a chic nighttime look. The fit of the jeans and the blazer makes the look sharp and dressy rather than casual. Being vertically challenged, I love skinny jeans because they make me feel and appear a bit taller.

Drew’s Weekend look:

I fell in love with this sweatshirt from KENZO and they look great with the jeans. This look is perfect for brunch on the weekend or running errands around the city. You can style them with a pair of cool white kicks or your favourite pair of shoes. One thing I did notice during this test was not only did the jeans make everything I picked look great but they are also  super comfy, which is a plus.

Liat’s Day look:

Blouse: Theory, Jacket: BCBG, Heels: Bata

During the day, I am usually juggling business meeting and my duties as a mom, so I was looking for an outfit that will be comfy yet put together. You can’t go wrong with a classy pair of Levi’s that creates a professional look. I chose a structure black blazer for a slightly serious appeal and paired it with an office-friendly crisp white button down shirt with cutout details. I completed the look by adding nude glossy pumps for an instant elegant-polished touch.

Liat’s Evening Look: 

Shirt: Robert Rodriguez, Heels: Guess

After a busy work day, the night requires a more glamorous and sexy outfit, so I decided to transform my day look into a night one without changing my favourite Levi’s jeans. I picked up this playful off the shoulder top, since it’s not only a huge trend this season but also very flattering to any body type. To add a gorgeous pop of colour, there is nothing like pair of stiletto heels with floral prints to finish the look.

Liat’s Weekend look:

Shirt:The Kooples, Sneakers: Adidas

During the weekend, wearing a comfy outfit is my first priority. As such, I decided to adopt the classic Canadian tuxedo,  the denim on denim ensemble. It’s effortless, easy to wear, and never goes out of style. I pair the jeans with a embroidered button down denim shirt and a pair of Adidas floral sneakers because of the cool fun-vibe they create. Since these jeans are high waisted, they give my body a great shape and allow me to tuck the shirt in without having to worry about my imperfections.

The new edition will be available for men and women in a variety of finishes and in light to dark washes with the true original 501® button fly. For more information, visit the Levi’s website here.

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The Novella team picks their fave trends for spring!

Fashion, like all forms of art, is about self-expression. It’s about taking colour, pattern, texture, shape, and style and making it all your own. This season saw some of the freshest and newest collections to date. Giving all of us here at Novella a reason to cheer over. There was no shortage of extremely wondering and eye-catching pieces. From beautiful coats to soft ruffles and baby pinks, our picks for best spring trends are sure to get yours and our spring wardrobes feeling as fresh as the springtime scenery that’s to come.

 

Chris Zaghi, Fashion Editor

Photos: L’Uomo Vogue | From L to R: Louis Vuitton, Angelos Frentzos, Juun. J

Berets

Berets are happening and they’re happening in a big way. They’ve been everywhere for spring/summer and fall/winter. Every designer under the sun, from Louis Vuitton to Christian Dior, gave the fashion world its take on the iconic Parisian staple. After having witnessed season after season of floppy hats and wide brim felt hats, the understated beret uses its touch of whimsical flair and elegance to add a special touch to casual looks, while giving more formal looks an ease of wear that only the french can pull off.

Shades of Icy Blue

My absolute favourite colour is slowly, but surely, making its way into a slew of designers collections this season. And with perfect timing too. Spring is the season of pastels. Light pinks and soft yellows dance with mints and orange sherbets in the most delicate dance. Spring is the season of floral blooms and all the colours that come with them. So it comes as no surprise that with the softness spring’s blooms come with their softest colours. At Angelos Frentzos, icy powder blues add a calming and luxe appeal to heavy streetwear looks. Giving the harshest of streetwear scrutinisers a reason to praise.

Extreme Trenches

The trench has been a rainy day springtime staple since its inception back in the 1800s, remaining unchained for centuries until today. The new trench now comes in whatever colour, shape, and style you can imagine (and desire) This season’s trend for extreme trenches came during Juun. J‘s fall collection. Where extreme duster lengths and avant-garde proportions are perfectly balanced with one another to create a modern yet classic silhouette that’s only sure to grow and evolve as time goes on.

Liat Neuman, Fashion Contributor

Bright colours

Super bright colours were playing a bold part in the capital fashion cities of the world, from Balenciaga to Celine and Phillip Lim, all brought a lot of energy to the runway, with a collection that contains all the shocking shades we can think of. There is no doubt that these rainbow colours bring your outfit to live – For me it’s much needed after all these gloomy days we were dealing with.

