Series: Documentaries

Hitman Hart, Wrestling With Shadows

SynopsisReviewsAwardsBret Hart, five times’ champion of the World Wrestling Federation, sits in a hotel room – one day before the most important fight of his life. Sure, it’s just professional wrestling, but this match is different. It will be Bret’s last in the WWF, a company for whom he’s been the top guy and loyal champion for years. The owner of the company, the legendary Vince McMahon, want’s him out, only months after signing an unprecedented twenty years contract. Now he want’s him to lose his final match as well. It’s not just another wrestling show for Bret. This fight will determine how his character ‘The Hitman’, wrestling’s favorite good guy for the last decade, will be remembered. Sitting in a hotel room, one day before the match. What Bret doesn’t know, is that he will be the target of the biggest double cross in the history of professional wrestling. Over the span of one year, an award winning documentary film crew followed Bret Hart. They hoped for an unprecedented look behind the scenes of the WWF. What they got was the most dramatic story in the history of wrestling. HITMAN HART is a story about loyalty and betrayal, money and greed, dignity and disgrace. It’s about fathers and sons, fans and icons, and keeping one’s integrity in a world of moral uncertainty. In a word, it’s a film about being human.The West Australian – I sat mesmerised . . . mind-boggling.Broadcast Week (Globe&Mail) – . . . a compelling story masterfully told.IAN BROWN, writer/broadcaster – . . . it could be the best documentary I’ve ever seen. Montreal Gazette – The two best hours to be found anywhere on the schedule this weekend. Newsday (New York) – one whale of a tale. St. Louis Post-Dispatch – the end to this two-hour story is a shocker Star Week  L.A. Times – do yourself a favor and tune in Hollywood Reporter – an energy that can’t be denied Hollywood Reporter Exclusive – What happened when the makers of an acclaimed wrestling documentary got slammed in a high-stakes cable grudge match? Wall Street Journal – truly a knockout film. St. Paul Tribune – terrific Chicago Tribune – astonishingly compelling Toronto Star review – . . . a finely crafted, feature-quality entertainment, at once character study, action movie, sports thriller and romance. Ottawa Citizen – a tale as bizarre as Kafka and as tragic as Shakespeare. Calgary Sun – . . . humanizing Canadian Press – . . .  an insightful look at Hart and his world  Vancouver Province – Frankly, there’s not a dull moment in the 93 grueling minutes of film. Globe & Mail Review – . . .  superb documentary Boston Herald – As gripping a documentary as you’ll see.EYE Magazine – . . . one of the most riveting and highly acclaimed Canadian films in years. Peter Plagens (Newsweek Art Critic) – . . . one of the best films of 1998.Renshaw Report – . .  a brilliant, riveting, touching and funny biographical study.Renshaw Top Ten List – The year’s best documentary.London Sunday Times – . . . extraordinary The Baton Rouge Advocate – a lively and literate exploration The Gaurdian (London)The Independent (London) – . . . enthrallingThe Tennessean – a wonderful film, full of suspense, dramatic tension and  a strange kind of melancholy The Village Voice – an improbably enthralling portraitHot Docs! 1999 – Best Feature / Best of Festival Gemini Awards ’99 – Winner Best History/Biography Doc. Sundance Independent Film Festival 1999 – Screening invitation Slamdance Film Festival 1999 – Special Screening The International Emmy Awards ’99 – Finalist for Best Documentary Banff Television Festival – Rockie Award winner Columbus Int’l Film & Video Festival 1999 – The Chris Statuette Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Awards – Gold Ribbon U.S. International Film and Video Festival – Gold Camera Award Nashville Independent Film Festival – Awarded Best Documentary Bangkok film festival ’99 – Screening invitation Parnu Inter. Documentary Festival (Estonia) – Screening invitation Rhode Island International Film Festival – Screening invitation New York Documentary Festival 1999 – Screening invitation Canadian Society of Cinematographers Awards 1999 – Awarded Best Doc. CinematographyWorldfest International Film & Video Festival 1998 – Gold Award New York Festivals ’99 – Finalist Sheffield International Documentary Festival 1998 – Opening Gala Amsterdam Documentary Film Festival 1998 – Best of the Fest showcase Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival 1999 – Nominated for Best Documentary It’s All True Int’l Doc. Film Festival Rio de Janeiro – Showcase Sydney International Film Festival – People’s choice top ten films Australian Int’l Documentary Conference – Best of Current World Docs” showcase Double Take Documentary Festival 1999 – Screening invitation INPUT 1999 – Screening invitation Hot Springs Documentary Festival – Screening invitation Denver International Film Festival – Screening invitation X Internacional Doc. Film Festival (Portugal) – Screening invitation

Return to Kandahar

A film by Paul Jay and Nelofer Pazira.

Nelofer Pazira, returns from Canada to Afghanistan to seek out her childhood friend Dyana. While living under vicious Taliban rule, Dyana wrote Nelofer a haunting letter that ended, “you will have to live for both of us now”. Fearing the worst, in 2002 after the fall of the Taliban government, Nelofer searches for her lost friend. Landing in Kabul 13 years after her family left Russian-occupied Afghanistan, Nelofer unravels her past and the history of her country. The epic journey takes her to Kabul, Kandahar, and Masir-e-Sharif. Incisively weaving Nelofer’s personal story with that of Afghanistan itself, Return To Kandahar shows a country once again in the grip of warlords and the U.S “war on terror”.

