Big-box buyers become bookworms by stephanie calvet

Here is an idea that has been mooted post- Target Canada debacle. And it comes, indirectly, from its discount store rival Walmart, no less. After Walmart abandoned one of its retail stores in McAllen, Texas, the city decided to reuse the structure as a new main library. Reinvention in the face of adversity is a common theme these days. McAllen, Texas' new main library is located in a converted Walmart store. Photo by MSR.

Target Canada recently announced that it is packing up shop less than two years after opening 133 stores across the country. Some blame its failure in the Canadian market on anti-competitive pricing while others attribute it to a limited product selection (I've also heard "it didn't understand the complexity of the Canadian consumer"). It will be interesting to know what's in store for the slew of these newly vacant big-boxes in the 'burbs. In the meantime, ears are perked for 'liquidation sales!' Let's hope incoming Uniqlo fares better...


South of the snowline, architecture firm Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle (MSR) has created a highly functional, flexible library of 125,000 square feet, making it the largest single-storey library in the U.S.A. To give that some context, it is an area equivalent to nearly 2 1/2 football fields.

To start, the former Walmart store's ceilings were stripped and the interior and new mechanical systems were painted white to form a neutral backdrop for new patron and service areas, which are designated with colour and texture.

Within the sprawling volume, the designers created more intimate spaces introducing form, pattern, and light. All aspects –from the interior architecture, to the graphics, to the furnishings– work in harmony and relate to one another.

The library creates a much-needed intellectual and social hub that arguably brings more to the community than another superstore can. The new venue boasts 16 public meeting spaces, 14 public study rooms, 64 computer labs, 10 children’s computer labs, and 2 genealogy computer labs. Other features include an auditorium, an art gallery, a used bookstore and a café. There is even a Farmer's Market on the weekends.

Here is what the designers came up with:

Laser-cut wood ceiling plane runs the length of the building. Photo courtesy of MSR.

Super-graphic-clad ceiling pendants and lighting and flooring choices define spaces. Photo courtesy of MSR.

Inspired by the Fibonacci Series, the layout and patterns found in the childrens area mimic growth patterns in kids. Photo by MSR.

FLOOR PLAN: bisecting axes define program areas. Image courtesy of MSR.

There is a lot of talk these days of how libraries, large and small, are evolving in the face of the digital revolution, which is radically changing how we access and consume information. As we see in McAllen, libraries are prioritizing community engagement and facilitating new learning models. But that's a broader topic for another day.

To find out more about this project, click here.

Architecture on Film: Cathedrals of Culture by stephanie calvet

Architecture takes centre-stage in the 3D film Cathedrals of Culture, rather than its more usual background role. According to reviewers, this six-part documentary, directed by six acclaimed filmmakers, explores the cultural significance of six iconic and very different buildings from angles not seen before. Oslo Opera House

Spearheaded by German filmmaker Wim Wenders, the film asks the question: "If buildings could talk, what would they say about us?" Wenders builds on the 3D techniques he first employed in the documentary Pina. He is joined by Michael Madsen, Robert Redford, Michael Glawogger, Margreth Olin and Karim Aïnouz. Each lends a distinctive artistic approach to the project, exploring a day in the life of these “cultural machines” — the Berlin Philharmonic, the National Library of Russia, Halden Prison, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, the Oslo Opera House and the Centre Georges Pompidou. Narrated by the imagined voices of the buildings themselves, the film ambitiously aims to uncover “the soul of buildings.” While The Guardian’s Oliver Wainright says it presents a “limited and internalised view of architecture”, as a formal exercise its camerawork and visual mastery is captivating.

Salk Institute for Biological Studies

The Berlin Philharmonic, an icon of modernity. Photo by Wim Wenders.

Centre Pompidou

The National Library of Russia, a kingdom of thoughts. Photo by Wolfgang Thaler

Halden Prison, the world's most humane prison. Photo by Heikki Färm.

