Event: NYPL Financial Planning Demonstration

Overview and notes from a financial planning demonstration, provided by the business center at the NY Public Library.

Introduction

I recently attended the online seminar, Financial Planning Demonstration, which was presented by the NY Public Library, Thomas Yoseloff Business Center.

The webinar covered a lot of great information and much of what I jotted down seemed quick and easy to remember. I thought it was really helpful, so hopefully others will learn something.

Here’s what I have to share:

  • Overview: A bit about the presentation and the speaker
  • Presentation Notes: Presented in Q&A style
  • Final Takeaways: The speaker’s wrap-up and final thoughts

Then I’ll share a few of my own concluding thoughts and where to find more events.


I. Overview

Event Name

Financial Planning Demonstration (Eventbrite)

Webinar Description

You have probably heard about “Financial Planning”, but do you know exactly what is involved in the process? Learn how the financial planning process can be used to quantify your resources and how you can then best use those resources to reach your financial goals.If you have been curious about what, exactly, a financial plan is and how it can be used to navigate turbulent markets, then, this is a webinar you will not want to miss.

Presenter

Charles Failla, CFP®

Chuck understands the importance of working as a Fiduciary and uses those standards to oversee the financial planning and investment management work done at Sovereign Financial. As a Board Certified Financial Planning™ practitioner, Chuck understands that shepherding a client’s financial and retirement plan requires more than simply “picking investments”. In addition to working with clients, Chuck is a regular speaker and commentator on financial topics and has been featured in Forbes, The New York Daily News, Reuters, CBS Market Watch and numerous other media outlets. Chuck is also committed to the financial planning community and advancing the cause of financial literacy. To that end, he currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Financial Planning Association of Connecticut as the Chairperson of their Pro Bono / Public Outreach Committee.


II. Q & A Notes

What is financial planning?

Determining how much money is needed, and when it is needed.

Why do financial planning?

2 reasons:

  1. Avoid Sequence of Return risk
  2. Helps you optimize investments conservatively vs aggressively

What is Sequence of Return?

This impacts people in retirement, but not people while they’re saving in retirement.

Sequence risk is the danger that the timing of withdrawals from a retirement account will have a negative impact on the overall rate of return available to the investor. This can have a significant impact on a retiree who depends on the income from a lifetime of investing and is no longer contributing new capital that could offset losses. Sequence risk is also called sequence-of-returns risk.

Investopedia, Sequence Risk, Nov 2020: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/sequence-risk.asp

The short answer is running out of money in retirement. Apparently, a lot of people have never heard of this before. (I understood the concept, but this was my first time hearing this term and the first time it had been demonstrated so clearly.)

What is Long-Term Care Insurance?

A long-term care insurance policy helps cover the costs of that care when you have a chronic medical condition, a disability or a disorder such as Alzheimer’s disease.

NerdWallet, Long-Term Care Insurance Explained, May 2019, https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/insurance/long-term-care-insurance/

Doesn’t recommend for someone who is: a.) Very wealthy or b.) Already pretty sick.

How do I optimize my investments?

This image shows a computer screen, with bar charts that increase from left to right.
Split money into buckets, based on when you need it.

Split money into buckets, based on when you need it. For instance, think of how much money will you need in:

  • 1-5 years
  • 5-10 years
  • 10+ years

This gives more control and helps protect money from risk.

When should you rebalance a portfolio?

  • It could be on a regular schedule: quarterly, annually, etc.
  • Setting and forgetting is a mistake!

How do you use buckets to protect your portfolio from sequence risk?

You want money you will need in 1-5 years to be the most secure. Money that’s needed 10+ can be treated more aggressively. Aggressive portfolios will always provide the most returns, but they also have the greatest risk.

Here’s a breakdown of how to think about the buckets in relation to portfolio types, based on when you need the money:

  • Conservative portfolio: 1-5 years
  • Moderate portfolio: 5-10 years
  • Aggressive portfolio: 10+ years

Ex: Money that’s needed in 1-5 years would be in the conservative portfolio. It won’t grow as much, but it won’t lose as much. Money that’s not needed until 10 years from now can be put in the aggressive portfolio.

What’s a good site to find a planner?

plannersearch.org

If I’m looking for a financial planner, what should I look for?

  • Talk to 2-3 advisors
  • Get to know their fees
  • Know their bias

Bias: A good planner will sign a fiduciary agreement, meaning they are required to treat your money as their own. If you work with a bank, which tries to sign you up with one of their products, they might have bias and not be willing to sign this agreement.