Lost in Las Vegas

SynopsisQ&AReviews Lost in Las Vegas, a film by Paul Jay Lost in Las Vegas is the story of two performers who impersonate two actors playing two fictitious characters exploring a city where almost everything is a replica of something else. From New York City complete with a Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty – to Camelot, Treasure Island, The Eiffel Tower, and the Egyptian Pyramids – the only thing real in this town is the exchange of money. Lost in Las Vegas is a film about reality and fantasy, money and morality, and the price one pays to chase a dream. It tells the story of Canadians Wayne Catania and Kieran Lafferty, who take their Blues Brothers act to Las Vegas and audition for the famous Legends impersonators show. This begins an Alice in Wonderland journey through Vegas as they decide if they want to live and raise families in a city whose only value is making money. Along the way, they meet local people from strippers to historians to Afro-American activists to the impersonators of Little Richard, Elvis and Tom Jones. They tell Wayne and Kieran about life and living in Las Vegas. Our protagonists return to Canada awaiting the results of the audition. At this point, the film turns on itself, and another layer of fantasy is explored and subjects are left wondering whats real about their own lives. Finally, our characters return to Vegas where they must face a truth about themselves and the city of dreams. Vegas is the place where the American soul is most naked and extreme. It is America as a stripper, Lady Liberty wearing nothing but beads and feathers. Is it a bizarre distortion of American values, or is Vegas the shape of things to come? Q&A with Paul Jay (questions by Jason Anderson, Eye Magazine) 1. When did you first become aware of Wayne and Keiron’s act? What were your feelings about impersonation acts then? I was sitting in the dentist’s chair and heard an ad for the ‘Legends’ show at the Sheraton in Toronto. Like most of my film ideas, it just felt like it had potential. Before the show, I’d had a kind of snobbish attitude towards impersonators. Very much how I felt about wrestling before I made Hitman Hart. I went to see the show and was quite surprised by how much fun I had and how much the audience enjoyed it. If the impersonators were good enough, people were willing to buy into the fantasy and pretend these performers were the real deal. Wayne and Kieron had the most personality so I decided to meet them. At this point, I was interested, but still not convinced the material was rich enough for a two-hour film. 2. At what point did it seem like their story would be compelling enough to make a film about? I met Wayne and KIERON after the show and again I was somewhat surprised to find them bright, funny and down to earth. I understood that as subjects they would be reflective, appealing, and KIERON witty and political. I learned about the ‘big’ Legends show in Vegas and the story started to click. Impersonators trying to make the big time in a town where nothing much is real. Vegas as a metaphor for where our society seems to be headed. A social debate about values set against the back drop of the ghosts of cultural icons. A city all about making money and not much else. How did you pitch it to A&E ? I spent half a day on the internet looking for background on Vegas. Then I wrote a two page ‘pitch’ document. I write pitches for docs as if they are dramas. I tell a story as if I control the elements as one would in fiction. Sometimes the finished film is like the original vision, sometimes not. While the theme and objectives of the Hitman the proposal didn’t change, the final product was only vaguely similar to the pitch, because when the film began I had no idea Bret Hart and Vince McMahon would go to war. This story took over the film when I was almost finished shooting. In the ‘Vegas’ film, the final product is very close to the original pitch document. Except for the scenes in Toronto when the two guys are waiting to find out if they get the Vegas gig. Here I had no idea what would happen and the way it unfolded was quite surprising. Anyway, I sent the pitch document to the exec producer at A&E I work with, Amy Briamonte. She also worked with me on Hitman Hart. The pitch was quite wingy, for A&E anyway. How do you make a two hour film with a story as thin as two guys go to Vegas and try to land a job. Anyway, after Hitman’s success, Amy figured if I thought I could do it, I probably could and mostly based on her confidence and the reputation of Hitman she was able to get A&E to go for the film. It’s very unlike a normal A&E film so I was a little surprised they went for it. 3. They sort of act as surrogate documentarians when they’re meeting people in Las Vegas — how did you come up with the idea of having Wayne and Kieron to serve as both the subject of the film and the quasi tour guides? It’s a technique I’ve worked out over the course of a few films. I use my subjects to question other subjects, and create a more interesting dynamic. It gives what are inherently static, ‘sit down interviews’ a feel of verité filmmaking, being part of an unfolding story moving through time. For it to work, it has to be justified by something in the ‘real’ story. So it was quite genuine that Wayne and Keiron were struggling with the question of whether they would want to raise their kids in Vegas if they got the job. This justified a quest to find out what makes Vegas tick. I’d throw questions into the mix too. Sometimes you hear them in the film, sometimes not. 4. How did you become interested in the nature of Las Vegas as a city? Was this before you became involved with Wayne and Kieron? I’d been to Vegas a few years earlier. I knew enough about the place to have an sense of what it was about. Those hours on the internet helped fill out the conception. There were good pieces of social commentary that connected Vegas to the void of values in North American culture today. Vegas as the ‘Statue of Liberty wearing a g-string and beads’. Flying into Vegas to shoot, I was struck with how it is surrounded by this vast and beautiful desert. This gave me the visual motif I was looking for. The desert became the symbol of what’s real in the world and opposed to the fakery of sin city. 5. How did you go about finding people to provide interesting takes on Vegas life? Mostly I get lucky. I had a notion of the