Cathedrals of Culture premiered at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival. Keep an eye out for its next screenings. In the meantime, see the official trailer:

Federico Babina’s illustrated series by stephanie calvet

CITY-01_905 Here’s a random injection of colour into your day from a guy who has unlimited material to draw from. Italian architect and graphic artist Federico Babina turns out dozens upon dozens of illustrations exploring the intersection of architecture and related design fields. His prolific collection of work straddles contemporary art, cinema, and music – even zoo animals. The roster in each series he produces reads like a kind of architectural Who’s Who: ‘starchitects’ like Jean Nouvel and Zaha Hadid feature prominently, as do modernists Oscar Niemeyer and Corb.

’A’ is shaped by the scooped profile of Alvar Aalto's Riola Parish Church roofline.

In the series entitled Archibet, Babina applies his interpretation of famous architects’ signature styles to lettering. He describes each letter as a “small surrealist building that becomes part of an imaginary city made up of different shapes and styles, all speaking the same language of architecture.” His illustrated alphabet is composed of these 26 individual works of art: ‘A’ is shaped by the scooped profile of Alvar Aalto’s Riola Parish Church roofline; ‘B’ is transformed by the deeply saturated spiritual spaces of Luis Barragán; and, Norman Foster’s technical prowess is captured in a monolithic, metallic ‘F’.

’B’ is transformed by the deeply saturated spiritual spaces of Luis Barragán.

The artist has honed a colourful illustration style that recalls vintage movie posters. To create his images he combines a collage of different techniques, from hand drawing to 3-D modelling and other visualization programs. For me, Babina’s whimsical studies summon up renowned American illustrator Charley Harper’s highly stylized wildlife illustrations, which capture the essence of his subjects with the fewest possible visual elements.


Babina continues his architecture-themed series with Archimusic, imagining architectural compositions inspired by famous musicians’ hit songs and styles. Here too, his selection of artists runs the gamut from classical music composers, to rock legends, to contemporary singer-songwriters. Among the twenty-something illustrations is a hot red electric guitar-shaped building in the characteristic style of Jimmy Hendrix and one that echoes the repetitive structures of Philip Glass’ music.

Babina draws structures inspired by musicians’ hit songs, style, and album art.

Babina is the Barcelona-based illustrator who produced Archicine, posters featuring iconic architecture from classic movies. His retro graphic style offers a fresh interpretation of the places where some of our favourite characters lived, such as the ultra-modern, ultra-unfriendly Villa Arpel in Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle, and the striking mid-century redwood abode in A Single Man.

Babina’s version of Villa Arpel, the ultra-modern geometric house in <em>Mon Oncle</em>

Everything gets even further distilled in the series Archipixel. Here, the artist pairs famous architects and their buildings and renders them as pixelated cartoons, like vintage video game characters. The idea of the project, according to Babina, is to “represent the complexity of the forms and personalities through the simplicity of the pixel."

In Archipixel, Babina pairs famous architects and their buildings and renders them as pixelated cartoons. Here, Le Corbusier and the chapel of Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp are distilled down to the most basic technology, like vintage video game characters. According to Babina, the idea of the project is to “represent the complexity of the forms and personalities through the simplicity of the pixel.”

Switching gears entirely, Babina also imagines a new life for iconic buildings from the Catalan capital in his highly detailed Immaginario series. The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (Richard Meier), Torre Agbar (Jean Nouvel), and the once-controversial Forum Building (Herzog & de Meuron) are wholly (re)contextualized here...

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 2.53.43 PM

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 2.49.35 PM

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 2.52.14 PM

While architecture junkies can collect prints and posters of Babina’s work, the artist has plans to turn his illustrated architectural series into a book. Check out his extensive portfolio at

NOTE: If you need to brush up on your architecture ABCs, this lively animation by architect Andrea Stinga and graphic designer Federico Gonzalez may help. The video depicts the best-known buildings of 26 famous architects, one for each letter of the alphabet.


Icelander Víkingur Ólafsson Wows Toronto by stephanie calvet

Those of us who were able to sneak away last week for a lunchtime musical interlude were treated to a recital by Víkingur Ólafsson, Iceland's award-winning rising star pianist. 'The Idea of the North' was part of a season of free concerts and dance events at Toronto's Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson

The piano virtuoso made his Toronto debut performing folk songs from his native Iceland. He also paid tribute to one of his great inspirations, legendary Toronto pianist Glenn Gould, in a performance of Bach's Goldberg Variations.

As a small child, Ólafsson trained his ear by listening in on his parents' music lessons at home. He learned to play piano before he learned to speak.

Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson-2


At just 30, the young pianist displays an immense talent. Outside the concert stage, Víkingur is the driving force behind numerous innovative musical projects – a television series, Útúrdúr (roughly translated as Out-of-tune); the Reykjavík Midsummer Music festival at the Harpa Concert Hall; and, his own record label, Dirrindí.

He is wrapping up a cross-Canada tour and his busy schedule has him hopping across the globe. Catch him if you can! In the meantime, have a listen to this sampling.


Artists from around the world share their talent and passion in six series –vocal, piano, jazz, dance, chamber and world music against an ever-changing city backdrop seen from the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. For more information on the Canadian Opera Company's Free Concert Series, see here.

Recalling Lake Ontario’s lost edge with steel and grass by stephanie calvet

A version of this post appeared in the October 10th edition of The Fort York Foundation's website. For more information, see The much-anticipated Fort York Visitor Centre is now open – to positive reviews.

The long, linear building recreates the lakefront bluff that defined the Fort’s 19th century geography and has taken root below the hulk of the elevated Gardiner Expressway. Its main exterior façade is composed of a sequence of monolithic weathered steel panels and a ”liquid landscape” of meadow plants, aligned with the contours of the original shoreline. The Visitor Centre inhabits the space behind this industrial escarpment, partially buried under the Commons. It is an ingenious approach to working with the landscape as a form of historical narrative.

Forecourt space will be planted in tall grasses with boardwalk circulation routes, recalling the original lakeshore landscape. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The building is a joint project by Vancouver's Patkau Architects and Toronto-based Kearns Mancini Architects – the result of an international competition held in 2009.

There is a remarkable similarity between the winning competition drawings and the final building. This is rare. Although the project underwent a comprehensive value engineering process, the original concept was not diminished nor was a more conventional approach to design taken.

Conceptual Sketch of the steel escarpment. Image courtesy of the project team.

The ‘fortified’ edge of the site is defined by steel panels. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Fort York Visitor Centre winning competition drawings - Perspective

The most significant change was in the superstructure –the "Ghost Screen"– a self-supporting layer that proved to be expensive and difficult to turn into an implementable piece of construction. Without compromising the essential imagery, the screen is (re)presented instead as a semi-translucent cast glass channel wall, which defines the building's uppermost volume along its length. “We decided to get more pragmatic about it”, says Patricia Patkau. “I think in some ways the project may have benefitted from that.”

A very rich landscape idea was presented as part of the winning submission, reflecting the historic harbour and telling the story of the site. Budget constraints, however, made certain key features undeliverable. These enrichments can be added as more funding becomes available.

Fort York Visitor Centre –Transversal section through the building and site.

To complete the weathered steel façade, an additional 37 inclined panels need to be installed. This extension of the wall from the east end of the Visitor Centre would demonstrate how the natural escarpment contributed to the Fort’s defences. As part of the liquid landscape, expanses of softly moving grasses will continue all the way along this steel edge, creating the illusion of the lake that, until the 1850s, came right up to the Fort itself. A series of illuminated raft-like objects and boardwalk circulation routes will help recall the former presence of the lake.

The full master plan also calls for a large terrace –"Events Dock"– reaching out into the liquid landscape. This will be the site for a slew of activities and here, at its highest elevation 20m up, the massive concrete and steel overpass will act as a huge covered canopy. (Just this past weekend, it was the site for a video installation during Nuit Blanche.) Imagine art installations hanging from its underbelly, and space for theatre, for concerts, and for kids to play. This is where the Fort York National Historic Site welcomes the modern city with diverse large-scale public events.

The new urban plaza will transform the previously derelict and underused space into a bright, new, urban neighbourhood amenity. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Fort York Visitor Centre winning competition drawings - Perspective

“There is a long list of enhancements that are not essential to the scheme but will make it richer. We hope that, over time, they can be phased in,” says John Patkau. After all, these details are the elements that we interact with most closely – they are the parts we see and touch.