What does “cash” mean on a portfolio statement?

Generally cash is saved/safe. It’s in that conservative bucket. Rate of return is lower. Could be in a CD, a structured CD, money market, etc.

Is there a difference between money management and financial planning? Could the same person do both?

The answer to both is Yes! A financial planner helps create the structure. A money manager directs the money, helps select the products, etc.

It’s possible to find someone who’s able to do both, which could be cheaper than getting 2 people. Often it’s the money manager who does not do financial planning, vs the other way around.


III. Final Takeaways

The purpose is to emphasize that taking a look at finances can lead to small changes, that can have big impacts later.
Small tweaks can lead to big changes.

Small Tweaks → Big Changes

Small tweaks to your plans could lead to big changes. These changes could be, for instance:

  • Choosing to retire later: Instead of 60, retire at 64
  • Downsizing: Selling a large house for something smaller can lead to more money available to reinvest
  • Living on less money: Reducing the amount of money you expect to need per year; instead of $130,000, go to $100,000

Other Planning Tips

Selecting a Planner: You don’t need to know everything before choosing a financial planner. But, when they’re explaining things, you should feel comfortable that you know everything. Know enough, to know what to ask.

Bias: Make sure you find a CFP who will sign a fiduciary agreement. The worst stories come from people whose planner had bias.

Buckets: Use the buckets to protect money in the future. People who start off with the exact same amount of money in retirement can run it down too soon, if their money isn’t protect from unexpected losses.

Rebalancing: Setting and forgetting your portfolio is a mistake because markets change. If you don’t adjust, or rebalance, your portfolio from time to time, changes in the market could mean not protecting your investments or missing opportunities to get good stocks at low prices.


Conclusion

So, those are all of the notes I had to share! Hope they were helpful.

To recap: I shared an event overview, my Q&A notes of the presentation, and the speaker’s final wrap-up comments.

My thoughts: As I mentioned at the beginning, I thought it was a very informative webinar. For instance, I hadn’t heard of long-term care insurance, so that was good to know.

Additional events: There are more webinars related to money management and finance on the NYPL website. You can also subscribe to their email list, and they’ll send announcements of upcoming webinars or other resources.

FIAF: Animation First, 2021 – Part 3 Favorites

For the fourth time, I attended the annual animation event at the French Institute-Alliance Français, FIAF. As I mentioned in my last two posts, it was totally digital and I watched at home instead of attending in person.

In my last two posts, I shared the feature length and short films that I watched. In this post, I’m focusing in on my two favorite films, one short and one feature length. My two favorites were the full-length feature, Josep, and the short film, Homeless Home.

Wes Anderson’s film Isle of Dogs was really good. I might have picked it, except that it was a surprise addition and I’m choosing from the original line-up.


Favorite Feature: Josep

  • Dir. Aurel (Aurélien Froment)
  • 2020
  • 80 min
  • In French, Spanish, Catalan, and English with English subtitles
  • Mature Audiences

A dying gendarme [armed policeman] remembers his encounter with Catalan artist Josep Bartolí in a French concentration camp after the Spanish Civil War.

My favorite feature length film was Josep, a tribute, from one artist to another. The subject was the artist Josep Bartoli, an illustrator. It mainly focused on the period of his life in France, as a refugee from the Spanish Civil War.

“Josep”, 2020. Image from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10534996/mediaindex/?ref_=tt_mv_close

I didn’t know much about the subject, so after the film I did some research. After years of fighting, in February 1939, the Nationalists under Franco were recognized by France and other countries. Basically, they had won the Spanish civil war. Those who had been Republicans (or I suppose just didn’t support Franco) fled the country within only a few days. About 500,000 Spanish citizens left Spain for France in what’s called “La Retirada” or the retreat. When they arrived in France, the French authorities were unprepared and overwhelmed, and many of the refugees were sent to hastily built internment camps.

A few months before in France, precisely on November the 12th 1938, the government of Édouard Daladier approved a Decree-Law allowing the internment of “undesirable foreigners” under permanent surveillance. This law became the legal framework in which the French government later on imprisoned some 350,000 exiled Spanish Republicans….

So, I guess some people left in late 1938, but the resources I found described a massive migration in February 1939. Argelès-sur-Mer, is a region in the Southeast of France, just north of the Spanish border, and the location for one of the camps.