kind of people I wanted. Sometimes I just ran into them. The guys in the Sand Dollar Blues Bar I met just visiting the bar. Rhonda K. was a friend of Charlie Tuna, one of the musicians at he bar. I found a great researcher, Kurt Coleman, and he found the professors who defend ‘the city of freedom’. The black activist I found doing an internet search. The Elvis impersonator, Graham Patrick, took me to a strip club and we ran into Donna who was a friend of his. And so it goes. The process of finding the subjects, and making the film itself, is about 40% rational and 60% intuitive. It gets more rational as I get into the edit room. 6. What are your own feelings about Las Vegas now? Do you feel like it’s a straight-up dystopia, like a nightmare of capitalism run amok, or is there something exciting and irresistible about it? One of the themes of the film is whether Vegas is an anomaly or the shape of things to come. One of the professors in the film says Vegas isn’t becoming more like America, America is becoming more like Vegas. I think that’s true, and it can be said increasingly about Canada too. Corporate values are taking over all other values. Exciting and irresistible? No, I’ve seen how the ‘trick’ is done, and it’s lost what ever allure it had for me. On the other hand, I met some wonderful people in Vegas, who have become friends. I’ll go back to visit them and spend time in the desert. 7. I love how the film illustrates the sacrifices creative people will make in order to live out their dreams but how the dream may in fact end up kind of distorted, i.e., to live out the dream of playing music professionally, they work in a celebrity impersonation show. Is this the fate of most creative people in Las Vegas or, indeed, anywhere? In Vegas you find so many talented people going to waste. One of the dancers in the film talks about living a dream, dancing professionally, and then describes their role in the casino as a ‘write off’, meant to attract people to the tables. Some of the victims of Vegas are the people who go there to work in the entertainment industry. People of talent, who mostly find the way to earn their living – as one of the characters in the film says – selling their ass, one way or the other. Kitchen workers, waitresses and cleaners have a very strong union in Vegas. They get decent pay and benefits. Performers have no union, and unless you’re a star, you get paid dirt and treated like fodder. A ‘Legends’ dancer working two shows a night, six days a week plus rehearsals, makes six hundred dollars a week. Other dancers make less. Remember dancers have a limited working life and are often off injured, without pay. There is such a large pool of talent attracted to Vegas that without a union competition keeps wages down. The casino’s take advantage of the fact that talented people ‘need’ to perform, to express themselves. There are no publicly supported arts in Vegas to speak of – there’s hardly a public sector at all. Most of the impersonators in the film are very talented and very frustrated performers. They haven’t been able to make a living ‘doing themselves’, and fall into the ‘Legends’ gig. Keiron Lafferty, one of the Blues Brothers impersonators featured in the film, is a very talented musician. In fact, he wrote the music for ‘Lost in Las Vegas’. Still, in spite of his talent, he struggles to make a decent living. In the film he expresses the dilemma of choosing between his art and making good money in Vegas. There is risk in being true to oneself and one’s talent. And so it should be. Society does not owe a living to everyone who wants to perform. But when someone has real talent, it’s a pity that increasingly, unless you are a ‘star’ and get packaged and sold with the enormous marketing muscle of a major corporation, there is no way to make a decent living as an artist. Without public support, artists and performers must adapt to pure commercialism to survive – at least if they want to raise families. Vegas is an extreme example of this model, but again, is that where we are all headed? 8. I also loved the last sequence with the blues musicians, and just the sense that the lives of none of these people are untouched by grief. Did you want to convey some “real” sense of what the blues could be about it, without resorting to the usual cliches? That the ersatz blues of a Blues Brothers impersonation act could somehow be made true? The ‘Blues Brothers’ act is a homage to the blues, but also a caricature. Genuine ‘blues’ is about sorrow, about the heart. It’s about losing the ones we love, and facing the harsh realities of life. Everything that Vegas culture isn’t. Vegas is a con, a fantasy to make people part with their money. One of the blues musicians in the scene, Doug Stiegerwald, tells us of the profound grief he felt after the death of his wife. He says that expressing himself through music and the love of his friends, gave him a reason to live. He found life wasn’t’ about getting rich and famous. Blues music is the antitheses of corporate values, it’s about being human. 9. How much did Legends in Concert try to influence the movie and when did it become clear that they were in effect ‘staging’ events for the possible benefit of the film? Did that surprise you? It didn’t surprise me. Vegas is about promotion. I guess I can’t complain too much about it. If everything wasn’t about selling, I guess they wouldn’t have agreed to the intrusion of the film in the first place. 10. Did you have many qualms about entering the film yourself? Did you try to avoid it? Yes, I hesitated to do it. In the end, I couldn’t avoid it. There was no other way to truthfully tell what was going on. The subjects turned the filmmaker from an observer into an active player. Perhaps we filmmakers always play this role. In a film about layers of reality and fantasy, I was happy I could expose the extent to which a documentary film itself is contrived and artificial. In fact, I played with this notion throughout the film. Who ever heard of a dream sequence in a documentary? Toronto Star – Equal parts hilarious, heroic and heartfelt Eye Magazine – Funny, sometimes fantastical Globe TV – A Vegas we’ve never seen Winnipeg Free Press – Captivating Star Week –Often surprising, occasionally inspiring, frequently hilarious Globe & Mail Review – New, trippy documentary Toronto Sun – Has to be seen to be believed Star-Tribune – Another big score from Paul Jay

