Tag Archives: BC

VIFF 2015 Review: Reel Youth Film Festival

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I’ve been to the Reel Youth Film Festivals of 2013 and 2014. I went to this Year’s Reel Youth Film Festival to see what they had to offer. I was impressed.

2013 was a focus more on young film makers. 2014 was still a majority of young filmmakers but did more focus on film directed to young people rather than focus on the age of the directors. Films made for young people by directors 20+ in age were more welcome that year than the previous one. This year was return to more focus on filmmakers up to age 19 and less focus on films by directors 20 or older.

This year there were 19 films. Seven were from Canada with four from BC. Six were from the United States with entries from Latvia, Kosovo, Iran, Georgia, India and Australia. Films focused on issues but they also had some fun too. The fun films included an animated short of a man and his dog on a stranded island, a boy asking another boy out and redoing it until he gets it right, a dating situation that can best be described as ‘a gas,’ human life from a dog’s eye view, life that starts in a smalltown and takes you back there, an animated film of a mantis’ first date and a simple task of getting a selfie with a 20 foot pink elephant that’s not so simple.

Issues however was the top focus of the festival and the shorts did speak about their issues. Issues included homelessness, bullying, missing indigenous women in Canada that often go overlooked, harassment at work, youth poverty in Canada and young disabled people.

Some of the films included dramatic settings such as a friendship between a man and a dog in tough times, emotional states relating to colors, a young person’s journey through life and the unfriendliness of our modern times, especially in urban India. There were some films that were biographical or focal like the homeless shelter cook from San Antonio, teenage musicians from BC with dreams that seem ignored by the school system and an 85 year-old woman with the self-confidence of a movie star.

Despite a lot of issues, there were films with messages of hope. Messages focused on homelessness in San Antonio, finding joy in pain the way Charlie Chaplin did, being comfortable in your own skin and making a disabled child feel like they’re not a misfit. Even a plotless short from Iran of a young grandson in a house with a leaky roof trying to keep the rain off his sleeping grandmother seemed like it had a message to say.

I think that was the point of this year’s selected shorts. These were films that focused on life, on emotions, on issues of concern, on problems and on hope. They all had something to say whether it be humorous or whether it be serious. Some had top-notch cameras or animation quality. Some were amateurish in writing, acting or even conveying their issue. Nevertheless all had their qualities that made it worth showing to the audience.

Once again, we were given our ballots to select our three favorite films and our favorite local film. Here were my picks:

  1. Love On Wheels – A Georgian film of a wheelchair-bound boy who’s accompanied by his father (actually played by his brother) who’s also in a wheelchair so that he doesn’t feel cut off from the world.
  2. Priorities – An animated short from Latvia of a man and his dog stranded on a deserted island during a rainstorm. Excellent animation quality.
  3. The Second Right Off Main Street – An Ontario short of an adolescent growing up in a small town, moving away to pursue bigger and better things and finding himself back in his town.
  • Local1 in 5 – About a bully a teen girl can’t seem to stand up for herself against: poverty. Title reflects the statistic of youth poverty in BC. Filmed in New Westminster.

And there you go. That’s my look at this year’s selection of shorts at the Reel Youth Film Festival. If you know a young filmmaker, I recommend you let them know of the Reel Youth film society.

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VIFF 2015 Review: Hadwin’s Judgement

Hadwin's Judgement is about Grant Hadwin and why he committed his act of what some would call 'ecoterrorism.'

Hadwin’s Judgement is about Grant Hadwin and why he committed his act of what some would call ‘ecoterrorism.’

British Columbia, especially Greater Vancouver, is known for people using radical and even destructive methods to make their statement heard on an issue. One such person who’s lesser known in Grant Hadwin who cut down a beloved tree on the Queen Charlotte Islands in 1997. The documentary Hadwin’s Judgement traces Hadwin’s path from logger to radical to his mysterious disappearance.

The film is almost like a biography of Grant Hadwin and the moments in his life that changed him forever. Grant Hadwin was born in West Vancouver. He came from a logging family and eventually found himself working on the Queen Charlotte Islands. However he soon developed an anger when he saw how much forest was being cut down from the island and how fast with the modern cutting methods. He writes letters of complaints to businesses. He even tries to start his own business which makes products out of decayed wood or wood long cut down but it doesn’t succeed.

Doug Chjapman plays Grant Hadwin in re-enactments with no dialogue but says it all with his mind.

Doug Chapman plays Grant Hadwin in re-enactments with no dialogue but says it all with his mind.

The deforestation of the area along with his mental instability takes his toll on him and he cuts down the sacred tree of the island– the 1000 year-old Kiidk’yaas (The Golden Spruce)— to send his message. He awaited trial with many a person angry at him. However Grant pursues a kayaking trip up the Boeing Strait. He is never seen again although his broken kayak, letter in lamination and tools have been found intact. He has still never been found dead or alive.

The film is mostly a documentary featuring people who mostly knew Grant during his lifetime. It features co-workers to friends to a local photographer who photographed him swimming just before his disappearance to John Vaillant who wrote an award-winning book on him. It also interviews people of the Haida Gwaii who knew the tree. The Haida Gwaii consider trees to be sacred so it’s no wonder the chopping of that tree would hurt them deeply.

However the film doesn’t just present people interviewed. It also provides people first-hand knowledge of the Haida Gwaii people, their legends and their beliefs. It provides insight to Grant’s feelings around the time and includes narration of the letters he wrote in his protests. It even includes moments in Grant’s life re-enacted by actor Doug Chapman playing Grant. Doug never utters a word of dialogue in his acting but it’s like you’re reading Grant’s mind just with the looks on his face. You could see why Grant would lose his patience with what was happening and do what he did. It still remains a question. Was it Grant’s attitude to the deforestation of the area? Or was it a mental imbalance? Or both? Even I myself wondered if he valued trees so much why would he cut the sacred Golden Spruce down? I later assumed Grant did it possibly to say to all those logging companies: “You want wood so bad? Here’s your wood, bastards!” That’s my belief to why he did it. People snap.

