What My 2015 Toronto International Film Festival Experience Was Like – Best Meal I Ate, Best Films I Saw, Most Wonderful Things I Heard and the Joy of Being in Toronto in September – by Gary S. Smolker

 

While at the festival, I constantly watched films that updated me on what is going on in the world and exposed me to other people’s (filmmakers’, audiences’, people in the street’s) ideas, perspectives, and thoughts.

Filmmakers discussed their films before and after their films were shown.

I talked to many people from many countries who love movies.

We discussed their reaction to the movies they saw.

We also discussed what is going on in the country where they live.

I also became more familiar with the City of Toronto.

Toronto is a highly energized charming city, full of dynamic people.

The weather in Toronto in September is divine, compared to the weather in Los Angeles where I live.

The skylines of the downtown areas of Toronto are bursting with construction cranes.

There was ongoing construction everywhere I walked and the streets were paved.

I didn’t see any potholes in the streets of Toronto.

By comparison,:

  • Many of the streets I drive on in Los Angeles have potholes.
  • The alley I must drive through to get to the garage in my building is in disrepair — it has several potholes.
  • The street in front of the building I live in (Burbank Blvd) has potholes.
  • The street on the side of the building I live in (Tyrone Ave.) has potholes too.

Comparing the two cities (the City of Los Angeles and the City of Toronto):

  • The City of Los Angeles is an old decrepit decaying city which has many streets in disrepair.
  • The City of Toronto is a bustling city full of charm.
  • Toronto has charming older buildings and neighborhoods as well as new buildings.
  • All the streets I saw in Toronto were new streets or well maintained well repaired streets.
  • There are many newly constructed buildings under construction in Toronto in the process of replacing older smaller buildings.
  • There is a well maintained, clean, efficient, safe and inexpensive subway system in Toronto — great clean safe affordable quick public transportation.
  • The air in City of Toronto, compared to the air in the City of Los Angeles, is remarkably clean.
  • It is safe to walk in the downtown areas and in the university areas of Toronto at all hours, day and night.
  • Overall, the City of Toronto is a very charming very well kept city.

Best Meal

The best dishes I ate at the festival was at a lunch where I had a Melon Gazpacho Appetizer followed by a Watermelon Salad entrée.

Below is a photograph of those dishes taken with my iPhone.

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Recipe for Melon Gazpacho

Melon Gazpacho: Watermelon, honeydew, mint, honey.

Recipe for Watermelon Salad

Watermelon Salad: Compressed watermelon, pickled rind, jalapeno, avocado puree, hazelnuts, dunkkah.

While at the Festival I Discovered the Secret Sauce of Success

It is abundantly clear to me that film makers who make the best films are doing something that comes from doing who they are; they do not think of their work – their part in making their films – as just a job.

They honestly think and believe the work they are doing while making the film they are making is a dream come true experience.

They thoroughly love what are doing, mostly because they believe they are making a film containing a message they believe in and/or making a movie which tells a story they feel must be told.

The films I enjoyed watching had the following ingredients:

  1. The people making that film loved making that film.
  2. The film had well-developed characters.
  3. The best films are stories the audience will not forget.
  4. The very best films I saw at the festival told stories that will live in my heart forever.
  5. The characters said things that are memorable.
  6. I always learned something.
  7. The were provocative.

The best films are made with intellectual scruples and so well made they can’t be ignored.

Variety

Over 300 films from 71 different countries were shown at the festival.

The films that I saw told stories about on-going events and perspectives in different places in the world and in different age groups.

Each film I saw was a different window into human thought; each film uniquely reflected the way each film maker grasps reality.

The local history of the place where the film maker experienced life and the vicissitudes of the film maker’s life came through in the “reality” portrayed in each film made by each film maker.

Takeaway

My takeaway from 18 films I saw at the festival is:

  • The world is an immense tapestry of many interesting people, a throbbing intricate convoluted mosaic of people living in their own separate cultural planets and worlds.
  • You can have no sense of reality nor can you be connected to reality in the absence of observation.
  • People are mentally agile enough to interpret events in many ways.
  • The mind is powerful enough to frame a single situation in very different ways.
  • Everything you see is filtered through the prism of your prior experiences.
  • You have to dare to be yourself, however strange that self may prove to be.

I now understand what Henry David Thoreau meant when he said, “The bluebird carries the sky on his back.” and what Carl Gustav Jung meant when he said, “Life is something that has to be lived and not talked about.”

The Bravest Film I Saw at 2015 TIFF

The best film I saw at 2015 TIFF was the Hindi film “Parched.”

Anyone watching this film will immediately realize this film was made with great love and faith by everyone involved.

In the question and answer period following the film, the producer advised the audience

  1. Films cannot be shown in India without approval by the Censor Board.
  2. No one has ever shown a nude scene in a film shown in India.
  3. The producer would rather not have this movie shown in India than remove or change the nude scene in this film, or any other scene.

“Parched” is about the lives of women who live in villages in India; the story follows the lives of three women who live in a village in India.

The “fact” I came away with by watching the story told in “Parched” is that Hindu men and Muslim men routinely beat their wives in rural villages in India.

The Second Bravest Film I Saw at 2015 TIFF

The second bravest film I saw at 2015 TIFF was the French film “Un Fracais” (“French Blood”).

After this film was shown, the director (Diasteme) told us he was having difficulty getting the film shown in France because far-right wing groups in France have threatened to bomb any movie theatre in France which shows this film.

“French Blood” is a pull no punches searing portrait of the rise of skinheads and what they have been doing in France, beginning in 1985.

