Thursday, July 30, 2020

AS THE SHUTDOWN EASES A BIT

We still have a long way to go before mass vaccinations let us forget there once was a serious problem that disrupted our lives (or set us in different directions).  I sense in myself and others that we are dealing with lockdown fatigue.  As the governments allow greater freedom some are already pushing the limits.  Walking downtown you cannot avoid people and when we get back home we realize we have a tendency not to worry about future incidental contact.  Criminal careers often get started when someone accidentally gets away with some rule breaking and the next time encourages further rule breaking.  Some personal history:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2013/08/what-have-you-gotten-away-with.html

We celebrated Sharon's birthday for our first patio outing after Stage 2 was enacted.  Castelli Cucina was excellent and within easy walking distance.  When we ordered dessert they put together the canollis we ordered and added in a message with Nutella.








Some of you may have noticed I have posted a number of Lester Coloma's murals.  On the home stretch of a walk I came across his latest--actually in progress.   The subject is Nicola Tesla.  At Wellington and Ferrie.
                                                      Almost at the same time he is starting another one over at Chatham and Frid.. 
                                                  
                                                                

Lester Colomo on the job.

                                 







This mural was done by Pete Fowler who was a performer at the 2016 Supercrawl visiting from Britain.






The mural at the top of this post was done by Scott McDonald, owner of Che restaurant.  Here are some other examples of his work.















Angelo Mosca, a Hamilton Ti-Cat icon, here about 3 stories high.








St Patrick's Church commissioned sculpter, Timothy Schmaltz for these two statues.  The one on the left is titled "Homeless Jesus" to symbolize the church's efforts to help the homeless.. The one on the right is of St Patrick.











 Some sights at nearby Bayfront Park










Most of us are adjusting to a new life style which we hope will be temporary. We watch events in the United States with horror.  It is amazing how such a con man could have been elected and allowed to bungle.  We are also aware of support for Trump which we find infuriating and frustrating.  November 3 and especially January 20, 2021 seem so far away   


Some more utility boxes that provide a pleasant distraction and I assume paid off some artists.























                                                                       Older style utility boxes.



















Rose of Sharon--our original stock came from Sharon's father who planted his first to commemorate his daughter.  We enjoy its blooms late in July.











A Water Hyacinthe.  Needed to take photo before the raccoons drop by.









Right in the middle of the shutdown one retired man decided to open an ice cream shop.  He gets the ice cream from Hewitt's Dairy, one of our favorite places to drop by passing through Hagersville.












If you are interested you can find more photos and  comments of my Covid-19 shutdown posts.

http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/04/coping-with-covid-19-shutdown.html

http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/04/more-walks-and-musings-from-covid-10.html

http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/04/earth-day-during-covid-19-shutdown.html

http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/04/charities-and-entertainment-in.html

http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/03/coronavirus-lessons-how-one-makes-money.html 

http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/03/politics-in-age-of-coronavirus.html 

http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/04/the-shutdown-continues.html 

http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/05/exploring-hamilton-during-covid-19.html 

http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/07/covid-19-shutdown-heading-to-stage-2.html

Sunday, July 26, 2020

A GOOD PROVIDER IS ONE WHO LEAVES

An interesting story, but also has an interesting story behind the story.  The title comes from a remark to the author's question if with the separation from her husband was it all worth while:  "A good provider is on who leaves."  Not what most of us would want, but is critical to survival of many poor people. 

The research started with another project.   In 1986 Jason was given a fellowship from the Henry Luce Foundation to study poverty in the Philippines.  He needed a place to stay.  He ended up with a woman whose husband was working overseas in Saudi Arabia. After awhile he left, but kept in touch with the whole family.  He found himself not only recording events, opinions, but also being an advocate.  The New York Times gave him the opportunity to report of migrants.

Ferdinand  Marcos, the Philippine autocrat to retain power declared martial law and came up with the idea of sending out surplus workers to foreign lands on contract.  They would then send home money.  As many countries discovered this became a vital part of a nation's GDP.

At first most of the work migrants were men and an unexpected consequence was that the wives left home acquired more prestige and power.  A reversal came when the demand for nurses grew and Filipinos were well positioned to take advantage.  This often resulted in men adjusting (and some not adjusting well) to not being the bread winner.   Couples separated by national boundaries or dealing with reversal of normal bread winning patterns were under stress.

