Category Archives: Uncategorized

MUST WATCH! @hotdocs 2021 “Only I Can Hear”, “Portrayal”, “Secrets from Putomayo”, “Songs That Flood The River”, “Testimony of Ana” and “The Voice Break Choir” #HotDocs21

“I’ve always wanted to be deaf,” says 15-year-old Nyla. She’s the only hearing person in her family going back five generations and views her ability to hear as both a gift and a curse. Itaru Matsui and Heath Cozens weave together the fascinating experiences of four children of deaf adults—also known as CODAs—and the challenges and joys they face living between these two worlds.

“This moving and fascinating film about a young man’s investigation into his family’s unspoken secret unfolds like a taut thriller, placing the viewer beside him on his harrowing journey to get to the heart of this profound mystery. Both historical and deeply personal, “Portrayal” is a powerful human tale about the meaning of family, legacy, authorship, and the porous nature of truth.”

In 1910, the British consul in Rio de Janeiro, Roger Casement, undertook an investigation into allegations of crimes against humanity committed against indigenous communities by the British-financed Peruvian Amazon Company. Recording what he witnessed in a diary, Secrets of the Putumayo reveals a system of industrialized abuse and slavery that, once exposed, shook the foundations of the modern world. It is a story that we have tried hard to forget. More than a century later, the struggles of those same Amazon communities for rights to self-determination and basic justice endure in the face of new waves of market-led development. This film, by Brazilian film-maker Aurélio Michiles, translates into cinema my edition of ‘The Amazon Journal of Roger Casement’.

Oneida was a child when she learned how to sing alabados, traditional funeral songs used by black communities in Colombia to secure a safe return to the realm of the souls. When she was eight years old, a snake devoured her left leg, leaving her for life in a village set deep in the jungle and stricken by the terror of war.

In 2002, her village suffer one of the most cruel massacres in the country. Oneida fights her fears by writing songs that use the melody of alabados over lyrics that portrait her reality. Her scars are the source of her strength and her songs are the voice of millions that claim for peace in one of the longest wars in history.

In this poetic trip around the world, the oyster – with its sensual and lavish associations – acts as metaphor to explore human drives and desires. Linking stories of a New York burlesque dancer, French Michelin-starred chefs, a Swedish oyster diver, a Japanese pearl maker and a terminally ill English psychologist, the documentary by Willemiek Kluijfhout – narrated by the voice of desire – dives into the intricate nature of our deepest yearnings and quest for self-fulfilment.

Anaben Pawar is an elderly tribal woman accused of witchcraft in rural India. Through Ana,s story, we delve into a deep-rooted culture of patriarchy and examine one of the most monstrous attacks on women,s bodies in modern India: the witch hunt.

As the members of the Stockholm Boys’ Choir’s voices begin to crack, they are placed in a quarantine choir. As they inhabit this liminal space between boyhood and manhood, these young men share with us their most intimate hopes, fears, desires—and, of course, the music that is so central to their lives.

REVIEW: @hotdocs 2021 “We Are The Thousand” #HotDocs21

Fan of rock music, Fabio wants to convince the Foo Fighters to perform in his little village in Italy. What did he end up doing? Well, he gathered 1,000 musicians to play their favourite tune. Simple. An epic rockumentary if you need a change from the usual HD pace. Honestly, why can’t we get our act together to get Radiohead to come back to Toronto?

REVIEW: @hotdocs 2021 “Through The Night” #HotDocs21

To make ends meet, Americans are working longer hours across multiple jobs. This modern reality of non-stop work has resulted in an unexpected phenomenon: the flourishing of 24-hour daycare centers. Through the Night is a verité documentary that explores the personal cost of our modern economy through the stories of two working mothers and a child care provider – whose lives intersect at a 24-hour daycare center.


One of the best documentary’s of the festival. A true story of love and the power of humanity.

REVIEWS: @hotdocs 2021 “Welcome to Spain”, “Taming The Garden” and “Raise The Bar” #HotDocs21

When Seville’s last brothel is repurposed into a refugee reception centre, cameras move in to capture the newcomers’ impressions of Spanish life. With 1970s style and satire, the migrant crisis comes into a refreshingly human focus.