This film is based on real events.

The Most Provocative Film I Saw at 2015 TIFF

The most provocative film I saw at 2015 TIFF was filmmaker Michael Moore’s “Where to Invade Next.”

The most provocative speaker I heard after the showing of a film was Michael Moore.

I was one of approximately 1,700 people who attended the world-premiere showing of Michael Moore’s film “Where to Invade Next” in The Princess of Wales Theater at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 10, 2015.

All of us listened to Michael Moore speak after his film was shown.

The Most Provocative Idea I Came Away with From Listening to Michael Moore Speak After His Film Was Shown

I understood Michael Moore to say that as the Black Civil Rights movement gained traction (steam) in the United States the violation of drug laws was raised to a felony in order to disenfranchise black people.

I understood Moore’s argument to be (i) that more black people than white people are prosecuted for violation of drug laws; (ii) once a [black] person has been convicted of a felony that [black] person loses his or her right to vote.

Therefore, the end result of making drug crimes higher rated crimes is that the elected representatives in the governments which made violation of drugs a felony effectively made blacks a more disenfranchised minority when they passed such laws.

TAKE AWAY: The impact of making the violation of drug laws felonies has resulted in more blacks than whites being prosecuted.  When they [the violators of such drug laws] got out of prison, they could not vote because they were felons.  The end result of such changes in drug laws is that blacks have become a more disenfranchised minority.

I had never thought of that before.

The Most Provocative Idea I Came Away with From Watching Michael Moore’s Film

Another set of “facts” and thoughts I came away with from watching Michael Moore’s film “Where To Invade Next” –

  • (1) Grammar school and/or high school students in Finland are not given homework.
  • (2) The Finish education system is the best in the world.
  • (3) Giving kids lots of “homework” is counter-productive.
  • (3) Using standardized tests to measure “learning” is ridiculous.

Michael Moore is completely against giving standardized tests to children in grammar school, middle school and high school.

As a result of “standardized testing”, teachers tend to teach their young students how to pass those tests by making their students MEMORIZE facts.  This  kills their young student’s curiosity and desire to learn.

When teachers teach kids how to pass standardized tests, teachers are reduced to dispensing so called nuggets of information to pupils who try to retain them in their minds long enough to give them back on an exam.

YUK.  I am glad I was not regularly tested with standardized tests while I was in grammar school, middle school and high school.

In the film, and in the talk he gave after his film was shown, Michael Moore mentioned several countries in which college education is free, no tuition is charged.

He also mentioned one country (Slovenia) in which students from foreign countries are not charged tuition and in which many classes (if I remember correctly 145 classes) are taught in English.

In “Where to Invade Next”, Moore has filmed the educational system and prison system in Finland and laws regarding drug usage in Finland and in many other countries in action.

A friend of mine commented to me that some of the ideas Moore shows working in “Where to Invade Next” worked because they were used on a Scandinavian population.

My friend then told me, “I doubt that kind of prison system would work with some of the U.S. prison population or that Detroit would have some of the world’s best schools if it switched to the Finish system.”

I replied: “There are an infinite number of generalizations, most of them wrong, that are logically consistent with any sample of experiences.”

Down with Negativity

At the end of the showing of “Where to Invade Next”, Michael Moore came to the stage in the Princess of Wales Theater and said, “We need to get off our asses and be inspired to be what we can be.  We need to be part of what needs to happen.”

I totally agree with that sentiment.

I often wear a t-shirt which states “Official Member of the Piss and Moan About Everything Club.”   See photograph below.

People often come up to me to tell me how much they agree with the sentiment expressed on that t-shirt.

When they do, I tell them, “If you don’t like the road you are on, pave your own.”

That is one of many memorable statements Sandra Bullock makes in the film “Our Brand is Crisis.”

It is obvious to me that Sandra Bullock made “Our Brand Is Crisis” because she is fed up with “lying” politicians  – politicians who make promises they don’t intend to keep and who do not work in the best interests of the public.

Another memorable statement Sandra Bullock makes in “Crisis is Our Product” is her answer to the question: Do you have any heroes?  Her answer: My heroes were politicians and elected leaders, until I met them.

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After the end of the showing of his film “Where to Invade Next” (on September 10, 2015), Michael Moore told the audience he made the film “Where to Invade Next” to tell the truth about the positive things happening in other countries.

He told the audience he went to other countries “to pick the flowers, not the weeds.”

Obviously, Michael Moore is a man with a mission, on that mission.  That shows in his film “Where to Invade Next.”

In explaining how he was able to be so successful, Steve Wozniak, says: “If you love what you do and are willing to do what it takes, it’s within reach.  And it will be worth every minute your spend alone at night, thinking and thinking about what it is you want to design and build.”

I think Michael Moore would agree with that, Sandra Bullock would agree with that and all the other filmmakers whose movies I saw at the festival would agree with that.

I tell everyone I know who asks me how to be successful:

  1. Do the work.
  2. There are no short cuts.
  3. Don’t “piss and moan” about that.
  4. I realize that is more easily said then done.

 

Films Are Windows into Human Nature

The films I saw portrayed a wide variety of fact patterns occurring in different parts of the world.

But, they all had something in common.  They were all about the bonds that tie humans to each other, human nature, and what it means to be a “civilized” human being.

For example:

Example One

During the story told in “Les Cowboys”, an older man gives advice to a young boy who lives in rural France about the need to be social.  Another older man, in another part of the story, advises the boy when he has grown up to become a young man that the young man needs to live in the right physical environment.