Nurses are in demand, but the supply has changed over the years.  At one time they were one of the few professions that women could make a decent income with.  Over time as other occupations opened up, nursing became chosen by fewer women.   It is not a low income career, but to meet American needs they need to import migrants.  Most are well educated and perhaps because of that they often get a higher income than domestic nurses.

Jason was able to visit many of the children of his original landlady and talk about their working in the Middle East and the United States.  There were many stresses and adjustments.  Many of the migrants have settled in the United States and each generation is more assimilated.

Some of the relatives end up in the cruise ship industry where America had taken advantage of immigrants who get much less pay and benefits.  There is a dramatic example of the ordeal of one relative who was injured on the job and went through desperate measures to save a leg which failed and then fought with insurance to get support which was eventually delivered, but with an uncertain future.

Immigration has become an election issue and Jason gives some historical perspective.  New immigrants work harder, commit less crime, bring cultural diversification.  Houston is one of the most diverse cities in America with 1/4 of population foreign born and 1/3 of work force.   There are countervailing forces in both American parties.  The Democrats are supported by ethnic groups that want more immigration while unions are against because of lowering wages.  The Republicans  are the party of business which wants lower wages, but also of traditionalists who are uncomfortable with change.

A question Jason brings up is "Do immigrants complement natives or substitute them."  Many factors are considered.  To-day with easy travel, Skype and their own ethnic networks, assimilation is slower.  For many native the immigrants bring welcome cultural items while others are resentful.  More immigrants are better educated than previous generations.  Inter-marriage is inevitable and help eventually to alleviate the stresses.

Donald Trump personifies an anti-immigrant trend in the United States.  He identified a fear and hatred of immigration and minorities and pushed it very explicitly.  With the electoral college the anti-immigrant voters had enough votes to put Trump into power.  Brexit succeeded in great part because of fear of immigrants taking jobs and changing culture and this was further aggravated by large numbers of Syrian refugees invading Europe.  Ironically immigration is the most practical counter balance to low birth rates in most Western nations. 

Originally read this book as a study on immigration, but found myself more engaged than usual.  A few personal connections to Filipinos reinforced my interest.  A friend who had good experience with a Filipino nanny when dealing with their first born.

Selling a product that was a hard sell to most people was told by a pet retailer that Filipino maids were advocates for dog tooth brushes as they had voluntarily taken on that responsibility and determined my product was the best.

I recall a Singapore movie, "Ilo Ilo" (2013) involving Filipino nanny and showed some of the family tensions.  A Singapore child became more attached to the nanny while her family was in stress.  The actress chosen for the role did not announce her own pregnancy and the script was re-written to work that into the story.

When I was working on a basketball project I was invited to a game where busloads of Filipinos came to Toronto for a game and other festivities.  Except for the two referees I was the only non Filipino in the crowd.  I was introduced to a player of the Montreal team who had left Philippines to avoid pressure from gamblers.  It was easy to see he was a game changer and the Toronto fans appreciated his talent.  Filipinos love basketball and this was confirmed years later.  More on the Filipino and other immigrant contributions to the Canadian game of basketball:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2015/03/my-basketball-projects-part-two.html

A driving force of my blogging and research is why and how did I end up here.  When first delving into my family tree I became aware of people crossing the Atlantic Ocean from different parts of England;  Devon, Cornwall and Yorkshire directly to Canada.  The Davidson name is Scottish and I encountered  some Scottish  listed on census.  One of my Grandmother's families came from Ireland, but had been migrants from Scotland.  I think most of them must have been relatively poor and saw an opportunity to better themselves.  Going back further I discovered some of my ancestors fled to the United States for religious reasons--some were Pilgrims and others Mennonites.  It seems likely I have countless unknown cousins in America, but some of them left, in some cases possibly as some version of United Empire Loyalists and in the case of the Mennonites to assure youngsters not forced into military.  Long before I was born it could be said my family had been assimilated.  More on my Mennonite connection:  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2012/07/biggest-surprise-in-my-family-tree.html

My wife's family's treks to Canada were more recent.  One part came from Italy in 1916 (in the midst of World War I) at first through Ellis Island and met up with other Italians and most came to Canada and some went back to the States.  Another segment came from Ukraine and were shipped out to a cold winter in western Canada in early part of the 20th century.  Both the Italians and Ukrainians with a little bit of internal migration and inter-marriage with outsiders settled down.  They have managed to keep a few of their traditions, but it is safe to say they have also assimilated.   Both Italians and Ukrainians (and others they mixed with, specifically Hungarian, Serbians, English) were resented and restricted, but now are accepted as good Americans and Canadians.