The main façade of the visitor centre recreates the original escarpment and presents a strong elevation along Fort York Boulevard. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Fort York Visitor Centre winning competition drawings – South Elevation

The building is the result of a collaborative partnership between two innovative firms. It is not always obvious how two design firms can act as a team. In this relationship, there was no ‘master sketcher’, no single person taking the lead. The idea of the architect as solitary genius is outdated. Instead, it was a discussion, a conversation at all stages. “It's two complimentary, compatible design firms that are able to work together”, says Jonathan Kearns. “It’s almost like having a built-in peer review. We have a shared understanding and common goals." Toronto-based landscape architecture firm Janet Rosenberg & Studio was also an important part of the discussion.

The Fort York Visitor Centre will help Torontonians engage in the history of this site and the city. The designers, City of Toronto Culture, and community partners are committed to seeing some of the important missing elements that were described in the competition come to fruition. It’s just a question of when. The Fort York Foundation will continue to campaign and will need your support to realize this vision.

The canopy of the Expressway produces a huge, covered urban space for community events and programming. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

The project's main façade is intimately interwoven in alternations of transparency and solidity. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Stephanie Calvet is a Toronto-based architect and writer specializing in architecture and design. For over a decade she worked in architecture and planning firms in Boston, designing projects in the hospitality, multi-unit residential, education and healthcare sectors. In addition to consulting, she writes for the popular press, trade publications, corporate organizations, and academic journals.

Nuit Blanche: Toronto’s all-night exploration and celebration of art by stephanie calvet

Nuit Blanche_Toronto 2014 It is art, collaboration, dialogue, and discovery. For one night only this Saturday October 4th from sunset to sunrise, Toronto will once again become the hive of activity that is Nuit Blanche. City spaces and neighbourhoods will be transformed by temporary exhibitions, installations, design, film, performance, and live talks.

Nuit Blanche was conceived in Paris in 2002 in an attempt to make contemporary art more accessible and engage the audience to examine its impact on public space. Toronto was the first North American city to fully replicate the Paris model. The international success of the festival has expanded its reach to sleepless cities around the globe – from Riga to Melbourne, Kyoto to La Paz.

Now in its ninth edition, Toronto’s Scotiabank Nuit Blanche showcases more than 120 projects created by over 400 local, national and international artists. Below is a small sampling of what you can discover…

Piece by Piece

Clare Twomey

Installation 'Piece by Piece' by leading ceramic artist Clare Twomey. Photo by Sylvain Deleu

Internationally renowned for her interactive interventions in prestigious British and American museums, Clare Twomey creates a spectacular commissioned performative installation about making and collecting, to honour the Gardiner Museum’s 30th anniversary. Piece by Piece features an army of over 2,000 ceramic figurines – inspired by the Gardiner’s rare Commedia dell’Arte Harlequin collection – that demonstrate the conflicting emotions of everyday life. During the exhibition, her Canadian premiere, an on-site artist/maker will create more statuettes to add to the ever-growing ghostly white world.

The Garden of Renova

Luigi Ferrara and The Institute without Boundaries

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-The Garden of Renova_3Renova’s coloured and scented toilet paper line is the raw material in a temple-like environment reminiscent of a garden of earthly delights. Using the bathroom tissue over substructures, the installation features a labyrinth, hedges, poppies, garden ornaments, and a 3D-printed fountain. Creator Luigi Ferrara, Dean of the Centre for Arts and Design at George Brown College, and his team at IwB invite the public to interact with the paradise surroundings.

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-The Garden of Renova


Multiple Artists

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-LandMarkCurated by Exhibit Change, LandMark is an interactive photographic installation focused on the dynamic nature of community engagement and city building. Large-scale photo essays showcased throughout St. James Park share stories of some of the city’s unsung heroes and reveal the many layers of Old Town Toronto’s history. The initiative seeks to strengthen community partnerships in the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood.

Walk among Worlds

Máximo González

Walk among Worlds_2013-UCLAIn this immersive installation Argentine artist Máximo González explores the effects of light and lightness, while reflecting on the political divisions of the world. The piece is composed of 7,000 beach balls printed to resemble globes; each representing one million of the inhabitants of the planet. The globes, made of a petroleum derivative, require the introduction of human breath to give them their geoidal shape. They come in three different sizes, alluding to the concepts of “first” and “third world.”