Machine Gun and the Rise of US Empire – Ep1 – White Smoking Devil

SynopsisReviewsAt the center of every armed conflict of the 20th Century, the machine gun has been a tool of conquest – and of liberation. Everywhere, it has unleashed consequences its creators never imagined. This is the history of one of the world’s deadliest inventions, a story of technological innovation, the industrial revolution, and political power. Machine Gun: History Down the Barrel of a Gun, is a sweeping look at the rise of the American empire.

Machine Gun and the Rise of US Empire – Ep 3 – Age of Kalashnikov’s AK 47

SynopsisReviewsAt the center of every armed conflict of the 20th Century, the machine gun has been a tool of conquest – and of liberation. Everywhere, it has unleashed consequences its creators never imagined. This is the history of one of the world’s deadliest inventions, a story of technological innovation, the industrial revolution, and political power. Machine Gun: History Down the Barrel of a Gun, is a sweeping look at the rise of the American empire.

Machine Gun and the Rise of US Empire – Ep2 – The Gun Comes Home then Goes to War Again

SynopsisReviewsAt the center of every armed conflict of the 20th Century, the machine gun has been a tool of conquest – and of liberation. Everywhere, it has unleashed consequences its creators never imagined. This is the history of one of the world’s deadliest inventions, a story of technological innovation, the industrial revolution, and political power. Machine Gun: History Down the Barrel of a Gun, is a sweeping look at the rise of the American empire.