The concentration camps were known to be extremely poor and unhygienic; like intolerably unfit, with no access to clean water, poor sanitation, lack of food, and were built so poorly they barely did anything to protect the people from the winter weather. Of course, disease was rampant.

In the movie, there’s a scene where Josep actually sleeps in a hole in ground, covered by a blanket, until eventually he is apparently moved to an actual building with walls and a roof. Unfortunately, this really happened. Some of the interned people did sleep on the ground, and if they died, by exposure or by the mistreatment/torture from the guards, that’s where they were buried.

Of course, we know that 1939 was a pivotal year around the world. Those camps eventually became concentration camps for people running away from the Nazi regime, and conditions did not improve to say the least. Sadly, some of the people were sent back.

Here are some photos from Argelès-sur-Mer:

Argelès-sur-Mer

More information on the Argeles-sur-Mer camp can be found at: https://europeanmemories.net/memorial-heritage/argeles-sur-mer/


During the movie, Josep searches for his fiancee, but he has no luck. At one point, has a vision or dream sequence about Frida Kahlo. Coincidentally, I later learned, they were only born 3 years apart.

Frida Kahlo dream sequence.
“Josep”, 2020. Image from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10534996/?ref_=ttmi_tt

The narrator, then a young man (a gendarme or armed guard) working in the camps, provides Josep with drawing materials and they become what friends they can become under the circumstances. Eventually Josep escapes and he makes his way to Mexico, where he becomes one of Frida Kahlo’s lovers while she was married to Diego Riviera. At some point in his life, he leaves Mexico and ends up in New York.

In real life, both Bartoli and Kahlo seem to have had a strong influence on each other, including becoming romantically connected. But the majority of the movie is about his life and experiences in the concentration camps. Here’s an interesting video I found that’s not quite the finished film. More of an animation of the storyboard (in French).


It was difficult to find examples of his artwork, but here’s an interview with his nephew with a few images.

The interview reveals a bit more about how Frida Kahlo influenced him, in his life and art:

Q: Once in New York, did he get involved with the Spanish exile community?

A: Not really. Although he always knew he was linked to the history of the war, at a certain point—thanks in large part to Frida Kahlo—he decided to switch from black-and-white to color. In both art and life. Frida told him: “You’ll never win the civil war. Memory is one thing and life is another. You must accept the memory, but you can’t let it consume your life. You’ve got to move on to something else.” And that’s what he did. Although he never lost sight of who he was and where he came from.


As for the director, who is himself an illustrator, obviously the movie itself is an example of his work. I found some information about his background:

Aurélien Froment’s practice involves the use and making of films, exhibitions and books through a diverse array of collaborations with artists, institutions, friends and numerous image manipulators. https://imma.ie/artists/aurelien-froment/


More information about the Spanish Civil War and memorial websites for La Retirada and the camps are below:


On his relationship with Frida Kahlo:

My Bartoli…I don’t know how to write love letters.  But I wanted to tell you that my whole being opened for you. Since I fell in love with you everything is transformed and is full of beauty…. love is like an aroma, like a current, like rain.  You know, my sky, you rain on me and I, like the earth, receive you. Mara” — Frida Kahlo, October 1946

https://observer.com/2015/04/passion-penned-frida-kahlos-intimate-love-letters-of-an-illicit-affair-up-for-sale/#ixzz3YG4hFCq7

And just before writing this, I learned that Josep won the 2021 César Award for Best Animated Film.


Favorite Short Film: Homeless Home

  • 2020
  • Dir. Alberto Vázquez
  • In Spanish, with English subtitles
  • 15 min
Trailer for Homeless Home
No one can escape their roots, however rotten they may be.

I absolutely loved this film. I probably watched it at least 6-7 times while I had access to it.

As the director states in the interview below, it takes place in a medieval fantasy land, and features a love triangle between a witch, an ogre, and an orc. However, most of the story features themes and questions that are very modern and human:

  • Is home always the place where you grew up, or is it a new place?
  • What if your home has no opportunities or future — should you feel obligated to stay?
  • What happens for people as they grow old, who will take care of them if everyone is gone?
  • Is it even possible to leave; who will buy a house if everyone is migrating away?
  • And what about the relationships we have with other people?
  • Are these the relationships we have because they’re good for us, or because they’re comfortable?
  • What will we put up with because we’re lonely?
Interview with Homeless Home director, Alberto Vasquez (3:12) – In English

The film opens with a short speech by the Necromancer, some type of lord/master character, at the top of a castle. He gives a universal speech about how he accomplished everything in his life based on his own hard work, probably too much work. The myth of self-sufficiency.

