Arts & Politics

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Documentary dissects film industry issues ahead of election

Without Consultation looks at the ripple effects of the tax credit cuts.

Posted By on Tue, May 16, 2017 at 12:48 PM

Fateh Ahmed (right) and co-producer John Saunders (left). - JOHN SAUNDERS
  • Fateh Ahmed (right) and co-producer John Saunders (left).
  • John Saunders

“Change will never be delivered to you on a golden plate,” says filmmaker Fateh Ahmed. “If you want to experience change you need to pursue it.”

That’s what Ahmed is trying to do through his documentary Without Consultation. For the past two years, he has gathered footage and conducted interviews about the Film Industry Tax Credit cuts.

In 2015, the province chopped the film tax credit by 75 percent, meaning the credit would only cover 25 percent of eligible production costs—compared to 100 percent in the past. The decision was immediately met with criticism from workers in the industry.

Ahmed’s work started off by filming some of the rallies and demonstrations which followed.

“My intention at the beginning was not actually to make a film or make a documentary,” he says. “I was just pretty much observing and just being part of the huge buzz that was being created at the time.”

Ironically, it was the beginning of a film about films made during a time when it’s difficult to make films, “with a flat zero budget,” says Ahmed.

He interviewed more than 25 folks both in and outside of the film industry, from politicians to business owners. It was important, he says, to tell a fair story. Actor John Dunsworth (Jim Lahey from The Trailer Park Boys and Dave Teagues from Haven), filmmaker Cory Bowles and (now outgoing) independent MLA Andrew Younger are among those featured.

“This film actually provides an equal voice and an opportunity to all,” says Ahmed.

There’s no way Ahmed could have known his film would be released to the public just ahead of a provincial election, but he hopes it will help voters to make an informed decision when they go to the polls on May 30.

Just over two weeks ago, Nova Scotia NDP leader Gary Burrill announced that he would reinstate the film tax credit if elected. PC leader Jamie Baillee also pledged to revive the credit last week.

Although the cuts have caused a number of film industry workers to pack up and leave, Ahmed is hopeful.

“At the end of the day, we still have an industry,” he says, pointing out that most of the people he’s interviewed are staying put and trying to make it work. “We’re not giving up. Governments come and go, our passion never leaves. We’re here to stay.”

Without Consultation will be available online for free on May 20.

“It’s a story many lessons could be learned from.”

Without Consultation (Trailer) from Core Film Productions on Vimeo.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Taking a vacation from capitalism

This art project lets you escape, engage and learn.

Posted By on Fri, Mar 24, 2017 at 10:15 AM

Zachary Gough wants you to take a break. - REBECCA DINGWELL
  • Zachary Gough wants you to take a break.
  • Rebecca DIngwell

The Commoners’ Almanac: Spring Break From Capitalism
The Living Room Theatre
2353 Agricola Street
To April 15

While many folks can’t afford a tropical March vacation, plenty of us could stand to take a break from the daily grind of our capitalist society.

That’s the premise behind The Commoners’ Almanac: Spring Break From Capitalism—a project by Zachary Gough. It’s almost a literal a slice of the beach in Halifax, featuring a slushie machine and a patch of sand in The Living Room Theatre. If the sun’s not shining, one can take advantage of the daylight-simulating lights (the kind sometimes used to treat seasonal affective disorder). For an extra dose of sun, some of the slushies contain vitamin D.

“Within this space, we seek to engage with each other in a different way,” says Gough, who teamed up with local organizations such as DaPoPo Theatre and Starfish Group to make the project happen.

“We hope that it can be a little bit of a break from regular activism,” he adds. “Regular activism is often really hard, heavy, never-ending.”

The space, Gough explains, is somewhere activists can be together and relate to each other while also having fun. Dancing and speed friending are part of the exhibition’s events, along with more serious gatherings. Those include a panel discussion on fascism and a discussion about mental health.

Participants can also take part in workshops from theatre and dance to dumpster diving. Esther Fraser is leading the Commoners' Contra Workshop to choreograph, write and develop a "contra dance that depicts cooperative economy."

"So that's taking the form of contra dance and adapting it," says Gough. The workshop followed by a potluck as well as a performance.

The Spring Break events will be capped off with a dry dance party on April 13, with the exhibition ending two days later.

Gough feels “carving out a little space that is devoid of capitalism” gives people the chance to imagine “how our relationships might look in a post-capitalist society.”

“I think it’s a kind of utopia.”

A publication coinciding with the Spring Break From Capitalism theme is forthcoming.

See for full event details.

Update: The Gentrification Walking Tour has been canceled and the article has been edited to reflect that.

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Art Notes: Khyber Meeting and Show Openings

Posted By on Thu, Jan 14, 2016 at 9:00 AM

Hank Bull: Connexion - SMU ART GALLERY
  • Hank Bull: Connexion
  • SMU Art Gallery

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Curated by Joni Low and Pat Wendt, the Saint Mary's University Art Gallery (923 Robie Street) has a full art-weekend planned for you. You're invited to the following events: on Friday at 7pm, Vancouver-based artist Hank Bull speaks on his sculptural installation that aligns "artwork with communication technologies, costumes and documents," before the official opening at 8pm (free). On Saturday at 3pm (free), artist and NSCAD faculty Bruce Barber will give a talk before Hank and Arthur Bull perform "blues, roots, hokum and storytelling" at The Company House (2202 Gottingen Street) at 7pm (by donation). In our age of technology, this will illuminate.  