“Welcome to Spain” provides a wonderful lens into migration stories that are often ignored. I appreciated hearing the youth’s point of view. It encouraged me to ponder how we can better support newcomer youth in Canada.

Giant ancient trees are traded for much desired cash and sent to an adventurous journey through land and sea.


A haunting documentary that will make you want to visit a tree in your neighbourhood and not be socially distant.

Raise the Bar is an Icelandic documentary about the controversial journey of a girls basketball team under the direction of coach Brynjar Karl Sigurðsson.


A different take on Mamba mentality? But is it?

e-Ticket GIVEAWAY!: The 9th annual TORONTO JAPANESE FILM FESTIVAL returns Saturday, October 3 to Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre’s unprecedented 9th annual TORONTO JAPANESE FILM FESTIVAL will be held online from Saturday, October 3 to Thursday, October 22 and features 22 films using the SHIFT72 festival platform.  For the first time, TJFF is expanding its reach beyond Toronto to audiences across all of Canada, maintaining the festival’s sense of community while promoting friendship, understanding, and exchange between the Japanese and broader Canadian community.   The festival has grown into one of the largest film events of its kind in the world and is recognized by the Japanese film industry as a vital conduit for bringing Japanese film to international audiences.


Thank you to the TORONTO JAPANESE FILM FESTIVAL for gifting Thirty Four Flavours with e-Tickets to 5 of their prestigious films listed below.

How do you enter? The first 5 readers who email (, tweet or dm me with your choice will get an e-Ticket to watch the film online in the comfort of their own home! The deadline is October 1. 2020!


Based on the devastating best-seller from Naoki-Award winning novelist Rio Shimamoto. Toko is married and raising a lovely daughter in her husband’s luxurious family home. Her life is comfortable but she feels an emptiness. At a wedding reception she meets the handsome and mysterious Kurata, her lover from 10 years ago. Falling helplessly into the throes of a deep passion, they embark on an intense and doomed affair that takes them far into “snow country” and the extremes of emotion. Starring Kaho, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Tasuku Emoto, Shotaro Mamiya, Reiko Kataoka.


“Sumikkogurashi” are the popular San-X characters who prefer to live quiet and solitary life in the corner. They are Shirokuma, a polar bear who dislikes the cold, Penguin? who is unsure of being a penguin, Tonkatsu, a piece of leftover pork cutlet, Neko, a timid and anxious cat, and Tokage, a dinosaur who pretends to be a lizard. One day, at their favourite coffee shop, they are drawn into the basement by a strange noise and find themselves in a mysterious flying picture book where they pursue strange and magical adventures. Narrated by Yoshihiko Inohara and Manami Honjo.


Erika Yoshioka is a reporter for the Toto Newspaper. Obtaining an anonymous fax containing highly confidential information related to the building plan for a new university, she decides to investigate. Meanwhile, Takumi Sugihara is a bureaucrat in the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office whose job is to control the media and prevent unfavorable coverage of the government. He is shocked when his esteemed former superior Kanzaki commits suicide. When Erika Yoshioka and Takumi Sugihara connect with each other, a shocking truth is revealed. Inspired by the controversial nonfiction book by Tokyo Newspaper journalist Mochizuki Isoko. Starring Tori Matsuzaka, Eun-kyung Shim, Tsubasa Honda, Tetsushi Tanaka.


Satoshi Makino is a brilliant classical guitarist who performs at the world’s top concert theatres. On tour, he meets Paris-based journalist Yoko Komine and their attraction is immediate and intense. But Yoko has a fiancé. Together they must navigate a twisting road of passion, loyalty and guilt. Sweeping in scale and gorgeously photographed, this international romance – filmed in Japan, Paris and New York – boast charismatic performances from some of Japan’s leading actors. Based on Keiichiro Hirano’s best-selling novel. Starring Masaharu Fukuyama, Yuriko Ishida, Yusuke Iseya, Yuki Sakurai, Ikko Furuya.


This intense erotic drama finds Kenji drifting home to Akita after the collapse of his marriage and career. He is there to attend the wedding of his past lover Naoko who still keeps an album of erotic photos tracing their relationship. She invites him to share her bed for one last night of intimacy but a single night proves inadequate to contain their passion and they set off on a five-day road trip. As the intensity of their erotic escape escalates, and with the return to Naoko’s fiancé imminent, they face a terrible decision. Physically explicit and emotionally raw. Starring Tasuku Emoto, Kumi Takeuchi.




