ICT Toronto: The City, the Industry, the Community

Ok, enough bitching and complaining already. Alicia Bulwik of the ICT Toronto project has agreed to meet with some members of the TorCamp community and our extended community of Toronto tech investors, entrepreneurs and bloggers on October 5th. Thanks to our good friend Allen Gelberg of MaRS for providing space. We will hear an update on what ICT Toronto has been up to and have input into its business plan.

So now that the community has the City’s ear, what does the community want to say?

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Missed DemoCamp9 :(


I missed DemoCamp, again! I developed a really nasty case of conjunctivitis, and didn’t think it was a good idea to infect the best and brightest of Toronto’s technology community. I’m looking forward to the video podcast when it comes out. In the meantime, Jorge blogged about it, so did Olivier.

For those technologists out there with an interest in working with non-profits, you should check out Partnership Platform, a matching service for non-profits with technology needs.

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Future-Proofing Our Communities

I don’t want to be all doom and gloom, but I do want to highlight a couple of important economic indicators for the future.


Talk of a real estate bubble, it’s bursting and the potential economic fallout will be front and centre for the next while. The real estate bubble, the US current account and trade deficits, consumer debt and consumer spending patterns and high energy prices are all conspiring to put the North American (and global) economy into a high-risk situation. Brush up on your Tipping Point.

Meanwhile, the auto industry is in dire straights for the foreseeable future. When Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of DaimlerChrysler states that it is impossible to profitably make subcompacts in North America, watch out for continued recalibration of the trade economics of advanced manufacturing up the food chain. This is just the beginning of a larger trend, not a short-term blip.

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Final Film Festival minireviews

Another TIFF season has come and gone. For more reviews, check out this great TIFF blog, Craig at the Toronto International Film Festival. Craig is seeing 40 films, and writing reviews for all of them. Impressive work.

L’Homme de sa vie (“Man of My Life”):


Replacing The Bubble as my favourite of the festival, L’Homme de sa vie is a wonderfully executed film by Zabou Breitman. Mature, thoughtful, with beautiful cinematography, L’Homme de sa vie tells an insightful and very human story about a contented family man on vacation with his family in the south of France and the relationship he develops with his gay neighbour. It is not a gay film per se. The two men are forever changed by a conversation they have one evening after a big dinner party, and events unfold that explore questions of family, love, fidelity and identity. The colours, visual style and sounds of this film are simply stunning. It features great, understated performances and pacing that communicate the long, lazy days of midsummer. The audience is given the space that allows the subtle human moments to stand out. Highly Recommended.

I have often been disappointed by “Gay Cinema”, but films like L’Homme de sa vie, The Bubble and last year’s Brokeback Mountain have shown what can be done with gay themes and characters. Traditional Gay Cinema has often been hard-edged with a political message, or reverting to awful stereotypes and cliched coming out stories. What is more interesting to me is how gay characters and themes are often able to express universal human themes in new ways. These three films are fantastic examples.

Snow Cake:

Snow Cake, from Director Marc Evans is a Canada/UK coproduction filmed on location in Wawa, Ontario and in studio in Toronto. The screenplay is a first for writer Angela Pell. Featuring big stars in Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman and music from Broken Social Scene, there is much here for wide audience appeal. The film delivers, with solid performances from Weaver and Rickman, a heartwarming and funny script that delivers a lot of great moments. Weaver plays Linda, an autistic woman whose daughter Vivienne dies in an accident with Rickman’s Alex at the wheel. Alex, ridden by guilt commits to help Linda until the funeral. As he enters Linda’s strange world outside the bounds of social norms and convention, he experiences a new freedom to confront his own past and demons. It is a redemptive story with great moments. While not without its flaws, it delivers on the audience’s expectations. Worth a look.

And, with that, another film festival season is over. I’m looking forward to next year, and look forward to catching some of the films I missed at the festival when they come to theatres.

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ICT Toronto progress?

ICT Toronto is (for now) a two-year project funded by the City of Toronto to develop the information and communications technology industry as a key sector in the Toronto region, with the following vision:

Toronto will become, and be acknowledged globally, as one of the 5 most innovative, creative and productive locations in the world for ICT research, education, business and investment by 2011.

As Joey noted today, judging from the web site and news presence not much has happened since the announcement in April:

It’s almost five months later, and it appears that not much has happened. I haven’t seen a press release since the one for their launch party, and a Google News search for “ICT Toronto” ends up without any results.

Joey goes on to lay it on the line:

In the meantime, Toronto’s techies, without any of the money or manpower earmarked for ICT Toronto have held 4 DemoCamps and a BarCamp, events which have gone a long way to fostering a sense of community and cooperation in the local tech scene. And of course, actually building information and communication technologies, something the suits seem to have completely overlooked.

This is hardly surprising. Silicon Valley was born of good circumstances coupled with the grassroots efforts of ambitious techies doing what they loved, not by government/business fiat. I’d call ICT Toronto a bunch of pointless martini-swilling stuffed shirts, but that’s an insult to martinis and dress shirts, both of which I happen to like.