Example Two

In the story told in “Let Them Come” the filmmaker shows the audience what can happen if a man does not make an effort get to know who his spouse is.

In that story, the filmmaker shows the audience what happened to “moderate” Muslims who practiced Islam when Islamist extremists take over Algeria, his country.

Example Three

In “Collective Inventions” the audience is shown people in all layers of upper society in South Korea living a life of pretense, inventing stories, in order to advance their own material interests.  The idea I came away with is that everyone in a profession in South Korea would do anything “socially required of a fraudulent nature” to get ahead.

 

Have You Ever Felt Like A Giant Bird Living in A Cage That Is So Small You Can’t Extend Your Giant Wings?

All I could think of while I watched Thomas Bidegain’s film “Les Cowboys” is what it must feel like to be a giant bird living in a small cage.

In one scene in Thomas Bidegain’s film “Les Cowboys” a young boy is shown fishing in a stream with an older man.

The older man asks the young boy: “Why are you here with me instead of with your school mates?

The young boy responds: “All the kids my age are too boring.  I can’t stand being with them.”

The older man replies: “You must force yourself to be with kids your own age.  Otherwise, you will end up being an old man living alone in a log cabin in the woods eating squirrels like me.”

In another scene in “Les Cowboys”, the young boy has grown and is now a young man.

He is shown in the wide open spaces in Pakistan looking for his sister – who he believes has been brainwashed and kidnapped by a Muslim extremist.

He is traveling with an older man who is on his way to pay ransom to Muslim kidnappers to obtain the release of Belgium engineers who have kidnapped.

While in the middle of a no-man’s land in Pakistan, the older man advises the younger man:  “We are too big for civilized places.  This is where we belong.  We are too big to live in a city.”

All of the above conversations take place while the story the filmmaker is telling is unfolding – a haunting tale of a young woman’s disappearance from her home in rural France.

In this film, her brother spends sixteen years searching for her.

His search takes him across international borders.

While searching for her, her brother comes into contact with all kinds of different Muslims.

In the question and answer period which followed the showing of this film, when asked how it felt to make this film, Bidegain replied:

“Making your first feature film is like your first marriage.  It is frightening and it goes too fast.”

Do You Know Who You Are Married To?

In “Maintenant ils peuvent venir” (“Let Them Come”) the main character Noureddine had no idea of who he was married to, albeit he and his wife had two children together and ate breakfast and dinner together all the time.

In this film, film maker Salem Brahimi tells the story of Noureddine – a moderate Muslim living in Algeria who works as a newspaper reporter.

Noureddine promised his mother at her bedside in a hospital that he [Noureddine] would marry the lovely Yasmina, a neighbor who was graciously watching over his mother during her illness.

Noureddine made this promise to his mother although he had no interest in getting married and he had no interest in marrying Yasmina or otherwise.

Yasmina is an intelligent educated “moderate” good looking Muslim woman who is very modern, who doesn’t wear a shawl.

Noureddine and Yasmina arranged marriage takes place in Algeria in the 1980s, more than two decades after Algeria had gained its independence.

In this story, Noureddine and his wife Yasmina have two children together, albeit Noureddine and Yasmina don’t get to know each other even though they have meals together every day because Noureddine is so preoccupied working on things he thinks are related to “doing” his job.

Their marriage is mired in disenchantment as soon as it begins and their relationship with one another rapidly disintegrates as time goes on.

While their unhappy marriage is in the process of disintegrating strict Islamists take over Algeria.

Thereafter  everyone living in Algeria has to follow rules promulgated by strict Islamists at penalty of death.

Many horrible thing happen to Noureddine and Yasmina after the strict Islamist take control.  As a result of Noureddine and Yasmina’s refusal to follow dictates of the strict Islamists, Yasmina’s father disowns Noureddine and disavows Noureddine’s marriage to Yasmina and “gives” Yasmina to a strict Islamist as a second wife to the strict Islamist.

There is nothing the Noureddine can do to stop Yasmina living thereafter as the second wife of the strict Islamist except to kidnap and recapture her.

Up to this point in the story, Noureddine has no idea who Yasmina is because he had never made an effort to get to know Yasmina, except to have sex with her and eat meals she prepared with her.  Many more horrible things happen after this point in the story.

After the film ended, Brahimi explained to the audience that Algeria is no longer run by strict Islamists because the majority of Muslim’s living in Algeria got fed up with the strict Islamists running Algeria and retook their country.

According to Brahimi:

  1. Moderate Muslims refused to send their children to schools run by the strict Islamists and told other moderate Muslims that if they sent their children to such a school they would kill them and their children
  2. Eventually, moderate Muslims took back control of Algeria by force of arms.

Are You Totally Fed Up with the Degree of Corruption in Modern Society?

In “Dolyeon Byeoni” (“Collective Invention”) South Korean filmmaker and screenwriter Kwon Oh-kwang tells a tale of corruption at many levels of the modern society currently existing in South Korea.

“Collective Invention” in a story riddled with witty twists and goofy detours about a man who is turned into a half-fish-half-man while participating as a person in an experiment at an advanced bio-engineering research laboratory.

After that happens an idealistic aspiring journalist Sang-won accepts an on-spec assignment to find out if the rumor that a man was turned into a fish – part fish and part man – after participating in clinical trials for a major pharmaceutical company.

What happens next to the aspiring journalist, the half-man-half-fish man, the head research scientist who ran the clinical trial, the pharmaceutical company that conducted the research experiment, the news media industry, and in the legal and the judicial system in the Asian country in which this story takes place gives a bird’s eye view of how a modern popular culture operates in highly advanced industrialized countries.