A good read for a better understanding of the immigration political issue, the economic consequences and maybe like myself you will find yourself wondering how you ended up wherever you are right now.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Dhunki

Tension is one of the factors that attracts us to movies and other entertainment.  We experience it vicariously from the safety of our chair and normally it is released.  Action movies provide a lot as do horror movies and even romantic dramas.  For me "Dhunki" (2019) provided a different kind of tension, one closer to home.  This is only my second Gujarati film this year and both seemed worthy of a blog post.

Looking at the poster with a man and a woman my assumption was that it would be a romance and reading the brief description suggested there would be romantic tension.  Slowly as the events unwound it seemed that sort of tension was just over the horizon, but instead a more familiar, but very real tension developed.

On one side is a stable marriage, but we learn the wife, Ankita is frustrated that she can neither buy a house she wants or go on a desired vacation.  On the other side when the husband, Nikunj goes to work we encounter a female co-worker, Shreya (the two on the poster) and learn that she is engaged.  Soon the two are involved in an important sales presentation of technology that goes sour and they both share some responsibility.  The man feels he has been overworked and does not accept total criticism.  Back home his wife delivers a little criticism and express her frustration about having to defer a house and vacation.  He encounters difficulty getting another job as he is over qualified for the ones that would be offered.  A few days later he decides to startup his own business, delivering lunches which is risky and for sure a further postponement of his wife's plans.

His former co-worker re-enters as she admired his intelligence, co-operation and his cooking ability and before too long she has decided to quit her job and not only work with him, but invest some of her own savings.  Her fiancee, Hardik is a doctor intern and a little put off, but tolerant.  The two couples meet a few times and on each occasion Hardik expresses a harsh view of the world, but continues his toleration.   The business encounters obstacles relating to financing and technology.   Shreya's engagement is postponed and later she is asked to make a choice.  Hardik's grandmother is near death and the wedding is re scheduled to be sooner.  Ankita sticks by her husband, but she is aware of Shreya's dilemma and it helps put more pressure on the business.  The two partners criticize each other.

The end is ambiguous as startup businesses are unpredictable.  The tensions between the business partners and with their personal partners seem realistic.  One can appreciate the problems encountered by anyone trying to start a business as hard nosed investors are fearful of the unknown and consumers can be fickle.  An irony at the end is a potential saviour was one who had earlier brutally dismissed their technology presentation.

Anish Shah directed his first feature and co-wrote only his second film.  He is also listed as producer as is his co-writer Kuldip Patel who had previously written and produced a short film.

Siddhart Amit Bhavsar wrote the music which was unobtrusive.  He had been a playback singer

Sreekumar Nair did cinematography and editing.

Niren Bhatt wrote some lyrics for songs and suggested the title.  He has been a writer for popular Hindi tv series and well as some Bollywood movies, "Made In China" (2019) and "Bala" (2019).  Wrote Gujarati scripts for "Wrong Side Raju" (2016) and "Ventilator" (2018).  He has also written lyrics for over 20 films.   Check out "Ventilator" at http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/07/ventilator-serious-movie-with-comic.html

Pratik Gandhi plays Nikunj mostly in a light manner.  This is my 3rd film with him in a lead role all in Gujarati.  The first was "Wrong Side Raju" (2016) and more recently  "Ventilator" (2018).  Most of his films have been in Gujarati, but has been in an English film and Hindi.

Deeksha Joshi plays Shreya.  I had seen her as a marriage counselor in "Shubh Aarambh" (2017) trying to save her future in-laws.  Most of her films have been Gujarati, but she has two Hindi projects in the works.

Vishal Shah plays Hardik, the least likable character, but handles it well.  This is his second film.

Kaushami Bhatt plays Ankita, the loyal, but frustrated wife.  This was her first film, but has gone onto two other Gujarati films. 

Jaimini Pathak plays Mr. Shroff and is only in two scenes, but they are critical and his demeanor  is different in each scene.

As a Canadian it has been an education just to appreciate there are many languages in India that offer their own culture.  Gujarati to date has not been noticed, except the four I have seen have all been above average.  Prime Minister Modi is from Gujarati.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

TIA AND PIUJUQ

Children's films are not normally a subject for my blogs, but "Tia and Piujuq"(2018) is unique.  It is not a Disney blockbuster.  It is a relatively low budget Canadian film that reflects a mix of cultures.  Personally it illustrates that opening doors (magically or otherwise) enriches us all and it is best to start at younger ages. 

