The Confucius Institute (CI) initiative is a multi-billion dollar Chinese language program found in over 1,500 universities and schools across the world. As new Institutes open at a rate of one every week or two, a global controversy grows at academic institutions around the world as scholars, parents and others question the program’s political influence and purpose.

When Canada’s largest school board is slated to open the world’s largest Confucius Institute, the school trustees find themselves embroiled in this controversy. Joined by a former instructor, hundreds of disgruntled parents launch a campaign to have the institute closed and are confronted by supporters.

Doris Liu

Doris Liu

Into this controversy steps filmmaker Doris Liu and the result is her award winning documentary In the Name of Confucius

Five Questions With spoke with Liu about the challenges she faced in making the film which has its Ottawa premiere at the One World Film Festival on Saturday September 30, 2017.

How did you get in involved in making this film?

As a Chinese-Canadian journalist, I’ve spent years covering news stories related to China and the Chinese diaspora in the Greater Toronto area. In early 2013, I read a Globe and Mail article about McMaster University closing down its Confucius Institute because of the discriminatory hiring policies against which a former instructor, Sonia Zhao, had filed a complaint. The story caught my eye right away as it related to the topics I was interested in: Chinese-Canadians, Canada-China relations, and education – I myself was a university teacher back in China and I also studied education after my immigration.

At first, I didn’t know much about the Confucius Institute (CI) although I heard of it long ago and knew it teaches Chinese language. I did a quick Google search and found lots of concerns and criticisms about the institutes, not only in Canada.

More »

Winner of the Toronto Film Critics Association prize for Best Canadian Feature of 2016, The Stairs is a challenging look at the lives of those who live on the margins.  We saw this film at the Kingston Canadian Film Festival earlier this year and were blown away by the sensitivity of the filmmaker and the amazing access to the subjects in Toronto’s Regent Park.  The film is now streaming on-demand at tvo.org.  Here’s the trailer.

You can access the film directly at the tvo.org site by clicking  this link.

29. May 2017 · Comments Off on Five Questions With Tim Alberts, Co-director of “Sisyphus Rides” · Categories: Documentaries, Five Questions with... · Tags: , , , , , , ,

Sisyphus Rides tells the story of Vince Vetro, founder of The Lending Journey a micro-finance organization which provides micro loans to underprivileged Nicaraguan women. In an effort to raise awareness of the plight of the poor in Central America, Vince and a group of rural Nicaraguan women cycle across Nicaragua. What follows is the slow unravelling of his organization, and a soulful examination of what constitutes real success and failure in international development.

Tim's Photo for 5QW

Tim Alberts

The film’s title and central metaphor is based on Sisyphus a character in Greek Mythology who has a great passion for life but angers the gods by putting Death in chains. His punishment is fitting. Sisyphus isn’t sentenced to death. Instead, each day, he must roll a boulder up a mountain only to have it fall back down each night.

For some, Sisyphus‘ fate may seem hopeless, but for Vince Vetro – life’s meaning is found in struggle itself. What drives Vince to fight the odds so clearly stacked against the poor in Central America? The film examines Vince’s decision to exchange “the good life” in Canadian business for the constant challenge of third world micro finance.

Intrigued and wanting to learn more about the film, which has its Ottawa premiere Saturday June 3, 2017 at 5:00pm, Ottawa Indie Fest spoke to Tim Alberts, the film’s co-director.

How did you got get involved in making a documentary on this subject?
The project began with a chance encounter with Vince Vetro at a music festival in Guelph Ont. Vince is the founder of an independent micro finance NGO called The Lending Journey. I had known him years earlier but we’d lost touch. He told me about what he’d been doing over the past 12 years in Nicaragua and Ecuador, arranging micro loans for women in remote areas to start small businesses. He also talked about his plans for a fundraising cycling excursion across Nicaragua, from Costa Rica to Honduras, a climb of about 7000 feet. This became the first of several meetings over the course of the summer.

Lisa

Lisa Lightbourn-Lay

Lisa Lightbourn Lay (co-director) and I admired the work of The Lending Journey and were drawn to Vince’s story, but we wanted to make sure that any potential film project would yield a documentary film and not just a promotional video for the organization. It was during one of these meetings that I turned to Lisa and said, “You know what this is. This is the myth of Sisyphus; a story about persistence in the face of unending struggle.” Lisa came of up with the title, Sisyphus Rides and that became the central metaphor for the film. We didn’t want to make a film in defence of micro finance or any other methodology in international development. We wanted to explore Vince’s determination to pursue his goal long after it seemed logical to do so. This is the untold part of the Sisyphus story. What are the good things that happen while pursuing what turns out to be an unattainable goal?

More »

“As I filmmaker I grew up loving animation and comic art in hopes of telling stories that I could create and tell. Watching movies like Tim Burton’s Batman or the 90’s TMNT films and shows made me love the medium,” director Yaron Betan tells Ottawa Indie Fest during a recent conversation about his feature documentary film Heroes Manufactured.Yarton with Poster in BG

Winner of five awards and the official selection in 30 international film festivals, the film explores the world of Canadian independent artists who are trying to break into the comic book industry while dealing with fandom and the craze of comic book conventions, super heroes, cos-players and everything else the comic-con markets have to offer.

Heroes Manufactured has its Ottawa premiere on Saturday June 3, 2017, 11:00am at Ottawa Indie Fest 2017.

How did you get involved in making a documentary on this subject?
Comic books have always been a passion of mine while growing up. I had produced a number of documentaries and feature films in the past and wanted to create something that I really loved and appreciated. Comic creation, illustration and story telling have always been a subject I had interest in.

More »