Despite the storytelling, narration and re-enacting of Grant’s moments, the best attribute of the documentary has to be the cinematography. Right from the start, you see images of the rain forest, an aerial view of Queen Charlotte Island and a panoramic shot of the forest. Already images of beauty that tell what this island is all about and why the island’s natural features are important. It’s not just beautiful images like those that make the film but the uglier images too. The film includes footage of the tree cutting mechanisms through all angles. You can see just how they can cut down a whole tree in seconds. You can see why through such mechanisms looms the threat of deforestation. So much cutting in so little time. The film also shows the ugly aftermaths of all the trees cut down. There’s one panoramic view that not only shows a wide forest but of a cut-down area. That’s one of the many eyesores. Other eyesores include closer shots of land that used to be forests, images of piles of dry dead wood and the biggest of all: the Golden Spruce down on the ground with its leaves soaking in the river. Even single images like that of a freighter full of logs tells the story of the land and why Grant Hadwin was compelled to make such a judgement. Shots that included Grant also provided for the storytelling including the site of his broken kayak.

Sasha Snow did a great job in creating a documentary that gives people’s opinions of Grant through all angles and even re-enacts some of his key moments. Sasha not only includes those that know him but the local Haida Gwaii and author Vaillant. Sasha made a lot of smart choices in telling the story such as having an actor act out Grant’s moments instead of showing photographs. In fact we only see one photograph of Grant in the film right at the very end.

Hadwin’s Judgement is more than a documentary. It takes you inside the person, the land, the people of the land and the economic pressures of the times. I don’t know if the film completely supports Hadwin’s decision but it provides the reasons why he did it.

 

VIFF 2014 Review: Reel Youth Film Festival

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You may remember at last year’s VIFF, I saw the Reel Youth Film Festival. The Reel Youth Fest was back again at this year’s VIFF. Again it was entertaining and creative.

Last year the main focus was to get the works of a lot of young filmmakers on screen. It didn’t matter if the quality was amateurish or professional. Its focus was to get the filmmaking images of the youth–whether it was making a point or just having fun– and get them on the big screen. This year did feature a lot of films done by the young. However it also featured a lot of productions by professional companies with a message to give to the young.

One of the top themes of the short films was bullying. This was especially the case as the United Way showcased the top three anti-bullying films by students. It was also focused on in a short film by a young Scottish director. Environmentalism was also a top theme of focus. With the controversial subject of shipping LNG’s, that was reflected in a BC film of three girls who have what starts as an innocent water balloon fight. There was the theme of youth representation which was focused on in a film done by five Hamilton teens. There was also the theme of digital media overkill that was shown in one young man’s film. There was also the theme of pressures young people face today–both socially and academically–as seen through the eyes of a young teen girl. Even teen love triangles were also focused. The theme of sexuality was included in a few films too including one on the topic of transgenderism from Portugal of a girl who always felt she was a boy.

The standout theme amongst the short films was to do about the promise and hope of a better tomorrow. That was reflected in one short film from Mexico about a boy who has to vacate his home to a new home. Another film showing the daily life of a Mexican-American girl’s mother while the  daughter narrates in the background shows hope for her family. It was also reflected in an Iranian film of a young boy who sees hope in a piece of trash. It was even focused creatively in one film of a Bengali boy doing pretend filming. There was even one film from ex-street youth from Sierra Leone who showed what happens when they get $2000 handed to them immediately. The outcome isn’t what they expected but they all learned from it. I felt the message of hope for the future was best reflected in a film about a Peruvian youth orchestra where the orchestra is their escape from the poverty and harsh lives.

Sometimes the films weren’t always thematic. Sometimes they were reflections of people. There were two films which were of two different elderly people living in Greater Vancouver. One was the first black quarterback in professional football. Another was of a woman who just turned 91. Both were nice stories to hear. There was even a film about children in a small town in the Northwest Territories. It was just them playing in the background as the stories they tell of themselves and their family are told. It was a simple film that’s a nice eye opener.

Then there were films that try to get creative. This is where the young directors started to have fun. One was a story of a hitman’s murder attempt with poisonous muffins gone wrong. Another of a toy car getting lost and going on an adventurous trip. Another an animated adventure of a polar bear. Even an animated story of a fish dinner gone awry. No major point to it. Just a chance to have some fun and even possibly make a future out of it.

The films either came from all over the world or were shot in many places around the world. It made for an eclectic look at the lives of young people from a global perspective. Needs and concerns differ from one place to the next but they all share that common desire for hope for the future. There were at least eight films from Canadian filmmakers. There were six of which that were done locally. There was even one that was done by New Westminster youth and shot in areas I frequently visit. That was the film where it appears they’re giving adults a glove. Then they show they’re spreading the love. It left me wondering when it was filmed and how I wasn’t there at the time. I’m sure if they gave me the glove at first, I too would think: “What on earth is this?”

Just like last year, they gave all the attendees a ballot to fill out of their Top 3 films and favorite local. It’s hard to play favorites but here’s what I voted for:

  1. Orchestra For A Dream – I rated it first because it had the best message of hope by showing a way out for disadvantaged youth.
  2. Sin Madre – The film of the young girls’ mother and the daughter’s admiration for her really made me like this a lot.
  3. What If There Was A Place? – Five Hamilton youth make their message heard that they demand to be taken seriously. Excellent two-minute film.
  • Best Local: And That’s Remarkable – A creative film that sends the message that you can either let bullying comments hurt you or you can defy them.

And there you go. That was the Reel Youth Film festival for this year. If you want to learn more about the Reel Youth Fest coming to your town or if you want to book a showing of your own, just go to the Reel Youth website.

Election 2013: British Columbia Votes

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It’s happening. British Columbia will be voting for a premier: the first such election in four years and two days exactly. There’s reigning BC Premier Christy Clark and there are challenging Party leaders, most notably Adrian Dix and Jane Sterk. But how do they stack up for the vote on May 14th?

