We’re all aware that the country of Venezuela is experiencing many problems. From media sources around the world, a lot of the information conveyed is biased about the country serving their political agendas. There is no doubt there is much corruption in Venezuela and they are going through difficult times where there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. What we need to understand is that we need to trust those who are native to the country who will give you their trusting reflection. Anabel Rodríguez is a filmmaker who wants to make light of what is truly going on in her country specifically in the area of Congo. Her film Once Upon A Time in Venezuela vritually streaming at Hot Docs this year is an engaging masterpiece about a community of the verge of displacement.
There is suffering because of sedimentation and a much needed political body that would sustain the country and the community of Congo is non-apparent. An exodus is about to take place where the future of this once-successful remote fishing village was pure and had a lot to offer. Only someone like Anabel has been able to document the slow downturn of Congo over the past five years. FERNTV spoke to director Anabel Rodríguez about this inspiring and truthful reflection of Congo in the country of Venezuela.
FERNTV: What made you decide to focus on this community in Congo for this film? What intrigued you?
Anabel: It was a natural chain of events, more than an open initial intention that brought us there. Years ago we went to Congo Mirador to shoot the Catatumbo lightning and in Congo Mirador is one of the places in which one can see it more clearly. It has been a well-known spot to do so and has been visited by tourists and specialist photographers from the main media of the world.
Back then, in those long nights, a bunch of kids rowing tiny boats improvised from petro canisters approached us. We became friends. Years later we shot with them a short film called The Barrel, which focuses on races that these kids organize amongst themselves. This short film can be seen on our website www.onceuponatimeinvenezuela.com
During that shooting we learned that the village was getting sedimented, people were migrating because the village was getting lost, and the government, the only one with the possibility of making a costly engineering work in the area, was neglecting it. So, given that in this village I could see reflected many aspects and people that are representative of us Venezuelans as a society, plus the village itself is iconically, symbolically representative of Venezuela (a word that means Little Venice) I thought that there was a coincidence of elements that would make a story meant for these times.
FERNTV: Did you think that it would take you five years to make this documentary? What were your first thoughts at the beginning of how long you thought it would last?
Anabel: We had not a precise idea of how would it last. However, thinking about the sustainability of the project, we wished it lasted altogether with editing 3 years until the film was released.
Still, with such a process of sedimentation, it was not possible to foresee when would it show visually clearly what “sedimentation “ means.
On the other hand, we expected that the government would do something, overall after Arias Cárdenas, the region governor that Tamara Villasmil visits promised to put some attention into it. They did so palliative work in the village during the shooting, but unfortunately, not the structural hydro-engineering work that would have been needed.
FERNTV: What was it that inspired you to keep on going in times of doubt?
Anabel: The determination of putting together a story that would portrait vividly the social problems of my country and bringing it into the world.
FERNTV: What was the biggest challenge in making this film?
Anabel: At some point, Congo Mirador was taken by “paracos” (former Colombian paramilitaries that with the Colombian peace process, moved into Venezuela to continue their occupation privately, by offering security services)
We were not allowed to film them, still, as a narrator, it was a tough decision to put on the side this fact because their arrival into the village is one of the clearest signs of the vulnerability, abandonment and loneliness of our rural areas in the country. Once the paracos come into a village, they just take more and more spaces, even to a point in which people have to leave and become displaced.
This was not exactly the case in Congo Mirador, as the sedimentation and government neglecting pushed people away before the pressure of the paracos.
Was there someone that you became attached to while making this film?
Yes. Several people. First, to Arcenio Hernández, a young man from Congo Mirador who shot this film together with us. Arcenio is the son of the village Sheriff, Edín Hernández, and together with his brother Pedro Hernández, who was our paramedic, were the force that keeps us linked with the community. Arcenio, who was a policeman back then, fell in love with filmmaking, and up to today, he would love to become one. Nowadays I consider Arcenio my brother.
With Natalie the teacher, I am still in contact. Her daughter is my godchild (Pattenchild) So, Natalie and I are “comadres”
FERNTV: Can you comment on the fact that behind all that is poor in this community there is a colourful beauty behind it?
Anabel: Yes, indeed. Congo Mirador had been for many Venezuelan photographers an inspiration, because of the light and the colourfulness of its houses.
In my case, it is in this area where I have seen the most beautiful light I have ever seen.
In general, Maracaibo Lake that is an enormous area that includes this former Lagune in which Congo Mirador is is known by Venezuelans as the land loved by the sun, for two reasons: its enormous heat (40 degrees Centigrades even) and because of its light.
