Sarah Polley

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The Captive: John Greyson’s time in Egyptian prison

John Greyson is the quintessential loud-and-proud gay activist—earnest, ardent and perpetually revved up about one cause or another. On a trip to Cairo last year, after being arrested, beaten and thrown into a fetid cell with 37 other men, his subversive background became a serious liability. Fifty days inside Tora Prison

The Captive

Before he travelled to Egypt last summer, John Greyson had been arrested twice in his life. The first time was in 1983, when he happened to walk perilously close to a bathhouse that was the subject of a police stakeout. The second time was a few years later, at an Eaton Centre “kiss-in” held by the LGBT activist organization Queer Nation. On both occasions, he was held only briefly and was never charged with anything—men making out with men in public, to the chagrin of the cops, was not a criminal offence.

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Politics

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Six things we learned from Olivia Chow’s new autobiography, My Journey

(Image: Olivia Chow/Facebook)

(Image: Olivia Chow/Facebook)

The best way to declare your mayoral candidacy without actually declaring it? Write a political memoir. My Journey, the new autobiography from Toronto MP Olivia Chow, doubles as a campaign pamphlet, articulating her key issues—women and children’s rights, the environment, immigration—and recounting her very public personal life with late husband Jack Layton. Much of it covers familiar territory, but Chow manages to drop in a few genuine surprises along the way. Here, the most tantalizing tidbits.

1. Chow came from a troubled family
While she was growing up in Hong Kong, Chow’s father, Wai Sun Chow, used to beat her mother and brother regularly. Olivia, the favourite, was spared, but almost hit her father with a lamp once to protect her mother. Wai Sun also kept a second household, with another woman and a daughter Chow’s age. When Chow’s family got to Toronto, Wai Sun suffered a nervous breakdown and was temporarily committed to a psychiatric ward.

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Culture

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Owen Pallett gets a 2014 Oscar nomination; Sarah Polley doesn’t

(Image: Pallett: Guus Krol; Polley: Sasoriza)

(Image: Pallett: Guus Krol; Polley: Sasoriza)

Oscar, you unpredictable jerk. The 2014 Academy Award nominations were announced earlier this morning, and Sarah Polley, the Toronto director whose Stories We Tell was considered a strong candidate for Best Documentary Feature, is nowhere on the list. Somewhat unexpectedly, the city’s great hope at this year’s award ceremony will instead be Owen Pallett, who is nominated alongside William Butler of Arcade Fire for his work on the score for the Spike Jonze film Her. It’s not a filmmaking category, but we’ll take it.

Polley’s reaction has been gracious. This morning, she tweeted her congratulations to one of the documentaries that did manage to make the nomination list this year:

 

TIFF

TIFF Press Conferences

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Canada’s film industry elite call on Egypt to release filmmaker John Greyson and physician Tarek Loubani

Sarah Polley, Michael Ondaatje, Alex Gibney and Atom Egoyan at the press conference (Image: Christopher Drost)

More than anything else, TIFF is about supporting people who want to tell stories. At a press conference today, festival mainstays Atom Egoyan, Sarah Polley and Alex Gibney, along with the Lightbox’s artistic director Noah Cowan and author Michael Ondaatje, presented a petition calling for the release of Toronto filmmaker John Greyson and emergency room physician Tarek Loubani, who have been detained for 25 days in a Cairo prison without charges. Greyson, a documentarian and York University professor, was invited to observe and film Loubani’s work in Gaza, where the doctor teaches critical care procedures. The two were delayed in Egypt, travelling through Cairo at a particularly unstable time, and were arrested asking for directions at a police station—a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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People

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Year in Review: our favourite culture stories of 2012

As we approach the cultural dry spell that lingers in the wake of the big holiday shows, it’s good to be reminded of just how much interesting art, music, theatre, film and dance goes on in this city. Below, we look back at some of our favourite moments in culture and entertainment from the last year.