There are 4 languages at play, Inukitut, Arabic, French and English.  My version had English subtitles and I was uncertain how they handled the difficulties of communication between the characters.  There seems to be an Inukitut voice over the Arabic conversation while I am watching an English translation

Canada opened its doors to Syrian refugees starting in 2016 who with some struggles are adjusting to new culture while bringing some of their own.  The Inuit are on the margins of most Canadians' consciences, but also are contributing.

The story is really a fantasy that allows a 10 year old Syrian refugee girl to go through a magic door and join up with a 10 year old Inuit girl.  Both have few companions their own age.   Tia's mother is mostly bedridden with a difficult pregnancy.  Piujuq is with her grandmother who reads Inuit stories to both girls and is enhanced by some simple animation.  There is a little adventure involving fantasy characters, but it is a cover to let the viewer appreciate there are a wide range of cultures that we can enjoy.  Simple dialogue aimed at young children.

There is an image from my childhood and sometimes advanced by outsiders that Eskimos live in igloos.   The Inuit in this film live in tents, and have  sewing machines.  Refugees in Canada live in what Grown up problems are mostly not noticed, although it is hard not be concerned about the condition of Tia's mother, but she generally hides her discomfort.

The Director/Writer,  Lucy Tulugarjuk started as an actress with  "Atanjaruat:  The Fast Runner" (2001) and "Maina" (2013).  In 2006 she was involved with "The Journals of Knud Rasmussen" as actress, casting director , dialogue writr and key makeup artist.  After "Tia and Piujuq" she was co-producer for "Restless River' (2019).  She is also the mother who two young children, one of whom is a lead character and the other in a supporting role.

Marie-Helene Cousineau, producer and co-writer for "Tia and Piujuq" worked as a still photograher with Lucy on "Atanjaruat: The Fast Runner."  Marie-Helene has directed, produced and written numerous films.

Samuel Cohn-Cousineau was a third writer for the script.

In addition to Marie-Helene the production team included Susan Avingaq and Francois Landry who have worked together on a number of Arctic film projects.  Madeline Ivalu also has worked with the others and also acted in "The Grizzlies" (2018).  I felt "The Grizzlies" was one of the top films seen this year and is more suitable for adults and older children.  http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/01/an-unexpected-canadian-film-gem.html

Chris Coleman composed some background music in his first venture.  As a few of the crew involved with throat singing there is some of this unique singing included.

It is filmed in Montreal and Igloolik, Nunavut which is quite a contrast.  John Frantz, cinemetographer is with his first film.   Edith Labbe, the other cinematographer has been involved in a variety of capacities with other films.  She was in the sound department for "Congorama" (2006) and as cinematographer for "Reel Injun" (2006)

Jeremiah Hayes was editor.  He was co-director, co-writer and editor for "Reel Injun" (2006) for which he won a directing award.  He edited "Rumble:  The Indians Who Rocked the World" (2017) for which he won an editing award.  Other films he has edited include "She Got Game" (2003) and "Dogs with Jobs" (2000-01). 

Our young are the future.  How they start in life has an impact.  Canada is a very big country, literally from coast to coast to coast.  We speak two main languages, but really hundreds more are needed to get the full picture.  In Canada the government has supported indigenous art efforts  APTN is a national network that reflects our indigenous culture as well as making us aware of indigenous cultures in other countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Finland.

Note:  The bolded movie titles are ones that I have viewed.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

TRUMP PERSONIFIES SHORT TERM THINKING

Trump is not the only one guilty of short term thinking.  For instance I have indulged in it too often.  Furthermore pretty much all of you have occasionally exercised short term thinking.

When we get up in the morning most of us have a routine which is a good way to start the day, but sometimes it gets interrupted and our first thought is how to get back to what we were expecting.  A lot of our day is to get through to the next expected thing.

When it comes to things like getting married, getting a job, living a long healthy life, saving up for something more costly than our pay cheque, dealing with an unco-operative foreign nations, or global crises it pays to give some forethought to the matter and generally the more consistent we are in these efforts the more successful are the results.  On a national scale when there are serious problems all eyes and ears go to the leader.  Leaders do all sorts of things that we don't know and don't care about, but when it comes to life and death or our financial survival we look for guidance from our leaders.