See-Through Garments

I am so fascinated over this big trend, that is also the most risqué one. See-through garments like tulle skirt and dresses, which were taken from the ballet world, has been seen in Dior, Rochas and Valentino and are very popular among the Londoner’s fashionistas. I adore the way it can blur the line between party outfit and a casual day look, evoking a romantic feeling blend with an edgy touch.

Ruffles

The ruffles continue to be a major hit this season and the bolder the better. I love how the ruffles creating a fierce statement. Well appreciated designers have included ruffles in a sophisticated way in their current collection, create unexpected layers, like ruffles with lace or with asymmetrical and voluminous pieces. The layer upon layers of this frilly fabric provides feminine flair to any springy look.

Natasha Grodzinski, Arts & Culture Contributor

Photos: Vogue Runway | From L to R: Tory Burch, Stella McCartney, Balenciaga.

Stripes on Stripes

In the past few seasons, we’ve occasionally seen a bit of pattern-on-paten action. While certain houses like Dolce & Gabbana still put out here combinations, the new buzz for Spring 2017 is about matching striped suits. I’m always interested in borrowing from menswear and a striped suit is a real classic. I love the idea of making it contemporary through feminine tailoring and fresh colour. Spring uniform? I think so.

Statement Tees

A good t-shirt has always gone a long way, but lately they’ve been at the forefront of trends. Aside from the slew of vintage band tees gracing almost every street style blog, multiple designers put out statement t-shirts, from Dior‘s feminism tees to the “No leather” number seen at Stella McCartney. In our current social and political climate, designers are taking notice of the importance of self-expression and individuality. If fashion is an introduction without words, a statement tee is an introduction and the opener of a debate.

Big Shoulders

I mean. I mean. I’m in love with the amount of 80s inspiration seen on the spring runways. As mentioned before, I like to borrow from the boys, and a good shoulder padding can cut such a crisp, strong look. (I’m thinking specifically of the looks in Working Girl.) Since I am somebody with naturally broad shoulders, I was often told to steer clear of added shoulder padding. But what if I went the other way, and drew a bit more attention to it? I’ll likely not be at the Balenciaga level, but I’m ready to play around with a padded jacket or two.

Drew Brown, Editor-in-Chief

Photo Credit: L to R: Wooyoungmi (Vogue Runway), Gucci loafer (GQ UK), Haider Ackerman (Vogue Runway)

Check Mate

Squares and checks were all over the runways this season. One of my favourite brands Wooyoungmi paired widowpane  checks of varying sizes together and gives men more options to play with other than the standard pinstripe staple. I will definitely be rocking this trend this spring.

Two-in-one Shoes

With the growing popularity of  Alessandro Michelle‘s new Gucci, the two-in-one shoes are a must-have this season. The fold down back feature flattens underneath your foot to make the shoe into a mule. You don’t have to have be rich to rock a pair. Zara‘s has more a more affordable pair for any budget.

A Touch of Pink

Pink is always one of my go to colors during the spring/summer season and it was spotted on many runways. From light pink at Haider Ackerman to dusty rose at Gucci, each designer offered many ways to add a burst of pink to your wardrobe. 

Claire Ball, Editorial Contributor

Photo Credit: L to R: DKNY (Vogue), Yeezy (Vogue), Rag & Bone (Vogue)

White dresses

I’m not usually one to wear white. It takes a special piece of clothing to make me want to be that risky. But I find this trend to be so enticing because it’s almost romantic in such a chill and casual way. Since I’m already a big fan of shirt dresses, I love that the right shape and hemline can turn a rather boring white dress into a spring essential.

Khaki

Thanks to the many designers that tackled the look on the runway, I have recently developed a new appreciation for the utilitarian look. I don’t have an explanation why, but thankfully I no longer associate khaki with my dad’s wardrobe.

New Athleisure

GIVE ME ALL THE ATHLEISURE! I am seriously obsessed with this trend (shocker). The welcoming of sweatshirts into the fashion world has now opened the door for all facets of sporting style to be acceptable (#blessed). I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy, and I grew up playing sports, so I L-O-V-E that all my casual athletic wear is chic now. Time to get in the game, it’s officially warm up season folks!

Kitchen24: A Delicious Blend of Entrepreneurial and Community Spirit

“When people talk about food, it just creates a warm feeling,” says co-owner Alexandra Pelts. “It’s community building; it’s an integral part of humanity. . .as the old saying goes, ‘to eat is human, to eat well is divine.”