FERNTV: The cinematography is beautiful in this film. Can you comment on the experience of filming plus who helped you with the cinematography?
Anabel: John Marquez is the Director of Photography of the film, who we invited since the year 2014. That means that he was more or less from the beginning. I had already begun the process of relating to the people of the community and filming. Back then it was me and a production team, mainly Arcenio. But, I wanted to bring on a DoP that would propose an image that would make justice to the beauty and at the same time, the strangeness of the place.
It took us maybe two or three shooting periods over one year, to synchronize our sensitivities around the act of filming, as well as to get blended into the community. And all in all, after these years of working together, finally we have a filming team confident and instinctively synchronized to shoot verité style films.
You can check out Johns work in Instagram @ionmarquez
FERNTV: How does it feel to be part of Hot Docs this year?
Anabel: It is totally special for me and Sepp Brudermann, producer and editor of the film, my partner-in-film crime. We are like Don Quijote and Sancho Panza.
Well, we have a long-lasting relationship with Toronto as a city, as we have made other artistic projects in the town and have many very dear friends there. Our son was made in Toronto ( hahaha!) I always have the thought that my son’s soul is Torontonian. We do love Toronto, it’s a way of living, its lake, its freedom and overall its people.
And with HotDocs we have a very dear relationship as well as they have supported our work for years. First with our short film that I did mention, The barrel, which competed in the year 2014. Later, this film we pitched at the HotDocs Forum in 2018. From that moment lots of support came to the film, including the relationship with Harry Vaugh of the Sundance Film Festival who spotted our film there. And later, HotDocs is supporting us through there program of fair investment called HotDocs Partners through which private investors of Ontario supported the complexion of our film. From the institution, Elizabeth Radshaw, head of Hotdocs Forum, a truly brilliant woman, together with the brilliant too Olena Decock, Industry Programmer at HotDocs, have been a telluric force that is accompanying us as independent film producers and who have put trust in our voice as an artist.
Something that I find amazing in the city is how its citizens go massively to watch documentaries! How they fill the cinemas! It is a great audience to play a film to. In conclusion, for us to be in HotDocs, and to be in Toronto, even if it´s online, it is like to be at home, in which we feel loved and save.
The 98-year old toy inventor has no signs of slowing down
Most of us when we were children would have come across or played with one of Eddy Goldfarb‘s toys. The man who has invented over 800 toys has not only made a name for himself but has brought many families together who have played with his inventions. It did not all start on the right foot for Eddy who served on the submarine Batfish in WWII before becoming a toy inventor. He met his wife Anitas June Stern in 1947 and knew that she was the one and quickly married her afterwards. She supported him for two years after his service in the war when he was unemployed. Eddy worked diligently on his inventions in this downtime and in 1949 he had three toys in the New York City Toy Fair which included the Yakity-Yak Teeth, the Busy Biddy Chicken and the Merry Go Sip.
The wisdom that Eddy shares with the audience about leading a meaningful life is charming and inspiring. He gets up every morning to create something in his garage in California where he has a 3D printer along with all the tools to make his magic. This key to keeping on enduring in his life is simply stated. Eddy has been disciplined behind his mantra even after going through tumultuous events such as his service in WWII and the death of his wife. Incredibly, a man of his age of 98 can keep on doing what he loves without missing a beat. Where many would have thrown in the towel by now, Eddy Goldfarb is still to this day works to achieve a fulfilling and meaningful life. He is currently in a relationship with Greta Honigsfeld whom he met six years ago and is also involved in a writing group where he writes 100-word stories. These stories uplift his colleagues.
His daughter Lyn Goldfarb who directed this short biopic Eddy’s World gives the audience a most charming perspective on the life journey of her father. They get a fresh look at life from watching Eddy’s consistent and inspirational work ethic. He makes you think that the only person that is stopping you from achieving success in life is you. Now Eddy does not come out and say that to the audience in the film but his actions do the talking. For many of us who feel that there is not enough support to help you achieve in life then it’s time to watch Eddy’s World. He makes no excuses and produces results and of course magic. That’s the key.
Army Ranger Jon Jackson sets up farm to help veterans with PTSD.
Comfort Farms will be available on December 8th by Gravitas Ventures on all major VOD platforms
There has been much propaganda when it comes to war especially as of late now that we are living in a technological and digital chapter. War is seen to be patriotic and is the act that seeks freedom and peace but there is many downsides. Aside from death which is the most fatal negative aspect of war, the aftermath for those who come out of it alive is a very difficult process and transition. Army Ranger Jon Jackson has set up Comfort Farms in Milledgeville, Georgia to help veterans transition back to a normal life. Much takes place here on the farm where these unlikely veterans are teamed up with animal-loving butchers and chefs to form a positive community. Not only do they conduct an ethical way of eating they inspire all the veterans who are having trouble with PTSD and thoughts of suicide.