CHRISTY CLARK: LIBERAL

She is the reigning premier, albeit not elected into office. Those of you living outside of British Columbia may not have known the state of politics in the 21st century. From 2001 to 2011, the province has had Liberal Gordon Campbell as premier of the province. He has been elected into office three times having to resign back in 2011 because of his approval rating declining to the point of single-digit percentage. Christy Clark has taken the role of premier ever since. Since becoming premier of BC, her approval rating as well as the approval rating of the BC Liberals improved greatly even superseding the rating of the NDP for some period of time. However the period has been short-lived.

The opposition Clark has faced during her premiership has not been as heated or intense as Gordon Campbell’s. Nevertheless she has faced heat of her own. One former Liberal MLA accused her of conflict of interest in assisting with the selling of BC Rail during the Campbell administration while cabinet minister. She has also been witness to seeing many key Liberals resigning from parliament.

With the provincial election approaching, Clark still faces a lot of heat from the opposing parties for a lot of what Gordon Campbell did during his administration. Remember I told you about her pre-election baggage? It didn’t completely go away. Her appearance at the Party leader’s debate gave her a chance to improve her political reputation as many felt she won the debate. The BC Liberal Party has greatly decreased its gap behind the BC NDP in the past three weeks trailing them only slightly. However many journalists are claiming it may be too much too late for her political career. Only the results on Tuesday will tell.

ADRIAN DIX: NDP

He’s already been written as the frontrunner for the race for premier. But it doesn’t mean that his chances of winning are unbreakable.

One of the reasons many claim Gordon Campbell has continued to be elected premier is because there hasn’t been an NDP skilled enough to rival him. Adrian may not have much experience as a Party leader but he does have considerable political experience under his belt. Dix was born the son of an insurance agency owner. He has been with the NDP Party since 1996 and like Clark has also been a political media personality for newspapers like The Sun Columnist and the Source. Dix has been the MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway since his election in 2005 and his prime areas of focus while MLA have been Children and Families and Health Issues. His biggest achievements have been bringing insulin pumps to children with type 1 diabetes and successfully preventing three Vancouver-Kingsway schools from shutting down.

He came to be elected leader of the NDP Party in 2011 upon the resignation of leader Carole James. Issues that led to his election have been Eliminating the HST, reducing business taxes, redirecting carbon tax, and increasing the minimum wage to name a few. For the provincial election, Dix has had ads marketed with the theme ‘time for a new government’. Those ads have been on television not as frequently as the BC Liberals but more commonly on Youtube. Dix has led through most of the pre-election polls and appears to be the heavy favorite to win.

However he does face stiff opposition. Firstly there was the recent Party leader debate where Christy Clark presented herself and her platform the best. That caused her to jump in the polls and even tied Dix on May 8th. Then there was bringing back the controversy Dix was responsible for during the scandal of 1990’s premier Glen Clark when Dix was Chief of Staff from 1996 to 1999. Back then he back-dated a memo to protect Clark from conflict-of-interest charges. That led to the resignation of both Clark and Dix. Dix has since redeemed himself as the MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway but the incident has arisen again by the opposing parties. That could hurt him.

Yes, Dix has a lead over Christy Clark in the polls right now but it’s too close to call right now. Don’t forget polls can say one thing and elections can say another. The big question is will it be a night for the first NDP premier in 12 years? It will all be at the buzzer Tuesday night.

JANE STERK: GREEN

Outside of the Liberals and the NDP, the only other Party making the biggest news in the election is the BC green Party and its leader Jane Sterk. The Green Party is a relatively young Party that started in 1983 but it fields policies that appeal to many BC residents like environmental issues, tolerance and diversity, social justice as well as personal and global responsibility. The questions has always been would they have what it takes to win elections and would they have what it takes to be good strong leaders?

The Green Party first made a name for itself under the leadership of founder Adrianne Carr back in 2001 when the Party finished third in the provincial election with 12.4% of the vote. They would continue to finish third in the next two provincial elections but with declining percentages of votes. In the 2009 election–the first in which Jane Sterk was Party leader– the Green Party finished with 8.1% of the vote and no seats.

The position of the Green Party here in BC is still a big question mark. Even in this election the Party won’t be fielding candidates for all 85 ridings like the NDP and Liberals: 61 to be exact. However this could be the Party’s best election. Right now the election is between two leading Party’s candidates who have both been involved with a former premier and the infamies of their administrations, even scandal involvement. The Green Party has been over 10% in the polls for most of the upcoming election period however their popularity has taken a bit of a dip in recent days. Also what should be remembered is that Sterk is native to Alberta and she didn’t move to BC until 2000. That could hurt her since the leading two candidates and many other candidates have spent most of their life in BC.

The question is will the Green Party finally make a name for itself and be able to land its first ever MLA seat? Best chances could be with Sterk in her Victoria-Beacon Hill riding but she would have to win over former NDP leader Carole James who is the incumbent leader in that riding. This will be a question not just of whether the Green Party can land a seat but its ability to strike a chord with voters. It has what it takes and now’s a better time than ever but can they do it?

JOHN CUMMINS :CONSERVATIVE

The Conservative Party is a long-standing Party like the NDP and Liberals and had it’s biggest heydays from the 30’s to the 50’s. However it has had rollercoaster success since then as the Party has had a very hard time not just trying to win seats but also trying to field seats. This year the Conservative Party has fielded candidates for 56 of the 85 MLA seats, their biggest number since 1972 and double the 24 seats they fielded candidates for in the 2009 election.

Its biggest challenge has to be with the general public. I live in New Westminster and work in downtown Vancouver. Already I can tell that the big cities are not known for welcoming politician with a right-leaning platform. Most of the bigger cities have a huge and very vocal animosity for right-wing politicians that are even as much as right-to-centre. Sometimes I think Vancouver is the capital of ‘Harperphobia.’ However it’s another story in areas like Langley and Abbotsford which are known for its conservative beliefs. In fact leader John Cummins is running in the Langley riding. Cummins himself is a former MP in the Canadian Parliament under the Reform Party and the national Conservative Party under the leadership of Harper. He resigned his seat in the Richmond-Delta national riding to pursue provincial Party leadership.