The Covid-19 pandemic is one example.  It took quite awhile for Trump to recognize it as a national threat and the first we heard were efforts to dismiss and later to blame others.  We learn he had unpacked some of the preparations made by Obama.  Other nations identified it as a threat and took steps to deal with it.  Trump fairly soon identified it as a threat to his re-election, particularly when it effected job statistics and the stock market, his measures of success.  His focus has been on how to minimize the danger.  One recurring theme was that tests only made the situation worse by revealing more cases.  Other nations realized they needed to get a grip on the real facts before deciding on a course of action.  Instead of taking a tough stance and setting an example he continues to downplay the health dangers.

Lately Trump has come to realize that schools serve as a sort of baby sitter that allows parents to work without worry.   That is true.  But it is more complicated.   Although youngsters are apparently not as vulnerable as healthy adults, they are vulnerable and some are dying plus they are also carriers to those more susceptible.   Their teachers, school janitors, school bus drivers, etc are more vulnerable, but are necessary for children to get the full learning experience.  Parents are protective of their children and would need to be reassured that the danger is manageable, but Trump belittles many guidelines.  Parents are afraid for themselves.

Other leaders intuitively understand that the solution to the problems of the economy has to take a back seat to controlling the virus.  A long term strategy is to listen to experts, keep measuring results and set a good example.  Leaders who fail in this should be kept away from power.

This crisis is only one example, but as one of life and death it will not be ignored by all rational people.  Unfortunately it mirrors other examples.

Tax cuts are a short term action.  Of course everyone likes a little more money in their pocket and it has been constantly promoted that the wealthy are job creators.  First many wealthy people are not big job creators and put their money in safe places such as government bonds which their taxes would have minimized the need for.  Others calculate how they can optimize their profits such as more automation, company buybacks, more dividends and giving themselves raises.

Two impacts are important.  First the deficit grows meaning the government has to borrow more money and pay interest.  Second and related is they have less money to pay for programs and it is all too often programs that benefit the poor, but everyone loses a bit and the government has less flexibility for emergencies.

John Maynard Keynes had the idea that when times were good, the government should maintain taxes and let a surplus develop.  Taxes helped to curb inflation and encourage innovation.  When things inevitably turned down, it was a good time to cut taxes so that consumers would be encouraged to spend more.  Trump and his Republicans ignored that in a short term desire for personal gain.

Climate change is another area for long term thinking.  A short term strategy employed by those in power is to optimize profits from fossil fuels.  A long term strategy would require re structuring and inconvenience for many.  But if not done the long term result would be disastrous.  It is one of those things where the expenses for necessary changes increases exponentially the longer they are ignored.

Along the same line is pollution control.  Pollution cleanup should be paid for by the ones who create it, but such cleanup would raise prices or cut profits.  De-regulation is a regular promise of Republicans, but in most cases they really want to do away with protections.  The real costs of pollution include life threatening disease.

Racist immigration policies may make some of his base happy, but there are long term consequences.  To others, not necessarily racists he is appealing to their fears of terrorism.  Americans, like most modern industrial economies are not replacing themselves and so with an aging population there are fewer people to perform taken for granted services.  Plus there are many jobs considered undignified.  At the other end technology experts are coming from Third World Countries.  If a door is closed people look for alternatives.  Canada has been one of the beneficiaries, but there are others.

When the inadequacies of short term solutions become more obvious hopefully there is still time to plan long term.

The real scary thing is the only way a short term thinking candidate could get elected (disregarding
the Electoral College and the Mueller Report) was by getting the support of other short term thinkers.  The irony is short term thinking hurts everyone.  We all do it, but first we need to recognize it and make a conscious effort to think long term.  The more long term thinkers the world has the better chance we will all survive.  Even if the majority of us are short term thinkers we benefit from long term thinking leaders.  I fervently hope voters take a long term viewpoint before the November election.

the photo is from an installation by Edwin Dam and Veronica De Nogales at Hamilton Harbour.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Ventilator, a serious movie with comic relief

We are all more familiar with the term "ventilator" than we were a few months ago.  It represents a life saving device or a desperate effort.  This Gujarti version of "Ventilator" is a remake of a Marathi original that I heard of a few years back because of the involvement of Priyanka Chopra.  I did not see that, but bought an iTunes song from it.

