First, a little Kvetching

Okay! I just needed to get this off my chest. I read a few weeks ago that the Catholic Church was abolishing the concept of "Limbo/Purgatory". But they are wrong to do that because I do know it exists. It exists on a 5 hour flight with a crying, screaming baby in the seat directly behind you and a Hugh Grant double-feature on the screen. It also includes a vain attempt to block out the sound using Air Canada headphones plugged into the arm rest with about 10 music channels of music I just can't stand to listen to! I knew something was up when earlier I had to check-in my carry on bag because of the jar of home-made Canadian jelly I purchased to take home to Andrea. I thought, "Well, there goes my bag to New Zealand or some place. I hope whoever finds it enjoys the jelly."

So purgatory is just sitting there during a 5 hour flight and taking it. I couldn't even enjoy the topography of Mother Earth since we were flying mostly through clouds. A young 20-something girl in the row in front of me was reading a book titled STRANGELAND which seemed to include, on every page, the writers thoughts on getting drunk at parties and sleeping with whomever was around. Chapter 2 seemed the same as Cha. 3,4,5 and so on. In Chapter 6, the writer got "seriously drunk and woke up with the worst hangover of her life." Behind me, the baby screamed and I catch a glimpse of Hugh Grant kissing Drew Barrymore. Purgatory.

Otherwise, it was all GREAT!

Day 1 I have never been to Toronto so this was an exciting bonus for me to travel to the TJ film festival which had accepted my new film "Diary of Niclas Gheiler, and flew me in for a few days to enjoy the festivities. The flight TO Toronto was pretty good. A short film titled, "The Danish Poet" was the first ini-flight film and it was a cute animated film about how someone's parents met through a book a Danish poet had written. In essence, the film was a poetic tale blending ancestors and chance meetings....very much a theme in my own film. This poetic, artful short film was followed by...Norbit, an obnoxious Eddie Murphy comedy which was funny enough to pass time on the long flight.

I landed about 8:30pm during a gorgeous sunset. The city was flat and was dotted with so many trees and immense parks that I instantly wished I had more time to explore its natural treasures. I was met at the airport by an older gentleman by the name of "Murray". Murray has been with the TJFF since its inception 15 years ago and we talked about our lives as he drove me to my hotel. Murray, a long time Toronto resident, pointed out many interesting things about the city and I particularly remember him showing my the Palais Royal, a waterfront building that was a happening nightclub back in the 1940's when Tommy Dorsey, Gene Krupa and others played to packed houses. Murray recalled taking the trolley to the Palais for a Saturday night date and dancing the night away. I also learned that he will be celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary next year. I turned to him and said, "I shoulda picked YOU up at the airport!"

I checked into the hotel at around 9:30pm but wasn't too tired and it was actually warm outside so I walked a bit to get my bearings. My hotel was about 6-8 blocks from the where my film was to show which was at Bloor Cinema on Bloor St. near the U. of Toronto. There was a lot going on and many cafes, bars and diners were teeming with people. I had a slice of pizza and a cup of coffee (don't know why) and headed back to my hotel room for the night.
I passed near the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) which currently featured an exhibit of Pre-Incan artifacts as it was undergoing a renovation. The old stone building now had steel and glass sticking out of the side of it as if a spaceship crashed into it the day before! Near the end of the trail I stumbled upon the beautiful Toronto Music Garden which was a series of little pathways, shaped like music notes, and lined with various flowers and trees. Placards containing a piece of music AND a poem dotted the area as birds chirped all around me. VERY beautful spot and if you visit Toronto, you really must take a walk through this garden of music and poetry.

I decided to walk from the garden back to my hotel by cuttng through the downtown area. Toronto is a very walkable, flat city with interesting architecture and parks with the CN Tower in view at all times. It was once the tallest structure in the world until a Dubai skyscaper went up recently. (So that's what they do with the all the stolen oil money in Dubai.)