This could be the first chance in decades for the Conservative Party to make a name for itself in decades however it does face opposition of its own especially from BC residents that disagree with the Party agenda very vehemently. Like the Green Party, it too has had times where it has seen days of 10% approval or higher this past month. Also like the Green Party, it’s currently sitting below the 10% mark. There’s no question that it will have a higher percentage of votes than the 2.1% received in the last election. The question is not only what percentage of votes will it receive but also what will Tuesday’s results tell for the future of the Conservative Party?

LIBERTARIAN PARTY

Only the four parties I mentioned above have candidates running for more than half the MLA seats in the BC parliament. Actually only those four have candidates running in even as little as ten provincial ridings. The biggest Party with less than ten candidates in the running is the BC Libertarian Party. If you go to their website, you will see that the BC Libertarian agenda has a lot in common with the agenda of the American Libertarian Party. Libertarianism is still a definition that’s hard to define in terms of a political stance. Bill Maher, possibly the most famous Libertarian right now, defines a libertarian as a ‘pothead in a business suit.’ For the BC Libertarian Party, just go to their website.

The Libertarian Party of BC started in 1986 with three candidates and rose to 17 upon the 1996 provincial election. There would be no Libertarian candidates back in 2001 as Party president Paul Geddes ran for the BC marijuana Party. In the provincial elections since, the BC Libertarian Party has been putting efforts into reestablishing itself. In both previous provincial elections, the Party fielded six candidates and achieved just under 1500 votes both times.

This year the Party field eight candidates including one in my riding of New Westminster.  This could be the Libertarian’s best election since 1996 when they had 17 candidates and won just over 2000 votes. However lacking a Party leader could cause some problems. Plus its lack of advertisement to the public could make a lot of people unaware of Libertarian candidates in their area. This election should give a picture of where things are going for the Party.

INDEPENDENT’S DAY?

Of all the candidates running, the most interesting should be the Independents: those that won’t be running for a Party or its agenda. Independents have always been unique candidates as it has always been a case of the politician promoting their agenda that’s often unique in comparison to most formed parties’ agendas. Last year one independent candidate–Vicki Huntington of Delta South– was elected MLA. Most interesting is that since the 2009 election, two NDP MLAs and one Liberal MLA have become independents themselves. Three of the four incumbent independent MLAs will be running in this election.

This election will see 35 independent candidates running for MLA seats in 31 ridings. Each one will have their own unique agenda and/or run for their own purposes. Many have run for some of the major parties in the past. And one, Kelowna-Mission’s Dayleen Van Ryswyk, was running for the NDP three weeks ago but had to resign from the Party because of past comments that appeared bigoted in nature. She started her campaign as an independent the next day but has recently hired a bodyguard for fear of threats.

Tuesday could give a surprising glimpse as the independents could win some seats and could provide an outlook on the political culture of BC.

And there you have it. A brief rundown of the candidates for the 40th British Columbia General Election. Sure, I could talk about all the other fifteen political parties but it would be too tedious. Remember there are 85 MLA seats in BC’s parliament and the winning Party is the one that wins 43 seats for a majority. You can click on the Wikipedia link–which also happens to be my Works Cited page– here to get all the info of who’s running and which parties. So on the 14th, will it be Premier Clark elected into office or will Adrian Dix be elected BC’s new premier? Stay tuned!

VIFF 2012 Review – High Five: An Adoption Saga

The Wards and their five adopted children are the focus in the documentary High Five.

High Five is a documentary filmed over a five-year period. It’s a story about international adoption and about a couple’s iron will to let their heart win out over politics, finances, and inter-family strife in their attempt to adopt and parent five Ukrainian siblings. We don’t get what we expect to have but we do get an eye opener on the subject of international adoption and the lives of all seven.

We first meet Cathy and Martin Ward, a couple from Surrey, BC who’ve always wanted children. A car accident to Cathy ten years earlier to which she constantly needs operations for even now makes pregnancy very risky. They first decided to play host to a 7 year-old Ukrainian orphan named Alyona in 2006. During the visit, they learn that Alyona have additional siblings. They bring Alyona with her next oldest sibling Snezana the next year. The following year they visit all five at the orphanage in Gorodnya, Ukraine. They decide to adopt all five but laws allow them to only adopt two at the time. They first adopt Alyona and Snezana but promise the other three–Older siblings Yulia and Sergey and youngest sibling brother Sascha–that they will adopt them the following year. Politics delay the adoption of the other two siblings for years. After much struggle–political, financial and emotional–the three other siblings are finally adopted. Problem solved, right?

Not completely. Even before the full adoption process we learn of potential problems that could arise. The five come from an abusive household in Ukraine where their mother died and their stepfather was an abusive alcoholic. It took the courts to remove the children from the stepfather and put them in the orphanage. All five remember the abuse very well. The gap between the two adoption periods also has an effect on the siblings too as there’s a sense Yulia has lost some feelings to the two others. One thing to keep in mind is that Yulia, the oldest daughter of the five, acted as the mother figure to her four younger siblings in the orphanage. There are also the health problems of the two. Martin is a nurse at the BC Children’s Hospital but Cathy needs frequent surgery from her car accident and Martin has a bout of the flesh-eating virus. Sergey himself has a growth stunt that has slowed his growing down to which he’s only 4’6″ at the age of 17. The adoption process is also a financial risk. The process was very costly and Martin would have to take a nursing job in the territories to help make finances more manageable. Then there’s the fact that the siblings are growing up. There’s always growing pains and approaching adulthood for some. Even Sergey returns to Ukraine temporarily for better job opportunities.