David, Jay and I were invited to join ICT Toronto as “members” (really an ad-hoc advisory committee) back in June, which I blogged about here. Well, I attended my second breakfast meeting (no martinis, just mediocre coffee and croissants) yesterday sitting on behalf of Toronto’s BarCamp community, and wanted to share some progress, my thoughts and possible future directions. After the jump…

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Film Festival mini reviews

I spend a lot of time thinking, researching and writing about culture, creativity, technology, business and global economics. It gets very abstract, to say the least.

As much as I enjoy that work, I need to get out of the strategic stratosphere and into the here and now of cultural experience to recharge my soul and my work. After a week in the desert feeding on the cacophony of creative collision that is Burning Man, I return to Toronto in time for the Toronto International Film Festival.

The Bubble


My favourite film of the festival so far, Eytan Fox’s The Bubble tells a classic Romeo & Juliet story in a highly politicized context. Tel Aviv indie slacker Noam meets Palestinian boy Ashraf at a checkpoint while fulfilling his army reserve duty. Ashraf drops into “the bubble” of Tel Aviv, where modern cosmopolitan life continues amidst a sea of violence and chaos. They are star-crossed lovers in post-9/11 Israel and Palestine, and as the story unfolds towards its inevitable conclusion, it explores the nuances of life in a bubble made ultimately impossible by the intractable political reality at the front lines of interminable conflict. It does so without becoming didactic or taking an overt political stance and is ultimately sympathetic to the individuals embedded in the forces of historic struggle. With a beautiful score by Israeli pop star Ivri Lider, The Bubble is both romantic and painful, funny, charming and heart-warming while ultimately unsentimental. This film was rejected from recent European festivals due to the recent war in southern Lebanon and a boycott of Israeli films. That was a mistake, as this is exactly the kind of film that can engage opposing sides in much needed dialogue. Banning cultural expression is no solution to political conflict.

DarkBlueAlmostBlack (“AzulOscuroCasiNegro”)

A first feature for Spanish director Daniel Sánchez Arévalo, DarkBlueAlmostBlack tells the story of a young man seemingly trapped by socio-economic status, circumstances and family obligation but ultimately separated from the life he desires by his own fear. It is a light-hearted and charmingly written film, with some great performances. Antonio del la Torre (who also appears in Almodovar’s latest Volver) is particularly good as the brother who arrives home from prison with plans for his own future. Arévalo in the end argues that embracing our limits is, ironically, the beginning of our journey to overcome them.


Bamako is a bold, innovative film from Mali director Abderrahmane Sissako, and it uniquely takes on globalization from the perspective of African society through the device of a trial against the World Bank and IMF that takes place in a small village. An audacious undertaking, Sissako is successful at presenting the complex issues surrounding the structural adjustment policies of global economic institutions and their impact on the life chances of individuals and developing world societies. The writing is intelligent, articulate and passionate and the delivery by the mix of actors and non-actors that take part in the trial is invigorating, refreshingly absent the sloganeering of western armchair activists. See it if you can.


A documentary by Montreal-born Mohammed Naqvi that features the story of Mukhtar Mai, a woman struggling for justice in her native Pakistan after being the victim of gang rape. She is raped as punishment for a crime her brother is alleged to have committed against a woman of the powerful Mastoi clan in her village, in the tradition of “honour for honour” . Mukhtar finds the strength to raise her voice and finds the resources to bring justice for herself and ultimately for future generations of girls in her village. She draws international media attention, which brings pressure on the Pakistan government, and uses her fame to raise money for schools, roads and a planned hospital. Education is presented as the ultimate solution to empowering future generations of women. Mukhtar Mai is doubtlessly an inspiring figure of strength, and a hero to many. The film, however, would probably have been better served by delving into the Mastoi clan’s original allegations and perspective and the socio-cultural context. The Mastois, and the government, are often depicted as duplicitous and comically idiotic which plays to the audience’s sentiments but ultimately glosses over deeper questions worth exploring.

Lake of Fire

Rounding out the last of my very serious issues films, Lake of Fire is a documentary that explores the issue of the abortion debate in America in an intense, and graphic, way. Tony Kaye, director of the remarkable American History X, explores the issue unflinchingly with the keen eye of an outsider and ultimately does not take a stand. As Kaye described in the Q&A, both sides are right. However, the violent anti-abortion extremists of the religious right are exposed without sympathy, and I was drawn to make mental connections to religious extremism in general and terrorism in the current global context. There were a number of interesting observations by those that work under threat of violence in clinics. A woman observed that the overwhelmingly single middle-aged angry male Christians that haunt their front door seem to get voyeuristic pleasure from watching women they know have had sex as they enter the clinic. Interesting political questions are asked, like why the religious right does not take as active a stance on the right to life of the born as for the unborn. Should they not be for universal early childhood healthcare, reducing poverty and family violence? Kaye is a true auteur, who took 20 years to make this film, which he still considers to be unfinished.

Perhaps some lighter fare for the rest of the festival? No Borat for me. L’Homme de sa Vie and Snow Cake next.

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Burning Man as Laboratory of the Future

Burning Man 2006 – IKONOS

Originally uploaded by Gatecrasher.

As seen from space, the temporary city of over 35,000 people makes its presence felt.

So many thoughts on my recent experience at Burning Man. Art festival. Intentional community. Radical self-reliance. Radical self-expression. Neotribal confederation. Anarchic socialism. Experiment in human organization. Emergent property of human creativity.

It is remarkable. More to come…