Nadia Elkharadly: NXNE – Trying Something New

Hello my lovely DBAWISers!  I missed you all last week in my absence.  And, of course, thank you to the lovely Emer Schlosser for covering for me in my North by North East prep insanity.  Yes, I survived, as evidenced by the existence of this column.  As per usual, it was a hell of a time.  I reconnected with old friends, made new ones, I even met a few people that I greatly admire, which is always a trip.  I’ll be expounded on the musical adventures on my Examiner page, so for this edition of my Tuesday storytime, I want to talk about something I’ve never done at NXNE before.  This year, I popped my NXNE FILM cherry, and I want to tell you all about it.

When most people, including myself, think of NXNE, they think of bar hopping, late nights and of course, tons and tons of music.  But for the past 11 years, NXNE has been screening music oriented films, in conjunction with the larger music festival.  This year, Ambrose Roche (Film Programmer for NXNE) and our resident man-Thursday Cam Carpenter screened and selected 40 films for the film festival.  A wide selection of independent and commercial films, documentaries and scripted films were scheduled throughout the week, playing at three different movie theatres downtown.  What sets NXNE film apart from the Toronto International Film Festival, besides the musical focus, is the cool factor; no flashy red carpet, no douchey celebrities, no screaming tween fans (the MMVA crowd in front of the NFB building was the closest we came to that).  This festival is just about the movies that are all about the music.  And after the great films I saw this past week, I will definitely be making film a permanent part of my future NXNE experiences.

With 40 films to choose from, making the right choice can often be difficult, because, frankly, who has 2 hours to waste during NXNE?  Thankfully, my trusty film buddy Emer and I ran into Cam a couple of weeks ago at the Female Eye Film Festival Fundraiser.  There, we were able to pick his brain a little bit on the “must watch” films coming to the city.  Watching the trailer for the festival was tantalizing enough, but we wanted an expert opinion.  Cam’s passion and excitement sealed the deal on our watching two films, and good timing (and Emer’s good taste) secured our presence at a third.

Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy

The writer behind the iconic nineties book turned film Trainspotting is back to tell another story of the underground world of partying and drugs in Scotland.  Irvine Welsh wrote Ecstasy:  Three Tales of Chemical Romance back in 1996, and in 2008 at TIFF Canadian director Rob Heydon announced that he would be adapting the book to the screen.  Three years later, the film was released in Canada at the Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax, and internationally at the Glasgow Film Festival earlier this year.  Budget issues, illness (the original lead actress Lisa Ray pulled out after being diagnosed with cancer) and other issues plagued the film’s production, as Heydon shared in the Q&A period after Thursday’s screening.  Despite the problems the finished product was fantastic.  Esctasy perfectly captures the flashy and mystical world of the underground rave scene in Edinburgh, Scotland, and more importantly, how easily that surface glitz and glamour can unravel and reveal the grime and seediness underneath.  This film had everything; the comedy that comes from the camaraderie of leading character Lloyd (Adam Sinclair) and his bosom buddies (Billy Boyd and Keram Malicki-Sánchez); a life or death conflict complete with a bad guy you love to hate (Carlo Rota); and a romantic pairing you can root for between two stunningly gorgeous people (Sinclair and Kristin Kreuk).  The soundtrack for the film enhanced and heightened the emotion and mood of every scene.  From electronic music icons Tiesto and Paul Oakenfold, contributing that throbbing music that kept time with the flashing lights in the club scenes, to Canadian indie powerhouse band The Mahones and their beautifully hopeful “Little Bit of Love”, the music was carefully selected, and hit its mark every time.  Great pick Emer, I’m so glad we watched this, and I recommend it to anyone who likes good movies and has a strong stomach (you’ll know why when you see it).

