June Chua

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June Chua is a Canadian journalist and an award-winning filmmaker who has worked as a writer, reporter and producer with the CBC in radio, television and online. Her documentary, using 2D animation, "Travels With My Brother" (about how an autistic man sees the world) captured a directing prize in 2012 from the National Screen Institute and was screened at the MET Museum in New York and at festivals around the world. Her commentaries have appeared on CBC.ca, the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and Canadian Living. Her essay, "I Am Canadian," was also published in the anthology Strangers in the Mirror (Tsar Books 2004), musings about minorities in Canada. An avid traveller, she has visited more than 40 countries. Find out more at junechua.com

Hot Docs hits Toronto

Six to see at Hot Docs. From the film If a Tree Falls: A story of the Earth Liberation Movement
It's that time of year again -- the celebrated documentary festival runs in Toronto from April 28 to May 8.

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El Salvador documentary digs into country's pain and hope

El Salvador documentary digs into country's pain and hope.
Return to El Salvador is essentially a call to arms, in the best sense.

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El Salvador documentary digs into country's pain and hope

Return to El Salvador is essentially a call to arms, in the best sense, to the world to not forget this hard-scrabble Central American nation.

Return to El Salvador is essentially a call to arms, in the best sense, to the world to not forget this hard-scrabble Central American nation whose civil war, seemingly continued long after peace was negotiated in 1992.

The film, created with the One Horizon Foundation, is well-shot and contains some searing elements that will keep your eyes on the screen. It is more of a community activist film than a documentary. Of note is that it bears occasional narration by the peerless Martin Sheen -- long a union activist and all-round humanist. (When Sheen and his son Emilio Estevez were in Toronto for the film festival in September, they walked the picket lines with striking hotel workers).

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‘A Different Path’ charts creative ways to ditch cars

‘A Different Path’ charts creative ways to ditch cars.

Every year at Toronto's Hot Docs International Documentary Festival, I get blown away by one film -- usually a documentary that hasn't gotten much attention and when I watch it, it's like being under a spell.

Such is the case this time with A Different Path -- an inventive and illuminating documentary made by American artist and musician Monteith McCollum. I don't have enough adjectives to describe the immersive, mesmerizing and magical ride the director brings you on in highlighting the efforts of activists in four locales, challenging our car-centric culture.

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Coca-Cola doc chronicles a bitter battle

A stunning documentary chronicles the efforts of American lawyers trying to take the soft drink giant to court over the killings of 10 union leaders in Columbia.
A stunning documentary chronicles the efforts of American lawyers trying to take the soft drink giant to court over the killings of 10 union leaders in Columbia.

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Coca-Cola doc chronicles a bitter battle

A stunning documentary chronicles the efforts of American lawyers trying to take the soft drink giant to court over the killings of 10 union leaders in Columbia.

"As soon as the union was formed, the trouble started," intones the brother of murdered Columbian union leader Isidro Gil ominously at the start of The Coca-Cola Case, a documentary co-production by the NFB and Argus Films.

The 86-minute film chronicles the relentless efforts of American lawyers trying to take the soft drink giant to court over the killings of 10 union leaders, who represented workers at Coke bottling plant s in Colombia.

The documentary splits its time nicely between two battles: the court fight waged by Daniel Kovalik, lawyer for the United Steelworkers union, on behalf of Columbian union members and the public awareness crusade of Ray Rogers, who directed the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke.

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Sang Kim's literEATure nights imbued with kimchee memories

Sang with author Susan Swan. Photo: Justin Lauzon

Kimchee, the spicy Korean delicacy of fermented cabbage and assorted veggies, and Chef Boyardee, hold divergent yet profound influences in the life of writer and restauranteur Sang Kim, who runs the Windup Bird Cafe in downtown Toronto.

"I actually thought Chef Boyardee was real," said Kim, whose childhood after coming to Canada with his parents from Korea in 1975 was marked by poverty, hardship and those red cans of ready-to-eat-meals. His parents' marriage dissolved in those early years as well.

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Girls Rock Camp: Chords of confidence and co-operation

Photo: Carmen Leah

I was privileged over the summer to be allowed to drop in on Toronto's Girls Rock Camp, hopscotching from room to room as various groups were working out songs. It was a marvel to witness girls teaming up musically:

"Well I think it might work better in F-sharp."

"You think so? Let's try it." (they jam)

"Or maybe we can try this chord?"  (audio sample)

"Oh that works better!"

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'Okpik's Dream' examines Inuit man's life through dog sledding

Harry Okpik with director Laura Rietveld. Photo: Alex Margineanu

A conversation on the frozen sea of Canada's North is so seared into the memory of filmmaker Laura Rietveld that five years later, she still gets entranced and chilled recalling what she heard.

The Montreal director was in the middle of a dog-sledding trip with musher Harry Okpik. They had paused to have tea and lunch -- in fact Laura's aunt, who was teaching in the Ungava Bay community of Quaqtaq, had fallen off her sled. It was time for a break.

"Harry spoke about dog sledding and his desire to share that passion," recounted Rietveld. "I remember two things from that afternoon: his desire for a meaningful life wrapped up in dog sledding and the dog slaughter --  that was the first time I'd ever heard about it."

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Inventive documentary uses 4 cows to explore the First Intifada

Amer Shomali

"Maybe you think all cows are the same -- that they are stupid and lazy with nothing going on in their heads. Maybe you should think again."

With that opening salvo, the ingenious and deeply absorbing NFB documentary The Wanted 18 grabs you by the soul and never lets go. It's premiering at Toronto's international film festival, which begins on Sept. 5.

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