Tag Archives: interviews

CBC Radio Interview About My Play Father Hero Traitor Son

Father Hero Traitor Son
“Would you strike your father?” “Would you hang your son?” Photo by Elizabeth Sawatzky
From the CBC website:
“The Fundy Fringe Festival Opened This Week”

Evan Andrew Mackay is a playwright and actor who’s home from Toronto to stage his new play Father Hero, Traitor Son.

http://www.cbc.ca/informationmorningsaintjohn/2013/08/23/the-fundy-fringe-festival-opened-this-week/

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Filed under family and relationships, interviews, perspective, theatre, writing

Drop That Banana! Doleful Story of Corporate Malice and Control of Media

Bananas!* (2009) is a documentary about Dole food company being found liable, in an LA courtroom in 2007, for malice and misconduct. No surprise, they got that reversed. (Yeah, like a group of poisoned banana farmers from Nicaragua could win against a billion dollar multinational. Disney puts all the happy endings in their movies, not in their news programs.)

Bananas!* At Any Cost?

Just as Bananas!* was set to open at the LA Film Festival, Dole threatened to sue everyone involved in the production and presentation of the film. Plucky Swedish filmmaker Fredrik Gertten decided that, if they were going to sue him and try to silence his film, he would capture it all on film. The result is the nail-biting and inspiring new film Big Boys Go Bananas!* (2011).

Big Boys Go Bananas!*

As I sat down to watch my reviewer’s copy of the film, a friend offered me a banana. “Is it Dole?” She thought it might be Chiquita. I lamented (whined, blew hot air), “That’s no better.” I prefer my banana growers unpoisoned and fairly paid. As described in the film Big Boys Go Bananas!*, (and reminiscent of stories of corporate news-hijacking discussed in another fine new doc, Shadows of Liberty) Chiquita got an apology from the Cincinnati Enquirer for its 18-page 1998 exposé of how “Chiquita exposed entire communities to dangerous U.S.-banned pesticides, forced the eviction of an entire Honduran village at gunpoint, suppressed unions and paid a fortune to U.S. politicians to influence trade policy.”

Dan Koeppel, journalist and author of Banana: The Fate of The Fruit That Changed The World, says in Big Boys Go Bananas!* “We have an astounding lack of curiosity, the journalism community in the US; a lack of skepticism.”

During the Hot Docs film festival earlier this month, I interviewed the unassuming Gertten. I asked him what he made of this lack of curiosity. Gertten told me his Canadian producer of Bananas!*, Bart Simpson (also of The Corporation), “couldn’t get people interested in this story. [People thought it was]…too heavy… too much …Maybe it’s too dangerous.”

What has changed since Bananas!* [the first film] came out?

In my own country they say that Fair Trade bananas has more than doubled. In that sense, the Fair Trade farmers have better conditions than before. The conventional bananas are produced as they have always been produced, under a cloud of chemicals—one third of the production costs of conventional bananas is for chemicals. So my film, in that sense, hasn’t changed anything for the banana workers. What I did for the banana workers in Nicaragua is, they have fought for a long time to tell their stories to the world. I told their story.

Are things like the Occupy movement and Fair Trade making an impact?

The people who created the financial crisis are still in power…My new film is partly about the PR industry…When a big corporation has a PR crisis, they do everything they can to turn the story around. Can you imagine how much the banks are spending on PR over the last five years! And you can’t follow that money. Because, you read an op-ed in a big newspaper here in Toronto signed by some professor; that op-ed could be written by some PR company and paid for by a bank. And everybody’s hunting away with their microphones to interview the professor, but he’s actually just sending out a paid message from the most powerful people in the nation. And if we could follow that money, if the PR business was transparent, we could see, “OK yeah, but you’re talking—these guys are paying you.” Then we would listen to him in a different way. And that doesn’t happen. So, in these times when journalists are losing self-confidence and losing jobs, and the PR industry is growing and making more money than ever, I think we need to legislate about transparency. If they don’t want to be transparent by free will, then we have to ask for it.

Both films are playing in Toronto this week at Bloor Cinema.

For more information on the films, see http://www.bananasthemovie.com/ and http://www.bigboysgonebananas.com/about

Please read the published portion of my interview for more about why Gertten thinks a documentary about a banana company might be considered “dangerous”. Post City www.postcity.com/Eat-Shop-Do/Do/May-2012/Now-playing-Indie-filmmaker-Fredrik-Gertten-takes-on-food-giant-Dole-He-tells-us-why/

Now go enjoy a Fair Trade banana.

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Filed under communication and media, conscious consumption, documentary, fair trade, film reviews

Shadows of Liberty: The Real News is on the Comedy Network

What’s the news?

