Jordan Canning’s film won’t be a tough shell*

    Posted on: Friday, March 9th, 2012

If you’re looking for someone with an interesting answer to “Whaddayat?” give filmmaker Jordan Canning a call. Her short film, Oliver Bump’s Birthday, was just chosen as the best of the best at the Vancouver International Short Film Festival by Press+1, and when she’s not wowing the national media, she’s busy writing feature film scripts. Two of them, actually.

I was lucky enough to get her on the phone a few weeks back to see what she was up to.

So, how’s it going?
It’s going well. It’s going really well.

You originally moved to Toronto to study at the Canadian Film Centre, right?
Yeah, I went to Toronto to study at CFC, and that finished in June of 2011. Since then, I’ve mostly been writing. I went to Mexico to teach a filmmaking workshop in July, but other than that I’ve been writing two feature film scripts. One of them is Come, Thou Tortoise [a film adaptation of Jessica Grant’s novel of the same name], and I’ve finished the official first draft of that, and it’s ready to be delivered.

Sorry – this might be a stupid question – but what does it mean for a script to be “delivered?”
Well, we got funding from Telefilm and the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation (NLFDC) for me to write the first draft, and so I wrote it and now I’m delivering it to them. We’ll be going in for a second round of funding now, for a second draft. Knock on wood that they will like it! The draft is very different fom the treatment I submitted.

Are you working with Jessica Grant on the script?
Jessica’s not working on the script. She was very gracious when we optioned the book and said, ‘I know this book and this film are going to be two different peices of work.’ I’m very grateful that she trusted me, and hopefully she’ll still trust me after she reads this draft! [laughs]

But, no, she hasn’t been writing the draft. I’ve contacted her a couple of times just to check in, but she’s been working on her next novel, which I can’t wait to read.

Was it tough to adapt this to the screen?
It was the first feature script that I’ve ever written, so I don’t know if it was any different than if I wasn’t adapting something. But to be perfectly honest, Jessica’s book had so much good stuff in it that I feel like it was an easier process. I had her characters and her words and her dialogue to draw from, a lot of which is in the script.

So you didn’t have to deviate too much from the book?
Yeah, it stayed quite true to the story and certainly to the characters. I mean, it was a challenge, for sure; reducing something like that down into a 90-minute script is tricky.

Why did you choose this particular book?
For a couple of years, I had been looking for a novel or a play or a short story to adapt. I think that’s a great way to make your first film and it’s a great way to collaborate with another artist and build on a peice of already established art. But I never found anthing that grabbed me by the throat. Then, two Christmases ago, I bumped into my friend at Chapters, and he was holding two copies of Jessica’s book and he said, ‘Oh you might like this, I’ve heard really good things about it.’ So I went home, and I read it in a day, and I knew that was the story that I wanted to turn into a film. The characters and the world that she created – the sort of magic realism St. John’s that she built – really spoke to me and spoke to my taste and inspired me; I could see the film.

So I found Jessica right away, and we had a coffee and talked about it, and she seemed game. Then Pope came on board, and the NLFDC and Telefilm, and now we’ve got a first draft.

What are your dreams for this film – do you have a cast in mind, do you know exactly how you want it to look?
I definitely have some ideas for cast, but it’s bad luck to say anything about it until it’s fully formed.

What’s so great about the book is that there’s a great combination of St. John’s and England, so there are some excellent parts for a couple of British actors, perhaps even vaguely recognizable British actors. But we’re still just trying to make sure the people at Telefilm are happy with the draft and that they’ll want to come back on board for another draft.

What about your other feature?
My other feature is a really personal one that I wrote – well, it kind of poured out of me in the last couple of months. So that one is much more – well, we could do it on a much lower budget. The plan is to shoot it next winter, with or without the traditional funding groups. If we can raise the money, that’s great. If not, we’re just going to shoot it anyway.

*We worked on the pun in the title for a while. Have a better one? Send it my way at

Scene & Heard – and snapped.

    Posted on: Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

Here are some gorgeous pictures from the screening of The Boxing Girls of Kabul on Sunday, March 4th, as part of Scene & Heard, the annual celebration of International Women’s Day hosted by The St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival and the National Film Board of Canada.

As previously explained, director Ariel Nasr wasn’t able to come to town for the screening. So he was Skyped in from rural Quebec for a discussion with Annette Clark, the doc’s producer.

Pictures by Malin Enstrom of Happy Fish Photography.

Happy screening attendees

Festival founder and Chair, Noreen Golfman, welcomes the crowd

Director Ariel Nasr Skypes with producer Annette Clarke, of the NFB

Director Ariel Nasr

Producer Annette Clarke

Noreen Golfman and Annette Clarke

The Boxing Girls of Kabul

    Posted on: Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

So, we here at the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival have had a glitch in our plans.

A good one, though.
We’re screening a documentary called The Boxing Girls of Kabul, directed by Ariel Nasr and produced by our very own Annette Clarke, of the NFB. We originally planned to bring Nasr to St. John’s to discuss the doc, after it screened on Sunday. The film follows three young Afghan women as they learn to box and dream of representing Afghanistan in the 2012 Olympics. That’s a big deal – under the Taliban, women were barely allowed to leave their houses, let alone train to be boxers.

So, as you might imagine, we were pretty excited to talk to Nasr and show his film.

But Nasr had to cancel.