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Features

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Editor’s Letter (January 2013): why Toronto is suddenly such a hotbed of creative talent

Sarah FulfordOver the past year or so, a particular breed of talented Torontonians made it big. Sheila Heti’s quirky semi-autobiographical novel How Should a Person Be?, about a bunch of Toronto artists struggling to live life authentically, became an influential bestseller, endorsed by Girls creator Lena Dunham. The music world gushed over the moody R&B artist The Weeknd, otherwise known as Abel Tesfaye, a 22-year-old of Ethiopian descent from Scarborough, who was discovered in 2011 by his pal Drake and is now filling stadiums all over
North America.

The music journalist John Norris called Tesfaye the best musical talent since Michael Jackson. And the filmmaker Sarah Polley recently released two movies: Take This Waltz, a much-admired romantic comedy set in Toronto, and Stories We Tell, a riveting, critically acclaimed documentary about her complicated
family history.

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50 Most Influential 2012: a ranking of Toronto’s top tycoons, backroom operators and supersize egos

50 Most Influential

The people driving the agenda for the city are more likely to come from outside local government than inside. This was the year our premier, rendered virtually impotent by a minority legislature, up and quit without warning. And our mayor, who listens to no one and refuses to build consensus on council, has created a city hall power vacuum.

What follows is Toronto Life’s list of the real influence peddlers—the people who, either publicly or behind the scenes, have had the greatest impact on the city. We looked for people whose power was broad enough to be felt across different sectors, or else so palpable in their immediate field that it somehow changed things for the rest of us. We looked for people whose ability to alter public opinion, raise money, rally troops or simply get stuff done was both formidable and undeniable. The result is a carefully calculated and highly opinionated look at power in the city in 2012.

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TIFF

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TIFF RED CARPET POLL: Which Toronto celebrity was best dressed at TIFF 2012?

Sure, Hollywood’s stars descend on Toronto during TIFF, but the local talent was also well-represented on the red carpets this year. Sarah Gadon looked the part of a classic starlet on Antiviral’s red carpet in a gold Dolce and Gabbana dress with patent black pumps and scarlet lipstick, while singer Chantal Kreviazuk wore cerulean for the premiere of Show Stopper: The Theatrical Life of the Garth Drabinsky. Toronto darling Rachel McAdams took to Passion’s red carpet in a sleeveless tux-inspired look from Italian designer Emilio Pucci, accented with a gilded scarf (we like the idea, but those pants are a little bulky-looking, no?). Finally, writer and director of Stories We Tell Sarah Polley was characteristically low-key on the red carpet in a short, sheer dress, though her gold floral heels are sweet. Whose look wins out?

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TIFF Deals: Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell lands U.S. distribution

Sarah Polley (Image: Christopher Drost)

Following screenings at Venice, Telluride and TIFF, and a spate of favourable reviews, Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell, the Toronto filmmaker’s first foray into documentary, was picked up for distribution yesterday. Roadside Attractions managed to snag the film’s U.S. distribution rights, despite the National Film Board of Canada, Stories’ production company, being “overwhelmed with excellent offers.” The film has been billed as being as much about storytelling and memory as it is about the story itself, and sees Polley laying bare her family history through narration, interviews and home movies to expose a long-held family secret (the spoiler is here). Roadside has scheduled the film for an early-2013 theatrical release in the U.S.

TIFF

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TIFF 2012 Insider’s Guide: top 10 places to eat

TIFF 2012 Insider’s Guide: where to eat

Amid the cocktail swilling and celebrity gawking, eating can be an afterthought during TIFF. Good news: there are plenty of excellent restaurants that let you do all three. Here, the glitziest places to dine, drink, and catch starlets cheating on their diets.

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TIFF

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The 50 buzziest films of TIFF 2012: we slice through the hype so you don’t have to

The 50 buzziest films of TIFF 2012
Single tickets for the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival go on sale this Sunday, September 2. And with a record 372 films being screened (146 of them world premieres), it can be daunting trying to figure out which ones are actually worth the $20 (or $40, for galas and special presentations) and hours in line. The solution: our guide to the 50 most talked-about movies at the festival this year, in which we scrutinize the advance hype (and the buzz from Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and Venice) to separate the must-sees from the flicks that only a mother could love.