Good News

Antoni Muntadas

Nuit Blanche Toronto 2014_Antoni MuntadasBarcelona-based Antoni Muntadas is considered one of the pioneers of media art and conceptual art in Spain. This installation examines the duality of media as a source of information and an instrument of manipulation. The piece displays a wide range of headlines in order to incite the viewer into rethinking the meaning of the messages, creating a defiance in the uniformly constructed "media flow". A stream of information engineered by advertisers is to be consumed as a whole.

Melting Point

LeuWebb Projects

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Melting PointIn the sound and light installation Melting Point, Fort York's two south-facing cannons are stocked with "an artillery of glowing good feelings", pouring forth "sparkling tributaries of light". The work reflects on the drivers, both cultural and natural, that have shaped the historic site – a preserved battlefield surrounded on all sides by condominium towers, raised freeways and train lines. Accompanied by the immersive sounds of rolling waves and trilling harps, LeuWebb's project lays a defense against the swirling market forces beyond, countering hard with soft and dark with light.

Solar Dehydrator

José Andrés Mora

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Solar DehydratorToronto Hydro searched for artists to submit proposals for a contest to repurpose an old fridge, in support of their Fridge & Freezer Pickup program. Mora’s winning design, inspired by the appliance’s already existing insulation and components, transforms the refrigerator into a solar dehydrator.

Project REACH

Student artists from the Toronto Catholic District School Board

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Project ReachProject Reach is a collaborative installation authored by students from 201 TCDSB schools across the GTA celebrating the value of charity and how it transforms lives. Visitors are greeted with hundreds of human hands – symbol of our ability to reach out and change the world. They beckon us to come closer to discover what these students want to communicate through personal messages, imagery, and found objects.

Implied Geometries

Valerie Arthur

Nuit Blanche Toronto 2014-Implied GeometriesIn Implied Geometries, Valerie Arthur seeks to uncover the otherwise invisible characteristics of a place. By simultaneously recreating all of the flight paths in a series of tennis games it will reveal the space within the court as much more than an empty void. The court will become a web of movement and speed, exposing the underlying forces that truly define it and inviting the audience to experience moving through the courts in a new way.

Wisdom of the North: Moose Cree and Attawapiskat

Johan Hallberg-Campbell

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Johan Hallberg-CampbellThis exhibition presents a photo essay documenting the time artist Johan Hallberg-Campbell spent alongside the Canadian Red Cross, photographing volunteers working in the communities of Moose Cree and Attawapiskat. These images include engaging large portraits, vast landscapes and touching personal moments captured by one of Canada's leading photographers.

Global Rainbow

Yvette Mattern

Nuit Blanche Toronto_2014-Global RainbowThe high specification laser light projection Global Rainbow will blaze through Toronto’s night sky. From Chinatown to the CN Tower, it will cast beams of colours up to 60 kilometres. Created by New York- and Berlin-based artist Yvette Mattern, it has been displayed in cities around the world since 2009. It literally "paints the sky" with seven simple but distinctly powerful lines of colour representing the rainbow spectrum to create an artwork that is performative, sculptural, painterly, and minimalist in form. As a powerful and luminescent symbol of peace and hope, it embraces geographical and social diversity.

June Callwood Park


Ure-tech surfaces colour much of June Callwood Park. Photo by gh3.

Amongst Nuit Blanche’s one-night-only discoveries is the opening of a new permanent space in the city, the June Callwood Park. The gH3-designed park slots trees in amongst pavers, garden strips, and high-tech cushioned pink surfaces all laid out in the waveform of journalist and activist June Callwood speaking the words "I believe in kindness." Montreal artists Steve Bates and Douglas Moffat created the accompanying sonic public art installation, OKTA, transmitted by speakers arrayed throughout the grove.

This year, organizers have expanded the event into new neighbourhoods, including Chinatown, Fort York and Roundhouse Park. The festivities kick off at 6:53pm. For the full schedule of events, see

Niki Koulouris, Poet. by stephanie calvet

A dear friend of mine, Niki Koulouris, is riding high these days. At the Housing Works Bookstore Café in New York City last night, Koulouris was joined by fellow writers Betsy Andrews and Jen Coleman for a reading entitled Oceans of Poets. Each read from their new book of poetry about the sea. And it did not go unmentioned in The New Yorker's Above and Beyond section...