There is much dedication that is put into Comfort Farms that no individual seeks to find an end to its means or means to its end. 清水玲子密秘清水玲子密秘,森菜菜子家政森菜菜子家政,清野菜名长相清野菜名长相Comfort Farms is one of those grassroots programs that no government would pay much mind to because there is nothing in it for them. There is a lot in it for founder Jon Jackson who has been spiritually enlightened for all those who are participating in this farm especially those who have shared his experience with war. FERNTV spoke to director Carlisle Kellam about the true health and wellness behind Comfort Farms and why it takes a lot more than anyone would think to help veterans with PTSD.
FERNTV: There is much inspiration when it comes to Jon Jackson and Comfort Farms to document this into the film. What was the turning point when it came to actually give this film the “GO”?
Carlisle: I was asked to take some photos for a culinary publication at Comfort Farms. At that point, all I knew about it was that it was a therapy farm founded to help veterans suffering from PTSD. The first light bulb went on for me while listening to Jon, the founder of the farm, offer his perspective on PTSD. His perspective was that PTSD, although a real problem – and definitely not to be marginalized – has, for a lot of people, become a generic term to refer to anything afflicting a veteran. And it’s not uncommon for a veteran to be diagnosed with PTSD when that’s not necessarily what’s going on with them, simply because, although PTSD is a real thing it’s not the ONLY thing. In fact, a lack of purpose, missing the camaraderie, going from a black and white world with a clear mission to a world of grey were the types of things I heard mentioned most while making the film. The phrase I remember most was that “most veterans don’t want to be coddled, pitied, or worshiped, they just want a chance to serve again.” I knew almost right away I wanted to make a short film about the farm, simply because the work being done there is so important and unique, but I didn’t quite see a full feature.
After talking to Jon and some of the other folks at the farm, I learned a lot. I was disabused of a kind of cliched understanding of the veteran experience. Something I hadn’t given a ton of thought to all of the sudden became profoundly interesting and started to make a lot of sense. And after exploring a little bit I realized soon after that that being at Comfort Farms, the place, although it deals specifically with veterans or veterans’ issues, brings up several interesting questions about the human condition as a whole. For example, I started to piece together the idea that being in the military, or war, in and of themselves, do not necessarily create a specific set of issues, but more than the nature of these environments can quickly magnify issues that all walks of life are capable of experiencing. Through war and military life one can learn a lot about the nature of mankind. And I think that’s one of the most important things when it comes to understanding this film. When I sat down to contemplate the place, and the people I met there, the overall takeaway for me was a better understanding of human nature. When all of these things came together is when I knew I wanted to make a full feature.
FERNTV: PTSD is a difficult experience for veterans. Before actually making this film, can you explain how you prepared for the stories these veterans wanted to share with you in regards to PTSD?
Carlisle: Honestly I didn’t know what to expect or how to prepare. A lot of that was because, as a director, I was used to dealing mostly with actors. Until then I’d had limited experience sticking a camera in someone’s face and asking them about their true-life experiences. The thing I was most afraid of was getting wrapped up in the filmmaking process and forgetting I was dealing with real stories and the people that really experienced them. Going into the interviews I’d only met the founder, Jon. But he instantly comes across as genuine and someone who says what he means. I told him I’d like to do some interviews but I wasn’t really sure how to handle doing them respectfully. He told me there was nothing to worry about and personally recruited the guys to do them.
FERNTV: When you interviewed your subjects, the shots were close-up to their faces. Can you explain why you did it this way?
Carlisle: My first instinct was to shoot them that way but I contemplated shooting them that way for some time before finally settling on it. I knew it was a little risky. But as the place is unique, I decided to design and compose the film that way. I decided to employ certain stylistic choices to help try and capture the essence of what I was picking up on. As a professional photographer and director of photography, I’ve shot more portraits and interviews than the average person. Almost all of them have used longer lenses to avoid distorting the face. Medium close or close-ups were typically used for b-roll. I’d consider that to be the standard. And being standard it feels comfortable. With this film, I chose a wider than typical focal length to try and capture a certain intimacy and also a certain intensity. It’s kind of in your face and personal. And that’s purposeful because the stories and the place are kind of in your face and personal. The place, Comfort Farms, is meant to take people out of their comfort zone. I wanted to add an element of this without stylizing so much as to end up taking people totally out of the film.