Twitter:  @TorontoJFF

Instagram:  @japanesecanadianculturalcentre

For full program, ticket and box-office info go to:

COMING SOON an e-ticket giveaway!: The 9th annual TORONTO JAPANESE FILM FESTIVAL returns Saturday, October 3 to Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre’s unprecedented 9th annual TORONTO JAPANESE FILM FESTIVAL will be held online from Saturday, October 3 to Thursday, October 22 and features 22 films using the SHIFT72 festival platform.  For the first time, TJFF is expanding its reach beyond Toronto to audiences across all of Canada, maintaining the festival’s sense of community while promoting friendship, understanding, and exchange between the Japanese and broader Canadian community.   The festival has grown into one of the largest film events of its kind in the world and is recognized by the Japanese film industry as a vital conduit for bringing Japanese film to international audiences.

TJFF 2020’s  Highlight Centerpiece screening is the Canadian Premiere of FUKUSHIMA 50, Setsurō Wakamatsu’s harrowing drama of the employees tasked with handling the meltdown of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami disaster starring Ken Watanabe and Koichi Sato.

TJFF 2020 also presents major award winners for their Canadian premieres:

Mitsuhito Fujii’s THE JOURNALIST which won the Japanese Academy Awards for Best Film, Best Actor (Tori Matsuzaka) and Best Actress (Eun-kyung Shim); Hirohiko Arai’s intense erotic odyssey IT FEELS SO GOOD (Kinema Junpo Awards for Film and Best Actress and Best Film Awards from Eiga Geijutsu Magazine and the Yokohama Film Festival); Nobuhiro Suwa’s haunting VOICES IN THE WIND  (Special Mention, Berlin International Film Festival) about a young  woman hitchhiking across from Hiroshima to Tohoku to an actual pilgrimage spot called the “wind phone”: a disconnected telephone booth where 3.11 (2011 Fukushima earthquake-tsunami) mourners go to speak with people they’ve lost.

TJFF 2020’s programme reflect the rich diversity of the world 4th largest film industry: North American and Canadian premieres include Kazuya Shiraishi’s latest masterpiece ONE NIGHT, Yukiko Mishima’s erotic drama THE SHAPE OF RED,  Renpei Tsukamoto’s foodie-friendly mother-daughter dramedy BENTO HARRASSMENT; Takumi Saitoh’s hallucinogenic COMPLY+-ANCE, Isshin Inudo’s reimagining of the Jack Nicholson/Morgan Freeman buddy comedy THE BUCKET LIST with two if Japan’s top female performers Sayuri Yoshinaga and Yuki Amami and Takahisa Zeze’s devastating mystery and exploration of the limits of trust, THE PROMISED LAND based on Shuichi Yoshida’s crime stories.


Thank you to the TORONTO JAPANESE FILM FESTIVAL for gifting Thirty Four Flavours with e-tickets to 5 of their prestigious films. Keep your eyes peeled for details coming shortly.

The TORONTO JAPANESE FILM FESTIVAL’s mandate has been carefully aligned with that of the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre. In the 56 years since the opening of the JCCC, film has been an important tool in creating friendship, understanding, and exchange between the Japanese and broader Canadian community. Ticket sales from the festival also help to drive our heritage programming which shares the important lessons of cultural acceptance and human rights, implicit in the Japanese Canadian experience with all Canadians.


E-Tickets will go on sale on Wednesday, September 23 starting at 00:00AM (EDT) and continue through to the end of festival on October 22 at 11:59pm.

Tickets for all TJFF 2020 online screenings are priced at CDN$9.99. Please enjoy the films at home with your family for 30 hours after you begin streaming.  Some films do address adult themes so please check age recommendations.  