Så Jävla Metal – The History Of Swedish Hard Rock And Heavy Metal

I’ve never been a huge fan of heavy metal music, but when Cam raved about how awesome this film was, there was no way I wasn’t going see it.  And of course, Cam’s taste was impeccable; the film was killer.  Sa Javla metal featured interviews, news clips and concert footage spanning decades and chronicling the evolution of music in Sweden.  A surprisingly conservative country,  the rock and metal movement in Sweden met with its detractors, but it persevered to not only define music in its own birthplace, but to influence and shape that genre all over the world.  What I loved most about this film was the absolute normalcy that these long haired, black eyeliner wearing and leather and mesh clad rockers exuded from the screen.  I didn’t really know what I pictured or thought a heavy metal music maker was like, it’s not like I believed the hype that heavy metal = the devil, but I did expect a sort of dark intensity from those that create such dark and occasionally oppressive music.  Intensity was definitely present; these musicians were passionate and incredibly driven by the need to create music, to push and even shatter musical boundaries, to tune their guitars as low as they could, to play harder, louder, and faster than anyone has ever played before.  Swedish guitar legend Yngwie Malmsteen talked about hearing Jimi Hendrix at age five, picking up the guitar at age 6, and starting his first band at age 9.  But the darkness, the “evil” that conservative Swedes believed came from these individuals was not there.  The majority of musicians denounced the overzealous black metal movement that worshipped death and destruction more than it did the music.  They didn’t eat the heads off bats, or drink the blood of virgins.  One musician recounted a tale of a maniacal fan giving him the decaying corpse of a dead animal he found.  His reaction was disbelieving, disgusted, punctuated by a pragmatic “dude, that’s disgusting, you’ll get a disease” response that made me laugh out loud.  Thanks for the recommendation Cam, loved this film!

My Father and the Man In Black

Before heading out to my family’s father’s day dinner on Sunday, I spent some time with two other dads:  Johnny Cash and his manager Saul Holiff, the subject of this documentary.  Director and producer Jonathan Holiff left home at age 17, tired of living in his father’s shadow, constantly criticized and never able to be good enough for the formidable man who shaped the career of musical icon Johnny Cash.  20 years later, Jonathan is living in Los Angeles and working as a talent agent in Hollywood, following his father’s footsteps and pushing himself to upstage his father’s accomplishments in the entertainment industry.  Saul Holiff killed himself in 2005, and in 2005 Jonathan Holiff returned to his parents’ home in B.C. to try to figure out why.  One storage locker key later, Holiff the younger didn’t truly find an answer to that question, but instead found a veritable mountain of memories that helped him finally get to know the man his father truly was.  He also found the fodder to create a truly remarkable film.  Jonathan told the story of his father’s career as Johnny Cash’s manager in a surprisingly objective way, considering his closeness to the situation.  In the Q&A following the screening, he described taking pains to show both his father and Cash in the truest light possible, not enhancing or emphasizing either man’s good or bad qualities, but simply putting forth the facts as he found them.  And with a prodigious amount of evidence at his disposal, including written correspondences, Saul’s audio diary, and his mother’s memories of the time period, Jonathan didn’t have to embellish or pad the film in any way.  The material spoke for itself, and the filmmaker explained his motivations thoroughly afterwards, in between asking his mother and brother, also present at the screening, to fill in any blanks.  Creating the film proved to be a catharsis for Jonathan, and beyond that, it helped him see a side of his father he never understood when he was young; he saw himself in his father, and his father in himself.

Another NXNE is over and done, and I’m really glad that this time around I branched out from the music and took in the films I did.  Thank you Emer, Mark and Kim for coming with me to all of these movies, and thank you Cam for putting such a wonderful selection of films together for our viewing pleasure.  Can’t wait for next year!

Until next time,



Nadia’s column appears every Tuesday

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Nadia Elkharadly is a Toronto based writer with a serious addiction to music. Corporate drone by day, renegade rocker by night, writing is her creative outlet.  Nadia writes for the Examiner (.com) on live music in Toronto and Indie Music in Canada.  She has never been in a band but plays an awesome air guitar and also the tambourine.  Check in every Tuesday for musings about music, love, life and whatever else that comes to mind.

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