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  • Courtesy of Gkids

    Courtesy of Gkids

    Even in a field of distinctive and cutting-edge animated films, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet is unusual. Directed by Roger Allers (The Lion King), the long-gestating passion project of producer Salma Hayek features the work of eight international independent animators, in addition to Allers’ crew. Though constructed as a children’s tale, the film contains sophisticated animated segments inspired by chapters from Lebanese poet Gibran’s much-quoted guide to philosophical and spiritual enlightenment. The framing story’s simplistic narrative and overly broad humor, presented in traditional (if not actually hand-drawn) animation style, is somewhat at odds with its dark political overtones, adding to the disconnect.  Despite its flaws, however, The Prophet — buoyed by a diversity of splendid animation — becomes surprisingly poignant by its conclusion.

    Courtesy of Gkids

    Courtesy of Gkids

    Very loosely based on its source and set in a vaguely Middle Eastern land, the narrative involves a rambunctious little girl whose mother (voiced by Hayek) cleans the rooms of a poet (Liam Neeson), imprisoned for seven years due to his inflammatory writing. One day he is told that he will be released to return to his own country, but the authorities — autocratic bad guys (Alfred Molina, Frank Langella) — aren’t exactly truthful. While young children might not understand the film’s themes of censorship, artistic freedom and tyrannical political regimes, older kids will probably be put off by the story’s naive presentation. (There’s also the distracting matter of ostensibly Arabic characters voiced by actors with Spanish, Irish and American accents.) But all is forgiven every time the story gives way to one of Gibran’s poetic essays, each a distinctive animation either sonorously narrated by Neeson or — in two instances — sung plaintively: Damien Rice’s “On Children,” which underscores Nina Paley’s trippily psychedelic segment and “On Love,” Lisa Hannigan and Glen Hansard’s lovely duet for Tomm Moore’s elaborate, swirling clip.

    Courtesy of Gkids

    Courtesy of Gkids

    In addition to those animated chapters, the film features Bill Plympton’s simple, pencil-drawn “On Eating and Drinking”; Michal Socha’s lovely, inventive “On Freedom”; Joann Sofar’s sexy tango “On Marriage”; Joan Gratz’s flowing, painterly “On Work”; the delicate watercolors of Mohammed Saeed Harib’s “On Good and Evil” and the Brizzi brothers’ elegant, old-school “On Death.”

    Though  uneven, The Prophet is ultimately a visually stunning homage to one of the 20th century’s most influential books and its author.

    Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet is playing at Landmark Sunshine Cinema.

    From the sublime to …?

    Sneakerheadz, a documentary by David T. Friendly and Mick Partridge, is a mostly lighthearted look at the phenomenon of grand-scale sneaker collecting. Though the film includes interviews with designers, collectors, resellers and pop culture pundits, the obsession with amassing countless shoe styles — most never to be worn — will likely remain a mystery to anyone who isn’t part of the culture. Needless to say, sneakerheads themselves will probably be all over this.

    Through talking heads such as Sneakerology retailer Jeff Elliott, designer Frank the Butcher, and rapper/collector Wale, the film traces the rise of kicks culture, the result of popular culture’s embrace of hip hop, sports and street styles. (Of course there’s a nod to Run DMC and the hit “My Adidas.”) Sneaker celebs such as Jeff Staple, whose collab with Nike resulted in the hugely popular Pigeon Dunk (2005), and influential Japanese boutique owner Hommyo Hidefuni are featured prominently, in addition to high-profile collectors like MLB pitcher Jeff Guthrie, who houses his stash in a fancy vault named Fort Knox and confesses that his obsession’s demands can get overwhelming. We also see Carmelo Anthony admitting, “I stopped counting after 1,000.”


    Though mainly a guy thing, a couple of women are included, notably DJ Samantha Ronson, who gazes fondly at a photo album of the collection she keeps in storage. The resale value of limited editions such as the Nike Dunk Low “Paris” (several thousand dollars) is pretty impressive, with Michael Jordan’s “flu game” shoes (worn during the 1997 NBA finals) selling at auction for nearly $105,000 a couple of years ago.

