CMW Film Fest honours Spike Lee


Spike Lee will give a keynote address at the Royal Cinema in Toronto prior to a showing of his classic film, “Do the Right Thing,” this week. (Photo courtesy of CMW Film Fest)

Story by Waheeda Harris
Vacay.ca Senior Writer

TORONTO, ONTARIO — The buzz may be about Noel, Sean and Joey, but for those who need a cosy seat with their music, Canadian Music Week’s second weekend offers several celluloid doc options with the fifth annual CMW Film Fest.

Past festivals have included memorable gems such as Ain’t In it for My Health: A Film About Levon Helm, The Last Pogo Jumps Again, Heaven Adores You: An Elliot Smith Project and last year’s CMW Film Fest award winner, Finding Fela!, by director Alex Gibney.

Royal Cinema, on College Street in Toronto‘s west end, is CMW Film Fest’s home, with six documentaries to lure music fans from the clubs this year, plus one classic special screening of Do the Right Thing, the breakout film from director Spike Lee.

This cutting-edge 1989 film, with its storyline about racism and urban tensions, is told within the memorable timeline of one of the hottest days of the year in Brooklyn, and showcases the talents of Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Samuel L. Jackson, John Turturro, and the first on-screen performances by Martin Lawrence and Rosie Perez.

Controversial, thought-provoking and nominated for two Academy Awards, this film was also known for a memorable soundtrack featured several hip-hop and soul tunes from Take 6, Teddy Riley, Perri, Public Enemy and Al Jarreau, revealing the mood of urban culture in America at the end of the 1980s — willing to “fight the power” and party.

Twenty six years later, Spike Lee is scheduled to be in attendance on May 10 at the Royal for a post-screening question-and-answer session about this film’s effect on popular culture.

Hot Documentaries at Toronto’s Music Fest

Six documentaries are on offer at this year’s CMW Film Fest, examining the music industry through different viewpoints:

I Am What I Play (Canadian premiere) — Roger King’s first feature focuses on four rock DJs from Seattle, Boston, New York and Toronto, their connection to bands and fans and how they’ve survived as technology has dramatically changed the world of radio in the 21st century.

I am Thor (Toronto premiere) — chronicling the comeback of singer/strongman Jon Mikl Thor, whose theatrical band Thor was a minor hit in Europe in the late ’70s and early ’80s, director Ryan Wise showcases one man’s passion for music and his belief that even after a decade of disappointments, success is just around the corner.

Lowdown Tracks — directed by Shelley Saywell, this film showcases Canadian street musicians, several of whom are homeless or living on the margins of society. With musician/activist Lorraine Segato as an on-screen host, the stories and songs of these troubadours are revealed from their stages: beneath bridges, alleys, shelters, rooming houses and rooftops.

Made in Japan (Canadian premiere) — writer/director Josh Bishop’s inaugural efforts reveals the history of Japan’s first country music superstar Tomi Fujiyama, whose career culminated with an appearance at the Grand Ol’ Opry in 1964. Forty years later, she’s asking for just one more appearance on country music’s hallowed stage.

Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington DC — the 1980’s DIY punk scene in America’s capital provided director Scott Crawford with first-hand history from bands of the time such as Government Issue, Marginal Man, Bad Brains, Rites of Spring, Fugazi and Void, revealing a vibrant underground music scene that co-existed during the city’s memorable Reagan years.

Sex and Broadcasting: A Film about WMFU (Canadian premiere) — director Tim K. Smith documents the battle of WMFU station manager Ken Freedman and his one-man campaign to save his beloved New Jersey radio station — a unique battleground of Freedman versus technology, recession and his staff.



Dates: All film screenings are at The Royal, May 8, 9 and 10.
Tickets: $10-$12, except for Do The Right Thing ($20-$22)
Website: cmw.net/film
Location: The Royal, 608 College Street, Toronto, ON
Telephone: 416-466-4400



A Toronto-based freelance journalist since the beginning of the millennium, Waheeda has been lucky enough to visit every continent. She's always happy to travel, especially when she can swim in the sea, taste locally-made cuisine and spend an afternoon in an art gallery.

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