Films are presented on a Video on Demand basis through our online platform partner SHIFT72. The process is quite simple; just go to the TJFF 2020 website at and follow the prompts



Twitter:  @TorontoJFF

Instagram:  @japanesecanadianculturalcentre

For full program, ticket and box-office info go to:

Review: “Crosshairs” by Catherine Hernandez

CATHERINE HERNANDEZ is a proud queer woman of colour, a radical mother, a theatre practitioner, an award-winning author and the outgoing artistic director of b current performing arts. She is of Filipino, Spanish, Chinese and Indian heritage, and she is married into the Navajo Nation. Her novel Scarborough, which is soon to be a motion picture, won the Jim Wong-Chu Award for the unpublished manuscript; was a finalist for the Toronto Book Award, the Evergreen Forest of Reading Award, the Edmund White Award and the Trillium Book Award; and was longlisted for Canada Reads. She has also written the plays Singkil and Kilt Pins, as well as the children’s book M Is for Mustache: A Pride ABC Book. Crosshairs is her second novel. She lives in Toronto. In a terrifyingly familiar near-future, with massive floods that lead to rampant homelessness and devastation, a government-sanctioned regime called the Boots seizes the opportunity to force communities of colour, the disabled and the LGBTQ2S into labour camps in the city of Toronto.

In the shadows, a new hero emerges. After his livelihood and the love of his life are taken away, Kay joins the resistance alongside Bahadur, a transmasculine refugee, and Firuzeh, a headstrong social worker. Guiding them in the use of weapons and close-quarters combat is Beck, a rogue army officer who helps them plan an uprising at a major internationally televised event.

Hernandez keeps the oppression faced by BIPOC front and centre within the narrative of her novel. It’s time. As a global community we are with even more clarity oppressive language, behaviours and micro aggressions that BIPOC face in their lives. This pandemic has unearthed dirt that has been lying silently dormant for decades. The civil unrest in the U.S. has played a huge role within our pandemic journey. This isn’t new news, instead it reminds us of BIPOC lives long buried but not forgotten and those that have been erased.

Hernandez’s nod to a dystopian world where oppression still breathes will make your stomach turn. Hernandez paints a painstaking portrait. It is up to us as the reader to reflect on her words and perhaps find the courage to learn more beyond the context of her work. If you aren’t ready for activism yet, that’s ok. Maybe it’s about taking a moment to educate and start to have those difficult discussions with yourself and your loved ones. If you are uncomfortable with anti-Racism, this book still has something for you. Sit in your private discomfort for a moment or two and breathe in what BIPOC may experience within their lifetime. It’s ok. You can do it. What does that reflection tell you about your privilege and what you bring (or not) to the proverbial table?

If you are looking for a good read as we head into the Fall, this novel is for you. Overall, “Crosshairs” is a lyrical, urgent, beautiful story of pain, injustice, and hope. This is the type of text everyone should read.

Review: “When No One Is Watching” by Alyssa Cole

Alyssa Cole is an award-winning author of historical, contemporary, and sci-fi romance. Her Civil War-set espionage romance An Extraordinary Union was the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award’s Best Book of 2017 and the American Library Association’s RUSA Best Romance for 2018, and A Princess in Theory was one of the New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2018.  Alyssa Cole’s “When No One Is Watching” speaks of privilege. From gentrification and the many systems that are stealing land, and buildings, and lives still in 2020, to police brutality and who they are willing to protect and who they are willing take everything from, to the vast different micro aggressions they are forced to endure every single day. I encourage you to lead into the discomfort.

Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.

But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.

If you are looking for a thriller as we head into the Fall, this novel is for you. I appreciated Cole’s unpacking of American history embedded within a slow burning mystery. As we breathe in the civil unrest in the U.S., “When No One Is Watching” will truly affect you. If you are a fan of films such as “Get Out” and “Rear Window”, “When No One Is Watching” will be a delicious but also challenging emotional read.

Must See: Meat The Future

Covid – 19 has made me re-think a few things in life. How about you? I have taken some to reflect on my health, our planet and the animals we share our earth with. I haven’t figured it all out yet. But I have a few starting points. Check out this documentary and tell me what you think.