NeverEndum Referendum

SynopsisQ&AReviews“This is what we never talk about.” – Rick Blue“We don’t allow ourselves to talk about these things. It’s a question of survival of the couple.” – Roxanne MajeauNever-Endum Referendum is politics at its most personal. Rick and Roxanne’s marriage is peaceful – until with the cameras rolling, they start talking Quebec politics. Daryl is a sovereigntist and Linda is a federalist. The hearts of their children become a battle-ground for their political beliefs.“By far the most eloquent essay on the topic of cultural divisiveness in this country ever produced for television. It’s heart-wrenching stuff.” – Greg Quill, Toronto Star“The interviews are very touching . . . the Bowser and Blue show hilarious” – Voir Magazine“A moving, masterful piece of film-making” – Tony Atherton, Ottawa Citizen“Fresh…provocative … insights and laughs” – Mike Boone, Montreal Gazette“Compelling, sometimes wrenching” – Globe&Mail Broadcast Week“Gem of a film” – Josée Legault, Le DevoirQ & A with Paul Jay Q. What prompted you to make this film A. Filmmakers are always looking for a story to tell, and this is one that’s been on my mind for some time. Like most Canadians, I’m frustrated with the level of political debate about Quebec’s relationship to the rest of Canada. In the heat of the political rhetoric, real people become abstractions and all we see is the posturing of politicians on both sides, who fight principally for their own power. I felt we needed to humanize the discussion, so that people in English and French Canada could see that their concerns and dreams weren’t that different from each other. I was hit with the idea, I know it’s not so original, that the place where English and French Canada really meet, is in the relationships of the Anglophones and Francophones of Quebec. The Quebec Anglos form a kind of bridge between the two societies. Before the last Quebec referendum, many of the Anglos of Quebec had really come to feel at home in the new Quebec. They were sending their kids to French schools, learning to work in French, and had more or less come to terms with Bill 101. Many were very frustrated at Canada’s inability to accept two obvious things . . . that French society in Quebec is not the same as English society in the rest of the country and that this society is threatened, needs to be recognised and believe it has the tools to defend itself. I hoped that through the personal relationships of the Anglos and Francos of Quebec, English Canada might get a better understanding of this reality of Quebec life. Q. You say you hoped. Did things change? A. Yes. Parizeau’s speech about money and the ethnic vote being the cause of the defeat of the “yes” side, and the closeness of the results, scared the hell out of most of Quebec’s Anglos. No longer did the Anglos feel at home in Quebec. They were once again ‘les autres’, the others, the outsiders. They were to blame. One Anglo woman, who is in the film, had supported Bill 101 language laws. After the referendum she became a partitionist. After the vote, there were calls from the hard core separatists to strengthen language laws, and cutback on services to Anglophones in Quebec. Many Anglos felt like they simply weren’t wanted. I found as blind as much of English Canada is to the concerns of French Quebec, French Quebec is just as blind to the concerns of the Anglos living in their own backyard. As Jacques Godbout says to Josh Freed in the film, “the relationship of your community to my community, is like that of my community to Canada.” So when I started filming, the Anglos were not much in the mood to make a plea for Quebec’s rights to the rest of the country. They were much more interested, and understandably so, in defending their own rights. Q. So did this change the direction of the film? A. Yes. When Radio Canada became involved, we had the opportunity to address the French audience as well. Now the film attempts to break down stereotypes on both sides of the fence. It’s really a very unique broadcasting window. When the film first aired, on Baton Broadcasting and Radio Canada, English and French Canada watched the same documentary program, in their own language, on more or less the same evening. I don’t think there has ever been such a thing before. This is really a statement in itself. Why on earth is this a first? Outside of hockey games, it’s really amazing how separate our two cultures really are. Q. The film focuses on Anglo/French couples and friends. Why? A. These relationships are a metaphor and the reality of where English and French society in Canada meet. Even here, with people who are most intimate with each other, there is difficulty in understanding each other’s sense of national identity. Most of the relationships in the film are ‘yes/no’, as far as voting in the referendum goes. But even though they disagree, and sometimes with a great deal of tension, these relationships work. As one subject says, they love each other, they function, they raise wonderful kids. They have found a way to live together. The one thing almost all of our subjects agreed on, was that they hate the political process. They don’t want to have to choose yes or no. They want a compromise. They want to find a solution. And all of them, blame politicians for manipulating people’s emotions, and the media for allowing extremists to monopolize the debate. So, in this film we wanted to give a voice to ‘ordinary people’. Of course we found they were far from ordinary. Most of the voices you will hear in the film are far more articulate and insightful than that of most politicians and media pundits you are likely to hear. Q. Did you learn anything new while you were filming? A. Of course, many things. I hadn’t understood just how separate English and French societies in Quebec are. Even many smart, educated French people hadn’t heard of writer Josh Freed, who is one of the best known Anglos in Montreal. Most of the Anglos, even those that speak French, watch English TV and movies and know little about contemporary French popular culture. I’ve often thought one of the great mistakes we made as a country was splitting our national broadcaster so completely along linguistic lines. Why couldn’t we have grown up watching each other’s programs with subtitles? Quebec has such a rich modern culture, really world class, and in the rest of the country we know so little of it. To many French in Quebec, English Canada is less known than the United States, because they see so much American TV. Q. What else made an impression? A. Perhaps the most significant thing I learned was how much French Quebec has a national psychology that is different from English Canada’s. It’s not just language, although clearly language is at the heart of it. It’s also having to do with being a relatively homogeneous society for several hundred years. All the things that make up a national psychology – traditions, common economy, habits, religion, family customs, folklore, songs, etc., etc., and of course language – are to be found in Quebec every bit as much as you find in any other nation. I don’t know why we find it easy to grasp that there is such a thing as the national psychology of an Italian, or a German or an Englishman, but somehow we think that Québécois lack this. As much as Europe becomes more unified, the individual nations do not give up their national psychology and the culture that reflects it without a fight. The native peoples have their own national psychology too, as specific as that of the French. They are also threatened, more so really, as they have far less political and economic power to defend themselves. Q. What does this mean for you? A. As an English-speaking Canadian, I have a national psychology too, but it is different. Many of us came here from other countries, more recently, and our ancestors who immigrated, made a choice to break most ties with