This movie is well worth seeing.

Sandra Bullock’s film “Crisis Is Our Brand” has a similar theme: elected politicians are phonies who make promises they think the population wants to hear them make with no intention of keeping those promises.

The Most Personally Relevant Film I Saw at 2015 TIFF

As a young man, I never met a woman who understood what is involved in becoming a great success.

As a result of having intimate relationships with women that didn’t work-out when I was a younger man, I have been fascinated by the topic of what is involved in becoming an expert, expert performance and being at the top of your game, at the top of any field of endeavor for many years.

My interest in those interrelated topics made “Being AP” the most personally relevant film I saw at 2015 TIFF.

“Being AP” is a documentary about a man who is/was a great success.

This documentary was shot during the 20th year of champion jump race-horse jockey A.P. McCoy’s career, at a time when AP was trying to be the jump race-horse jockey of the year for the 20th year in a row.

Jump race-horse jockeys are the men who ride horses in races in which race-horses jump over barriers as they race around a track.

The jumps are perilous and the accidents life-threatening.

This movie is relevant to me because I am, or at least have been, a man driven by the need to succeed.

  • AP is a man driven by the need to “win.”  So am I.
  • AP is an addict to winning.  So am I.
  • AP had to decide when to retire.  So do I.
  • AP decided he rather retire when people would ask “Why did he retire?” then retire after people asked “Why hasn’t he retired yet?”
  • That does not entirely make sense so me.  I prefer to change my career or broaden my career then to completely retire.

In this documentary AP makes many statements about what is required of a person who strives to be a champion:

  • You have to be selfish.
  • “It has to be all about you.
  • “The more you win, the more you need to win.
  • “It has to be that way.”

I totally agree with all of the above statements.

During the documentary, AP’s wife tells the crew filming the documentary “on the record” that AP is a man who has had a drive for greatness his entire life.

The Most Interesting Film I Saw at 2015 TIFF

The most interesting film I saw at 2015 TIFF was “L’Ombre des Femmes” (“In the Shadow of Women”).

“In the Shadow of Women” is a film which tells a story about how a young man Pierre juggles having a “wife” like “domestic partner” (Manon) and a mistress (Elisabeth) at the same time.

In this film, Manon gives Pierre a speech in which she (Manon) explains how she (Manon) knows he (Pierre) is cheating on her.

The desires explicated in Manon’s speech constitute a list of requirements, a script to follow, for men who want their women to love them should follow.

It is also a script women who want their men to love them should follow.

Following the script given by Marion in her speech to Pierre is a script to follow if you want to have the greatest sex with a member of the opposite sex.

The man who wrote the screenplay of this movie completely understands the sexual aspects of human nature.

The Most Romantic Film I Saw at 2015 TIFF

The most romantic film I saw at 2015 TIFF was the documentary, “He Named Me Malala.”

The Arranged Marriage

Either in this film or after the showing of this film, Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai explained how and why he married Malala’s mother, his wife.

Here is what I heard Mr. Yousafzai say:

  1. He “saw” a beautiful woman.
  2. When he saw her: He was an educated man. The woman he wanted to marry couldn’t read or write.
  3. He told his mother he wanted this woman as his wife.
  4. At the time, in Pakistan, where and when this took place, men and women did not date before getting married.  Their marriages were “arranged marriages.”
  5. People told him his marriage to the woman he wanted to marry wouldn’t work because he was an educated man and she was an uneducated woman.
  6. He told the people who told him that: He would teach his wife how to read and write and she would make his life beautiful.  They would complete each other.
  7. Half an hour later his mother arranged the marriage he wanted.

Traditional Pashtun Culture

Malala is a Pashtun.

The most important value to a Pashtun is nang, or honor.

Malala was named after Malalai of Maiwand, the greatest heroine of Afghanistan.

All Pashtun children grow up with the story of how Malalai inspired the Afghan army to defeat the British in 1880 in one of the biggest battles of the Second Anglo-Afghan War.

A traditional Pashto couplet is:

Rather I receive your bullet-ridden body with honor

Than news of your cowardice on the battlefield.

This is the tone and flavor of this film and the attitude shown by the actions of Malala and her father and what makes this film an incredibly romantic stirring and moving documentary.

The Most Quotable Film I Saw at 2015 TIFF

The film with the most quotable comments I saw at 2015 TIFF was “Our Brand Is Crisis.”

The subject of this movie is lack of character of politicians and deceitful things political candidates do while striving to get elected.

A political consultant (played by Sandra Bullock) is hired to bolster the prospects of an unpopular Bolivian presidential candidate (played by Joaquim De Almeida).

I predict I will be using statements made in this movie in the future, such as:

  • Once idealism is gone there is no way of getting it back.
  • If voting changed anything they would make it illegal.
  • There is only one wrong: Losing.
  • You don’t change the man to fit the narrative.  You should change the narrative to fit the man.
  • If you don’t like the road you are on, pave your own.

It was obvious to me that everyone involved in making this film is emotionally committed to promoting the message this film delivers.

Directors’ and Actors’ Comments

At the festival, highly accomplished film makers – directors, actors, producers, etc. – made presentations and answered questions after their films were shown.

Film makers explained

  • why they made their film,
  • what they were trying to depict in their films,
  • the message they are attempting to convey in their film and
  • what they wanted their films to accomplish.

Each film maker who spoke at the festival made the film maker’s best effort to spread their positive energy to the world.

