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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

Sara Bynoe Creator of Teen Angst Night

Tonight I had the pleasure of attending Sara Bynoe’s Teen Angst Night at the Fox Cabaret. I laughed a lot! It felt good. Going in I thought that maybe the material written during the 10 participants teen years might not be that good or entertaining, but, boy, was I wrong.

Sara was a hilarious and very charming host! All the courageous people who got on stage were funny, vulnerable, and confident enough to go back in time and share some pretty embarrassing thoughts . They revealed their often self-centred, dark (suicide came up quite regularly), and contrived writing styles they exhibited during their teen years. I so relate! In grade 10 I won a poetry contest for a poem called “Enveloped Surroundings”. I think the title says it all.

Sara shared that she has been running the Teen Angst Night since 2000. According to Bynoe, her plan is to retire the Teen Angst Night with a prom-themed event in the spring of 2020. That means there are a limited amount of Teen Angst Night’s left that you can attend. I recommend going while you still can. The next Teen Angst Night is at the Fox Cabaret on March 22nd. Advance tickets are $10! It’s worth it.

I kind of felt like a freak and an outsider at the beginning of the show because I went alone, but once the performances started I felt right at home!

Teen Angst Night uses humour to remind adults how lucky we are to be old enough to look back and laugh at it all.

Thanks to Sara for sharing her thoughts on what she loves about Vancouver (flowers in February are pretty special) and getting over feeling like a freak or an outsider through punk culture and ‘zines!! I wanna be more like Sara Bynoe.

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.

24HRS: Atlanta Artist Extraordinaire

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24hrs (IG: @2fourhrs) and I (Christina/VanIsReal.com) after his show at Fortune Sound Club

What do you love about Vancouver?

I mean so far the weather was super cool, like the snow. It was like snowing, but it wasn’t too cold, so it was like super lit. And then, like, the people have really nice hospitality. It’s cool so far.

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

The freak part? Like what type of freak? I’m just playing with you. Just following my dreams and people actually supporting what I do, like, and maybe at first people didn’t get it or understand it, but to see everyone scream my lyrics to my song, it looks like being the outsider or being different or being a freak or whatever it is helped me, and it paid off, so continue doing what you’re doing.

Here’s a link to his soundcloud: 24hrs soundcloud.

Background story from my perspective: I almost never go to live shows even though I often go out dancing to DJs, because it’s always a risk…you never know what you’re going to get. Another requirement for me if I’m going to see a live show is that I wanna hear music that lets me release some of my aggression and energy, so I gravitate towards rap shows since artists in this genre most often give me what I need out of a live show.

Anyways, I work super close to Fortune Sound Club and tonight while at work I thought I should take a look and see what was going on at Fortune tonight (Saturday, February 4th). I found out that an Atlanta rapper called 24hrs was doing a show.

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24hrs Open EP: No throwaway songs…he’s oozing talent.

Before tonight, I hadn’t heard of him and I didn’t listen to a second of his music before purchasing a ticket for myself and my boyfriend. I took a risk in spending $50 plus dollars on an artist I’d never heard (though during his show I realized I already did know some of his songs, I just didn’t know he was the artist performing them), and it was SO WORTH IT.

My job can be stressful at times and tonight my coworker and I were on the receiving end of intense anger coming from tenants of the building we work at, so I needed something to make me feel good after work. I felt reinvigorated after this show and I was on cloud nine after 24hrs let me interview him!

24hrs is such a present, confident, and fun artist. He owned the stage all the way. His music sounded so beautiful, tight, and powerful live and I am now a huge fan of 24hrs! I am always on the lookout for motivational, intense songs to add to my workout playlist, and I’ll be adding 24hrs EP Open tomorrow.

Thank 24hrs…I’m so happy to have some new special music to listen to.

Alfred Drinking Coffee and Chatting with VanIsReal

Alfred Zagloul loves coffee. This simple premise was used as the inspiration for his incredibly popular account (Alfred started his Instagram on September 1st, 2016 and he’s already up to 2397 followers as of January 17th, 2017) and it’s worked out swimmingly.

Even if you don’t love coffee (I’ve been off it for 2 weeks, but I’m sure my addiction will rear it’s ugly head again soon enough), I think his account is worth following if you use IG because his expression makes me laugh and without Alfred using any words it’s like he’s letting people know, “I feel ya”. Life ain’t always easy, but the best thing we can do is laugh at ourselves, and that’s why @alfreddrinkingcoffee is such an impactful account!

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Alfred at Revolver on Cambie.

It was my first time at Revolver and the music was my favourite part of the coffee shop: old school U2 and the War on Drugs were playing while we were there.

In addition to how amazing he is on IG, Alfred was kind, interesting, and easy to talk to in real life, so I give this “Accountant by day/Coffee Drinker also by day” (the tagline on Alfred’s IG) two thumbs up!

What do you love about Vancouver?

“Obviously, the biggest thing for me is the coffee culture in general. So, I love how everywhere you go in Vancouver, 90% of the people love coffee. Every shop that you go to has a different vibe, has a different flavour, so you get a real taste, a huge variation of tastes and flavours around Vancouver, which is really rare to see in some cities, so I love that about Vancouver.”

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

“Ok, so I had to really think about this. So, there’s been a couple times where I just felt like an outsider here and there, and I, honestly, the reason why I love coffee so much is because of the coffee shops themselves. So I’d go to a coffee shop, sit down and you feel like you’re a part of a group, even though you’re not really. You can just sit there and enjoy, hear some random conversations, hear what is going on around you and just enjoy the atmosphere of a good coffee shop. Usually, that’s my go-to if I ever do feel like an outsider or anything like that.”