their national roots. Each generation adopts more of a new Canadian national sense, which is linked to a relatively modern experience, and to contemporary mass culture. Most of us don’t have hundreds of years of traditions and ancestors to, as one woman in the film says, act as a kind of shadow walking behind us. It’s not to say there is anything less modern about the Quebec people, it’s just these factors play a stronger role. For me, national and cultural identity has less to do with who I am than might have been if I had grown up as a French Quebecer. I don’t see this as any better or worse, just different. Q. Did the process of making the film, change the way you looked at the situation? A. Making a film always changes me. It’s as much an exploration for me as I hope it will become for my audience. This film made me understand how little I knew of Quebec. When I was in grade five, we started studying French. I asked my teacher, why should I learn it? Her answer was that I might take a trip to Paris some day. There was no mention that almost a third of my country spoke French. One young woman I interviewed grew up in Alberta and went to a French immersion school. All her teachers but one came from France. The more I came to know Quebec society, the more I felt like I was making a film in another country. Q. Did you come to any conclusions? A. Many, but two were most important. The first was that if moderate French society really wants the Anglophones and Allophones to feel at home, they had better speak out against their own extremists, and oppose those who are trying to turn Francoization into some kind of religion. If they don’t build Quebec on democratic principals, and defend minority rights, then I don’t know what kind of society they will have. The other is if Canada wants Quebec to feel at home, we’d better recognise the fact of French Quebec’s national psychology. It’s not a question of being distinct, or unique, or any other compromise fudging of the issue. It’s the psychology of a nation. If we don’t, we are refusing to accept a reality. It also has to do with how democratic our society will be. Q. Do you think Quebec should separate? A. No. I don’t see why there can’t be room for more than one national identity within a single country. If we can accept what French Quebec is, and make sure they feel they have the political tools to defend their identity, I don’t see why we can’t be together in one country. On the other hand, if we pretend Quebec is just like any other province, and mix the Quebec question up with the issue of decentralizing the federation, then we have a problem that won’t go away until there is a yes vote. Q. Is it really worth all this endless debate and political wrangling? A. I believe it’s worth making the effort. As a Canadian born and raised in Toronto, I think it’s in my interest to keep Quebec in the country. We live at a time when the international scene is very competitive, even predatory. Size does count for something, and Canada and Quebec would be more vulnerable on their own. I also think that the Quebec people are a good influence on Canada. I think my country would be less interesting, more American, and politically more conservative without them. It goes the other way too. There have been times in Quebec’s history when a more enlightened influence came from the rest of Canada. I don’t think the dark side of the nationalist movement should be minimized. It’s not dominant, but it exists. Of course, we must get over the never ending diversion of the sovereignty debate. It couldn’t be more boring for everyone. This was the major challenge of the film. How to treat a subject everyone is sick of. Q. Can we get over this endless battle? A. I hope so. I really don’t believe in the final analysis that most Canadians oppose recognition of Quebec’s right to defend its national identity. What they don’t like is the feeling that Quebec is getting “more than its fair share.” They want to know that in exchange for more powers, Quebec is paying its own way. There is a feeling across Canada that successive federal governments have tried to bribe Quebec in order to appease the separatist forces. Whether this is true or not is beside the point. The perception is very wide spread. A solution can be found if it is clear that in exchange for more powers, Quebec pays its own way. There is also a perception more powers for Quebec means those citizens will have more rights than other Canadians. I’ve never understood this. As someone in Toronto, what do I care if some of the services I get delivered through the federal government, my counterpart in Montreal gets delivered through his provincial government. I think this is a confusion deliberately created by politicians and pundits who like to fish in troubled waters. Q. Where is patriotism in all this? A. I don’t believe the unity of Canada should be a religious principle, any more than the idea of an independent Quebec should be. Countries are a means to a better life, not an end in themselves. If people can see past the bickering of politicians and narrow interests, I think we can work this out. Q. Did you have personal reasons for making this film? A. Everything I’ve said has to do with my personal interest. But there is something specific. My father was an Anglo from Montreal, who moved to Toronto in the ’50s. I often visited as a child, so I always felt a tie. My uncle was a writer, and I grew up with his stories about Montreal. My wife is Francophone, born in Montreal, her parents are Franco-Albertan and Franco-Manitoban. Through our relationship I have understood better, though we are both Canadians, the significant differences in our backgrounds. Q. With the completion of the film, are you more or less optimistic about Canada’s future? A. More. While the film tries to be realistic, and not put a rosy filter on things, in the end I found that most people want to solve this thing. All the relationships in the film work, in spite of the cultural and political divide. We need to humanize the discussion, so we aren’t dealing with abstractions about what a Canadian is and what a French Quebecois is, and see that we are talking about people who are like us – they want a home, a better life, a sense of purpose and dignity. My favourite part of the film is about a black woman, a dancer. She says she wanted to teach dance and be a nursery school teacher. Now she is doing both, her dreams have come true. She says she wants other people’s dreams to come true too. I’m with her. We need to have more understanding and respect for each other’s dreams. “This is what we never talk about.” – Rick Blue “We don’t allow ourselves to talk about these things. It’s a question of survival of the couple.” – Roxanne Majeau Never-Endum Referendum is politics at its most personal. Rick and Roxanne’s marriage is peaceful – until with the cameras rolling, they start talking Quebec politics. Daryl is a sovereigntist and Linda is a federalist. The hearts of their children become a battle-ground for their political beliefs. The Globe and Mail – “remarkable . . . a voice that is full of love and humour and pain”Ottawa Citizen – “a moving, masterful piece of filmmaking about a touchy subject” Le Devoir – “There is nothing ordinary about this film . . . wonderful” Toronto Star – “By far the most eloquent essay on the topic of cultural divisiveness in this country ever produced for television. It’s heart-wrenching stuff.” Montreal Gazette – “One can only hope that politicians are as perceptive, open-minded and compassionate as Paul Jay” Globe & Mail Broadcast Week – “compelling, sometimes wrenching” StarWeek – “amusing and sometimes chilling . . . fascinating” Windsor Star – “brilliantly simple . . . a coup for Canadian film-making” Le Devoir – Josée Legault – “gem of a movie” Voir Magazine – “The interviews are very touching . . . the Bowser and Blue show hilarious”