The biggest difficulty appears to be the relationship of the family with Yulia. Yulia has always been a sensitive and emotional girl. Since the adoption, Yulia would now have to go from the mother-figure to the parented. This does not fit well with her as she’s so used to being the mother figure. Her relationship with Martin is mostly unaffected but it’s sour with Cathy. The bad vibe also doesn’t go well with the other siblings as they find her hard to stand, even Sergey whom she’s always been the closest with. On top of it, she’s a growing girl who’s graduating from high school, working a job, has a boyfriend and is entering adulthood. She had made two trips to Ukraine both for employment purposes and to meet with another sibling of theirs who was adopted by a Ukrainian family.

The documentary ends with Yulia still in Ukraine. She still has a negative attitude: “I have no mother.” The other four are still seen being parented by Martin and Cathy. The documentary ends with the six on a local snowboarding trip. As Martin looks out to them as they’re having fun, we’re left wondering what he’s thinking about as he watches them. As for the documentary’s ending, it ends with a ‘to be continued’ ending. It leaves off in the present as the continuing story that it is and leaves one asking questions. Will Yulia return to the family? Will the five be one again? Will any of the other sibling try to pursue opportunities in Ukraine? Those are questions only time has the answers for.

This documentary is a good example of international adoption and how it doesn’t always worked out as wished. It didn’t have a completely happy ending nor did it have a tragic ending. It just presents the story as is and is able to balance the positive aspects with the negative aspects. As I just said, this documentary ends without a real ending. It’s a story that continues to this day with the cameras no longer rolling and will have changes to the lives of all seven over the years. Nevertheless I wish the Wards and the five all the best in the future.

Directors Yulia Ivanova and Boris Ivanov did a very good job of filming this story which appears to be like a daily or yearly chronology of the adoption story over the five-year period. Even though most of the documentary is narrated by Martin, the story is seen through a wide variety of angles: both the parents and the siblings themselves. There are moments when it’s about the family and moments when it’s about one individual. They give the right focus for each situation. Sometimes they try to be mediators in this situation by attempting to help the interviewed subjects by giving advice behind the camera. That doesn’t become a weakness for the documentary. This documentary does give a feel of being like a reality show but this is not a ‘reality show’ as one would commonly associate with popular reality TV. There’s no sensationalism or explosive brattitudes. This is a real situation with real human emotions present and real problems and crises arising in the adoption process.

This is another documentary that’s meant more for the television than for the big screen. The fact that it’s produced in association with the Knowledge Network is the best example of why. From what I heard at the screening, it will be shown on The Knowledge Network in British Columbia in December. I have no information about whether there will be a DVD release for it. I feel it’s worth a DVD release since this is good teaching material. Those interested in international adoption will get a good experience to what it’s like and the potential risks that lay ahead.

High Five is as much a documentary that tells a story as it teaches. It presents a common story of international adoption that presents the viewer with the stories of the individuals as much as it does with the family. It’s worth watching.

Grey Cup 2011

On Sunday November 27th, fans of Canadian Football will have all their attention fixed on the newly renovated BC Place Stadium for the 99th Annual Grey Cup. For those unfamiliar with Canadian Football or even the Canadian Football League (CFL), the Grey Cup is to Canadian Football what the Super Bowl is to American Football. This year, the rivalry between East and West over the Cup will be the BC Lions against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

For those non-Canadians unfamiliar with the CFL, the CFL is as much a part of Canadiana as the NFL is to Americana. The Grey Cup has been part of league football in Canada since 1909 but it wasn’t until the CFL formed in1958 that the Grey Cup was a permanent fixture in Canadiana. For the most part, the CFL consists of nine teams except when something goes wrong with one of them. Usually there is at least one city that has problems with their CFL team. In the 80’s and 90’s, it was Montreal. Now it’s Ottawa. But don’t worry. Ottawa will be returning in 2013. Plus there’s talk of possible franchises in the future from Quebec City or Halifax.

For the most part, the CFL has been happy to be Canada’s own football league. For many decades, it didn’t worry about competing with the NFL because it knew it had a very solid dedicated base in Canada. Things became uncomfortable in the late 80’s when the CFL tried attracting new players to the league but couldn’t compete with the big salaries of the NFL teams. In the 90’s, the CFL tried things like offer a $5 million annual salary to Raghib ‘Rocket’ Ismael to join the Toronto Argonauts in 1991. It turned out to a success for that one year. Sure the Rocket and the Argos won the Grey Cup that year but the Rocket’s career went downhill after that. The success of the Rocket led to the CFL to form franchises in cities like Sacramento, Baltimore, Las Vegas and Shreveport. In 1995 Birmingham and Memphis entered the league. The 1995 Grey Cup came as a shocker as the Baltimore Stallions won; the only time an American team won the Grey Cup. After a lot of business issues and bad management from some American teams, the CFL returned to being based completely in Canada since 1996 and we’re happy to keep it that way.

Nowadays, the CFL does not need to seek out ways to try to reach the popularity level or moneymaking level of the NFL. Ever since the CFL stopped its expansion into the US, they were reminded again that they can hold their own with loyal Canadian fans. The CFL has the seventh-highest per-game attendance average of 27,000. Its average may be less than that of Major League Baseball and not even half that of the NFL but it has a higher average than the top soccer leagues of Mexico, Italy, Argentina, France and even Brazil. Yeah, that well-attended.

BC Place and its new roof on its opening night.

This year’s Grey Cup will prove to be an exciting match. Firstly because it is held in BC Place with the new roof. Before the 2010 Winter Olympics, there was a demand for a new roof for the stadium as the air-supported ETFE roof had a tear in 2007. The construction of the new roof began after the 2010 Paralympics and was completed on September 30 of this year. During that time, the Lions returned to the dismantled Empire Field and played in a stadium consisting completely of 25,000 temporary seats. This was quite an experience for me as I saw the Lions’ fourth game of theis season in that temporary stadium. A lot of banging, that’s for sure. As for BC Place’s new roof, it’s more high-tech and doesn’t require so much air pressure to keep it up. The scoreboard is supported by 36 cables connected to its own mast. The top of the Stadium consists of lighted glass. Looks great from the outside, but now that people couldn’t call BC Place ‘The Marshmallow’ anymore, what could they call it? My pick for the name would be ‘The Crown’. Anyways in the very first year of BC Place being ‘The Crown’, it appropriately hosts the Grey Cup this year. This year the race for the Grey Cup has narrowed the field down to its East and West contenders: the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the home team BC Lions. Here’s a wrap-up on how the two stack up:

BC LIONS

Another pic of the newly renovated BC Place at night.