FERNTV: This film also shows the ethical practices of raising animals for consumption which is actually a lot better as opposed to the ways that corporate farms do it today. Can you comment on that?
Carlisle: For those who haven’t watched it yet, the film is made up of several narratives that intertwine to form the film. One of those narratives deals with humanely harvesting animals and the effort put into raising those animals with love and care. Also respecting what the animals give to the community in the form of sustenance. They really put a lot of effort into this. Second, helping their fellow veterans and community it’s what they’re truly passionate about and is central to what they do. So accordingly, it’s also a big part of the film. It would be much easier for them to do it a different way. But they choose not to. Someone would be hard-pressed not to respect that.
FERNTV: Much would say that this film cannot relate to them because they never went to war but wouldn’t a film like this relate to many especially during the pandemic that we are facing where we are experiencing much loss and camaraderie disappear?
Carlisle: I think it absolutely relates to people of all walks of life. And I say that for several reasons. But to address the question directly, first, many veterans struggle who have never been to war. What I’ve gathered is that the transition process is hard for many veterans not necessarily because of an event that they experienced while in the military but the process of adapting to the new world once they are out of the military. The military world, according to Jon and some of the others I interviewed, is a world of black and white with a very little gray. You have a mission or an objective, your goal is to accomplish that mission. That goal provides a sense of purpose. You form close relationships with others who are working toward the same goal. When you throw the element of danger in there it starts to get even more interesting and unique.
Finding purpose in the “regular” world of gray is difficult for a lot of these guys who are used to living in the black and white. Now, concerning those who do go to war, these things only intensify on top of the added element of a possible trauma directly related to a combat experience. For some reason, I (before making this film) was one of the many people who seem to view veterans’ struggles as specific to combat veterans. As if there is some war- or military-specific disease. But what veterans experience and struggle with is what anyone is capable of struggling with if given a certain catalyst. I think during the pandemic, isolation, losing loved ones, transitioning from a routine to something unfamiliar are the kinds of things that can be that catalyst albeit maybe on a less severe level. And another way people can relate during a pandemic is that the farm is very much focused on the basics of living – I think during times like these we become more attentive to things like sustainability, self-sufficiency, relationships and supporting the community, working with our hands and getting back to the earth.
FERNTV: After doing this film, what are your primary thoughts in regards to Jon Jackson?
Carlisle: He’s courageous and devoted. He’s an inspiration to so many people.
FERNTV: This film is all about finding getting out of your comfort zone and finding discomfort? Did you as well experience this when it came to your filmmaking career?
Carlisle: I did, yes. In so many ways. I approached this, and put it together, differently than anything I’ve done before. I typically do a lot of plotting and planning. With this one, I kind of went searching in the dark until I found what was there. I could see a straight path – by way of a kind of traditional approach, more like an information piece about the farm or scientific analysis of why people struggle – but I really didn’t want to do it that way. I really wanted to try and capture the essence of this slice of American culture and through analogy show how it has a lot to say about our nature as human beings.
Available on December 8th by Gravitas Ventures on all major VOD platforms
A Year in Film: 1986 brings back my wonder years.
Watching the upcoming episode of A Year in Film :1986 from Hollywood Suite brought back so many memories, feelings and emotions when it came to how things were back then. Much of those memories were fond of the timeless classics that were brought that year in film but I had to be reminded of where we were politically and socially to look at how far we have progressed. The comments and analyses that were made from respected Toronto-based film experts such as Alicia Fletcher, Geoff Pevere and Cameron Maitland just to name a few really put things into perspective and why these films became so intertwined with pop culture. There was so much greatness in film that was all packed into one year. To understand what it was like to grow up as a tween when we ourselves did not know the term even existed was something else when growing up with these films.
For starters, you were not able to watch certain films like The Fly and Aliens which had the label “Restricted”. So a kid who was a decade-year-old was not able to get into these films even with the accompaniment of an adult. Remembering that Aliens would play at the Square One Cinemas in THX Dolby in Cinema 4 and hearing all the loud gunfires that would come out of the closed cinema doors while taking a trip to the washroom would ring up any kid’s curiosity of what the hell is playing in the theatre. There was no way a kid would be able to sneak into these theatres because all of the older looking ushers would spot you out in an instant with their flashlights and tell you to get out of the theatre. Movie classifications were strict back then and all movie theatres took this seriously.