It is listed as a comedy and drama, but I would say the comedy is of the relief type as the drama is too heavy to dwell on, at least that is human nature.  A man's life is on the line and the family gathers.  We really don't see the man, but are intermittently reminded of him.  Much of the family is consumed with petty issues such as blocked up toilet sewage, a local religious festival with a last minute requested change, and malnourished coconut plants.  More seriously we become aware of family resentments, particularly between two sets of fathers and sons.

As death appears closer the eldest son is asked whether he wants to continue with the ventilator and at first he says no.  His sister resists and there is a bit of a feminist point made that ends up with a compromise to keep the ventilator plugged in for a few more hours.  Everyone seems to accept the decision, although not all are pleased.

The father-son conflicts become more apparent.  It hit me personally as it might other men.  For much of my youth I resented my father as he seemed to be the one stopping me from doing what I wanted to do.  I overlooked the many things he did for me, although as I became an adult I appreciated that he had his own problems and had made an effort to steer me in the right direction.  Cultural attitudes have changed and I realized my father did actually display his love in many small ways, but now days it would be much easier.  A theme of the movie was that a father's love is difficult to express and without saying it meant in comparison to a mother's love.

The ending is not a big surprise, but I was caught off guard with a comparison to an incubator for a premature born baby.  Life is precarious at both ends and not to be taken for granted anywhere in between.  Set in India and having watched dozens of Bollywood movies I was expecting that there would be planning for the traditional first born son to light the funeral pyre for a cremation, but the talk seemed more modernized.

The film brought up organ donations and made the point that lives are saved.  I even learned it is possible to donate parts of the body I was unaware of.  I have signed a form inspired by a friend of my father in law who received a heart transplant and went on to outlive both my father-in-law and his own brother who spent a lot of time worrying about the imminent death.

A few notes about the movie production.   The comic aspects seemed annoying at times, but they were included perhaps to demonstrate how petty we all are a lot of the time.  It also set us up for an emotional reaction both to the family tensions and an imminent death.  In the end the viewer is left with some uplifted feelings.

Another interesting ploy was to use one family member as flying in from the United States with his young son.  The young son apparently only spoke English and asked some maybe unintentional probing questions that moved the story along and illustrated that immigration has a price.

The Gujarti language has produced few movies that have reached my attention, but this one borrowed two familiar Bollywood actors.  Apparently Jackie Shroff's first language is Gujarti, but this was his first in that language after a long successful career as a Bollywood, mostly action star.  Some of his films include, "Mission Kashmir" (2000), "Devdas" (2002),  "3 Deewarein" (2003) and "Dhoom 3" (2013).  He plays himself as an action movie star that even the relatives gawk over.  He shows an emotional depth as one of the resentful sons, but devoted to his relatives.

The other Bollywood loan was of Juhi Chawla in a somewhat comic cameo.  She did raise the feminist issue.  As a former Miss India she once played the romantic lead in a number of movies.   Her hits include "Yes Boss" !1997), "Duplicate" (1998),  "3 Deewarein" (2003) and "My Brother...Nikhil" ( 2005).  She formed a partnership with Shah Rukh Khah that led to Red Chillies Entertainment that was involved with this production.  Juhi does have a comic touch, but is also very good in mature roles.  Lately her talents seem to be used mostly in comic roles, although she had had some involvement as a producer and has selected some socially relevant roles.

First time director was Umang Vyas who had done some assistant directing and acting with Bollywood films.

Niren Bhatt was a co-writer that had done "Wrong Side Raju" (2016)a Gujarti film)and a Bollywood movie I will be blogging about but haven't seen,"Bala" (2019)

Karan Vyas was also co-writer who has written  and been associate director with"Wrong Side Raju" (2016),   and "Made in China" (2019) a Bollywood production.

Lately I have found some of the regional movies have provided some of the best from India.  Some good examples would be "Peranbu" (2019) and "Dharala Prabhu" (2020) in Tamil and "Uyare" (2019) in Malayalam.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

NOLLYWOOD AN UPCOMING FORCE IN GLOBAL FILMS


Nollywood may seem a weird name, but if you watch movies expect to hear and see more of it.  Netflix has started offering movies from Nigeria.  Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and has a diaspora that is being recognized in professional circles around the globe.  Nigeria is now the second most prolific nation for film production.

The term "Nollywood" was traced back to a New York Times article where a journalist was commenting that their budgets were so low that in fact they were "Nothing Wood."  For many years low budgets did result in poor lighting, sound and other technical film aspects.  Others accept that Nollywood borrowed its nomenclature from Hollywood and Bollywood. 