Koulouris' first collection, The sea with no one in it, takes her readers on a journey that weaves the distant ocean with both the abstract and familiar of our urban lives. The Canadian-Australian poet's work is poignantly visual, which is why I'm so drawn to it. I hope you also find much to discover in her work.

The sea with no one in it, by Niki Koulouris. Photo by Stephanie Calvet.

Her next reading, at the 100 Thousand Poets for Change event in Toronto, takes place at the Black Swan Tavern on Saturday, September 27th at 7:00-11:00pm.

Below are two poems from her book:

Today of all days 
this is the sea with no one in it 
is this all it will be
unable to dye all it touches 
in primitive ink 
what could you give the sea 
but your stripes,
since you ask,
your war paint, your blindfolds 
your appetite for westerns
in exchange for waves
as wide as trains
from the next frontier.
(for Cézanne) 
If anything
he must have kept his onions
in a safe
but I think of Cézanne’s apples, 
peaches, pears
turning like
in a house full of
restless fruit 
tuned at high noon
by the grocer's scales
oranges on togas 
on tables, 
still-blooded, spared. 

Film Enthusiasts Flock to Toronto's Hot Docs 2014 Festival by stephanie calvet

Hot Docs 2014 has arrived in Toronto, a city that hosts over 70 film festivals annually. It features 197 different selections from 43 countries covering a wide range of topics—essentially the best documentary films from across the globe made in the last year. I've narrowed down a small sampling: some are urban stories; others look at poverty, popular culture or women's issues; while others highlight Russian, Asian and Southern European cultures. For a detailed screening schedule see

Sacro GRA  (Tales from Rome's Ring Road)



Sacro GRA

Running along the perimeter of Rome, the Grande Raccordo Anulare (translated literally as the Great Ring Junction) is a motorway of remarkable scale and prominence connecting all corners of the city. Taking inspiration from Italo Calvino’s book Invisible Cities—a pensive exploration of the concepts of city, memory and imagination—seasoned filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi crafts a winding tale of distinct narratives bridged by a colossal, sweeping stretch of pavement. From the paramedic worker tending to collision victims along the GRA to the botanist studying audio recordings of the interior of palm trees in order to detect and poison the destructive pests dwelling within, Rosi follows these offbeat stories and elusive characters with an astute, observational gaze. This winner of the Venice Golden Lion is an enchanting portrait of life along a vast, arterial stretch of urban highway and the everyday moments that take place on the edges of The Eternal City.  Lisa Plekhanova       Watch Official Trailer

SLUMS: Cities of tomorrow

Slums_Cities of Tomorrow


 Slums: Cities of Tomorrow

One billion people on our planet—one in six—live in shantytowns, slums or squats. Slums: Cities of Tomorrow challenges conventional thinking to propose that slums are in fact the solution, not the problem, to urban overcrowding caused by the massive migration of people to cities. The film explores communities in India, Morocco, Turkey, France, New Jersey and Quebec, offering an intimate look at the inhabitants and families who, through resilience and ingenuity, have built homes that suit their needs for shelter. Experts like Robert Neuwirth (Shadow Cities), Jeremy Seabrook (Pauperland) and architect Nicolas Reeves explode the notion that a slum must be a breeding ground for criminal activity. The reality is quite different: slums are as diverse as the cities they surround, often offering a more accurate representation of what community ought to mean—an experience where sharing is essential and social hope can flourish. Lynne Fernie     Watch Official Trailer

Tomorrow We Disappear

Tomorrow We Disappear

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at 11.07.35 PM

Tomorrow We Disappear

Described as India’s “tinsel slum,” the Kathputli artist colony in New Delhi is home to over 1,500 families of puppeteers, acrobats, painters and magicians. That’s all about to change. When the government sells the land to private developers, traditional life is set to be razed for the city’s first skyscraper. Where outsiders see the slum’s rancid water and shacks, debut filmmakers Adam Weber and Jimmy Goldblum find stunning colours in death-defying performances. Whether bathed in sunlight or exploding against night skies, magnificent fire-eaters, sleight of hand magicians and glorious puppets radiate beauty in crisp, brilliant detail. But will the artists’ resolve to preserve their culture overcome the push for progress? As in-fighting breaks out among colony leaders, spilling out into confrontations with developers and government, the clock ticks onwards to the bulldozing date. Gorgeous and inspiring, Tomorrow We Disappear is a splendid tribute to fading artistry and the tenacity of tradition. Myrocia Watamaniuk        Watch Official Trailer 