And he gestures to point out the lands of what used to be the home of his vast army. Now, he says, the young people are all drunks and drug addicts as the scene changes to show a beach, with many young people falling over, clearly intoxicated. Millennials have ruined everything!

He’s later described derisively by one of the other characters, the Ogre, — who is, depicted as lazy, without goals, and who drinks too much — as a selfish and frail old man.

Necromancer nostalgically surveys his lands.
“Homeless Home” 2020, Image from https://en.unifrance.org/movie/50131/homeless-home

The soundtrack featured a single cello and had a melancholy quality. I find cello can be played at a higher pitch, but generally sounds best at lower registers, which is how it was played. It was the perfect choice. There was also chanting/singing chorus, featuring women’s voices. It sounded kind of Celtic, or I suppose exotic, and meant to evoke a conjuring; a supernaturalness. It was effective where it was used.

The entire movie was in black and white, with some grey, and splashes of red depicting blood.

In one scene, the simple colors and the soundtrack came together so well. The Orc character reminisces about his army exploits to his Witch friend (girlfriend?), about his life of conquering and the appeal of leaving his small town. In a flashback, he beheads a soldier on a giant pile of bodies, then he literally baths in a river of blood as the female chanting grows in crescendo. The flashback ends and the scene returns to the quiet of the forest, as he sits next to the Witch. Neither of them seem particularly excited by the possibilities remaining in their hometown.

The Orc reminisces with the Witch about his life of conquering in the Necromancer army.
“Homeless Home” 2020, Image from https://en.unifrance.org/movie/50131/homeless-home

In the early part of the film, there are short interviews from other characters, including the Ogre who plays a bigger role later. He talks about the importance of hobbies, “to help have an inner life”, as he later falls back against his house drinking. The Ogre is very ogre-like: blunt, brutish, not too smart. He doesn’t offer much emotional support for his Witch girlfriend, who is caring for her aging mother, and treats her like his own object, not recognizing her own agency.

The Ogre tries to romance his Witch girlfriend.
“Homeless Home”, 2020. Image from https://en.unifrance.org/movie/50131/homeless-home
In this scene, the Ogre drinks while sitting with the Witch under a tree. The Witch is unhappy.

Cover for “Homeless Home”, 2020. Image from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt12185772/mediaviewer/rm2581050113/

In other scenes, I loved the subtle references to everyday activities, but with a morbid twist. For instance, the witch suggests she and the ogre visit “Oblivion Falls” where the waters make you forget who you are. And at a beach cookout, the Orc is one offered one of two choices from the grill: pork or carne de humano.


Some of the scenes that stuck out for me involved a fat beast, an animal with a sort of elephant-like body but a human face. He spits when he talks, which the other characters rightly find disgusting. He has a master, who rides him and whips him, and many of the other characters call him a “dumb animal” and treat him cruelly. He internalizes their claims that as a dumb animal, he has no feelings and doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Yet, towards the end of the film, he clearly does as he remarks on his complex inner thoughts. He says “Master, I don’t know if you can understand me, but sometimes I feel apathetic, empty like I’m a little dead.” His master responds, “Ah yes. That’s because here in this place, we’re all dead.”

Of course, all the dialog is in (European) Spanish. As an English speaker, that somehow adds to the other worldliness for me.

“No one can escape their roots, however rotten they may be.”
Spanish language poster for Homeless Home, 2020. Image from https://en.unifrance.org/movie/50131/homeless-home

Although this film was only 15 minutes, I found the themes really resonant. As a short film, it cut away all the extraneous character development and plot to cut to the core themes the film makers wanted to convey. For example, the generational divides, the limited opportunities in small towns, etc.

I think many people who move away from home to bigger cities or seek opportunity away from old friends and family, face these questions and mixed feelings of nostalgia and regret, even if they don’t recognize their emotions for what they are.

There are some, like the Ogre, who end up jealous, bitter, and angry. Others, like the Orc, try to reconnect with old friends and family but fail because they’ve ultimately moved on and can’t readjust to their old life. There are those like the Witch who want a better life, but their obligations to their home are too strong and they can’t bring themselves to leave. And there are the friends who seem to admit that there aren’t many benefits to staying, yet continue celebrating the basic comforts of their lives despite the obvious mediocrity.