India was much larger with more advanced urbanization was able to establish its own cinematic history that has carried forth with its diaspora and many of its films have done well in Britain.  The French when they left their African colonies made an effort to maintain local cinema and film making capacity but not so much for the British in Africa.  With many languages, their British overlords drew boundaries that most suited them and brought English as a common language.

In 1957 "Fincho" became the first Nigerian film in colour.  In the 1960's, Yoruba traveling theatre groups began filming some of their plays.  By the 1990's Hausa groups began affiliating with Bollywood connections.   In 1992, "Living in Bondage" in the Igbo language was marked as the beginning of Nollywood, although many with good reason think it was much earlier.

In the 1990's global economic problems made access to foreign films almost impossible.  Entrepreneurs took advantage of the opportunity to set up distribution system for VHS productions.  Some films could sell 50,000 copies in a few weeks for the equivalent of $1 to $2 each, but also competed with counterfeit copies.  Despite all the difficulties they have been developing the skills necessary to compete at a higher level.

Nigerian film makers have formed alliances with Ghana film makers which are also mostly in English.  Ghana has accepted that many of their films are considered Nollywood.

In 2013 there was a joint Nigerian-United Kingdom film, "Half of a Yellow Sun," with British stars, Chiwetel Ejiofar (of Nigerian parentage) and Thandie Newton and established Nigerian actors including Genevieve Nnaji.  The original novel was written by a Nigerian, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and the movie was scripted and directed by veteran Nigerian film maker Biyi Bandele.

"Half of a Yellow Sun" concerned the Biafra War, a civil war only seven years after Nigeria declared its independence.  I remember campaigns in my university years, 1967 to 1970 but only vaguely understood, then completely forgotten.  My vague memory is that people were trying to raise money for starving children. Many years later I learn that starvation was part of the Nigerian government's strategy to crush the Biafran rebels.  The English also acted against the separatist government.  The country stayed united and not without stresses and problems appears to be developing a national identity.

In 2015, Netflix started offering Nollywood films and in 2019 got involved in production.  Youtube also had Nigerian films on their website.

Watching a few selections from Netflix I have found myself compelled  to follow the story.  The stories are interesting enough, with honest dialogue and the characters are believable compared to what was imagined and the cinematography and sound are more natural (more professional).  As usual when watching foreign movies the differences and similarities stick out--there are modern looking cities, houses, etc.  Roughly there is  50/50 split between Muslims and Christians and that is visible in many films.

Most of the dialogue is in English, although some of it might be described as pidgin and some is in Yoruba, Hausa.or Igbo.   Often subtitles are labeled with the language which even if you don't understand lets you realize there is some sort of communication issue with the parties involved.

Here are a few of my observations of recently viewed Nollywood films.  I found some enjoyment in each and some were very engaging.

"In My Country" (2019) is a real gem--takes a bit to set up the main drama, but everything relates back--lead actress, Okawa Shaznay born and educated in Cameroon (a Francophone country) has also appeared in movies in Ghana.  The director also directed films in Ghana

Light in the Dark" (2020) is for me one of years best.  It is a sensitive story about what happens after a robbery includes a rape that sews discord between wife and husband.  Also touches on inter tribal relations.  The main actors are outstanding with good supporting cast.  The directing, editing, cinematography, etc. are professional to help execute the story with this underlying complex emotions.  

"Up North" (2019) is set up in the northern part and involved with Muslim women competing in sports.  The central focus is on a spoiled rich son who learns there is more to life.

"Elevator Baby"(2019) spoiled middle class kid gets stuck in elevator with woman in labour.  An interesting complication is the kid's mother's mature boyfriend is a doctor that is resented by protagonist.  There, I gave it away, but it is well done and engaging.

"4th Republic" (2019) is about a rigged election.  Nigeria is noted for corruption and this is a fictional case that also brings in a woman striving to gain her actual victory,

"Kasanova" (2019) is a romance comedy when a father and son develop relationships with mother and daughter.  Naturally there are misunderstandings, but some good dialogue.

In "Lionheart" (2019)  Genevieve Nnaji became the first female director of a Nigerian feature film.  This film premiered at TIFF and was submitted for the Oscar international film award, but was rejected because most of the dialogue was in English.  It became the first Netflix original film.  Genevieve had a successful career as an actress including winning the first best actress award at the African Movie Academy in 2005.  She produced a film in 2015.  She has been active against forced and early marriages and contributes a percentage of her income to charities.   Corporate shenanigans fill the plot with a strong woman being sidelined by a lovable and somewhat liberated uncle, but traditional.   The plot allows that uncle to make the most critical decisions to avert a disaster.  Genevieve is also the lead actress and one can appreciate what a driving force she has become
 

"The Arbitration"  is about legal arguments over a sexual assault with corporate  repercussions.  There are a few twists.  Beverly Naya (see below) has a supporting role as the bitchy wife of the antagonist.