As it turns out, Sadaf Rahimi, 17, one of the stars of The Boxing Girls of Kabul, is actually on her way to the 2012 Olympics, in London – she was given a wildcard to compete at the games, and Nasr hopes to follow her there.

We’ve never been more excited about a last-minute cancellation.

Under Taliban rule, women were forbidden to participate in sports and, because of this discrimination, Afghanistan was banned from participating in the games until 2002, following the fall of the Taliban regime.

In 2004, Afghanistan sent its first female athletes to the games in Greece: Robina Muqim Yaar, in the 100-meter sprint, and Friba Razayee, in judo.

And now they’re sending a female boxer. This is first time that female boxing will be allowed at the Olympic games, making the occasion even more remarkable: Afghan women have come a long way to be participating in an event that furthers gender equality across the globe. And Rahimi, having trained in a stadium where Afghan women were once stoned to death, couldn’t be a better ambassador for the next generation of Afghan females.

Go, Sadaf, go! We’ll be watching.

The Boxing Girls of Kabul will screen on Sunday, March 4th, at 7pm at the LSPU Hall, as part of Scene & Heard, the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival’s annual celebration of International Women’s Day. Tickets are $10 for students and seniors, and $12 for everyone else. The price of each ticket includes a surcharge for the LSPU Hall Building Maintenance Fund. You can buy them here. The Facebook event is here.
Here’s the website and trailer for the film, and here is an interview with Ariel Nasr about the film on CBC Radio One’s As It Happens.

Me do yoga? That’s a stretch.

    Posted on: Saturday, February 18th, 2012

Back in December, when the days were at their shortest and the nights as cold as the depths of winter, I decided it was high time I give yoga a shot. I’d tried it halfheartedly once before, years ago, but this time I was determined to really take it on. After doing the one week trial pass at Nova Yoga, I decided to put my money where my yoga mat was and bought the 18 class pass.

I’m not a gym kinda guy, and with a pretty hectic work schedule I can’t commit to most sports. Nova Yoga offers multiple classes per day, six days of the week, so it’s been easy for me to find a class that fits with my on-the-fly schedule.

It’s been nearly two months, and I’m not sure how many classes, but I’ve really taken to this yoga thing. I think it’s because of yoga’s tendency to exercise both the body and the mind. Some of my best ideas come to me when I’m supine on my mat, sweat dripping from my brow. And I love that feeling of having had my ass kicked, but, like, by someone who really cares about you, at the end of a solid class.

It helps, too, that Melanie Caines is such a gifted and devoted instructor. Her energy is always so strong and giving, like she’s making an individual connection with everyone in the room. She listens to her class, literally asking questions about how they’re feeling and what they want from their session, and translates that into a steady stream of flowing yoga poses. And she really knows her stuff, which is great for those of us in the room who don’t because she’s always there to offer you that little nudge or adjustment that takes a pose from “why?” to “wow!”.

If you find yourself lacking in the physical exercise department and can’t seem to find the workout that’s right for you, I highly recommend you give yoga a try. And really give a try, at least for a couple of classes, since the more you do it, the more you’ll take from it. I don’t know any of the other classes in town, but my experience with Nova Yoga has been phenomenal, so I can certainly recommend you start there.

I know when my 18 class pass runs out, I’ll be signing up for another one. Or maybe even one of the unlimited month pass options. The more I do yoga, the more I want to do it, so that may well be the direction I’m headed.

[Photo of Melanie Caines, from Nova Yoga’s website, by Mark Bennett]

Aqua’s new menu: like fine art with a playful side

    Posted on: Saturday, February 18th, 2012

I’m an unabashed fan of Aqua, as the many references I’ve made to the longstanding downtown restaurant on this blog can attest to. They just strike a lot of the right chords with me. The atmosphere is unpretentious, the attention to details sharp, and the menu always exciting.

Owner Mark McCrowe has a playful side he’s happy to explore in his culinary creations. If his crisp white plates were canvases, many of his works would be akin to Picassos and Warhols, unrestrained by contemporary expectations, yet executed with exquisite finesse and destined to leave a lasting impression.

Aqua’s latest update to their menu is brimming with such examples, like their tequila grilled shrimp and chorizo tacos that practically beg you to leave your cutlery on the table.

Their chicharon (a super fancy word for pork rinds), crispy fried and spiced with cajun honey, is another fine example of playfulness on the starters menu. While the wasabi pea crusted tuna and the tempura lobster and asparagus are no less creative, delightful and delicious.

When it came time for my date and I to choose our mains, we couldn’t resist trying the richest looking selections on the menu, namely the crispy duck breast, with potato croquette, buttered leeks, carrots, turnips and orange cardamom gastrique, and the hazelnut and dijon crusted lamp chops, with old cheddar potato gratin, bacon wrapped green beans, mint pesto and red heart shiraz reduction.

A tip of the hat goes out to a few dishes that have carried over from the previous menu, such as the “big mc” moose burger, the lobster poutine, and the black pepper and chilli fried squid with bloody mary ketchup. All signs that McCrowe is as intent on wowing his customers with new and unusual plates as he is on hearing them when something stands out with universal appeal.

There’s a lot of exciting, enticing options to choose from with Aqua’s new menu. With that in mind, it’s best you bring a friend or few with you to sample as much as possible. No doubt you’ll be returning to try more of what’s new, and revisit a few new favourites, too.