Even living in a big city now, I sometimes feel like the Witch, the Ogre, and the Orc at times. Jealous, bitter, disconnected, and yet obligated. Maybe we all feel like this sometimes, regardless of our home. Or maybe I feel like this because I’ve moved so much.


Clearly I’m not the only one who liked it!

https://twitter.com/autourdeminuit/status/1351598085454094338?s=20

FIAF: Animation First, 2021 – Part 2 Short Films

For the fourth time, I attended the annual animation event at the French Institute-Alliance Français, FIAF. As I mentioned in my last post, it was totally digital and I watched at home instead of attending in person.

My last post was on feature films. This one will be on shorts.


Shorts!

I love watching shorts. Like animated, narrative short stories. Sometimes just art. These are the shorts I’ve seen, so far.

Shoom’s Odyssey, 2019

L’Odyssée de Choum
  • Dir. Julien Bisaro, with Clair Paoletti
  • France, Belgium
  • 26 min
  • In French with English subtitles

My quick take: Great film for kids, calming to look at. Great effects and sound effects.

This heartwarming tale is set in a seaside town inspired by a lush Louisiana bayou. Born in the midst of a storm, baby owl Shooom must fend for herself and her unhatched sibling before she even leaves her nest. Against all odds, she is determined to find her mother, be it an alligator or a squirrel.

This is a film that was originally intended for very young audiences, so there isn’t much dialog. It’s really beautiful and pastel colored. One thing that stood out for me were the very interesting animal sound effects, which unfortunately they didn’t get to in the making of discussion below.


Making of Shooom’s Odyssey with Claire Paoletti and Julien Bisaro

FYI: The interview had a translator, which many FIAF events often have, though honestly the film makers seemed to understand English very well.


A Doonesbury Special, 1977

  • Dir. Garry Trudeau, USA
  • 26 min.
  • In English
  • Mature Audiences

This film was selected by special guest, Wes Anderson.

I found a copy on the Internet Archive (for now).

Along with filmmakers Faith and John Hubley, Trudeau pondered an important question of the day: Do you sell out your idealism and your thirst for political and social change as you grow older? Or more specifically, do you stop building a commune to build a condo? As Mike Doonesbury searches for meaning, he muses on gender and racial relations, Simone de Beauvoir, Margaret Mead, football, and pot smoking, bringing an unexpected profundity to the holiday primetime special. Trudeau’s efforts were recognized. A Doonesbury Special won a Special Jury Award at Cannes and was nominated for an Oscar in 1978.


Peter and the Wolf, 2006

  • Dir. Suzie Templeton
  • United Kingdom, Poland, Norway and Mexico
  • 29 min.
  • Silent
  • Ages 8 and up

My quick take: What can I say? Peter and the Wolf, depending on who tells the story, is sad. Peter, the puppet, looks a bit maniacal, at times.

Unlike previous animated adaptations of this classic fairy tale, director Suzie Templeton forgoes a narrator and sets Prokofiev’s beloved score in the harsh modern-day Russian countryside. Against this strikingly stark background, Templeton’s vibrant puppets come to life—a playful bird, tottering duck, mischievous cat, the fearsome wolf, as well as the sensitive Peter and his grandfather.


L’Amour a ses réseaux (Fail in Love), 2019

  • Dir. Cécile Rousset & Romain Blanc-Tailleur
  • France
  • In French with English subtitles
  • Mature audiences

These were 5, 4-min episodes using interviews with Tinder/Grindr users on their experiences that didn’t go quite right. I thought it was really funny, and I liked the use of, sometimes fantasy, imagery translations of the spoken words.

Funny, quirky, and at times cruel, this web series illustrates real-life dating mishaps, fantasies, and creepy encounters. Through these personal stories, we see traditional and new means of seduction, as well as the triumphs and pitfalls caused by apps and their algorithms. L’Amour a ses réseaux (which translates literally to “love has its networks”) was adapted from the column “Tinder Surprise” for French news website Rue89 and originally aired on Franco-German television channel Arte.

Videos not available in the US. More information can be found at arte.fr.

The translations are a combination of FIAF and the Arte website, plus my own having watched these shorts.


Bite on the side (Petit Piment)

Newly settled in Berlin, Ernestine uses Tinder to find new friends. When her date invites her to a party, she wonders: is she free to do what she wants? Even flirting with this handsome Swedish guy? 