The Life and Death of Owen Hart

SynopsisReviewsToronto Star – Wrenching . . . a heartbreaker Globe & Mail – Another winner Newsday – A stark, unsettling hour New York Post – Up-close-and-personal Chicago Tribune – An undeniably poignant tale

Albanian Journey, End of an Era

SynopsisReviewsA film by Paul Jay about the rise and fall of socialism in Albania. Released in September, 1995, the film tells the story of a people mired in poverty for centuries, who stood up to Nazi fascism and began to build a socialist and independent country. It’s about the lessons learned as the utopian vision failed and became a shattered disillusionment. ENTERTAINMENT Alabanian Journey: From despot to hell spot by Greg Quill TORONTO STAR 09/04/1991 The Toronto Star FINAL B3 (Copyright The Toronto Star) If you’ve been watching the news about Albania in recent weeks, you must have wondered what in the world could make the entire population of a little known and heretofore defiantly self-sufficient nation so desperate to abandon its homeland. What we’ve seen so far, mostly from within the confines of Italian refugee holding centres, is evidence of a mass exodus unparalleled since the end of the Viet Nam War. Of a mere 3 1/2 million people, more than 100,000 have already fled in a matter of weeks. Even as the walls of communism come crumbling down in Europe, Albanians, freer now than at any time since the 1930s, seem so hopeless about the future of their country that they’ll risk their very lives to be elsewhere. Why? Toronto documentary maker Paul Jay discovers many of the roots of this hysterical national disillusionment in Albanian Journey: End Of An Era, a timely examination of the crisis that airs tomorrow at 9 p.m. on TVOntario. Actually a continuation of an earlier movie, broadcast two years ago on CBC, about the country whose mysterious backwardness has preoccupied Jay for two decades, Albanian Journey is something of an aboutface. Many of the extremely bright young people who, in 1987, so proudly defended their nation’s independent notions about social and economic progress, deride them bitterly this time around, without so much as an attempt at rationalization. What has happened in the past two years, as Ramiz Alia’s totalitarian socialist government – a legacy of demagogue Enver Hoxha’s monolithic and long-lasting authoritarianism – began to crack under the same pressure that has liberalized the rest of Eastern Europe, is that Albanians have, for the first time, caught a glimpse of the outside world. And they like what they see to the point of utter distraction. “Work, discipline, money and joy,” is how one high school student in a group of unusually articulate youngsters interviewed by Jay describes his vision of life in The West. “This must be Paradise.” Paradise, yes, after the excessive navel-gazing brainwashed Albanians have been practising for nearly 50 years, first under the “revolutionary” Hoxha’s hypnotic eye, then under Alia’s velvet-gloved steel fist. Even now, with the first free elections allowed since Hoxha established the communist republic in 1944, and with the primitive beginnings of privatization, Albanians are still divided along the line between urban and rural working classes over ideology. One extraordinary scene in Jay’s movie has a group of villagers crowding in the doorway of a small, privatized and heavily taxed butcher shop vehemently arguing with the proprietor about basic Marxist-Leninist principles, including exploitation of the proletariat by big business, and the obscenity of hiring labor. “The world has run towards progress,” says another observer. “We have walked, and very slowly.” Even so, Jay points out, Albania, for all its naivete and dogged independence – Hoxha turned his back on both the Soviet Union and China because he believed their governments were ideologically impure – has achieved much since its people, without the assistance of a single Allied soldier, drove first the Italians and then the Germans from their soil in 1944. Then, after centuries of domination by foreigners, almost 90 per cent of the population was illiterate, and the average life expectancey was 38 years. Now, given the abundant evidence in Jay’s documentary, Albanians are by and large extremely well educated and healthy. Despite the failure of their backward system, geared to no other in the world and worn beyond repair, “the calibre of people produced by this society is exceptional,” Jay says at the conclusion of Albanian Journey. It’s the only optimistic note in what’s otherwise a death knell. *** Infomart Online *** Copyright © 2000 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. ———————————————————— Broadcast Week REGIMES Angst in Albania A documentary film revisits a country where citizens are torn between rejection of the past and fear of the future. Thursday, on TVO at 9 p.m. JOHN DOYLE 08/31/1991 The Globe and Mail P11; (ILLUS) All material copyright Thomson Canada Limited or its licensors. All rights reserved. For decades, Albania was a mystery to the West, but now its citizens have become a fixture on the nightly news. Thousands of desperate Albanians are seen arriving en masse in Italy, claiming to be refugees. The pictures are unsettling and the question they raise – what can compel so many people to take such desperate action? – has gone unanswered. The answer, in all its complexity, can be found in Albanian Journey: End of an Era. The documentary was made by Toronto filmmaker Paul Jay, who has spent much of the past 20 years trying to understand one of the least known countries in the world. In 1987, after several visits to the country, Jay began his first film about Albania, which aired on CBC last year. At the time, the film seemed an anachronism. While citizens of other East European countries were abandoning communism, the Albanians in Jay’s film were happy with their country and optimistic about the future. Since then, Albania has descended into turmoil. “In retrospect it was a very artificial situation,” Jay says now. “We were there at a very peculiar time and what we showed was a legitimate picture of the time, but the country was running on reserve. It was a sort of vacuum between Albania’s past and present.” In the new film, Albanians are seen disparaging their country and its achievements. Many want to go to the West as soon as possible and, in the case of a group of high school students who are interviewed, they have an extraordinary naivete about life in Western Europe and North America. Watching them, it is easy to grasp the collective hysteria which has propelled so many to storm the Italian coast. It’s not as if the country doesn’t have achievments to celebrate. When Albania become a communist republic in 1944, 80 per cent of the men and 90 per cent of the women were illiterate and the average life expectancy was only 38 years. Today the population is well educated and healthy. The young people are thoughtful and articulate, but they yearn, with painful earnestness, for the consumer delights of the West. Jay says the blame for this widespread naivete can be shared between the Italian government, which initially encouraged escape from Albania, and the Voice of America, which supported the demonstrations that ended the slowly evolving reforms. But blame must also be placed on the old regime. “The government propaganda portrayed the West as a horrible place. They never found a way of giving a realistic picture that people could accept.” At the centre of the film is an account of the election which took place this past March. There is an almost surreal quality to the footage of an infant democracy trying to cope with electioneering and the ballot box. The opposition Democratic Party, promising free enterprise, had the support of an array of American politicians who flocked to Albania. The party enjoyed unanimous support in the cities. Still, the communists, operating as the Party of Labour, swept the countryside and won a solid majority. In the cities, the citizens who had demanded a free election rioted and refused to accept the result. There is a hint in the documentary that the United States involved itself directly in the election, and it’s not a far-fetched speculation. For 50 years Albania has occupied a unique place in the world of covert operations. Between 1949 and 1953, the United States and Britain tried to launch a counter-revolutionary group in Albania, but the anti-communists who were sent to the country were shot or arrested on arrival. The Soviet spy Kim Philby had direct knowledge of the operation and he has always been blamed for the debacle. For the Americans and British, there are old and bitter scores to settle with the Albanian regime. If the Americans or others interfered, they sowed chaos where there had only been confusion. Now, a “government of national stability” is trying to keep the country going. Ultimately, the film portrays Albania as a country transfixed by its own uncertainty. The people are healthy, skilled and they have achieved complete freedom of expression. They have an economic base on which to build a successful mixed economy, and still they flee in their thousands. “They have an intense inferiority complex,” Jay says. “They refuse to believe the truth about the West and about themselves.” The film presents a disturbing suggestion that we in the West have been complacent in our assumptions about the end of communism. There is evidence here that in the case of Albania we have encouraged the people to abandon the best of their system for the worst of ours. Copyright © 2000 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Birth of Language

