Local filmmaker takes run at Wall Street

Filmmaker Desiree Lim isn’t one to stay within the confines of traditional narrative cinema.

The Vancouverite’s body of work includes campy behind-thescenes critique of a male-dominated porn industry, the untold plight of Burmese migrants, and many boundary-pushing dramas in between.

At this year’s Vancouver Asian Film Festival, Lim is poised to defy a new set of genre norms with The House: a ghost story that blends personal drama with pointed anti-Wall Street sentiment.

UBC study aims to save the world’s dying bees

It’s been blamed on everything from stress to wireless internet, but microbiologists and beekeepers around the world still have a lot to learn when it comes to the decline of honeybee populations.

Ongoing research led by Dr. Leonard Foster at the University of British Columbia will at least offer beekeepers a few new tools for breeding more resilient bees. By identifying “genetic markers” of more hygienic bees, Dr. Foster hopes to save populations from collapse through selection.

Red Gate locks up for good

After a long struggle to meet City demands, the Red Gate artist space on West Hastings Street has been shut down permanently.

Over the last four months, members of the creative hub have laboured to address safety concerns raised by the City of Vancouver. But after failing to submit a full plan for development, the group of filmmakers, painters, musicians and visual artists have been pushed out.

Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Like everyone with a laptop or a smart phone, bits and pieces of artist Kate Steciw’s life are stored away on hard drives. But unlike the rest of us—who may spend hours clicking through Tumblr and Facebook photos without much thought—Steciw is acutely fascinated by the use of screens to access images and memories.

“Looking at my old jpegs on my camera phone, I really began thinking about the way that the digital photo is ubiquitous in our lives,” says Steciw, reached at her Brooklyn studio. “These images on cameras and computers are at once so much a part of us, and yet they never really find their way into the actual world.”

No hashtag? No revolution.

When the people of Egypt filled Tahrir Square, we were predictably glued to the newsroom television. A single screen that normally flickered between British football games and Nigerian soap operas suddenly became fixed on Al Jazeera updates. It was a blazing hot January, and I had just begun reporting at Malawi’s oldest newspaper, The Daily Times.

The Arab Spring made an indelible impression on people across the globe. Beginning my internship at the Times, the first questions from family and friends were about a people’s revolution happening nearly 5,000 kilometres north. They asked what the mood was like in Africa and if the uprising was spreading south. There were a few moments when I had to earnestly explain that Egypt and Malawi were very different countries.

VIFF: Dragons & Tigers make noise on the big screen

They’re big. They’re blazing. They’re films from across the Pacific.

With 45 features and 16 shorts, the Vancouver International Film Festival’s Dragons & Tigers series is the largest Asian film program outside Asia.

“That’s true,” confirms Shelly Kraicer, a Canadian film scholar living in Beijing who selected half of the 2011 titles. “The only bigger program looking at Asian cinema is Busan’s festival in South Korea.”

Wreckage, a work by Nita Bowerman, battles frigid waters, tide changes, jellyfish, underwater visibility and pollution.

Fringe reclaims Vancouver with site-specific theatre

With the Vancouver International Fringe Festival now in full swing, adventurous theatre-goers have a wealth of weird and exciting staged drama to experience.

But in outdoorsy Vancouver, many performances are abandoning the traditional stage in favour of unexpected locations. Even more than in previous years, the festival’s “Bring Your Own Venue” selection boasts a growing hub of local talent.

red gate 'order to vacate' stands

Red Alert

Just over a month after the New Pornographers headlined a free concert in Stanley Park celebrating Vancouver’s 125th birthday, the band’s recording studio and rehearsal space—located on the third floor of the Red Gate—has packed up permanently.

“We’re almost entirely moved out, sadly, but we’ve been there over six years,” says John Collins, bassist and multi-instrumentalist for the New Pornographers. “When Jim [Carrico] found the place we were the first people to get in there—before there was any electricity or water.”

Canadian-African poets proclaim the power of spoken word

On the mainstage at the Bushfire Festival in Ezulwini, Swaziland, Canadian-African spoken word artists D’bi Young and Croc E Moses take turns casting adjectives and adverbs into a dense crowd.

The poetry of southern Africa is a different beast than the one that lives in dark bars and sparse cafes in Canada—it garners an elevated level of respect.

Artist Fiel dos Santos welds arms into art

VIDEO: Arms into Art

At the world-renowned artist studio Núcleo de Arte in Maputo, Mozambican artist Fiel dos Santos recalls a childhood robbed by military struggle.

“I grew up in civil war,” says Santos, who was 5 years old when his country became embroiled in a conflict that would last 16 years. “In my area the rebels were coming two times a week, every month, every day — but I’m here.”