L'Amour a ses réseaux (3/13). Bite on the side. A cupid holding a red bird.
Bite on the side (Petit Piment)

Mazeltov!

After a romantic failure, Jeanne goes in search of a little affection on Tinder. But, when the moment of the meeting comes, stress quickly pushes her to say everything, and especially anything.

L'Amour a ses réseaux (11/13). Mazeltov. Sketch of a woman with a sheet pulled over her face.
Mazeltov!

Prince and Princesses (Prince et princesses)

Elegant, thoughtful, funny, Catherine thinks she has found her Prince Charming on Tinder. But life is rarely a fairy tale and the gallant’s castle seems full of secrets….

L'Amour a ses réseaux (1/13). Prince and Princess. Sketch of a man dressed in Shakespearean clothing crying next to a fountain.
Prince and Princesses (Prince et princesses)

Homo Habitus

One evening, Max meets a compulsive liar on Grindr. But rather than scare him away, his little number begins to intrigue him. Let the show begin! 

L'Amour a ses réseaux (6/13). Homo Habitus; Sketch of a kaleidoscope of a man with a mustache.
Homo Habitus

Under the moonlight (Sonate au clair de lune)

When an astronomy enthusiast invites her to observe the sky for a first date, Carole accepts her proposal, even if it involves crossing the entire county. But she begins to doubt her lucky star when her date shows himself less and less willing to let her go …

L'Amour a ses réseaux (4/13), Under the moonlight (Sonate au clair de lune). Sketch of a woman in a box.
Under the moonlight (Sonate au clair de lune)

Women Undercover (Les Espionnes racontent), 2020

  • Dir. Aurélie Pollet, 2020
  • France
  • Mature Audiences
  • In French with English subtitles

What if 007 was a woman? This riveting series follows a journalist as she interviews the spies who penetrated top-secret government circles. The three episodes included here expose the undercover experiences of Moscow-based Geneviève, Martha from Panama, and Yola in Tel Aviv.

A series of short videos, animating true interviews with female spies. Very intriguing. The three 6-min episodes I watched are below.

These might be available to play in the US on arte.tv/fr, for now, in French with subtitles. Eventually copyright might kick in and these will become restricted, so I don’t know.

Les Espionnes racontent – Geneviève : La liste russe de la DST

Focus on African Animation

Selections:

  • Black Barbie, Dir. Comfort Arthur, 2016, 4 min, Ghana
  • The Cora Player (Joueur de cora), Dir. Cilia Sawadogo, 1996, 7 min, Canada
  • Afropower (Afreupouvoir), Dir. Manohiray Randriamanantsoa, 2010, 5 min, Madagascar
  • L’Ambouba, Dir. Nadia Rais, 2010, 9 min, Tunisia
  • اغتراب Fade, Dir. Alaeddin Abou Taleb, 2018, 13 min, Tunisia
  • Prince Lesono, Dir. Jean-Michel Kibushi, 2004, 29 min, France and Belgium

I really liked Afropower. This was a short story following a dog that leaves a pile of 💩 , flies and all. This 💩 is sniffed out by a man who rises out of the ground, dressed in colonial attire. He gets the idea to exploit the 💩 by turning it into some kind of drug for the people. The people then revolt and while they’re fighting their king, the man appears again. He cuts through a pipe, that’s feeding the king’s throne. Out pops piles of jewels, which he begins to swallow. When he’s done, he goes away, disappearing again under the ground. Meanwhile the 💩 transforms again. It grows a head, a face, then a full body. The 💩 , which has been shown as green, falls away and reveals a man, and the man takes his new place on the throne. The man has become a fascist dictator, put in place by colonial powers exploiting the literal crap of Africa and creating chaos. It had no words, just a soundtrack, so I liked that it got the message across without explanation.

Prince Lesono was a stop-motion animation. It was about a king who wishes to have a son, but has to follow certain customs and cooperate with his community in order to achieve his goal of having an heir.


My Life in Versailles (La vie de Château), 2019
  • Dir. Clémence Madeleine-Perdrillat and Nathaniel H’Limi, France
  • 29 min.
  • In English
  • Ages 8 and up

A little girl loses her parents and becomes a ward of the state. According to her parents’ will, she is sent to live with her uncle who is a gardener or worker at the Versailles Palace museum. This short is actually a tv show, and this first episode is about how he struggles to adjust to fit a very young girl who misses her family into his life.


