Dates 22 - 31 May 2009 Venues Vancity Theatre, Pacific Cinematheque & Granville Theatres


Hair India

75 min. Italy, 2008 dir. Raffaele Brunetti, Marco Leopardi, Soundtrack Alfonso D'Amora | Reviewer John Jane

With India’s new vibrant economy, we see a burgeoning middle class work force that is now able to afford luxury items that their parents never dreamt of. India can also boast market leaders in such industries as software development, tele-marketing and hair. HAIR? Okay, more precisely, a grass roots industry in human hair extensions.

The film Hair India looks at a week in the lives of two women with nothing connecting them except a few strands of hair that is shaved off the head of one and finally reaches the head of the other in the form of expensive extensions.

Sangeeta is a single, executive editor with a high profile magazine in Mumbai. The camera follows her as she exchanges gossip with celebrities, meets with her friends in fashionable night clubs and plans on getting hair extensions at an upscale hair salon.

Gita, a pretty pre-teen who lives with her family in Muchipara, a small town in West Bengal is planning a journey to a sacred temple were she and her mother, Hemlata will donate their waist length hair.

Gita’s hair and that from other donors is auctioned to exporters at around $25,000 per 100 kilos. It eventually finds its way to Great Lengths, a successful company selling the hair extension to salons worldwide.

Why do women sacrifice their “crowning glory” in a country where women regard their hair as the first thing they look after? For Gita, the only valuable thing she has to offer the temple is her long hair. For Sangeeta, those hair extensions are a symbol of status and beauty.

Memories of Angels

80 min. Canada, 2008 dir. Luc Bourdon | Reviewer John Jane

The good people at the National Film Board of Canada must have spent many tedious hours hand-stitching clips from archive footage. The result is The Memories of Angels, Luc Bourdon’s montage of Montreal and the people who lived, loved and worked there in the 1950s.

Angels offers no commentary or explanatory narrative, save for Les chansons by Charles Trenet, Raymond Lévesque, Dominique Michel and Willie Lamothe. Watch for a brief appearance by virtuoso jazz pianist Oscar Peterson and concert footage of a teenage Paul Anka (he is now 67).

Despite having no coherent order or central theme, Bourdon interlaces his archival material into a charming story of inner city community.

The film ends with a vista of Expo 67, Montreal’s incredibly successful international fair.

I Want to Grow Old in China

50 min. Canada, dir. Sameer Farooq and Ursula Engel | Reviewer John Jane

Early each morning the 14 hectare Tuan Jie Hu Park, located in Chao Yang District of Beijing, scores of Chinese seniors are patiently waiting at the gates for the park to open at 6.30am.

I Want to Grow Old in China documents the fascinating spectacle that takes place in this public park every day regardless of weather or season. Chinese people enjoy performing activities in large groups. From gymnastics to dancing, bird training to folk singing and all kinds of martial arts, you will find scores of fit, elderly men and women supporting each other in their preferred endeavour.

We meet Jiji Shuchi, a septuagenarian who jogs from her apartment to lead a regular band of seniors in a daily exercise regime. In another section of the park, half a dozen calligraphers find joy and repose in their art.

Following the collective stories of Tuan Jie Hu Park’s colourful characters, the film offers a unique viewpoint of ‘wanting to stay young in China.’

Say My Name

75 min. USA/UK, 2008 dir. Nirit Peled | Reviewer John Jane

“If you ain’t runnin’ game, say my name, say my name.” This attitude song of female self-empowerment by American hip hop group, Destiny’s Child is essentially the same theme that runs through Nirit Peled’s urban documentary – even the title is the same.

None of Destiny’s Child appears in the film, but it does feature performance footage of current hip hop artists, Chocolate Thai, Estelle, Jean Grae and Roxanne Shanti; as well as candid interviews with Eryka Badu, conscience rapper Mystic and Trinidad rap artist Trinie.

Israeli film-maker Peled takes her cameras to inner city locations of New York, Philadelphia, Detroit and London where hip hop and R&B has its grass roots in search of the female artist’s own perspective. The women talk about surviving in one of entertainment’s toughest industries that is dominated by men and noted for misogyny.

© 2009 John Jane