Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Toronto Tales

Judith Helfand and Robert West, co-founders of Working Films, continue to prove why they're the best at what they do! As they listened to and helped tweak each of the five pitches (inluding ours) that will be given on Thursday in front of hundreds of people, good pitches evolved into great ones. Their mission to link non-fiction film to cutting edge activism is gaining even more momentum now that they're partnering with Channel 4 BRITDOC Foundation and the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program to have the "Good Pitch" here in Toronto.

Most of the day was spent in this three hour workshop and an invite-only Doc Mogul lunch honoring Sheila (as Nick Fraser points out, HBO's Sheila Nevins is a one name wonder in the docu world).

The films I saw today were as heart-wrenching as yesterday's. Children of God tells the story of a 12-year-old Nepalese boy and his two siblings who eke out an existence by finding gold, coins and food used for cremations along the banks of the sacred Bagmati River. And Rough Aunties focuses on an amazing group of women in South Africa who care for abused children. Together the films left me emotionally exhausted.

They both also brought back a flood of memories. I visited Pashupatinath in Kathmandu in 1999, and was as struck then as I was today by the seamlessness between life and death there. I remember watching family members carry the deceased to the edge of the river, bathe the body in the river's holy waters(nevermind that it is 90%sewage today), build a funeral pyre (a ghat) stuffed with ghee (butter) balls to help it burn, and then sweep the ashes into the river. That's when the kids come in - diving into the water to recover anything of value, and pulling magnets along the river bottom to snatch any coins. It really is a bit like the edge of heaven here because Hindus believe that once the ashes reach the water, the soul leaves the body to be with God.

On the lighter side...

I'm loving the fact that every other storefront in Toronto seems to be a sushi restaurant. This is fitting in nicely with my plan to eat nothing but edamame and rainbow dragon rolls all week! I was hoping to start each morning with some laps, but the pool here (sorry Sutton Place Hotel) stinks. It's small and square, and my circular swim this morning left me so unsatisfied that I grabbed my running shoes and hit the streets. It is perfect running weather here, and I'm looking forward to heading down to the waterfront in about 7 hours.

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