Best of Annecy Film Festival

Selected:

  • Awoko 70’s, Dir. Rose Gallerand, Caroline Leibel, Faustine Merle, Claire Pellet, May Taraud, and Chloé Van Becelaere; 2020; 1 min
  • Wade (La Noyade), Dir. Upamanyu Bhattacharyya and Kalp Sanghvi, 2019, 11 min
  • Genius Loci, Dir. Adrien Mérigeau, 2019, 16 min
  • Pile, Dir. Toby Auberg, 2019, 3 min
  • Homeless Home, Dir. Alberto Vazquez Rico, 2020, 15 min
  • Physics of Sorrow (Physique de la tristesse), Dir. Theodore Ushev, 2019, 27 min
  • Kinshasa 2100, Dir. Florian De Chelle, Marine Corbineau, Valentin Giuili, Armand Goxe, Marin Inbona, Alexis Maurice, and Tom Rameaux; 2020, 1 min
Genuis Loci
One night Reine, a young and solitary person, sees in the urban chaos a lively and vibrant movement, a kind of guide.
Wade (La Noyade) Directors’ statement and preview

I really enjoyed this one. As mentioned by the directors, this film is an exploration of the effects of climate change, one of which being flooding. It’s an interesting premise, tigers in urban areas crossing paths with climate refugees.

The film has a mystical quality. After the first tiger attack, a new tiger appears. It has eyes like the blind girl and can walk on water. However, a baby begins to cry, and like in MASH, it’s killed (drowned). This causes the blind tiger to suddenly become pregnant and bear a cub, who briefly shows signs of having human fingers. The attacking tiger tries to take the human-tiger cub, but it’s throat is slight by a knife and it runs away. The mother tiger begins to sink below the water and the other tigers take the tiger baby away.

Here’s a video of the awards ceremony (in French; English CC available).

Award ceremony for Wade
Directors’ statement for Wade (La Noyade)

Family Friendly Selected Shorts:

  • Melting Heartcake (Cœur fondant), Dir. Benoît Chieux, 2019, 11 min — Ages 3+
  • The Atelier (L’atelier), Dir. Bianca Mansani, 2019, 4 min — Ages 3+
  • Nature, Dir. Isis Leterrier, 2019, 3 min — Ages 3+
  • Northern Lights (Au pays de l’aurore boréale), Dir. Caroline Attia, 2019, 15 min — Ages 4+
  • The Last Day of Autumn (Le dernier jour d’automne), Dir. Marjolaine Perreten, 2019, 8 min — Ages 4+
  • Louis’ shoes (Les chaussures de Louis), Dir. Marion Philippe, Kayu Leung, Theo Jamin, Jean Geraud Blanc; 2020; 5 min — Ages 8+
  • The Breakaway (L’échappée), Dir. Benoît Michelet, 2019, 7 min — Ages 8+
  • We’re Taking Bernie to Grandpa (On va ramener Bernie chez Papi), Dir. Arielle Besse, Shiuan-An Lin, Lilamirana Rakotoson, 2020, 5 min — Ages 8+
  • TommeLise et l’Ogre, Dir. Cécile Robineau, 2018, 8 min — Ages 8+
  • Sheep, Wolf and A Cup Of Tea… (Moutons, loup et tasse de thé…), Dir. Marion Lacourt, 2019, 12 min — Ages 9+
  • Un diable dans la poche, Dir. Antoine Bonnet, Mathilde Loubes; 2019; 5 min — Ages 9+
Un diable dans la poche, Dir. Antoine Bonnet, Mathilde Loubes; 2019; 5 min

Most of these were relatively cute films. But the last one was a little sinister, and luckily available outside of the festival.


Documentary Shorts:

  • Esperança, Dir. Cécile Rousset, Jeanne Paturle, Benjamin Serero; 2019; 5 min
  • Mild wildness, Lasting Lunacy (Folie douce, folie dure), Dir. Marine Laclotte, 2020, 18 min
  • And yet we are not super-heroes (On est pas près d’être des supers héros), Dir. Lia Bertels, 2019, 13 min
  • Exuvie, Dir. Antoine François, Ornella Hildevert, Camille Ringuet, Adèle de Girval, Anaïs Crowyn, Ceridwen Bizeul; 2019; 4 min
  • Richie, Dir. Romane Granger, 2019, 8 min
  • 5 Years After the War (5 ans après la guerre), Dir. Samuel Albaric, Martin Wiklund, Ulysse Lefort; 2017; 16 min
Trailer for Folie douce, Folie dure

The film I highlighted was a very interesting concept. It was about a care home for developmentally disabled adults. It’s one thing to have a child who needs extra care. But what about when they’re 50 years old.