    The dark side of all this — violence erupting among crowds awaiting a new release and kids getting beaten or killed for their kicks — is touched upon, as is the responsibility of corporations who manufacture demand with hyped-up limited edition releases. But the film doesn’t dwell too much on the downside, instead including a bit of uplift with a Nike-sponsored program (at Oregon’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital) in which sick kids design their own styles. (This actually resulted in the best-selling Nike Air Foamposite One).

    Mainly, the film serves as an entertaining look at a culture that is, as commenters note, largely about retaining youth and optimism: “Life may be hard; new shoes are a beacon of hope.”

    Sneakerheadz is playing at Village East Cinema.

    Marina Zogbi


  • The AFP crew was inspired and motivated for the road trip up to the great city of Montreal. By the time the Greenpoint (Haven) rooftop event was in the books, it was late Sunday afternoon and Friday morning gave us just enough time to rest up for the 3 day festival.  We mapped out the car ride and the artist performance schedule.  Our Day 1 (Friday) plan was to arrive at Parc Jean-Drapeau by 3:30pm to see Run the Jewels.  After a couple of snags we arrived a little later,  but we did make it on time to see one of our more anticipated performances- The Kills.

    Sadly, the band had some technical issues on stage, but despite their frustrations they rocked on and ended with a killer rendition of No Wow.  Thirsty from the ride, we found ourselves guzzling Molson’s at a rather rapid pace as we strolled over to see Chet Faker on an adjacent stage.  He quickly went into his popular hits like Gold and 1998 with the electric soul vibe that we have been digging.  It was obvious that many festival goers were excited to see the Australian perform, and he didn’t disappoint.

    As we made our way to the main stages (Riviere and Montagne), some of the original sculptures and art installations caught our attention. By the way, Osheaga is not just a music festival, but also an arts festival (heavy on the music).  Some of the work was highly creative (images below) and seriously involved. The participating artists for 2015 were Station 16 Gallery, animators from the NFB, graduates of UQÀM’s Design program, street artists WhatIsAdam from Montreal and Hot Tea from the US.

    The sun was starting to set and we made our way over to see The Avett Brothers on the main stage.  I’ve always heard very good things about this band, but I wasn’t so familiar with their songs and style, but today was the day.  Let me start by first saying, folk and bluegrass is not even close to the top of my music likings, but these brothers were impressive in so many ways.  They have really great energy on stage and their tight, tight sound isn’t what you would first think.  I guess they can’t be described any better than how the San Francsico Chronicle describes them as “having heavy sadness of Townes Van Zandt, the light pop concision of Buddy Holly, the tuneful jangle of the Beatles, and the raw energy of the Ramones.  In other words, they take you around the music hemisphere and back.

    Day 2

    We arrived at Osheaga mid-afternoon excited to see St. Vincent perform on the main stage.  The Grammy winning artist drew a rather large crowd for an early set of her genre crossing songs.  One thing that was obvious right away was this girl can seriously shred on guitar and she’s not afraid to take chances with her music on stage. Her sense of style, performance and attitude put her toward the top of the list for best performances at Osheaga 2015.

    With some time in between sets on the main stage, we headed over to the electronic stage where we heard a DJ spinning some classics. Although it was late afternoon, people were getting down as if it was peak club hour. We later learned, the DJ was actually Caribou, who is also known as Daphni when he spins.  As we headed back to the main area, we found a big tent featuring drinks made with Perrier. DJ’s were spinning music and some creative cocktails were flowing.

    Back on the main stage Ben Harper was displaying his guitar prowess on the weissenborn. Harper’s ability to play a broad range of music helps him connect with fans of all ages, and Burn One Down is one of those songs you never get tired of hearing.  Next up on the Montagne Stage was NYC’s beloved Interpol. As the dark clouds rolled in, there was much anticipation for their set and as it began to rain, they played Evil which was ironically appropriate.  The bands set had its high points, but they seemed to be lacking the energy on stage that we were seeing from other acts. We found out later that this was the last date on their tour.

