Asher Penn: Producer of Maggie Lee’s Documentary Mommy

I love watching documentaries but sometimes it can be hard to find ones that are exciting, interesting, and that tell really personal stories. I believe there’s lots of them out there, I just don’t always know where to find them.

If you’re a docu-film-fan like myself, please watch Maggie Lee’s MOMMY (click here for a link to rent or purchase the film on Vimeo–it’s worth it! I spent $15 to see it tonight at The Cinematheque–my first time seeing a film there–and it was worth every penny).

The movie is 55 minutes long. Mommy involves Maggie Lee telling the story of her mother’s life as well as her own, and letting us see what Maggie Lee experiences in the aftermath of her mother’s death. The film is funny and honest. It is also sad, touching, and heartbreaking. It made me feel a lot of things and it made me reflect on my own relationship with my mom, because I can’t imagine what I’d do if my mother died suddenly.

This film is unique from many other documentaries that I’ve seen in that it has beautiful, vibrant visuals: words, drawings, colours, flashing lights and other artistic creations that make Mommy that much more engaging and gorgeous to watch (Maggie Lee is a successful artist so these touches make sense). As well, I want the soundtrack to the film (at the Q and A after it we were told it’s on Spotify). The music was energizing, painful, and fun. The movie is so much more than just a few things, and the many things it is are superb. I have a short attention span, but this film held my focus throughout. I love Maggie Lee and how vulnerable she was in letting the viewer see what she went through after losing her mother.

Mommy was so easy to watch and the film sped by too quickly–I wished there was more!

After the viewing, I talked to Asher Penn who produced and took part in the creation of the film with Maggie Lee. Asher is currently working on a documentary about Gabor Mate. Watching film to overcome feeling like a freak or an outsider is something Asher suggests doing: I agree!

Pete Davidson and Kate Beckinsale: Never Know What’s Coming Next

VIFF ’18: CANADIAN SHORT FILM DIRECTORS’ Sophy Romvari (Pumpkin Movie) and Nathan Douglas (La Cartographe)

I took a risk and went to see a compilation of short films today (I usually stick to watching full-length feature films) made by some Canadian filmmakers at VIFF ’18 today. It was well worth it! The films were all entertaining, thought-provoking, and beautiful.

At the Q&A after the film, I had the pleasure of getting La Cartographe director Nathan Douglas and Pumpkin Movie director Sophy Romvari to answer the question, “If you’ve ever felt like a freak or an outsider what helped you through it?”

Thanks to Sophy and Nathan for sharing! Looking forward to seeing what these young filmmakers create in the future.

Sonja Larsen: Her Memoir Red Star Tattoo Is A Life-Changing Read

This summer my friend Nessa passed along a copy of her friend Sonja Larsen‘s impeccable memoir Red Star Tattoo: My Life As A Girl Revolutionary and I was hooked from page one. Larsen’s past is full of lots of different topics that are both fascinating and painful, such as being part of a cult and experiencing sexual abuse. Sonja’s talent lies in being able to appropriately delve into her shocking and painful past experiences without making them too heavy or going to the opposite end of the spectrum and presenting them in a salacious or tabloid-like manner. The book is educational without taking itself too seriously. It’s fun to read too! These are just a few of the reasons as to why I highly recommend that you take the time to read it.


I am grateful for Sonja’s decision to turn her life into a memoir, because it reminds me that I need to let go of my own shame and there is nothing in my past that should ever prevent me from moving towards a more enjoyable future.

Thank-you Sonja for sharing and for taking the time out of your day to let me interview you!

Sonja Larsen: “If I ever felt like a freak or an outsider…well if you’ve read my book you’ll know that I was definitely a freak and an outsider in lots of different ways, so often in my life. You know, my Dad was a pot dealer. My mother was a communist. You know, but I think part of my growing up was that I actually kind of was raised to believe, because my parents were a little bit hippies at first, that being an outsider was not such a bad thing, that if you were questioning the system that was good. But I think really what has got me through it is sometimes realizing that you’re not alone. That everyone is sort of making it up as they go along.”

Ilya Viryachev Felt Like an Outsider After Emigrating from Kazakhstan, Art Obsession Ensues…Mural in Progress at Main and E Broadway


ILYA VIRYACHEV (www.ilyav.ca/@godzilya)

(above) Painting new mural at Main and East Broadway

“So I felt like an outsider…when I came to Canada the first, like, grade 8-9, I would take, like, 3 art classes and so, like, half the time in school I’d just paint and do art…I think art did help because it helped me become good at something, which, later, I think people recognized. You know, when you have some sort of ability you’re good at people are drawn to you…”

If you have some free time and enjoy street art, please go take a look in the alley in the NW corner of Main Street and E Broadway. The artist Ilya Viryachev has just started a mural. The original piece of artwork by Ilya is beautiful, so I can’t wait to see the final product! Ilya hopes to finish the mural by the end of this year, but he also mentioned that he has a full-time job, so it’s clear he is already a very busy guy.

I was touched by Ilya’s story and by his ability to make a connection between how his artistic skills grew as a result of being an outsider temporarily. And he identifies the way that he then went on to receive more attention for his talent, which I think is uplifting. Ilya’s story shows that the best way to move past a hard time is to focus on what you love and are passionate about, work hard, keep practicing, and then you will eventually be noticed for something other than how good you look or what you’re wearing.

I loved Ilya’s answers to my questions so much that I am going to include them verbatim below:

1)What do you love about Vancouver?

I think it’s very accepting. I came here 10 or 11 years ago. And I come from Kazakhstan, so I think the opportunities I could have are very different there compared to here, because I’m able to do this first of all. I’m able to work in arts, and I think it’s a lot easier and there is a lot more opportunities for, I guess, people like me who are very much into, you know, the art field to get jobs and actually make a living out of it.

2)If you’ve ever felt like a freak or an outsider, what helped you through it?

When I came to Canada, I came to grade 8 and, you know, it’s that time where people start to make friends and cliques. So I like, I was kind of friends with people but then I was still very much an outsider, because, like, I don’t think people wanted to take this, like, you know, Kazakh-Russian kid into the group. So I felt like an outsider, but, so I ended up, I think, when I came to Canada the first, like, grade 8-9, I would take, like, 3 art classes and so, like, half the time in school I’d just paint and do art. So I guess you were mentioning, yeah, I think art did help because it helped me become good at something, which, later, I think people recognized. You know, when you have some sort of ability you’re good at people are drawn to you, so I think that was a good way. And you made me think about that because I actually didn’t think about that that way.


If you’ve ever felt like a freak or an outsider, what’s helped you through it? “I don’t know that I’m through it.”

I asked Josh the usual questions on Main Street in Vancouver today, and I was very entertained by his responses. I love it when people speak the truth, even if it involves them being vulnerable in order to do so. Josh definitely opened-up in a hilarious and honest way.

When I asked, “If you’ve ever felt like a freak or an outsider, what helped you through it?” His answer was, “Huh…I don’t know that I’m through it.


I love that answer! I also often still feel like a freak or an outsider, and while that feeling is not permanent,  I don’t know if I’ll ever stop feeling awkward and weird some of the time.

Josh then went on to say, “I think that you can go in and out of stages of comfortability, you know, but I think that what gets me out of anything is just sort of the knowledge that I’m going to be OK. You know I like just sort of look at my past and figure out, have I got through shit before? And it’s like, yeah. Am I gong to get through this next shit? Yeah.