Life Shrinks or Expands in Proportion to One’s Courage

I strongly believe that life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.

I wish people were required to see and discuss what they learned by watching the documentary “Being AP” – they ought to be required to discuss the risks and sacrifices involved in having a drive for greatness illustrated in that documentary before getting married.

“Being AP” is a movie about A.P. McCoy’s twenty years as a horse-racing jockey.

During his career he achieved legendary status.

  • He was crowned Champion Jump Horse-racing Jockey twenty consecutive times.
  • During his career he tallied up more than 4,000 wins.
  • His goal each racing season was to win more horse races than any other jockey.
  • His goal was to win so many horse races that no other jockey would ever be able to win as many horse races as he had.

In this documentary, AP describes himself as being an addict to winning.

He also makes the following comments:

Winning Is A Drug

  • Winning is a drug.
  • But the effect of the drug wears off, then you have to win again and again and again.
  • Once you become addicted to winning you never stop wanting to win again and again and again.
  • The more you win the more you want to win.

What It Takes to Be A Champion

  • In order to be a champion, you have to be selfish.
  • It has to be all about you.
  • It has to be that way.

The story in this documentary film takes place during the twentieth year of AP’s racing career.

During documentary, AP said he thinks he was never content in his life because he could never be as good as he wanted to be.

During the documentary, which was shot during the twentieth year of AP’s career as a jump race horse jockey, AP also said he is determined to win as many races as possible this year because “The thing about records is they always get broken.  I  want to make it as difficult as possible to break my records.”

The Kind of Spouse A Champion Needs

In the movie AP is shown

  • Coming home and getting into a bath tub full of ice after a race — to cool off his inflamed muscles and joints;
  • Driving or being driven in an automobile to one race after another race in the same day;
  • Looking at x-rays of his broken bones and punctured lung;
  • Riding a horse that falls down after a jump and then being stepped on by a horse in the middle of a race;
  • Riding horses while being injured and in great pain;
  • Being followed during races by an ambulance.

AP’s wife Chanelle totally supported AP throughout his career.

She insisted that it was up to AP alone to decide when AP will retire, when AP will stop being a jump race horse jockey.

During the movie, AP’s wife Chanelle said

  • AP’s philosophy is: “Pain is temporary. Losing is permanent.”
  • AP rides driven by fear, fear of losing.
  • AP is an addict to AP’s way of life.
  • AP is an addict to winning.
  • AP’s way of life is to win races.
  • AP is a total control freak:  He controls his fear.  AP controls his pain. AP is obsessed about controlling everything in his life.
  • She wouldn’t have him be any other way.

According to AP and his wife Chanelle: Control is what makes you.

During the filming, Chanelle said, “I wouldn’t change anything about him.  Because it made us the couple we are today.”

At the end of the film, AP  said I’m a control freak.  Control is what makes you.  You have to be selfish.  It has to be all about you.

Then AP said,

  • I just woke up. 
  • “I might have lived my dream, but I am awake now.
  • “I am going to retire.”

During the film, AP’s wife Chanelle explained that during each horse race she worried about bodily harm to AP [jumps are perilous and accidents life threatening]; she worried whether each race would be AP’s last race; although she wanted to ensure AP’s future as father to their two children it was up to AP alone to decide when to retire because AP would have to live with the consequences.

During the filming of this documentary. when AP finally decides to retire he explains, “I decided to retire when people would still ask – Why did he retire? Instead of postponing retirement until people asked – Why hasn’t he retired.

I attended the world premiere of this film on at 2015 TIFF on September 16, 2015.

After this film was shown,  film maker Anthony Wonke explained to the audience:

  • AP is obsessive and competitive about everything.
  • AP wanted to make the best film ever.
  • Nobody put words in AP’s mouth.
  • Everything AP said in the film was unscripted, spontaneous.
  • This was an observational film.
  • AP was quite involved in making this the best film ever.
  • He (the film maker) didn’t know if AP would die in a horse racing accident while this documentary film was being shot.
  • That is one of the risks of making this type of documentary.

My Advice Regarding “Being AP”

If you want to see horse racing in all its beauty and intensity go see this film.

If you want a realistic view of what it takes to be a champion, go see this film.

Why People Interested in What It Takes to Be A Champion Should See this Film

The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether you win or lose, you have applied the best of yourself to the task at hand

— that can’t be explained in words but is quite easily understood after watching this film.

AP went to extremes to find his own limits.

This film shows in live action why that is what it takes to be a champion.

My Wish for Everyone Who Reads This Blog Post

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most dazzling view.  And, may your mountains rise into and above the clouds.”

Visual Aesthetic

I know there is a distinctively human model of reality.

My model of reality is I have to have the right environment in order to do my best work, in order to enjoy my life fully.

I recently spent four months looking for a new place to live.

Friends who didn’t understand that I needed the “right environment” in order to enjoy my life fully kept telling me — Quit looking.  Just rent or buy some place.

At 2015 TIFF, I learned my feeling that I am connected to my environment is the Australian Aborigine way of looking at the world.

In that regard, Stephen Page, a descendant of indigenous Australian people – a descendant of the Nunukul people and the Munaldjali clan of the Yugambeh Nation –  made the following comments to the audience after the world premiere of his English/Australian film “Spear”:

  • “Art is medicine for the soul.”
  • “Land shapes the person.”

My environment is extremely important to me.

That is exactly the way I “feel.”

While looking for a new place to live, I repeated tried to explain to people – especially to people who kept telling me to quick looking – that I need to live in a place where I feel cheerfully alive.