    When Weezer took the stage and began an hour long set of popular hits, there certainly wasn’t a lack of energy from the crowd which sang along to just about every song including Beverly Hills, Hash Pipe and Buddy Holly.  And when a little girl appeared on stage playing a mini keyboard and a little boy playing an inflatable guitar, the band went from beloved to adored in a minute. There were dancing, smiling faces all around, but it wasn’t all smiles because the inevitable situation was now upon us. How can we see Kendrick Lemar, Caribou and Art Department who had overlapping set times, and were on opposite sides of the park? We decided to remain in the main area and check out Kendrick Lemar, who could just be the headliner of headliners for the festival.

    With a full band and a bit of a rock edge, Kendrick Lemar came out blazing with “off the charts” energy and the crowd was in full party mode. He mentioned his past performance at Osheaga and his appreciation for the support he’s received. With this impressive performance and his thoughtful song writing skills, it’s easy to understand why Kendrick is at the top of his game and the reigning king of hip hop.

    Day 3

    It’s day 3 and the legs are getting a bit weary. After a lovely massage at the hotel, we headed over to Rosewood for brunch and made it over to the park just in time to catch Glass Animals performing on one of the smaller stages. The UK quartet started out with one of their popular hits which was enjoyable, but the Kanye West cover was a bit of a head scratcher. Where Glass Animals were the newbies, Gary Clark Jr. was giving, blues guitar lessons on the mountain stage for the young and old. For those that were looking for serious guitar driven, high octane music,  Gary was the man. On the other end of the spectrum of sound, Hot Chip was our next focus, but first Future Islands would take the stage.  The synth pop sounds of Future Islands were perfect for a sunny, summer afternoon in Montreal. They have a certain 80’s vibe going on which offered something different on day 3 at Osheaga.

    When Hot Chip took the stage it was time to put your dancing shoes back on! It was an impressive performance as they re-arranged many of their hit songs and it took a minute to realize what they were doing. Improvisation and taking chances is so important with live performances. If you want to hear songs as they sound on a CD, then there’s really no point in going to see a band live.

    In writing about impressive happenings at Osheaga, the one thing that will stand out is what happened during Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes performance.  There were a few crowd surfers on hand, but one particular crowd surfer caught the lead singer’s eye. A severely disabled young man in a wheel chair was being surfed toward the stage. The lead singer, Alex Ebert waived to the people to bring him up on stage and that’s what they did.  The man is a college student hanging out with his friends from school (see video below) who also joined him on stage for a few songs. As the band played their big hit Home, the crowd sang along in what was a true heartfelt moment which won’t be forgotten.

    As day 3 continued into the night, we had just enough energy to check out one of the more anticipated bands for us personally and I’m sure many others.  Alt J took the stage around 8:30pm Sunday night and we were curious as to how their sound would translate live on the big stage. We immediately had that question answered, and the answer was more than BIG enough to get 20-30k people on their feet.  Joe Newman’s haunting vocals and Thom Green’s percussion kept the energy at high levels throughout and made it clear that this British quartet was here to stay.

    On the other hand, our energy had run out and we did not stay for The Black Keys. Since we had seen them a couple years back in Quebec City, getting a solid meal and rest at this point took priority.

    In closing, Osheaga’s 10th anniversary festival was very good if not great.  The diversity and quality of the music, the well behaved crowds and generally well managed event, was impressive and worth a visit to the lovely city of Montreal.

  • PropertyOfZack began as a “blog with daily coverage and commentary of the underground music scene.” It was founded in late 2009 by Zack Zarrillo and Emily Coch and in the past several years has grown to be a staple in the diet of many music fans. The site’s “Tours You Should Know About” and “Albums Out This Week” posts kept readers apprised on what was on the horizon and it’s podcasts “Off The Record” and “Simpler Sound” spurred discussion within the community. POZ was a place to turn to for not only news, but dialogue, insight and the occasional blink joke. But all good things must come to an end.

    Earlier this week, in a post entitled “RIPOZ”, Zarrillo announced that the website would be ending. Thomas Nassiff of Bad Timing Records/Absolute Punk spoke further on the sudden departure of the beloved website in a post entitled “Blogging’s Dead. We Got Jobs.” Kind of self-explanatory. Long story short is by the end of the week there will be no more POZ.