If one would say at the beginning of the CFL season that the Lions would be in the Grey Cup, most would be laughing. The start of the regular season for the Lions was depressing and even frustrating for fans. The first five games were straight losses. Even I attended the fourth game, against Hamilton, and witnessed the loss. Their sixth game was a win against Saskatchewan only to follow it us with a loss against Edmonton. After that, it was like a miracle turnaround. Eight straight wins propelling themselves to the top of the CFL. There was only one loss after the sixth game, and that was against Hamilton in their 16th game in the regular season. By finishing atop the West Division, they only had to wait until the Division Finals to play their first and only playoff game against Edmonton, in which they won 40-23.

Overall, the 2011 Lions have had an excellent season with 11 wins and 7 losses. They became the first team in CFL history to lose their first five games only to end regular season on top of the CFL. Many teams they lost to at the start of the season they were able to beat in matches later in the season. The only two teams the Lions did not win against this season were the Hamilton TiCats and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. This may come as an Achilles heel for the Lions as they will face Winnipeg for the Cup, and Winnipeg beat Hamilton en route to their East division berth for the Cup. However it may not be a glitch as we should remember that the two losses to Winnipeg came in its first seven games of the season. The Lions have sure changes since then and they could be ready for Winnipeg this time.

Also a bit of Grey Cup trivia. This year’s Grey Cup may come in the first year of BC Place’s new roof but BC Place hosted the Grey Cup in its opening year: 1983. Like this year, the Lions played in the Cup. Unfortunately they lost. Actually of the three times BC both played in and hosted the Grey Cup, only once were they the Cup winners. Something to think about for Sunday.

WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS

The Bombers finished atop the East Division with 10 wins and eight losses. Sounds impressive at first but while the Lions started their regular season weak and ended strong, the Bombers started strong and ended weak. They started off impressively winning all but one of their first eight games of regular season. However there was a surprise turnabout as the Bombers would only win three of the last ten games of regular season. They were known for their strong defence but many of their top defencemen were injured later on in the season. By finishing atop the East division, their only playoff game was the division Final against Hamilton which they won 19-3. If their strength from the beginning of the season has returned to form, then they should be able to beat the Lions for the Cup. It may not be 100% as some of their top defencemen are too injured to play in the Grey Cup. If Winnipeg’s defence is still strong, it will be decided in the play for the Cup.

One additional note. While Winnipeg had its own challenges on the playing field, its biggest news this season was of the loss of their Assistant Coach Richard Harris. Harris collapsed at the CanadInns Stadium on Tuesday, July 26 and died that afternoon. He was 63. He was promoted to Assistant Coach this season after being their Defensive Line Coach since 2006. This also came as a loss for the Lions too as he was their Defensive Line Coach from 2011 to 2004. Surely Coach Harris will be on the minds of the Bombers when they play the Grey Cup on Sunday.

For me, it’s hard for me to pick who will win or who I should cheer for. I was born in Winnipeg and lived there most of my life. However I’ve made a home for myself in Vancouver these past ten years. BC has only won the Cup five times compared to ten for Winnipeg, but Winnipeg hasn’t won the Cup since 1990 while BC’s last won the Cup five years ago. Anyways I decided not to cheer for either team and let the game decide the better team. Anyways, Go Bombers! Go Lions! May the best team win!

Dine Out For Life, And A Good Cause

I would like to take a break from my usual writing to promote a good cause that’s hosting an event this week. Here in most of BC, specifically Vancouver, Victoria and Whistler, Thursday will have Dining Out For Life happening at many restaurants. Dining Out For Life is not strictly a BC event but it will be held in most of BC during this coming Thursday, the 24th.

For those of you unfamiliar with Dining Out For Life, it is an annual fundraiser where for one night, restaurants will donate a portion of their proceeds to their local AIDS foundation. The causes can be for awareness groups, volunteer groups and food services for patients. Most cities that take part in Dining Out For Life will hold their dinners during the last weekend in April or on International AIDS Day, December 1st. Here in Vancouver, we’re lucky to get it early. Also hundreds of restaurants have agreed to participate. The number keeps growing every year.

So if you’re looking for someplace to dine out on Thursday, you’ve got plenty to choose from and you’ll be supporting a good cause. So dine out for life this Thursday. You’ll be glad you did.

For more information on Dining Out For Life, just go to The Main Website or Vancouver residents interested in picking a restaurant, just click here.

British Columbia’s Minimum Wage Increase Could Be A Double-Edged Sword

Many expect this to be a benefit for the province but there are just as many drawbacks that could happen too.

Just days after Christy Clark was sworn into office as the new Premier of British Columbia, she starts her reign by announcing that British Columbia will have an increase in the minimum wage. For around ten years, the minimum wage has stood still at $8/hour: the lowest rate in Canada. This especially doesn’t fare well in the Canadian province with the highest cost of living. Clark announced that the wage will be increased in 75-cent increments starting May 2011 to an eventual $10.25 come 2012.

The raise has had a lot of mixed reactions. For many, it’s looked upon as a positive thing. As I mentioned earlier, BC has the highest cost of living of any province in Canada. The $8/hour was the highest in Canada at the time it was set (May 2000) and has now dropped to the lowest. Many have called the low minimum wage an embarrassment for the province. The plan from Christy is to start the raise in May 2011 to $8.75/hour, increase to $9.50 in November and finally $10.25 come May 2012. That would place it equal with Ontario as having the highest minimum wage amongst Canadian provinces. The highest minimum wage including territories is Nunavut with $11/hour.