I passed by Wayne Gretzky's restaurant. I didn't see the "Great One" but snapshot does rhyme with slapshot. I suppose like many people, I look for glues about where I am going in life and then I came up on the St. George Martyr church. Being an artist can feel like your a martyr to some unseen, unknown god. This is located in Grange park which is also adjacent to a College of Art and Design which happened to be holding its Graduate art exhibit. Then, several school buses pulled up and streams of highschoolers stepped out to go in and see the exibit for a field trip. I'd always heard Toronto was a growing cultural place but this was clear evidence that a grand effort is made to expose students to art and to help young artists get a taste of a good public showing.

A few more blocks up the street and through the U. of Toronto and I am at the offices of the TJFF. I stop in to say "hi" and to thank Helen Zukerman, Ginger Mttleman and some of the staff for accepting my film and flying my into Toronto. It is always an odd but pleasant feeling to meet strangers who know you by name and have seen your film and instantly begin remarking how much they've enjoyed seeing it. I know how much work goes into organizing a film festival and these wornderful people work hard behind the scenes to make sure it is a pleasant expereince for the audience and the invited filmakers. The TJFF is a REAL film festival. They concentrate on finding the best films to show without having to resort to throwing in a celebrity to get people to show up. I am told that most of the screenings are sold out and I look forward to seeing them all later at the Bloor Cinema.

The Screening The film and I are introduced by a young programmer by the name of Ryan Levey. Ryan was the one who first saw my film and immediately phoned Helen Z. and Larry Anklewics and told them, "you have to see this film!" Ryan was very enthusiastic about his praise for my film and all I could say was "thank you" and "that's wonderful to hear". So he introduces my film to the audience as "the best film he's seen in his 5 years of programming the festival." I nearly fell out of my chair at that comment and his praise for the film only grew after that. My approach to an audience before showing them my film is to lower their expectations so that they can be 'surprised' by how good it is. So I am invited on stage to say a few things and I told the audience that they "should just get up and leave and not watch the film and just remember the introduction!" hahah.

It was fun watching it on the big screen for once as this was the WORLD PREMIERE of my film that I finished just a few months ago. I don't really enjoy it too much as my ears search out for any hint of a yawn or a disappointed-shift in seat movement. Following my film was an excellent film about the Israeli painter Rosenthalis who reminded me of my old mentor/poet Herman Berlandt. This old painter seemed so happy in his life and I think that reminded me of why it is so important to do what you love because you'll be happy doing it until the day you die. I love making films and art and really am decidedly unhappy when I am not.

In the lobby of the nearly 100 year old Bloor Cinema, several people came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed the film. Programmers from the San Diego Jewish Film Festival demanded that they show it at theirs later this year. Who am I to say no?

Mostly, I love the sincerity the audience members showed me when they spoke with me afterwards as that is truly one of the only real rewards a person like me can experience after spending countless, lonely hours writing and making this film come to life. Ultimately, I think my ancestors would be very happy and proud to have their story told and shared and I am very optimistic this film will do well in the coming months. Larry Anklewicz, the head programmer and the first person who emailed me to tell me my film had been accepted, was in attendance and he shared with me how other festivals come to him looking for fresh material and that he expects to get a "number of calls" regarding Diary of Niclas Gheiler.

All in all, it was a great day except Andrea wasn't with me to share in the experience and I missed her very much the entire time I was in Toronto. So I spent the rest of my time trying to see as much of Toronto as I could.

I happened upon St. Lawrence Market on Saturday, one of the top 25 farmer's markets in the world. It is a huge place and I enjoyed the market and walking around the old parts of the city and admired the tulip garden next to St. James church before heading back to my hotel to pack my things and fly back to SF.

In finishing, as my plane was about to land in SF (Thank God!!!) the chld behind me finally shut his mouth, the Hugh Grant double feature ends and words on the last chapter of the book the girl was reading in front me read: " that's how I brought life into the world."

Tomorrow is mother's day. Happy Mothers' Day.

Toronto, Canada & the Toronto Jewish Film Festival
May 10-12, 2007

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