What a child like myself had to do back in the day was to get his cash-strapped single mother to subscribe to First ChoiceSuperchannel to even get a remote chance to watch The Fly or Aliens. Both of these films would from what I remember only play once or twice that month with a late schedule. So you had to plan to watch these films by getting and reviewing the First Choice Superchannel guide that was mailed to you. You had to record these films with your VCR and set it that it would start recording late at night usually starting at 11:00 PM because you were hiding the recordings from your parents. If your mother was not shouting at you to get to bed because she was just way too tired at that time or already sleeping then you were ecstatic beyond belief to watch Aliens or The Fly and it was a taboo underground and sinful experience. When you were a kid you knew who David Cronenberg was because your parents rented Scanners and you accidentally watched a head blow up with an intense pulsating soundtrack in the background throughout the whole film. Maybe your parents were less strict and let you watch it because you wouldn’t be able to understand so it was okay because they probably did not understand either. It was just background noise.
The other manner as to how you were able to get to watch some of these classics is to go to your local video store. Blockbuster Video did not exist at the time but I had to go to the non-corporate Video 99 store where an older Chinese man ran the store and was very strict. He was like the gatekeeper and of course, would not allow you to rent certain movies especially if they were restricted. I was able to get a hold of movies such as John Hughes‘ classics Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Pretty in Pink because there were so many copies of them that were available. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was the film that I remember every single line to and would be the conversation piece during recess because we were all inspired to be like him once we got to high school. I would have watch parties at my house because it was such an event for us tweens. No need to re-rent this film over and over again because you had two VCRs going and were able to pirate these films into your own collection and because this film was from Paramount Pictures, it was not a problem. The one thing that struck me at the video store was that there was only one copy of River’s Edge and it was always rented out. I don’t remember if I was not allowed to rent this film or not but this cult classic that starred a young Keanu Reeves had an alternative.
That movie happened to be Stand By Me which almost had the same premise as River’s Edge where a dead body is found or sought after. Already a must-watch for girls in elementary school, because they had the hots for River Phoenix, Stand By Me was a film that sold to tweens because it was the four boy’s desire for adventure and freedom. Again we were all inspired to take those little adventures with our good pals as far away as we could from our parents. It was weird that the film was not marketed towards the fact that Stephen King wrote the story at least from what I can remember. Films like Maximum Overdrive, Christine and Cujo were films that we associated with Stephen King but if us tweeny boppers knew that the legendary author had his hands on this film then we would have looked the other way. Stand By Me had that “Goonies” feel to it that every young tween moviegoer loved and made us all feel comfortable at being that age. One of the major factors that sold Stand By Me was the resurgence of Ben E. King‘s song “Stand By Me” which helped ticket and soundtrack album sales skyrocket.
“If You Leave” by OMD helped market the film Pretty In Pink as well as its soundtrack album sales so this was a great period for soundtracks for films and records stores such as Sam the Record Man or A&A who had these albums smack dab in front of the store. Nothing took the cake more than Top Gun in which Kenny Loggin‘s “Danger Zone” inspired many young boys to become fighter pilots and wear the same type of flight bomber jackets that Tom Cruise wore. “Take My Breath” away from Berlin was one of those songs you would play on cassette at those tweeny birthday parties in elementary school where you wanted to slow dance with your crush. It was the start of being curious when it came to love, sex, romance and relationships in which we had no clue about. The Top Gun soundtrack was heavy and it all made an impact on all of us young people because to us the songs were bigger than the film itself even though it was number one at the box office that year.
If A Year in Film: 1986 did not mention the film Howard the Duck then I would have not remembered how much of a hassle it was to see this film. It was rated AA and nobody in my family wanted to see the film let alone bring me along with them to go see it for reasons I was not too sure of. Even trying to sneak into the Eaton Centre Cinemas to watch the film was not doable. Nevertheless, I had to wait for it to come out on First Choice Superchannel as well to see what all the fuss was about. Low and behold the film was not meant for delinquents like myself and that it had many adult-like controversial moments in it. Excited to see some superhero-like moments in the film, the film did not make much sense to me as I child and why it was even made. For many little boys though, Lea Thompson was our celebrity crush back in the day because of films like Back to the Future and SpaceCamp. Lea Thompson was the redhead that we boys coveted not Molly Ringwald. To see her in her skimpy pink underwear and getting into bed with Howard the Duck was a moment that we could not forget. It was a lot for us back then in which today would be nothing sadly. It was probably the only thing we boys were able to get a hold of.
A Year in Film: 1986 premiering December 13, 2020, at 9:00 pm ET on Hollywood Suite 80s Movies (HS80)
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