Since her declaration, there have been many opinions from people from all sides. Some say this is finally a good move for BC. Some claimed that this was an NDP idea she stole. Some say this is happening too much too late. Some are also questioning if this is a difficult move, epsecially during an economic recession.

For every action, there are both positive and negative reactions. First the positive. For one thing, it will make life more livable for many BC workers who already deal with the minimum wage. BC, especially in Vancouver, has the highest cost of living based on provincial averages. Greater Vancouver alone has the highest housing prices in Canada. Gas prices are already at $1.30/litre. Vancouver has one of the worst child poverty rates in Canada. Already there’s talk of food prices going up worldwide. An increase to the minimum wage will help make life a bit easier for those trying to make ends meet in their own standard of living. It’s definitely not a solve-all but it does help. Also some argue that it could boost small businesses rather than hurt. With an increase in the minimum wage, it can mean businesses can have more customers. One economist even said that people with money generally spend in small businesses.

One downside is that this could mean an increase in the prices of goods and services. I know that from when I worked in a restaurant in Manitoba, they had to raise the food prices because of the minimum wage increase. Also with the raise in the minimum wage comes the risk of some smaller businesses cutting some jobs to pay the wages. Already a lot of businesses, especially restaurants, have already been hit hard by the HST and with the tough new anti-drinking and driving laws. Even though I mentioned one economist saying that those with money tend to spend in small businesses, that’s not a complete guarantee they’ll prosper significantly. There’s even a possibility that the already-difficult cost of living in British Columbia could increase along with it. Another of Clark’s claims is that the cost of living would not increase dramatically. With the increase in the minimum wage, it’s a 50/50 risk that it may or may not.

As stated, the first raise of the minimum wage begins in May 2011. The changes, whether positive or negative, will forecast whether BC is moving in a positive or negative economic direction. The minimum wage changes will also show if businesses are meeting supply and demand to keep their employees with the wage increases. This is a smart move for Christy Clark–her first move as premier of BC—but only time will tell if this is a smartly timed move for her.

In The Wake Of The Japanese Tsunami, Are You Prepared?

Ever since the late evening of Thursday March 10th leading into Friday the 11th, the story of the Japanese tsunami and aftermath has dominated our headlines. We constantly see images, both professional and amateur, as well as the latest news updates. It’s both alarming and upsetting. It’s also a sobering reminder that something like this can strike close to home, especially if you live on either the east coast or west coast.

The news first broke this past Thursday night or very early Friday morning. A powerful earthquake in the Pacific Ocean just 100 miles east of Japan’s northern coast caused a tsunami that hit the coast of Japan, especially the city of Sendai, really hard. The quake measured 9.0 on the Richter scale and is the seventh-highest ever recorded. Replays of the wave’s crashing caught on amateur video has left many shocked. Some who were up during the early morning hours were able to see live footage of the wave as it was travelling towards the west coasts of the Americas.  The destruction to the Japanese coast and surrounding areas has been in the news daily. The statistics of destruction and human loss are growing. Many anticipate the final death toll to reach around 20,000.

Another shocking thing about this disaster is that it comes more than six years after the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean which claimed a total of almost a quarter-million lives in many countries. That ranks as the deadliest tsunami in history. I’m sure many of us still have images of the disaster fresh in our minds.

Those living near the west coasts of the Americas had the least damage to deal with. Hawaii was hardest hit but there was no loss of life and damage was minimal. Even the west coasts of the Americas had their own damage to deal with but the most damage individual areas faced was one or two million dollars. We were pretty lucky. Nevertheless one thing citizens living  on or near coastal land need to remember is that a tsunami can strike at anytime. Where there’s a coast by an ocean, sea or lake, there’s a tsunami danger. The big question is do we know how to take action?

For one thing, warning systems are an excellent start for prevention. First part involves network sensors to detect threatening waves. Second part involves  a communications infrastructure to issue timely alarms to permit evacuation of coastal areas. This can beneficial since the tsunami from days ago was distant enough from the Americas to allow ample time for warning. Although beneficial, they are imperfect as in the case for Japan in this instance. Tsunamis can come as fast as 600 miles/hour and the earthquake epicenter for this tsunami was 100 miles east of the coast. This wouldn’t allow for ample time to save enough property or enough lives. Nevertheless new advances in warning are still yet to come. After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, an Internation Early Warning Programme was proposed immediately after and it resulted in the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System. I’m sure after the Japanese tsunami, there will me more pressure to follow through on the Internation Early Warning Programme and propose for more technological advancements.

Technological devices are also helpful. One such is the DART buoy: DART standing for Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis. These buoys are held in place off coast to detect possible tsunami threats along with a Bottom Pressure Recording package to detect pressure changes of the tsunamis. The United States has 39 DART buoys in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and The Caribbean Sea. Since 2009, other countries have started to use DART buoys for tsunami detection. Another such is a tsunami warning system like the Pacific Tsunami Warning System based in Honolulu which records seismic activity in the Pacific Ocean. Although not every Ocean earthquake causes a tsunami, the computers assist in analyzing the tsunami risk of every earthquake that occurs in the Pacific Ocean and the adjoining land masses.

Then there’s also local preventative measures. Some are natural, like mangroves, coastal vegetation and coral reefs which helped to cause the least damage during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Others are constructed like seawalls and floodgates. Japan has constructed some seawalls that are as tall as 15 feet to protect populated areas. Seawalls may have to be expanded in the wake of the most recent tsunami. All Pacific Rim countries have organized evacuation routes and practice evacuation procedures.  In Japan, such preparation is mandatory for government, local authorities, emergency services and the population. Vancouver even has some disaster relief routes. There’s even preparation information and a program from BC’s Ministry of Safety and Solicitor General. It’s up to the governments to inform the public at risk to be informed how to take action.