"The Royal Hibiscus Hotel" (2017) is a conventional romance which most romance lovers (such as myself) would enjoy.

"Isoken" (2017) has an inter-racial romance, but with little of the difficulties one would expect.

"Banana Island Ghost" (2017) is a fantasy with a higher than average rating.  A man dies and complains that he hadn't found his "soul mate" and thus was afforded a chance to find one.  A different perspective on  physical beauty.  His soul mate was a large woman with a large bum.    The heroine of  "The Number1 Detective Agency" set in Botswana" was also a large woman who attributed some of her success to over sized backside. 


"Sugar Rush" (2019)  fits in with a fast moving Hollywood action comedy.

 I wish had seen "Skin (2019) at the beginning of his project.  A documentary by established Nigerian star, Beverly Naya who was concerned about attitude towards color.  Beverly has also starred in Canadian productions.  She talked to a dermatologist who was most concerned about a healthy skin.  A photographer explained that film stock based on white preference.  Many commented that men seem to prefer lighter skinned women.  In movies lighter skinned women were preferred, but one complaint from a half black actress was that she wasn't dark enough for some roles.  Over 70% of Nigerian women use skin lighteners and it was demonstrated there was a big difference in quality that often resulted in blemishes.  Other retailer boasted that they achieved a better skin balance.  I was pleased to learn that Genevieve Nnaji was cited as one of three successful Nigerian actresses that avoided skin lightening.

The film industry supports 5% of Nigerian GDP and is the third biggest employer.  Nigeria produces about 2,500 films a year, beaten only by India.

In Conclusion:  keep an open mind.  Things are happening in Africa and Nigeria will be one of the leaders.  Nollywood is both entertaining and educational. You will find differences that will widen your horizons, but also similarities that will deepen your understanding.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

COVID-19 SHUTDOWN HEADING TO STAGE 2

Hamilton had to wait an extra week to be accepted to stage 2 which meant more retail businesses could open with restrictions.  As a retired senior it still meant to be careful, but walking.

Hamilton is full of things not yet discovered by me.  For instance, the photo at the top is of a swallowtail caterpiller, something new to me.  We had learned that swallowtail butterflies (pictured in my last Covid blog post) liked dill plants.  That is where the caterpillar checked us out.


1st telephone exchange in British Empire  in March 1878 by Hugh Cossart Baker.  Main and James St.








Treble Hall built 1879.  On a tour during Open Doors Hamlton learned ceiling had been done by Fittings Ltd which was located kitty corner from my boyhood home in Oshawa.







I was fortunate to take part in an online presentation of the Hamilton Public Library by Mark Leslie who wrote "Haunted Hamilton"  It was not only entertaining, but historically interesting.








Custom House now a museum for workers.






Whitehern








Armoury








Winking Judge

The Tivoli Theare was one of the theatres owned by Ambrose Small who disappeared.  My wife's great grandmother was fond of watching movies at this theatre, particularly of Hopalong Cassidy.  Unfortunately she suffered a fatal heart attack while in line.






Utility boxes--city art project for the downtown core.









Commemorating Tom Longboat winning the Around the Bay Road Race and in the same year winning and setting a record for the Boston Marathon. 











Two more murals by Lester Coloma.  On the left is one done for Cake and Loaf (one of my favorite bakeries) and on the right can be found at Ferguson Station.













The Coppley Company has been in Hamilton since      . , noted for high end fashion men's wear.   On the left is the older building and on the
right is the new one.




If you are interested you can find more photos and  comments of my Covid-19 shutdown posts.

http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/04/coping-with-covid-19-shutdown.html

http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/04/more-walks-and-musings-from-covid-10.html

http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/04/earth-day-during-covid-19-shutdown.html

http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/04/charities-and-entertainment-in.html

http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/03/coronavirus-lessons-how-one-makes-money.html 

http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/03/politics-in-age-of-coronavirus.html 

http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/04/the-shutdown-continues.html 

http://www.therealjohndavidson.com/2020/05/exploring-hamilton-during-covid-19.html