If you had wanted to know what dirty deals Conrad Black was up to a decade ago, would you have wanted to rely on information from a newspaper he owned  (National Post – Canada, The Daily Telegraph – UK, Chicago Sun Times – US, Jerusalem Post – Israel, and hundreds of community newspapers in North America)? That’s what you do when you believe the daily headlines and the evening news. The vast majority of the “news” we are marinating in is owned by five corporations, one of which is Disney. Does it make sense to get your news from Disneyland? Not that every word is a lie; even the devil sometimes speaks the truth. But one is advised to seek better sources.

On the weekend I had the privilege of speaking with Jeff Cohen, journalist, media critic, and founder of Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR). (He will be familiar to those who have seen Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism.) Cohen was in town for Hot Docs, the documentary film festival, for the world premiere of a documentary in which he appears, Shadows of Liberty. This stylish and important film, written, directed and produced by UK-based expat Quebecer Jean-Philippe Tremblay, takes its title from Thomas Paine

“When men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon.”

Evan: When “the news” is filled with celebrity scandals and sports, what does the word “news” even mean any more?

Cohen: News is changing in so many ways. It’s shrunk in terms of how much of it is about information we need [in order] to be informed citizens in a democracy. In [the US], one of the few bright spots that really has people thinking more critically is Jon Stewart’s Daily Show and Colbert Report. It does the kind of feisty reporting that news is supposed to do. In my country, you can’t say that stuff unless you’re a comedian. Since they don’t pretend to be journalists, they can get away with journalism. 

What effect will Shadows of Liberty have on audiences, and what can they do?

I think they will walk out saying “I can’t trust corporate news.” I think that’s the first thing. A lot of people in the movie have organizations and websites. Amy Goodman hosts Democracy Now!. John Nichols writes for The Nation. Hopefully people will leave the movie critical, not trusting, and they’ll search the internet. And as long as we maintain a free internet, they’ll be able to find alternatives, and those alternatives will keep growing if we can protect the internet.

Read more of what I heard from the director and Cohen at http://www.postcity.com/Eat-Shop-Do/Do/May-2012/Hot-docs-interview-why-you-shouldnt-believe-anything-you-read/

And for another spectacular example of corporate control of media, see what happens to Fredrik Gertten when dares to make a documentary about food conglomerate Dole. http://www.bigboysgonebananas.com/

My interview with that filmmaker will appear next week. [Now available http://www.postcity.com/Eat-Shop-Do/Do/May-2012/Now-playing-Indie-filmmaker-Fredrik-Gertten-takes-on-food-giant-Dole-He-tells-us-why/ Also see GoodEvaning post "Drop That Banana!"]

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Filed under communication and media, conscious consumption, documentary, film reviews, interviews

Marina Nemat’s Memoir “Prisoner of Tehran” Now on Stage

Just as Marina Nemat and director Maja Ardal had to be selective when adapting Nemat’s astonishing memoir Prisoner of Tehran for the stage, so did I have to be selective in adapting a half-hour interview with the author and human rights activist to a brief online Q&A format.

One point I wasn’t able to include was part of Nemat’s response to my question about how she can balance addressing the wrongs committed in Iran against the misconceptions and general negativity many North Americans may harbour about Iran. She said,

“The world is talking about Iran having a nuclear bomb? …The people of Iran have not been losing their children to the nuclear program; they have been losing their children to the terrible disregard for human rights in that country. …the problem of Iran is the struggle for human rights, and it is hurting the Iranian people more than it is hurting anybody.”

She also spoke about the role of the arts in addressing human rights issues. She spoke of how theatre, painting, and so on, shed light on the shades between black and white that are see in the media. “CNN and the news fail to introduce the human side of the story. And this play and [my] books and talks try to put a human face to this very difficult situation.”

Please read what did make it into the published interview here:

www.postcity.com/Eat-Shop-Do/Do/April-2012/Prisoner-of-Tehrans-Marina-Nemat-We-wanted-to-make-people-in-the-theatre-really-feel-uncomfortable/

Marina Nemat,  Prisoner of Tehran

Marina Nemat, human rights activist and author of Prisoner of Tehran

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Talking with Aliens and Jann Arden

Not at the same time, obviously. Jann Arden is much too busy these days to chat with extraterrestrial lifeforms, intelligence notwithstanding.

Jann Arden is more fun than a barrel of monkeys, and sings better too. She comes across as wise and youthful in equal measure.

Jann Arden endures hasty photography

Jann Arden endures hasty photography

What has she been up to recently? What hasn’t she been up to! A live CD/DVD Spotlight, a new book Falling Backwards: A Memoir, her radio show Being Jann, and for the last six weeks of summer she brings reality to TV on Canada Sings!.

Jann is on the panel of “judges”, although they are more like witnesses, alongside Montrealer  Pierre Bouvier of Simple Plan, and Robert “Vanilla Ice” Van Winkle (you know you’ve been missing him).