See all our picks and rejects »

TIFF

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TIFF 2012: secrets, celebrity viruses and a teenage badass in this year’s lineup of Canadian features

The Canadian films to earn spots at TIFF this year include a range of comedies, dramas and thrillers, but also some that aren’t so easily defined—for instance, Sarah Polley will screen her follow-up to Take This Waltz, the genre-bending Stories We Tell, and David Cronenberg’s son Brandon will show his first film, a horror-thriller called Antiviral that premiered at Cannes. Here’s the rest of the Canadian talent:

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The Argument: In Take This Waltz, Sarah Polley transforms Toronto into a brightly coloured urban fantasy

The Argument | Unreal City

The urban fantasy depicted in Take This Waltz is as as beguiling and instantly nostalgic as an Instagram pic (Image: Mongrel Media)

In the middle of directing Take This Waltz, recently released in theatres, Sarah Polley hit a snag. She desperately wanted to get Leslie Feist to record a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Closing Time” for the soundtrack. Given how in demand the singer-songwriter is, it was almost impossible to pin her down—even for Polley, a bona fide Canadian celebrity herself. And then one night, around 2 a.m., while Polley and her crew were shooting on a small street in Little Portugal, she heard someone call her name. It was Feist—she and fellow singer Howie Beck, both on bicycles, were on their way to Trinity Bellwoods Park to play glow-in-the-dark Frisbee. Polley asked about the Cohen cover, Feist agreed, and her version of the song is heard at a pivotal point in the film. “That kind of moment is very specific to Toronto,” Polley says now. “It’s a really special place that way.”

The whole scenario sounds like a parody of the lives of hip, young downtowners—the punch line for a skit from a rejected Torontolandia pilot, maybe. But it’s exactly the kind of bohemian and pleasantly casual community that Polley, who also wrote the film’s screenplay, set out to capture.

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Celebrity Watch: Margaret Atwood is officially everywhere, from Twitter to Rob Ford: The Opera and more

The recent release of Payback, a new feature documentary based on Margaret Atwood’s book of the same name, confirms it

Celebrity Watch: the inescapable Atwood
Conrad Black
She rehabilitates ex-cons
Payback the movie features Conrad Black reading from Payback the book. At the premiere, Atwood declared that Black had become “a new and different kind of Conrad.”

Wandering Wenda
She’s a septuagenarian
Stephen King

Atwood has churned out roughly 60 books in her career, averaging more than one a year in the past decade.

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Stephen Marche: an unflinching assessment of Jack Layton’s dubious legacy

The next NDP leader will be obligated to adopt Jack Layton’s Toronto-born brand of socialism—childlike, sentimental, and entirely ineffective

The Second Coming of LaytonJack Layton, posthumously, has more influence over Canadian left-wing politics than any living person. When Nycole Turmel, the NDP’s interim chief, announced the date for the party’s March leadership convention, she said, “We will not replace Jack Layton,” the implication being that Layton is irreplaceable. And yet, the main leadership candidates appear to be trying their hardest to prove they can replace the irreplaceable. Brian Topp, the quintessential backroom operator, recently gained prominence as a member of Layton’s inner circle and the author of How We Almost Gave the Tories the Boot: The Inside Story Behind the Coalition. (Note to file: books with the word “almost” in the title are almost never worth reading.) Thomas Mulcair, the MP from Outremont, promotes himself as the creator of Layton’s strategy for taking Quebec, and therefore the most likely candidate to maintain that legacy-defining victory. Peggy Nash, MP for Parkdale–High Park, is the candidate most similar to Layton personally: an urbanist, supported by artists like Sarah Polley, and inspiring in a safe sort of way. (She wants to make Canada a global leader in innovation. Who doesn’t?)

No matter whom the NDP delegates select to replace Layton, his memory will shape the aims of the party for the foreseeable future. So the time has come to evaluate his legacy clearly, unflinchingly. The popular narrative—certainly the party’s narrative—of his time in federal politics casts the story as an unadulterated victory. And in one sense it was: when Layton took over, the NDP held 14 seats in the House of Commons. Within a year, he had nearly doubled the party’s share of the popular vote. Seven years of steady rises culminated with the NDP winning 103 seats in 2011. The expansion of the party under Layton was much larger than anyone could have imagined.

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