Hopefully, it is that positive drive people will feel upon the opening of Kitchen24, a new culinary space and “food incubator” currently set to open at the end of May, located in Suite 200 at 100 Marmora Street. For those unaware, such locations exist more commonly in the United States and are used to give culinary professionals the space they may not otherwise have to work on various projects for their businesses — a very realistic problem, in the increasingly expensive Toronto market. Intrigued food enthusiasts can also experiment for their own enjoyment if the close quarters of the kitchen in their cramped apartment leaves much to be desired.

A rendering of what Kitchen24 will look like, once it is unveiled to the public

There are already businesses in Toronto offering kitchen spaces for rent, but co-owners Steve Kidron and Alexandra Pelts noticed the degree to which such an idea can be ambitiously expanded. Kitchen24 will be a 28,000 square foot, commercial-grade location that is going to take into account the different cultural, spacial, and even business needs for those willing to pay the monthly price. The initial idea was born when Pelts and Kidron, business partners since 2010, began renting out their previous considerably smaller kitchen facility for a catering company. The partners of that company eventually split, but that got their internal wheels turning. Pelts wrote an ad for their space, which she placed on Kijiji. The response was positively shocking: It received over 300 inquiries from people within the food service industry, ranging from those with small businesses to others working in offices, intrigued to try out a new lucrative interest on the side. Pelts and Kidron discovered the gap in the market and, upon doing more research, they soon found that there were other companies that were advertising kitchen spaces for rent, all of which were quite similar — to a fault.

“There is definitely a need for a space like [Kitchen24] in the city of Toronto. There are a number of companies, maybe a dozen give or take, that have advertised that they have commercial kitchens for rent, but most of them I would say are renting their kitchens similarly to the way we did a few years ago. There’s not a single food incubator that caters directly to the food service industry.”

The location will be comprised of sixty cooking stations, and among them will be thirteen convection ovens, a pizza oven, two walk-in fridges — one main fridge, and a smaller fridge for kosher requirements — and a vast array of appliances. Not only is the idea exciting for businesses owners struggling with Toronto rental costs, but the drive to take into account the needs of the small business owners first — who have a dream and perhaps, just need a little help to get off the ground — is the primary factor that Kidron and Pelts both hope will result is a thriving, passionate, and fun culinary community.

Steve Kidron wears his heart on his sleeves when it comes to his desire to give passionate individuals who are eager to learn more as much of a helping hand as he can. He is an immigrant from Israel, who once owned a food truck before the stress of working around regulations proved to be too much of a hassle, as well as a previous business — Fresh for Less — that delivered meals to the needy. As Kidron notes, one of the main issues that people with a small food business struggle with is moving their venture from their apartment or basement to an area that can be certified by the Health Department. Other rental kitchens end up having long wait times and those individuals starting out have very difficult work schedules, with some working two to three jobs to make ends meet. “The economy in Ontario is becoming so expensive. Even if they have money, it can be scary to invest — it’s a risk they don’t often need.” With both his personal experience and empathy for those in the business, he aims to operate Kitchen24 with enough flexibility to cater to clients of various economic capacities.

While the need for space and flexible scheduling for clients is on the forefront of their minds, Kidron and Pelts hope that their plans for classes and mentoring programs that give a good foundational knowledge in the industry will go the extra mile.

“What we found out were there were a lot people with start-ups, with great ideas,” says Alexandra Pelts. “Either they are people who just graduated from cooking school or they have a recipe from their grandmother that they would like to develop and want to take it to another level. All the people come in with an idea and a passion to cook, but only a few have an understanding or an education in how to run the business — how to do a business plan, how to create a brand, how to market themselves, create packaging… many businesses fail because they can only bring it to a certain level and afterwards they need help in mentoring and obtaining the right contacts.”

Such an emphasis on giving the clients the know-how to spread their wings and thrive on their own is surely an exciting aspect of Kitchen24 for potential clients, but there are of course many plans that will prove to be more fun possibilities for community members as well. Hopes for future events range from cooking competitions, teaching classes on how to preserve food for the needy, and other industry pop-up events. One would also be correct in feeling that such a space would also be a perfect location for a cookbook launch party, as echoed by Ms. Pelts. There is much enthusiasm from the owners about what Kitchen24 can bring to the surrounding community, as well as the industry at-large. It would be remiss for those in-the-know throughout Toronto not to be paying attention to its development.

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Breaking Barriers: Women in Photography

Mellow guitar chops, sounds of change clanging, and laughter: a Calgary’s Starbucks hasn’t changed its daily playlist, which satisfies those who escape their offices to find inspiration over a hot cup of coffee.