I need a place that makes me feel cheerfully alive in order to fuel and nurture my capacity to be “creative.”

Below is a picture of a tree in the neighborhood in which I now live.

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There are solar powered and wind powered pinwheels in front of that tree.  See picture below.

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Being Surrounded by Art of All Kinds Is Important

Toronto is a great place to hold a film festival, to work, to live and to visit because Toronto is an extremely charming city full of public art and dynamic-energetic-creative people.

Below is a picture of a charming artsy building, on Bloor Street West in Toronto.

I took that picture below from the Sports Club on the 32nd floor of the Chaz Yorkville, a one of a kind 53 story residential building, located at 45 Charles Street East, in Toronto, Canada developed by Jason Fane.

Look at the artwork on the side of that building.

Click on the photograph shown below.

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While attending the festival I walked by that charming building at least four times as I walked from the Chaz Yorkville located at 45 Charles Street East to the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema located at 506 Bloor Street West.

I stayed in a guest suite in the Chaz Yorkville condominium complex while attending 2015 TIFF.

At Chaz Yorkville, Jason Fane has created a fun and supportive living/work environment in which a person’s best self can rise.

Teaching Loyalty by Living Example in “Legend”

I believe it is possible for gangsters to have more “honor” than the people running gigantic corporations such as the Volkswagen company.

Much of the news I watched today was about breach of trust, dishonesty, skulduggery, lack of loyalty to customers lack of loyalty to consumers, lack of loyalty to the public at large and the harmful power dishonest business executives hold:

  1. Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn resigned amid scandal over Volkswagen rigging its diesel engine cars to pass air emissions tests.
  2. Volkswagen admits rigging air quality emission test results on 482,000 Volkswagen’s 2009 through 2015 2.0 diesel engine run cars sold in the United States and 11 million cars sold worldwide.
  3. A nationwide federal class action lawsuit has been filed in California against Volkswagen for fraud and false advertising on behalf of people who purchased diesel engine powered vehicles.
  4. All cities, counties and states have a vested interest in having clean air.
  5. There is going to be a lot of litigation as a result of Volkswagen’s purposely cheating on air emission tests.
  6. CEO of United Airlines steps down over allegations of illegal dealings with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in relation to a half full flight United Airlines flight from New York/New Jersey to South Carolina, where the head of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has a weekend home.
  7. General Motors admitted that faulty ignition switches in its cars caused 15 deaths (some say 124 deaths were caused) and a large number of  serious injuries and concealed these defects from its regulator the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  8. To resolve its criminal issues, General Motors agreed to pay a $900 million fine, endure a independent monitor who will review its safety policies and aadmit its wrongdoing in a deferred prosecution agreement.

Movies, even a movie about gangsters, I saw at TIFF taught strong moral, aesthetic and business lessons I fully subscribe to.

For example, in one scene in “Legend” (a Brian Helgeland film starring Tom Hardy , Chazz Palminteri and others), in response to a representative of Meyer Lansky (played by Chazz Palminteri) asking Reggie Kray (played by Tom Hardy) to stop being business partners with his [Reggie Kray’s] crazy sociopath twin brother Ronnie Kray (also played by Tom Hardy), Reggie replies, ” I measure myself by my loyalty.”

At the time,

  1.  The Kray brothers had an alliance with Lansky who was an American crime lord, one most powerful mobsters in the United States.
  2.  The Kray brothers were Britain’s most infamous gangsters, at the top of the London underworld.

Reggie (out of fraternal loyalty) refused to sell-out his brother Ronnie.

Good Relationships Are Built on Well Deserved Trust

I think the most important thing in a relationship is trust, each person in a relationship must be able to trust the other person.

On the one hand, as portrayed in “Legend”, Ronnie Kray could trust Reggie Kray.

On the other hand, according to accusations recently made by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and admissions made by Volkswagen: the public, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Volkswagen customers couldn’t trust and should not have trusted Volkswagen to honesty report emissions of Volkswagen’s 2009 through 2015 2.0 liter diesel powered automobiles.

Also, according to admissions made by General Motors, the public and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can not depend on General Motors to follow the law that requires General Motors to report defects in its automobiles that are know to cause the death and/or serious injury to people.

In life it is important for people to be able to trust you.

Reports I’ve read state

  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency has said Volkswagen could face fines as much as $18 billion for violating the Clean Air Act.
  • The value of Volkswagen stock lost nearly 25 billion euros (around $28 billion) in the first two days of trading after the United States Environmental Protection Agency announced the Volkswagen is violating the Clean Air Act.  The value of Volkswagen shares went down 30 percent.
  • General Motors agreed to pay a $900 million fine to resolve its criminal issues and to endure an independent monitor who will review its safety policies.

In order for people to trust you it is important for you to be authentic, to be perceived as the person you are and not a phony.

In “Legend”, Reggie shows what it takes to be a “stand-up guy”, someone you can trust.

In order to be authentic you must follow your values in making all your decisions.

That is what Reggie did when Reggie refused to sell-out Ronnie.

You have to make sure your actions match your principles and your true self.

That is what Reggie did.

Reggie did not back down; Reggie did not cave in when asked to sell out his brother Ronnie.

According to the reports I’ve read, Volkswagen installed software in its diesel engine powered automobiles so they would run cleaner during tests than in actual driving.

Seemingly/apparently the miles per gallon of gas of fuel consumption is better in Volkswagen diesel automobiles get more miles per gallon when they emit unlawful quantities of pollutants.  It is my understanding that those illegally polluting diesel-powered Volkswagen automobiles are able to achieve higher speeds and quicker acceleration when more “air polluting emissions” are emitted.