SynopsisReviewsA film by Paul Jay. What is the meaning of language? How and where did it begin? This highly original and challenging film examines these questions as it explores human evolution and the development of language. THE BIRTH OF LANGUAGE uses a unique combination of extraordinary documentary footage, expert interviews and dramatic re-enactments to unravel the fascinating origins of language, the essential differences between human and animal communication and the relationship between language and thought. Featuring such renowned experts as anthropologists Jane Goodall and Sherwood Washburn, the film compares the special language ability of humans to the instinctual and involuntary form of communication used by animals. Theories are illustrated by remarkable animal footage including the famous Chantek ape experiment in which an orangutan is taught to communicate with American Sign Language. The varied information presented in THE BIRTH OF LANGUAGE strongly supports Charles Darwin’s theories on evolution and natural selection. Presenting complex social and biological concepts in a logical and accessible format, THE BIRTH OF LANGUAGE explains the mystery that sets the human race apart from all other animals: the ability to think and translate our abstract ideas into concrete realities.TVO looks in to languageJOHN HASLETT CUFF11/03/1986The Globe and MailC11; (ILLUS)All material copyright Thomson Canada Limited or its licensors. All rights reserved.The Globe and MailTVO is beginning its annual membership drive tonight, hoping to recruit 11,300 members and an additonal $450,000 in pledges. True to its mandate, the educational network is showing a very educational program, The Birth of Language (at approximately 8:05 p.m.).The 60-minute documentary attempts to explain some of the current and more controversial theories on how and why humans, of all the species on Earth, developed language. The bulk of research has gone into work with gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans in search of a connection between their communication abilities and that of man’s earliest ancestors. But, in the view of some experts, there is very little connection. “The basic concept of the film is that animal and human language cannot be equated,” says writer/director Paul Jay, of Toronto’s High Road Productions.The Birth of Language contains footage of “ape language” experiments that took place in Florida and Tennessee, as well as interviews with prominent linguists and anthropologists, such as Jane Goodall. This is combined with dramatic re- enactments of Neanderthal man “40,000 or 50,000 years ago” demonstrating their rudimentary attempts at communication. For these re- creations the filmmakers used heavily made-up actors and shot them “hunting” on an Ontario wildlife reserve. Actor Richard Monette ties the package together with a relaxed narration that is neither pedagogical nor artifically dramatic in the manner of some popular wildlife shows.The film was researched and shot over the course of a year after Jay and his cinematographer/partner Joan Hutton approached TVO in June 1985. TVO, Telefilm Canada and private investors put up the $211,000 cost of the documentary. “It’s really our first project of this nature and scope,” said Jay, “and we spent more than six months researching it. What we really want to stress is that what makes humans different is that they transform nature and in the process transform themselves, and language is a product of that.”If there is a fault in this generally well-packaged and intelligently constructed anthropological lesson it may be that when it segues into the ape-language experiments, it digresses too soon and for too long from its explication of theories on the development of language. These vignettes are intended to support the thesis that ape language is qualitatively different, not just quantitatively different, according to Jay. Yet the experiments are so interesting in themselves, one easily loses track of that argument. Still it is a thought-provoking show and will undoubtedly have a long life as an educational tool in schools