A photography intern Della Rollins was sipping her Americano and watching a woman flipping through the pages of a Calgary Herald. Rollins quit her public relations job before she went on a year-trip and she didn’t have to escape her office anymore. No more high heels and crazy hours, she thought, continuing to watch the woman.

Suddenly, the woman stopped flipping through and looked at a page with a man with a bike. Rollins heard her heartbeat: the photo was her first publication. This is amazing, she thought gazing around the shop. All these people looking at my picture!

Since then Rollins has been freelancing for the Globe and Male, National Post, and Maclean’s. Work, life, and travel were finally balanced. However, the dream job had its own challenges. Rollins realized it was not only precarious but also not women-friendly.

Photo by Sveta Soloveva

At Ryerson’s journalism conference on April 6th, Rollins and three other female photographers (Meredith Holbrook, Sarah Palmer, and Laurence Butet-Roch) discussed the key problems women face in photojournalism and gave some advices on surviving as a freelancer in Canada.

Last year World Press Photo conducted an online-survey of 1,991 photographers that showed that the field remains persistently male-dominated — 85% — despite recent photo-grads being more than 50% female. According to the News Photographers Associations of Canada (NPAC), only 12% of Canadian photojournalists are women.

“There is a lot of talented men,” said Rollins. “But women are winning awards like Photojournalist of the Year… They do brilliant work. So when you hiring, they should be on top of mind.”

There are not many networking opportunities for women in photojournalism, and, once they are are included, they tend to be assigned to cover exclusively women-oriented issues and events like the Women’s March.

Meanwhile, women’s voices are an integral part of diversity, said Butet-Roch, who has been photographing the indigenous Attawapiskat communities for seven years.

“Our journalism is just going to be better if we have more diverse voices,” she said. “Giving people the opportunity to report on what they want and not just assign the woman issue to a woman photographer or Indigenous issue to an Indigenous photographer. A woman Indigenous photographer being assigned a story on football would be wonderful.”

Freelancing is a job with no guarantees. But today, when the institutions primarily hire men, it seems to be the best career option for a female photojournalist.

“You have to really hustle,” said Holbrook, who has been photographing Palestinian Territories and Israel for The Jerusalem Post and working on different projects with National Geographic. “There are so many things you wanna do and other people won’t do. And you have to keep going and show people that you are still around, even if they are not answering. There are so many freelancers out there. You have to really show why you are different than anyone else.”

All the participants of the panel agreed on the positive sides of freelance jobs, such as choosing their schedule and subjects they are passionate about.

Butet-Roch, who used to be a stuff-photographer for four years in France, said she quit the job because she couldn’t get in-depth photography experience sitting “behind the desk.”

“There were […] stories that I felt I was missing out [on],” she said. “I wanted to be a freelancer and take time to actually get to know the story.”

Currently working on Virtual Aamjiwnaang, an interactive storytelling platform befitting Indigenous practices at Ryerson, Butet-Roch said that she is happy with her decision.

Rolliins, the contributing photo-editor at Maclean’s, said freelancing allows her to travel and work at her own pace. “Freelancing is a blessing that I didn’t expect,” she said.

The photographers shared some techniques that helped them to succeed in freelancing. One of the advices was building multiple skills in photography, videography, and writing “to have the door open” and be able to tell the story in different ways. However, it’s important to focus on one area.

“Have all kind of skills but specialize in one,” said Rollins who also writes. “They want you to do a little bit of everything. But if you are too spread out and not great in one thing, it’s hard to be hired for that one thing.”

A graduate from the Ryerson’s photography program, Palmer, who just got a grant for her project Drunk on Trump, suggested that freelancers keep their websites “light and clean,” featuring photos that represent only topics of their specialization.

Holbrook added that each photo should “speak to the audience” through its description. She also highlighted the importance of social media, saying that many photographers and organizations get connected to each other through Instagram. “It’s [Instagram] is a realistic way of branding yourself,” she said.

Having real photojournalism friends is effective for exchanging skills and, sometimes, equipment. “Find your small group of photo or journalism people who are constantly pushing you and teaching you,” said Rollins. One way to build that network is to attend photo conferences. One of them will be organized by News Photographers Association in the first week of May. All photographers will have a chance to review their work with photo editors from the Globe and Mail, National Post, and Maclean’s.

The discussion ended on a positive note inspiring freelance women photographers to keep following their passion. “As a photographer or journalist, you already have that type of skills that people are attracted to,” said Holbrook. “There’s something important, something that drives you into this area, so hopefully someone will pick up on that.”

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