With animal agriculture occupying roughly 45% of the world’s ice-free surface area, producing more greenhouse gases than cars, the prospect of meat consumption doubling by 2050 is awake-up call for solutions.The future may lie with “clean meat,”also referred to as“cell-based,”and “cultivated”meat–a food science that grows real meat from animal cells, without slaughtering animals.Meat the Future chronicles the birth of a revolutionary industry,and the mission to make it delicious, affordable and sustainable. Documented exclusively from 2016-2019, by award-winning filmmaker Liz Marshall (The Ghosts in Our Machine), the film follows pioneering food scientists who are risking everything to bring their product to supermarkets and restaurants in the near future. This timely character-driven documentary focuses largely on former Mayo Clinic Cardiologist Dr. Uma Valeti, co-founder and CEO of American start-up company Memphis Meats. In 2016, Valeti and his team unveiled an $18K /lb meatball. At the forefront of the industry, Memphis Meats has attracted tens of millions of dollars in investment from billionaire influencers and corporate food giants. Their confidence is buoyed by the plummeting price of the product-in-progress.There are salivating moments as well, as top-ranked chefs perform their magic on the meat-of-the-future.Says director Marshall “The future of cell-based meat is unknown, but its revolutionary promise and journey into the world is a powerful story that I believe will stand the test of time.”

We All Need to Do Better

I hope you guys are safe and keeping well. I have some thoughts that I would like to share. I hope this post doesn’t offend you, if so I gently apologize in advance.
In the last few days, I have been reading Facebook posts, tweets etc. about what is happening in the U.S.. It’s beyond horrible, sad and infuriating. Aubrey, Christopher, George, Breonna are just a few casualties. I have also been thinking about all the countless others who have been erased over the years who never benefitted from the battle cry coming out of the U.S. in the moment.
I am not Black. I am not Indigenous. I would define myself as South Asian, able bodied, heterosexual woman, Catholic and yes, extremely privileged.
I cannot speak for Black and Indigenous people – nor should you. If you are a White person, I would gently ask that you do your research and make some time to understand the privileges you own. It’s not about just saying it in a Facebook post because you don’t want to be silent. Do the work and understand what disrupting White supremacist agendas really means. Yes, we are dealing with White supremacy here.
Some of my friends know the following story, but I thought I’d share it with you. I applied for my Masters two years ago and did not get in because my Undergraduate grades were too low. I completed my Undergraduate degree when I was 23. I was 44 when I applied for my Masters. When I received the letter of rejection, I made a decision to appeal the decision. No one tells me no. After weeks of back and forth emails, the university provided me with an interview with a panel of three scholars.
The interview date came and I was sat in front of three scholars, a Black male, a White woman and a South Asian woman whom were all Canadian. The questions they asked me consisted of, “What was happening to you at 23 for your grades to have been so low?”, “Are you sure you really want to do your Masters at 44?”, “You know, we just don’t give out spots for a Masters program” and “We can’t give you any funding.” I felt worn down, embarrassed and humiliated with the process but I leaned into it. I wanted to earn my Masters degree that bad. The university relented and gave me a spot. They also told me because I advocated for myself, they would be pulling all the other applications that didn’t get in because of their grades and re-evaluate them. I broke down. It was a powerful moment.
For the last two years, I worked full time as a Counsellor and taught part time at a local college so I could pay for my tuition and mortgage. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. I am also keenly aware that even as a person of colour, I have profited from Black and Indigenous individuals whose activism in Canada paved the way for me to have a platform to advocate for myself. There are many Black and Indigenous individuals out there that are deserving of a Masters degree but because of oppressive systems, intergenerational trauma etc. they are unable to attain those goals. I have taken from them and I have to give it back to both of those communities.
Canada is extremely racist. Colonialism is embedded within child welfare, schools, the legal system and health care systems, which force assimilation into Euro-Western paradigms. We all benefit from systemic racism, yes even if you are a person of colour. All of us. Black and Indigenous people do not have those same privileges.
I don’t have all the answers. Racism affected me as a youth, it affected my graduate studies enrollment and it continues to affect me on the streets of Toronto. That said, I am able to weave my identity between White and coloured spaces and use it for my benefit while oppressing others. There it is, and I am a person of colour. Black and Indigenous people do not have that same privilege.
If you want to learn more, I encourage you to read up on anti-oppression and anti-racism in Canada.
Two books that I recommend as starting points are:
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present

Policing Black Lives

Thanks for listening.
Melanie xo