When he was a penniless young man of 19 in the Bronx, originally from Puerto Rico, with little or no machine shop experience, John Soto answered an advertisement for a “machinist with one year’s experience.”
As the employer looked at him skeptically, Soto added, “If you hire me, in a year, I’ll be that experienced machinist.”
When Brandon Chrostowski was 18, he was arrested for drug possession and for running from the police in his home city of Detroit. He could have gotten 10 years behind bars, but a judge sentenced him to probation and no prison time instead.
Now Chrostowski owns and runs a nationally celebrated French restaurant where he teaches the formerly incarcerated to be chefs, waiters, and house managers, extending the second chance that he received decades ago to a population of diligent, aspiring culinary employees just looking for an opportunity to work.
A misfit family of Japanese thieves. The Nazi occupation of France, set in 2018. An Arkansas teen caught in a gay conversion therapy program. A rock’n’roll singer-songwriter in a L.A. drag bar.
Those stories are at the center of a few of my favorite movies thus far from the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which Westville resident and Madison Art Cinemas owner Arnold Gorlick and I have been at since Wednesday.
For people who love watching, making, writing, and talking about movies, the first two weeks of September are a special time of year. Because that’s when the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) takes place.
And for the third year in a row, I’ve managed to secure a press pass for the festival. On Wednesday afternoon, I traveled up to the Queen City with Westville resident and Madison Art Cinemas owner Arnold Gorlick to spend the better part of the next week feasting on terrific new films.
Spike Lee’s new movie BlacKkKlansman, which tells the true story of a black police detective from Colorado Springs who infiltrated a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in 1978, made me want to scream with anger.
In The Saddest Day, a man looking for his brother is helped and accosted by a man wearing a cheerleader’s outfit. In Steeping, a detective who keeps getting beaten up on the trail of an investigation doesn’t know how much he’s being played — until he does. In G.R.C.E., a space explorer runs into trouble on his mission. And in Friendly Advice in a Coffee Shop, a woman and a man try to renegotiate a relationship, but their cleverness keeps getting in the way.
They all have a few elements in common. They have characters named Grace Broha. They have cheerleaders. They have the line “let me tell you something.” And most of them were made in New Haven — all of them as part of New Haven’s chapter of the 48 Hour Film Project, now in its eighth year and going strong.
“I don’t measure my songs by how good they are. I measure them by how honest they are,” says singer-songwriter Sarah Shook during the documentary film What It Takes, about her and her band the Disarmers, presented at Cafe Nine Tuesday evening.
Honesty is also a hallmark of the documentary form, celebrated locally this week as the New Haven Documentary Film Festival, now in its fifth year, runs through June 10. Gorman Bechard, a festival co-founder who also directed What It Takes, was on hand to introduce the film — followed by a Q&A with him led by local musician Dean Falcone and a set of music by New Haven’s own Stefanie Austin and the Palomino Club.