Where did you come up with the idea for your Instagram?

“Honestly, a lot of my co-workers noticed that I’m obsessed with coffee before we did this. And they’re like, “Alfred you need to have an account.” So, we started pitching ideas and thinking about what we should do, and next thing I know here I am with colourful shirts, staring deadpan into the camera, and drinking coffee. Thought the most simple idea was the best way to go, so that’s where the idea came from basically.”

Fleabag: Funny Feminist Television

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If you’re into TV shows about confused, messed-up, funny, thoughtful, complicated and endearing white women in their early 30s then the show Fleabag might be for you.

The site Jezebel.com had a review of the BBC series Fleabag up a few weeks ago, so I downloaded the 1st season. There’s only 6 episodes and I burned through them right away. Then I watched them all a second time over because of how comforting and entertaining I find the series to be.

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Writer and star of FLEABAG Sophie Waller-Bridge

The series protagonist is Fleabag played by the outstandingly talented Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Waller-Bridge is 31 years old in real life and she is responsible for writing all 6 episodes of the first season. Fleabag, the televisions series, is the end result of a fringe play that Waller-Bridge originally performed in Edinburgh.

Anyways, while I now feel like my life is coming together (I’m 32) in terms of having a satisfying relationship with my boyfriend and a new job that I feel passionate about, most of my 20s (after I broke up with my first serious boyfriend in 2006) were spent binge-drinking alcohol and smoking tons of weed, and hooking up with random men who either weren’t interested in me, or if they were, then I immediately became repulsed by them. Once I quit drinking I continued to pursue womanizers who’d bounce from female to female and insult my physical appearance…and just generally contribute to why I felt like a piece of shit.

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Due to my own history, which was mostly spent as a single female looking for and rejecting any chance of finding love, I gravitate to stories about women who are going through similar experiences to what I went through for so long (editor’s note: That is not to say my relationship is perfect, and it started off in a highly dysfunctional manner, but I am much happier at this point then I was 2 years ago when I turned 30…I hate when people are in a relationship and present their lives as free of problems).

Anyways, Fleabag has an on-off boyfriend named Harry. During the 1st episode Harry and Fleabag are in bed. Harry wakes up to Fleabag masturbating to a video of President Obama she’s watching on her laptop, and he is offended and disgusted. The sensitive and giving Harry stuffs a few of his things into a bag and breaks up with Fleabag. Fleabag assures the viewer (she regularly speaks directly to the camera/viewer to give us the inside scoop…and while this approach is at first slightly disarming, it eventually made me feel like Fleabag and I were tight) that Harry will be back. Since Harry is fully into Fleabag, she tramples all over him and uses their short-term break-ups to fuck some real douchebags.

This show made me (and my friend and my boyfriend when I showed them some episodes) laugh a lot! I don’t want to spoil all the hilarious moments, but some of them centre around sending out mass vagina-shot texts to try to find a date, Fleabag discussing how heavy her period flow is when she randomly runs into a hook-up while shopping for tampons, and uncomfortable anal sex. I’m not expecting you to laugh here, since any of these situations could end up being written and portrayed in a way that is stupid and offensive, but in my opinion, these situations made me crack-up without brushing off the underlying emotional desperation Fleabag is experiencing to say and do the things she does.Image result for sophie waller bridgeFleabag operates her own tiny cafe, and she is heavily in debt. Once upon a time she ran it with her best friend Boo, but I can’t share anything more without giving away too many good plot details to ruin your viewing of the show (if you so choose to watch it). I think that Fleabag is a feminist show because Fleabag aims to be an independent, confident business woman who has a loving partner and a positive self-image, but the sad events that have occurred during the last few years of Fleabag’s life (some of which might be partially due to her own making) are causing her to harm herself, and lash out at everyone around her.

The show makes some very accurate feminist observations about how women are sexualized and treated as sexual objects, without ever pretending that women don’t often do the same thing to men. Fleabag favours the good looking guy over the man who will support her, and this is just one example of how Fleabag is a highly imperfect protagonist. Since all people are imperfect, I think this also makes her relatable. Feminism can take many forms, and while I don’t have much fun reading feminist theory, I do enjoy seeing a female try to figure out how to balance wanting to be desirable with respecting herself and chasing her ambitions.

Fleabag’s relationship with her older sister Claire (played by Sian Clifford) reminded me of my own relationship with my sister. It’s hard for us to open up about personal topics with one another, and sometimes it’s even awkward for us to hug, but Fleabag also captures the undeniable and unbreakable bond that exists between sisters since nobody knows you better than your own sister. Claire is married to a lecherous man named Martin (played perfectly by Brett Gelman), and Claire’s dedication to a man who treats her poorly, but who makes her laugh, is an issue between the sisters.Image result for sophie waller bridge fleabagFleabag and her sister Claire (played beautifully by Sian Clifford)

Fleabag and Claire’s father is in a relationship with a woman they despise, and the
“stepmom” character (though their father is not actually married to her) who is only referred to as “Godmother” (played by Olivia Colman) is the only character in the series who is presented as one-dimensional: she is threatened by Claire and Fleabag’s relationship with their father, and “Godmother” constantly makes passive aggressive jabs at Fleabag and Claire. The one-dimensional nature of “Godmother” allows the actress playing her to go wild and take her artsy-fartsy character all the way to the top.Image result for sophie waller bridge

Olivia Colman as “Godmother”

By the final episode of the series it all becomes apparent why Fleabag is so screwed-up and why she is struggling to like herself, let alone love herself. The show is dark, sick, twisted, and so very special. If you’re looking for something to watch this weekend that isn’t mindless entertainment, give Fleabag a try!