    After that there will be a hole in many a morning route and something missing from most Twitter feeds. There will no longer be a point in the day where you habitually check POZ for updates. Zarrillo’s voice and the voices of the rest of the POZ writer will surely arise elsewhere and continue conversations on other platforms, but until then the music community will be a little quieter.

    In the meantime, what do we read? Here are some ideas:

    The Runout
    The Runout was founded in 2014 by Bryne Yancey, former editor for and Alternative Press. During it’s inaugural year, the site churned out wealth of posts on everything from punk rock to wrestling to comic books. While the latter (known on the site as “On Wednesdays We Wear Ink”) is a bit of an outlier, the content no matter the topic is always smart and accessible. Whether the writers are tackling a topic as simple as touring or as complex as victim blaming, they are consistently delivering posts that will inform, intrigue and/or entertain you as a reader. 

    Suggested Reading:
    Your Local DIY Band Probably Isn’t Ready To Tour (Yet)
    Pop Punk and Feminism: Accountability
    Guilt and Music in Flint, Michigan
    Guy Fieri: The Embodiment of Punk.

    Or go back to the very beginning and read through the entire backlog from Runout’s successful first year. Also remember to donate and help fund the writers behind each post via the Runout’s Patreon account.

    Windows Down Magazine
    Windows Down Magazine was started in 2010 by Kim and Gloria “Jack” Mejía-Cuéllar while the two were still in undergrad. Five short years later, Windows Down is covering acts as big as All Time Low and Andrew McMahon. Via both their seasonal issues and their Tumblr-esque website, the two publish a mix of set lists, interviews, photosets and op-eds. Content is frequent, sometimes even daily and features the likes of Mayday Parade, Vacationer, Real Friends, Frank Iero and Citizen. In the age where pop punk is arguably dead and publications are going under, it’s impressive to see a young magazine plugging along despite the raging current.

    Suggested Reading:
    Behind the Camera: Get to Know Music Photographer Danielle Parsons
    Should Artists Step In When Security Guards Become Too Aggressive?
    Exclusive Interview: Matt West of Neck Deep
    Windows Down Magazine, Winter 2014/2014 Issue 

    AbsolutePunk has been around for ages now and thankfully doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. The site, which began as a humble message board, has since evolved into one of the most comprehensive news feeds in music. Posts are written by members of site’s community, which includes AbsolutePunk’s founder Jason Tate, and cover everything from news to reviews to rumors to really anything even remotely related to music. Contributors pull content from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, magazines, mailing lists and more. No source is too speculative or too obscure. No band too big or too small. Of course, there are always favorites, but AbsolutePunk truly reports on everything, be it Something Corporate or 5SOS. There’s something reassuring about a site that isn’t snobbish about its music tastes and doesn’t apologize for liking “She’s Kinda Hot.”

    Suggested Reading:
    Shane Henderson Playing Valencia Album Acoustically
    Sparrow Sleeps Releases Motion City Soundtrack Lullabies Album
    “A Year Or Two” Until New The Gaslight Anthem
    Staff Content (7/17/15)
    Speaking of Jason Tate, his personal blog is another good source of all things and music. Two years ago, Tate launched the site as a place for him to “play around with new web-design” and “write about topics maybe not so related to music and not feel any pressure to do anything besides just open up and be [himself]” and in sort to “just write.” Tate may be writing for himself, but he’s also still attracting an audience, which is probably due to the fact that he’s been doing this for a while and knows what he’s talking about. While he doesn’t always post on music, Tate does always write intelligently and even re-blogs articles of equal caliber. Not to say that he isn’t above posting about the new season of Orphan Black. He is still human. He’s just a well-spoken human with a better personal blog than most of us.

    Suggested Reading:
    10 Pop-Punk/Pop-Rock Albums Worth Making Sure You Know
    Let’s Admit There’s A Big Problem
    Everyone Thinks The Web Sucks; They’re Kinda Right
    Happy 15 Years

    Hi, My Name Is Mark
    HMNIM proves that blogging isn’t dead…if you’re a internationally recognized bassist from a band responsible for an entire genre of music. Run by blink-182’s Mark Hoppus, HMNIM is both a place for Hoppus to promote his brand and a place for him to post blink covers, personal photos, upcoming movie trailers, favorite songs and all manner of other things. Hoppus does take the odd post to address more serious matters, but on a whole HMNIM is proof that no matter how famous you are, you can still be entertained by dumb stuff on the internet. Just like the rest of us.