Here’s a taste of what she had to say to me last week at the Pantages Hotel in Toronto:

On Canada Sings [Arden playfully sings an A natural], did you want to be the mean judge with the accent?
Yeah, wouldn’t that have been easy. You know, when they made me the offer I thought, “I don’t want to do this.” But my manager said, “It’s not what you think. It’s not 100 kids that want to be flown to Vegas to be famous and get a record deal.” These are people that want to earn money for their charity. These are people that don’t typically sing and dance. These are firemen, teachers, zookeepers, truck drivers. What a cool concept! Everybody wins. Not a record contract, but a nice chunk of money for the charity of their choice. Plus, they have this experience that takes them over the course of a few weeks, working with vocal coaches and choreographers, and they get to be in the spotlight on a national TV show, singing and dancing in a production that is as good as anything I’ve seen on Broadway. And I am not kidding you; nobody sucks! Nobody!

Are you concerned one of these groups of ordinary working Canadians might do so well that they quit their day jobs and leave a hospital or something without a staff?
I would be thrilled if that happened…

Oooh, cliffhanger! Read on at Post CityQ&A with Jann Arden: Juno Award winner, author and celebrity judge on Canada Sings“.

Whereas Jann Arden is completely down to Earth, the subject of Getting Over the Alien Language Barrier is the contrary. I’ve taken my obsession with languages to new heights. AE the Canadian Science Fiction Review had the vision to publish what I had to say, and everyone else is part of the government coverup. It starts like this:

You never know when it’s going to happen. A flying saucer pulled off the side of the highway with the hood up, alien waving a tentacle wielding what could be a sparkplug, a cellphone or a ray gun and shouting, “Znelflgjpd knorb zlothkpmzus!” How would you respond? You’ve hit the alien language barrier. With NASA’s Kepler telescope spotting potentially habitable planets by the dozen outside our solar system, it may be time for us to start brushing up on our extraterrestrial language skills, or get ready to tutor E.T. in Earthish as a Second Language.

Read more at AE Sci Fi

Leave comments here,

leave comments there,

leave comments everywhere,

in any language,

in any medium.

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Filed under interviews, language, languages and communication, music

Community Reads “Midnight at the Dragon Café”

To have a book selected for a “One Book” community read, where the whole city or town is encouraged to read and discuss the same book, honours a writer even more than winning a contest because, as Judy Fong Bates told me, when the community chooses, “it’s not books from a particular year or genre. It is overwhelming considering how much they have to choose from.” Unlike many books that are singled out with grand awards or other attention, I found this book and this author entirely deserving of notice. I have the One Book campaign to thank for making me notice.

Midnight at the Dragon Café by Judy Fong Bates

Midnight at the Dragon Café by Judy Fong Bates

EAM: Why is reading important?

JFB: Oh, to me that’s so obvious. I just feel that reading should be part of one’s lifeblood. Don’t you?

EAM: Certainly I do, but what would you impress upon the people who need to be reminded to read?

JFB: When I think of reading, I think of stories. Stories tell us who we are. Stories expand our horizons. They take us into places we might not ever think of going. I mean, on that more profound level, they make us look at things from new angles and they add depth to our lives, but in another way it’s also fun!

For more new angles, depth and fun, keep reading, at www.postcity.com

Q&A: Judy Fong Bates, author of this year’s One Book selection

http://www.postcity.com/Eat-Shop-Do/Do/April-2011/Q-ampA-Judy-Fong-Bates-author-of-this-year-039s-One-Book-selection/

Judy Fong Bates

Judy Fong Bates (from the author's website)

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Here Comes My Big Brother: Robert J. Sawyer’s Wonder

Robert J Sawyer‘s 20th novel Wonder is being launched in Toronto tomorrow and will be in book stores on April 5th.

ROBERT J. SAWYER  Photo Credit: Christina Molendyk
ROBERT J. SAWYER Photo Credit: Christina Molendyk

Since 2008, I have been attending talks by Sawyer in Moncton, Montreal and Toronto, on a range of topics covering writing, publishing, science and philosophy.

I recently interviewed him for the second time. The first time was at the beginning of his WWW trilogy about the World Wide Web spontaneously becoming self-aware; this time his trilogy is concluded. Please read my article Here Comes My Big Brother: Robert J. Sawyer’s Wonder posted at AE The Canadian Science Fiction Review

or for a very abbreviated version of the interview please read http://www.postcity.com/Eat-Shop-Do/Do/March-2011/Wonder-lust-Robert-J-Sawyer-launches-his-latest-novel/ at www.PostCity.com (where you may encounter more of my writings).

Wake

Wake

Watch

Watch

Wonder

Wonder

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Filed under book reviews, interviews, life not human, Optimism & Inspiration, writing