If you want people to trust you, you have to stick to your guns even when confronted by powerful forces pushing you to do something against your principles.  You must always follow your principles and never cave in.

For that reason I admire what Reggie Kray did in that scene.

I do not admire cheaters: I do not admire Volkswagen.  I do not admire General Motors.

Being Present

Another characteristic of being authentic is always being present when you are with someone else.

That means not texting or answering email while someone is talking to you.

It irks me a great deal to see people texting and emailing other people when they are with someone, even while someone is talking to them.

Throughout “Legend” everyone paid attention to Reggie when he spoke to them.  Likewise, everyone gave their full attention to Ronnie when he spoke to them.

Reggie paid full attention to Meyer Lansky’s representative.

If Reggie had a smart phone I am sure Reggie would not have bee texting or answering emails while Meyer Lansky’s representative was talking to him.

In “Legend” Reggie was fully there, in the moment, giving his full attention to Lansky’s representative at all times Lansky’s representative was talking to him.

At the time, this story takes place the Kray brothers (Reggie and Ronnie Kray) had swiftly risen from humble roots to rule London’s nightclub scene.

They had risen through the ranks of the underworld by crushing their rivals and placing local authorities in compromising positions.

They enforced their dominance by means of assault, robbery and murder.

The Kray brothers ruled the London nightclub scene for most of the swinging sixties.

Even though he was a big shot and a fearsome person, he (Reggie) gave his full attention to Lansky’s representative.

PERSONAL NOTE:

I have a very good friend, a lady friend, who has a bowl in the entry way to her home.

She requires every guest to deposit their cell phone into that bowl while passing through that entry way, before entering the entertaining and living sections of her home.

How To Be Credible

If you want to be credible, be respectful to other people.

Give other people your full attention when you are with them.

Do what you say you are going to do.

Be authentic at all times.

Make sure your actions match your true self.

In “Legend” and in real life, Reggie and Ronnie Kray had dramatic colorful powerful stirring legendary street cred.

Reggie was recognized as a creative genius in his own right, the brother responsible for the success of the Kray brothers’ criminal enterprise.

Stories Are More Valuable Than Facts and Truths

The ability to tell a story is a very important skill.

I strongly believe the following statements:

  • Tell me a fact and I’ll learn it. 
  • Tell me the truth and I’ll believe it. 
  • But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.

The story told in “Legend” presents an iconic image of Reggie Kray.

  • Reggie Kray dared to be his true self.
  • Reggie did what he believed in.
  • Reggie did what he loved.
  • Reggie lived his dream.
  • Reggie was in love with what he was doing.
  • This enabled Reggie to be extremely passionate about what he did.

My take away: “Being patient doesn’t get you what you want.” – Reggie Kray

Sexual Insights

A wide variety of sexual experiences were depicted and discussed in the films I saw at 2015 TIFF.

I talked with complete strangers and people I know about what I heard and saw in those movies.

Much to my surprise

  1. I saw a movie – supposedly based on a true story – about high school students in France who had orgies because they were bored with their lives.
  2. In that high school, the entire school was shut down after it was discovered that one of the students had contacted syphilis at one of the orgies.
  3. The school was shut down to allow time for each student attending that school to be tested for syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Medical Insights

Medical Care Is A Fear Based Industry

The pharmaceutical companies, the medical profession and the news media know that when people are afraid they can be manipulated.

It is my belief that pharmaceutical companies, in conjunction with the medical profession and news media, have intentionally frightened people (the uneducated public, including myself) into taking statins.

I have been told I must take a high dosage of such drugs in order to lower the level of “cholesterol” in my blood.

After studying literature related to medical tests upon which such advice is universally given, I  came to the conclusion that such tests do not indicate it would be more beneficial for me to take statins to lower my cholesterol than not to.

I look forward to fully discussing that topic with scientifically oriented medical professionals.

The Danger of Never Finding Out You Are Wrong

While attending TIFF, I began discussing whether taking/prescribing statins is justifiable with a renown cardiologist.

He asked me how I felt.

I answered: “I am at ease and comfortable with the fact that prescribing statins to “everyone” to lower the level of cholesterol in their blood is on a par with/below the level of the medical practice of witch doctors.”

That cardiologist responded to my comment comparing the practice of medicine by western educated physicians to the practuce of medicine by witch doctors as follows:

  • That is true for many areas of medicine. 
  • But, it is better to be treated by a medical doctor today then it was to be treated by a medical doctor fifty years ago and it will be better to be treated by a medical doctor in fifty years then it is to be treated by a medical doctor today. 
  • We are making progress.

The Problem with Induction

The problem with the widespread medical practice of prescribing statins to lower cholesterol to levels defined by the powers to be in the American Medical Trade Organizations is that such levels have been determined by making generalizations about the future from selected limited data available at the present.

The problem the consuming public finds itself in, and the problem the medical profession does not readily admit to, is common to induction of all kinds: how to back off from an overly general hypothesis in the absence of negative data.

If you frame a conclusion too broadly, and don’t have complete corrective feedback from the world (say, you grow up thinking all swans are white, and never get to New Zealand, where you’d see black swans), you are in danger of never finding out that you are wrong.

It is my understanding that the majority of internists and cardiologist who prescribe statins for their “heart patients” have confined themselves to parrothood — to going by the book written by those with the most to gain by the sale of statins – and have not personally kept track of whether more of their patients with so called high cholesterol levels are admitted to hospitals for cardiac problems than their patients with so called low cholesterol levels.