    Suggested Reading:
    A Lesson In Textile Printing
    The Definitive Holiday Gift Guide
    Amanda Visell – Where Eagles Dare
    HMNIM Podcast – Episode 3: Happy New Year?


    -Zoe Marquedant



    Sophie Deraspe

    There are two different ways to write about The Amina Profile, Sophie Deraspe’s startling new documentary about Syrian activist Amina Abdallah Arraf, author of the blog A Gay Girl in Damascus. One way is to tell the story that has already been covered in the press but is not necessarily that widely known in this country. The other is to review the movie up to a point, leaving a big chunk of it vague for anyone who may not be familiar with the narrative (and doesn’t conduct a Google search before finishing this paragraph). Maybe there’s a sort of middle ground?

    The doc begins with texting between two young women who have connected on a social media site: Amina, a Syrian American living in Damascus; and Sandra, a French Canadian living in Montreal. It soon becomes flirtatious and sexual, mainly on the part of Amina, who seems starved for this kind of forbidden contact. The film shows Sandra recalling the genesis of this digital relationship and how she becomes intrigued by details of Amina’s life as an activist circa 2011, at the dawn of the Arab Spring. She gets caught up in Amina’s daring new blog A Gay Girl in Damascus and the latter’s reports of police harassment due to her outspoken views. At one point the mainstream press picks up on the post “My Father, My Hero,” in which Amina describes how her dad defended her against the police. She becomes a heroic figure in the blogging community, a sympathetic symbol of the Syrian revolt.

    Amina silhouette_3

    Punctuating this narrative are gauzy, soft-focus scenes of a young woman wandering the streets of Damascus and at home on her laptop, as well as grainy clips of escalating violence resulting from the protests in Syria.  As Amina describes witnessing specific events related to the uprising, Sandra sees them reported in the news. Their relationship continues via text – Skype is blocked in Syria, according to Amina – and Sandra becomes increasingly worried about her paramour, especially when Amina goes quiet for several days. We’re also shown interviews conducted around the world with journalists, bloggers and activists who all discuss the impact of Amina’s blog during the uprising, and, in the case of Syrian protestors, their own experiences during that time. Meanwhile Sandra and Amina’s exchanges grow more dramatic and sporadic when Amina reports that she and her father have gone into hiding.

    Then Sandra receives a message from Amina’s cousin informing her that Amina has been kidnapped, ostensibly by Syrian authorities. Concerned for her safety, the blogging/social media community starts a “Free Amina Abdallah” campaign and reach out to the American Embassy. The State Department responds that it cannot find records of Amina or her family. Soon bloggers are asking each other if anyone has actually met her in person, though they are extremely reluctant to question the identity of someone who may be in peril. Sandra, who has been in an intense online relationship with Amina for six months at this point, is deeply shaken, especially after a Croatian Londoner surfaces on the BBC claiming that the photos of Amina on social media and in the press are actually of herself. So … who is Amina really?

    Amina silhouette_2

    Deraspe does a good job building tension up to this point, and we begin to understand all the dreamy footage depicting a hazy-faced young woman roaming around Damascus. The film, which has been very thorough in including commentary from various figures involved with Amina, the media and the Syrian uprising, now turns into an investigation. Deraspe ramps up the intrigue with escalating discoveries until the mystery of Amina is revealed, and it is pretty mind-boggling. We also see the bigger picture: how this entire episode affected not only the individuals personally involved, but media coverage of the Syrian revolt in general. It is yet another cautionary tale about social media and our reliance on digital communication.

    The Amina Profile is a skillful and unusual portrayal of a story that could have been a much more cut-and-dried affair in the hands of a different director; those favoring a more straightforward approach might not have patience for the film’s romantic moodiness. Ultimately, however, its tone can be seen as a reflection of romanticized attitudes toward the Middle East and how they might fuel a situation like Amina’s.

    The Amina Profile is playing at IFC Center.

    Marina Zogbi