Songs for Change

Mbongseni “Bholoja” Ngubane wasn’t always an internationally revered musician. By profession, the soulful songwriter hailing from the kingdom of Swaziland was once a mechanical engineer.

“To me, music is a calling,” Bholoja explained, hours before taking the stage at this year’s Bushfire Arts Festival in Ezulwini, Swaziland.

“It’s not all about being doctors or engineers. I was an engineer, but I’m an artist today.”

Rallying for academic freedom across Malawi

It began with a lecture.

At Chancellor College in Zomba, political science professor Dr. Blessings Chinsinga told his public policy class that Malawi’s shortages of fuel and foreign currency could ignite political uprising. To make his point, Dr. Chinsinga drew matter-of-fact comparisons to the mass protests that toppled governments in Egypt and Tunisia.

Though such discussion of current events may seem commonplace during a university politics lecture, Dr. Chinsinga’s words have since sparked an unprecedented country-wide battle over academic freedom.

From culprits to catalysts: girls’ initiation in Malawi

In their respective villages, Cecelia Muliya and Esitere Chabwera are regarded as cultural leaders.

The two have worked in girls’ initiation camps for decades, tasked with the role of introducing young girls to womanhood.

Upon reaching puberty, more than half of all Malawian girls participate in some form of initiation ceremony, ranging in length from days to an entire month. Sent away to rural camps, this traditional rite-of-passage is meant to teach girls to take care of themselves, to dress like a woman and to show respect to elders.

"Bingu okays newspaper ban law," Daily Times March 1, 2011

Media Council weighs options on Malawi’s media ban law

Media Council of Malawi (MCM) says if dialogue with government doesn’t end in a repeal of Section 46 of Malawi’s Penal Code, it will consult legal experts to see if the media ban law can be challenged on constitutional grounds.

The renewed call to repeal Section 46, which empowers the Minister of Information to ban publications deemed contrary to the public interest, was in response to a government statement by Chief Secretary Bright Msaka that said the law would only be used under “reasonable grounds.”

Black to Basics

Though Vancouver may be a comfort zone for hometown heroes Black Mountain, the band has proven they’re willing to make leaps and bounds outside that space—and luckily, it’s playing off.

Reached from the Black Mountain tour van en route to Austin, Texas, bassist Matt Camirand opened up about their new album, new tour, and new approach to rock and roll.

Beach Boy

If life is a beach for Wavves frontman Nathan Williams, the last two years have brought soaring swells along with some gnarly riptides.

Back in 2008, equipped with a Macbook and lack of better things to do, Williams unwittingly set the music blogosphere abuzz with a few irreverent bursts of lo-fi stoner pop. His eponymous debut received nods from the scene’s most respected tastemakers, catapulting Wavves into indie fame before the 24-year-old even had a chance to move out of his parents’ San Diego home.

Shad

It was daylight outside, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from the subterranean lighting inside the Biltmore Cabaret. Hip-hop wordsmith Shad and I shared a red velvet booth, while his bassist Ian Koiter absent-mindedly grooved in the background.

A few minutes before soundcheck, we were contemplating the finer points of the 1984 video game Tetris.

“I play a lot of Tetris on my computer. It calms me down in a weird way,” he said. “There’s definitely a rhythm to it. I find it relaxing.” . . .

Animal   Instincts

They say grass is always greener on the other side. But for Swedish-born illustrator Daniel Egnéus—having already absorbed the beauty of London, Prague, Berlin, and Rome—the prettiest pastures exist in his dreams. “I always prefer to draw places and things I can’t go geographically,” he says, reached at his century-old home in Milan, Italy. “You have to draw them to imagine them—and then you can maybe feel a little bit safer, when you fantasize.” . . .

Ultraviolet

Twisted Sister

A little internet hype goes a long way.

Of all the buzzworthy artists floating around the blogosphere, this is especially true for Kid Sister. Within two short years, the Chicago MC went from selling baby clothes and stealing microphones at basement dance parties, to collaborating with Kanye West and performing at Coachella’s main stage. All this—plus a BET award nomination—went down before she released a debut album . . .

Street Pets

Jill Baron knows that caring for an animal is an immense responsibility.

Since she was four years old, Baron has been a devoted owner of many cats, dogs, birds and rodents. She even volunteered at the SPCA for 11 years. But last winter, Baron became homeless. Despite cold weather and colder criticism, Baron continues to care for three rats and two cats on the streets of Vancouver.

On a Commercial Drive sidewalk—in front of a Mr. Pets franchise—Baron sits cross-legged, reading a book. In front of her, she props up a small notebook that simply reads: ‘It’s easy to ignore me, but I do need your help.’