The Creator of the Jungle

The Creator of the Jungle

The Creator of the Jungle

 The Creator of the Jungle

Just outside a Catalonian village, a recluse has been building elaborate tree houses and more in a bid to life as he chooses, as Tarzan. Forced by local officials to tear down his architectural creations in the name of modernization, The Creator of the Jungle rebuilds as soon as he can. Years later an American curator discovers Garrell, our self-styled Tarzan, and his creations, and records them. Now, with the curator's footage and Garrell's homemade Tarzan films, director Jordi Morató explores the mind and creations of a man uniquely driven to build and inhabit a world of his own making. Craig White       Watch Official Trailer


Pipeline_hot docs 2014


Cross seven borders and even more social classes as cameras follow the route of a Russian natural gas pipeline from Siberia to sunny Europe. Eccentric people, quirky locales and ever-Westernizing political climates astound in this award-winning visual road trip.  Savvy and beautiful, Pipeline visually traces the disparity between people who live above untold wealth and those who actually enjoy it.      Watch Official Trailer

Penthouse North

Penthouse North

Penthouse North

Agneta Eckemyr, an aging Swedish actress turned fashion designer, lives in a roof terrace penthouse with a stunning view of New York's Central Park, $2500 rent to pay monthly, but no income anymore. Penthouse North tells the story of former tour-de-force now at a breaking point, trying to keep her piece of the city even as the cards are now stacked against her. Craig White

Advanced style

Advanced Style

Advanced Style

A hat-obsessed, bike-riding, part-time vintage store employee who trades shifts for clothing items. A mild-mannered lounge singer with the longest, most carefully groomed eyelashes you’ve ever seen. The advice-spouting owner of the popular boutique Off Broadway. These are the subjects of director Lina Plioplyte’s inspiring documentary Advanced Style. Pulled from the strongest entries on renowned fashion photographer Ari Seth Cohen’s popular blog, Advanced Style tells the fabulous true tales of seven of New York’s most stylish elderly women. Ranging in age from 62 to 95, these women flaunt their eclectic styles and embrace their individuality through their clothes and personal stories. Filled with colourful vitality, each vignette bursts with life, humour and, of course, style. Like the mantra for its characters, Plioplyte’s affirming doc reminds us that age is just a number and beauty is forever. Michael Lerman     Watch Official Trailer

Everything will be

Everything Will Be

Everything Will Be

Vancouver has one of the most famous and bustling Chinatowns in North America, but the patrons that the Chinese grocery merchants depend upon are moving out to the suburbs as condos begin to replace the older homes in the area. Will Chinatown survive? In Everything Will Be by Eve & the Fire Horse director Julia Kwan, a new neon art installation in the neighbourhood assures EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT, but it is cold comfort for many in a gentrifying city. Craig White  

The songs of rice

The Songs of Rice

The Songs of Rice
The Songs of Rice
Winner of the Fipresci Award at the Rotterdam film festival, The Songs of Rice is a kaleidoscopic homage to the staple food, rice. Through the window of rice cultivation in rural Thailand, we see how harvest celebrations, bullfights, music and firework displays intertwine with the land and its traditions.       Watch Official Trailer

The Beijing Ants

The Beijing Ants

The Beijing Ants

Move over Tokyo, London and New York! Beijing, where rents have reached over $11,000 CAD per square metre, is soon to be the most expensive city in the world. With prices out of reach, house-hunter and filmmaker Ryuji Otsuka decides to target the suburb of Tongzhou instead. The Beijing Ants provides a snapshot of a couple’s maddening experience with a society in transition, revealing as much about changing attitudes as it does about the rising cost of living. Shot using hidden and handheld cameras, the apartment search is given a citizen activist aesthetic. Conflict lurks in the family’s dealings with movers, police, landlords and local business owners. Racial slurs, threats and contract negotiations not normally caught on camera are aired for public consumption in this cautionary tale about capitalism and customer service in modern China. Behold the rise of a new consumer, one who agitates as well as she negotiates. Angie Driscoll     Watch Official Trailer