It is my “understanding” that more people with so called low cholesterol levels than people with high cholesterol levels are admitted to hospitals for heart problems, i.e. have heart attacks.

The Progress of Medicine

In my opinion the practice of medicine has progressed over the past fifty years and the practice of medicine will continue to progress.

It has been my experience and the experience of several people I know that in emergency situations – where extreme measures have to be taken immediately – being treated by a competent caring physician is a divine experience.

  • I have had such an experience and other people have had such an experience too.

Caring physicians generate the right result at the right time by doing the right thing.

They understand the logic of learning which is to discover knowledge by observation; they study particulars; they test hypothesis; they try to figure out why things happen.

They ask “what if?”

They appreciate that there an infinite number of generalizations, most of them wrong, that are logically consistent with any sample of experiences.

They realize the complexity leads to specialization which leads to dehumanization.

They realize that as knowledge in individual sectors become more compressed, people know more and more about less and less technologically and humanistically.

Not all physicians are confined to unthinking parroting; not all physicians lead a professional life confined to performing impersonal assembly-line procedures and practices.

  • Many physicians help people get better when their patients have a problem without practicing extreme medicine.
  • Those physicians are high touch, thinking and emphatic professionals.
  • They focus on their patient’s welfare by giving their undivided unselfish attention to their patients.
  • When a brilliant physician does that, it is a divine experience for both the physician and the patient.

The cardiologist I spoke to in Toronto is one of those rare individuals who constantly emit positive energy.

He gives his full undivided attention to the medical situation at hand and by doing do creates one divine experience after another for himself, his patients and everyone else who comes in contact with him.

Where Does Knowledge Come From?

A “belief” is an idea that has received wide acceptance.

Beliefs exclude doubt.

When the world becomes full of beliefs we will have reached the end of knowledge.

The Value of Life

I measure the value of my life by how many times my soul has been deeply stirred.

Every time I have heard that cardiologist speak my soul has been deeply stirred by his open-mindedness, his humility, and his broad erudition.

Every time I have attended the Toronto International Film Festival my soul has been deeply stirred by the variety of points of view presented in the films I’ve seen.

Every time I hear someone speak who has intellectual scruples my spirits soar.

Concluding Thoughts

Not only is it a matter of fairness to acknowledge alternatives to the theories one advances; it’s a matter of clarity and discovery.

Much can be gained by contrasting a theory with its alternatives, even ones that seem to extreme to be true.

It is a matter of mental organizing to do so.

You can only really know something when you know what it is not.

One must constantly test the truth of their knowledge, their beliefs and their assumptions.

Doubt leads to curiosity and the ability to inquire.

The more one “inquires” the more one will increasingly approach enlightenment.

Don’t be afraid to be on the fringe of respectable opinion.

The only place knowledge comes from is ignorance.

I had an eye-opening enlightening time attending the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.

If you want to know how much concentration, focus, self-control and drive are required to be a champion go see “Pawn Sacrifice.”

It is now in general release.

I saw it over a year ago at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.

Copyright © 2015 by Gary Smolker, All Rights Reserved

 

 

About Gary S. Smolker

PERSONAL PHILOSOPHY: No enterprise can exist for itself alone. Every successful enterprise ministers to some great need, it performs some great service, not for itself, but for others. Otherwise, it ceases to be profitable and ceases to exist. Imagination, open mindedness and flexibility are the most important factors in unlocking potential. Those who embrace innovation, improvisation, continuous learning, time management, are action oriented, high energy, passionate, creative, purposeful and intense individuals are best equipped to succeed. We all have ideas and the ability to make progress by sharing information and our ideas and also by changing our ideas when appropriate. We should always be on the lookout for teaching and mentoring moments. We hold time like water in our hands; however tightly we clench our fingers, it drips away. But, if it falls on a seed, a seed may grow to become something that will have a positive social impact. PERSONAL INTERESTS: I have a passion to learn, to innovate, to lead, to mentor and to teach. I seek to write things worth reading and want to do things worth writing about. I enjoy (a) driving a fast car, (b) having intense conversations (c) teaching/mentoring, (d) reading and (e) being involved in productive activity. PERSONAL: I believe in cultivating and backing passionate people, innovation, and old fashioned good ideas. I love making human connections and spreading good ideas. I am strongly motivated to achieve in situations in which independence of thought and action are called for. PERSONAL GOALS: I want to live life vibrantly, to be as sharp as a tack until my last breath and to change the world by being me. My personal goal is to be fully engaged in life, to lead by example, to set high standards and to continue to amass firsthand experience and knowledge in all that interests me. PERSONALITY: I love fun and mischief. I relish absurdity. I have an irreverent, facetious and satiric disposition. I dread boredom. I have spent a lifetime reading. I have no bias against people who have lived successful and/or complicated lives. I write to release tension, to get things off my chest. SOCIAL MEDIA: I post articles on the "Gary S. Smolker Idea Exchange" blog at www.garysmolker.wordpress.com, and "Dude's Guide to Women's Shoes" at www.dudesguidetowomensshoes.com. I also post images and comments on Instagram @garyspassion. CONTACT INFORMATION: Gary Smolker, Smolker Law Firm, 16055 Ventura Blvd., Ste 525, Encino, California, 91436-2609, USA. Phone 1-818-788-7290, e-mail GSmolker@aol.com.

Posted on September 23, 2015, in addicted to winning, drive for greatness, positive energy, the secret sauce of success, the value of life, what it takes to be a champion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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