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Tonight (Thursday) at 7pm at Halifax North Memorial Library (2285 Gottingen Street), the Friends of the Khyber (FoK) will host a public meeting to present "a plan submitted to regional council for a revitalized Khyber Building. Over the past year, FoK and The Khyber Centre for the Arts have worked with respected and knowledgeable arts partners, architects, engineers and real estate specialists to develop a viable plan to save the Khyber Building at 1588 Barrington Street. Regional Council will consider the plan within the coming weeks." Managing friends of the Khyber in attendance: Joel Plaskett, Robin Metcalf and Emily Davidson. 

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On Friday at Hermes Gallery (5682 North Street) at 5:30pm, Halifax artists Ian Funke-McKay and Dave LeRue showdown with an exhibition that features their works in competition. Both "find common ground in fields of colour, sport and tournament-style decoration." On Sunday, they'll share a Team Talk at 2:30pm at the Gallery. Let's get ready to rumble!

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Extremely old Moon photo - SCOTT BLACKBURN
  • Extremely old Moon photo
  • Scott Blackburn


On Saturday night at The Khyber (1880 Hollis Street, 10pm, $8), there's a musical fundraiser — fun-raiser! — featuring Halifax's Moon, DJ Goldilocks (Cat Abreu), DJ Fancy Pants (Jess Ross), Horse Heaven (Evan Cardwell) and Nigel Chapman (Nap Eyes). All proceeds will go towards a new SUB-WOOFER for the music and art space because it needs one "like WOAH!" and all of those bands and artists totally fucking rock. It'll help the Khyber keep putting on shows!

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

"Directed by Women" takes erection out of direction, apply now

Posted By on Wed, Oct 14, 2015 at 3:01 PM

Sofia Coppola, movie director (also a woman)
  • Sofia Coppola, movie director (also a woman)

the Atlantic Filmmaker's Cooperative, is now accepting applications for new program, "Directed by Women," supported by Arts Nova Scotia. According to the call, "The program will provide eight women with training and mentorship from established female filmmakers on the topics of screenwriting, directing, working with key crew, pitching and marketing. The focus of this workshop series will be addressing the challenges inherent in transitioning from shorts to features. The final component of the program will include a ‘speed dating’ meet-and-greet with local producers at WIFT-AT’s annual Women Making Waves conference (March 2016). AFCOOP and WIFT-AT’s goal is to prepare eight emerging female filmmakers to direct their own feature films." Can't contain my excitement. This rules.

Deadline is Friday, October 16 @ 5pm. Criteria for application includes: 

• Must be emerging (completed at least one short film) to mid-career filmmakers
• A commitment to working professionally in the domain of narrative filmmaking

Applicants are asked to include a current CV, a one-page treatment for a feature film concept and a letter of intent. Submissions should be sent to See for more. 

This program comes at a time when people are starting to realize — and even attempt to change — the horrendous imbalance of women in most entertainment and business professions, but especially film. According to Deadline Hollywood, in the US, "Women currently receive only 16% of the episodic TV directing jobs, and last year directed less than 5% of the major studio releases." Even though that 5% grew from the 0.5% of 1983, that's still quite fucked. And then when major studios make deliberate decisions to hire all-female crews and casts, people (mostly men) shit their pants over it. In 87 years, only four women have been nominated for a Best Direction Oscar. And then when women earn opportunities to work in film, they deal with enough garbage to fill a Tumblr. I'm sure most audiences don't even realize when their favourite films are female-directed. And then — when female directors get a fair deal — they have to work harder to prove their voice is valid. Or they have to defend aesthetic choices in ways men never do. 

For instance, at the September Atlantic Film Festival premiere of Beeba BoysOscar-nominated director Deepa Mehta introduced her 2015 Sikh-gangster action film in exasperation: "I am tired of defending myself," she told the Halifax audience, "I wanted to make Beeba Boys because, as a women, I wanted to make a kick-ass film." At its various premieres, people couldn't get over her command of gangster tropes and male-focused action. Yeah, like it's really that hard to grasp. For one thing, the market is saturated with those types of film. And for another, why can't a women direct action films? The whole premise of her defence is ridiculous, but it's still questioned, even though gender doesn't imply any preferences for taste. I think the emergence of female directors in genre films (like horror) proves this as long overdue

Basically, Mehta wants a world where defending herself for being a woman making an action film isn't at all necessary. We should only question artistic choices because the art straight-up sucks, regardless of gender. But to assume that women't aren't capable of any artistic or creative pursuit is absurd, whatever the genre, medium or expression. Like for fucks sakes. 

But you know this already, and yet we're not even close to gender parity in these professions. So hey, read this list. And then hooray for AFCOOP. This is a great program and an awesome opportunity. Pass this along to anyone who might be interested. If you're interested, apply now! 

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