The tsunami in northern Japan is a chilling and sobering wake up call to those who live on or near coastal areas. This will undoubtedly leave many questioning if such a disaster can happen to them and how would they respond. This will also leave government agencies time to question whether they have the right technological means to detect warnings necessary for alerts and possible evacuations. Hopefully none of us will have to experience what those in northern Japan are dealing with right now.

WORKS CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: Tsunami.Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsunami>

WIKIPEDIA: Tsunami Warning System.Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsunami_warning_system>

WIKIPEDIA: International Early Warning Programme.Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Early_Warning_Programme>

WIKIPEDIA: Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART).Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep-ocean_Assessment_and_Reporting_of_Tsunamis>

Christy Clark’s Pre-Election Baggage

Hi. This is my first non-movie article. Hope you like it.

The BC Liberal Party announced a new leader on Saturday, February 26th. Her name is Christy Clark. She is to replace Gordon Campbell who has served as Premier since 2001 but recently resigned due to low ratings. Being Premier of BC is a big job for the 45 year-old, especially after Campbell’s recent resignation. The big question is how will she and the BC Liberal Party hold in the next provincial election?

Currently Premier-Designate Christy Clark is no stranger to politics. If you saw her resume, you’d see she has quite a list of accomplishments. Her first political victory came at the age of 30 when she was elected MLA for the Port-Moody-Westwood riding in 1996. At the start, while the Liberals were the official opposition party in BC, she served as the Official Opposition critic for the environment, children and families and for the public service. As the Liberal Party headed by Gordon Campbell prepared for the provincial election of 2001, she served as the campaign co-chair in which the Party won 77 of the 79 seats. Once Gordon Campbell was sworn in as Premier, she was appointed Deputy Premier and the Minister of Education.  She would be appointed Minister of Children and Family Development in January 2004. In September of that same year, she quit provincial politics and did not seek re-election of her MLA position in 2005. She would later seek leadership of the Non-Partisan Association for the Vancouver mayor election that same year, but lost to eventual mayor Sam Sullivan.

She’s also a popular media figure too. She was a weekly columnist for the Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Province during the 2005 provincial election and was a television election analyst during the 2006 federal election. She also hosted a Vancouver radio show: The Christy Clark Show from 2007 until she decided to enter the premier leadership back in December.

Even though no provincial election has been called yet, she faces a bumpy road for the BC Liberal Party firstly based on past election results. On the provincial side of things, leading  provincial parties face a huge electoral loss after their leader resigns as premier. Past history in the last 30 years have proven so. In Manitoba, NDP Howard Pawley, who was elected premier in 1981, resigned. The leadership then went to Gary Doer. The NDP finished the election with the third-most ridings. Doer would have to wait until three more provincial elections before being elected premier of Manitoba. BC premier Glenn Clark, who headed the NDP Party, resigned in 1999 and would be replaced by Dan Miller and Ujjal Dosanjh the following year. The BC NDP, headed by Dosanjh would face a humiliating loss of winning 2 of 79 seats, paving the way for Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberals. Carole James, the NDP leader since, has headed the party in two provincial elections, regaining many seats for the NDP but losing to Campbell both times.

Nationally, political parties have had its own dark days when their leader resigns as Prime Minister. In 1984, Pierre Trudeau resigned as Prime Minister and John Turner would be voted head the Liberal Party. In the national election, his Liberal party would lose to the PC Party headed by Brian Mulroney. Turner remains the Prime Minister with the second-shortest leadership. He would head the federal Liberal party in the following federal election in 1988 and would lose to the Mulroney PC’s again. The PC Party would soon face its own party troubles after Mulroney resigned in 1993. Kim Campbell succeeded him. However Campbell and the PC’s would face a crushing defeat in the federal election that same year by winning only two seats. The Liberal’s headed by Jean Chretien would win the federal election. Chretien would be re-elected twice more while Canadian Conservatives would struggle with political parties for many years. The PC Party ran again in 1997, would reconstruct themselves at the Canadian Alliance Party for the 2000 federal election, and would them become the Conservative Party in time for the 2004 election.

If past elections aren’t enough for Christy to cause concern, it would be the Campbell leadership, especially in the last year. Campbell’s leadership has always been through a rocky road ever since he was elected but he would be hit hardest in 2010 upon introducing the HST. The introduction of the tax, and the rapid implementation if it, proved to be very unpopular amongst British Columbians. Soon after, the polls had him at an approval rating of just 9%, the lowest of any provincial premier. This was cause for him to resign in November of 2010.

Now despite party problems, Christy Clark has had some political problems of her own once she’s sworn in on March 14th. As Minister of Education, she introduced changes like stronger parental power, increased accountability and provided greater parental choice in the flexibility in the school system. This proved unpopular with teachers, school board members and union officials as they believed it resulted in funding gaps. She also sought to increase the independence of the BC College of Teachers against strong opposition from the BC Teachers Federation. She also has allegations against her regarding a BC Rail scandal when she was deputy premier, although nothing has been proven against her. Those could hurt her come election time.

Currently no provincial election date has been set, and there may not even be one for a full year. Dawn Black is currently interim leader of the BC NDP Party, succeeding Carole James. Jane Sterk leads the Green Party. The BC Conservative Party is not associated with the national Conservative Party and may have a slim chance in the election. Nevertheless all opposition parties have a good chance at rivaling Clark and the Liberals in the eventual provincial election. In this period of time, Sterk and Black have to prove themselves worthy of the office of provincial Premier. Black already has a lengthy resume of her own political accomplishments while Sterk has yet to prove herself. In the meantime, Clark can use the time to her advantage to improve her political image and the image of the Liberal Party in this post-Campbell era as an effort to win the next election. She would also have to use the time to prove she is worthy of being Premier of British Columbia.

With the next provincial election happening anytime, Christy Clark arrives at the Premier’s desk with a lot of baggage of the Campbell Administration and of her own doing. Despite it all, only time will tell whether she has what it takes to be Premier of British Columbia and whether she and the BC Liberals deserve to win the election.

WORK CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: Christy Clark.Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christy_Clark>