Films I didn’t watch…

New French Shorts Part 1 and 2

  • Disoriented (À l’ouest), Dir. Jérémie Cousin, France, 2019, 4 min.
  • To the dusty sea (À la mer poussière), Dir. Héloïse Ferlay, France, 2020, 12 min.
  • When We Leave (Cuando nos vamos), Dir. Mitchelle Tamariz, France, 2019, 4 min. Silent.
  • Trona Pinnacles, Dir. Mathilde Parquet, France, 2020, 13 min.
  • The Song of the Angel-Fish (Le chant des Poissons-Anges), Dir. Louison Wary, France, 2019, 7 min.
  • Purpleboy,Dir. Alexandre Siqueira, Belgium, France and Portugal, 2019, 14 min. In Portuguese with English subtitles.
  • Precious (Précieux), Dir. Paul MasFrance,202014 min.
  • Souvenir Souvenir, Dir. Bastien Dubois, France, 2020, 15 min.
  • Inès, Dir. Elodie Dermange, France and Switzerland, 2019, 4 min.
  • Airhead! (Tête de linotte !), Dir. Gaspar Chabaud, Belgium, 2019, 6 min.

  • Rivages, Dir. Sophie Racine, France, 2020, 8 min. Silent.
  • Tadpole (Tétard), Dir. Jean-Claude Rozec, France, 2019, 13 min.
  • Windshriek (Hurlevent), Dir. Frédéric Doazan, France, 2019, 6 min. Silent.
  • Artifice, Dir. Judicaël Ceva, Adrien Douay, Coline Della Siega, Coraline Hun et Diana Lao, France, 2019, 4 min. Silent.
  • Average Happiness, Dir. Maja Gehrig, Switzerland, 2019, 7 min.
  • Flow, Dir. Adriaan Lokman, France and Netherlands, 2019, 14 min. Silent.
  • Boriya, Dir. Min Sung Ah, France, 2019, 16 min.
  • Traces, Dir. Hugo Frassetto, Sophie Tavert Macian, France and Belgium, 2019, 13 min. Silent.
  • Machini, Dir. Frank Mukunday, Trésor Tshibangu, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Belgium, 2019, 10 min.
  • Sous la canopée, Dir. Bastien Dupriez, France, 2019, 7 min. Silent.
  • Empty Places, Dir. Geoffroy de Crécy, France, 2020, 8 min. Silent.
  • X.Y.U., Dir. Donato Sansone, Italy, 2019, 1 min. Silent.

That’s it. Unfortunately I didn’t get to watch everything. There were several student competitions that I didn’t see although I have seen student shorts before.

The next post will be on my favorites. I also saw a lot of feature length films, so check out that post.

FIAF: Animation First, 2021 – Part 1 Feature Films

Yes, it’s that time of year again. For the fourth time, I attended the annual animation event at the French Institute-Alliance Français, FIAF. This time it was totally digital and I watched at home instead of attending in person. Not only that, but the dates for the festival were extended, so instead of 3 days, now there’s 11 whole days!

I saw some great films and here are some titles I want to share. Since I had time to watch so many, I’m going to write 3 posts. One on feature films, another on shorts, and the final on my favorites. This post is on feature films.


Feature Films

Calamity, a Childhood of Martha Jane Cannary, 2020

Calamity, une enfance de Martha Jane Cannary
  • A film by Rémi Chayé (with his co-writers Sandra Tosello et Fabrice de Costil)
  • France and Denmark
  • 85 min.
  • In French with English subtitles

My quick take: The animation style is really simplistic; at first I thought this was created in MS Paint! But then I thought even if it was created in MS Paint, creating a feature film that way should be commended.

Trailer: Calamity Jane — US Premier at Animation First 2021 from FIAF on Vimeo.

1863, a convoy in the American West, Martha Jane needs to learn how to take care of horses to drive the family wagon. Except she ends up wearing pants and cutting her hair. The scandal that its stark character provokes will force to face all the dangers in a gigantic and wild world where everything is possible.

Despite the film being based on a real person, it seemed very original. And even though the characters are meant to be American, the lead female character Jane had a certain “French woman” quality I feel I’ve recognized in other films, not just animation: a little spunky, a little independent, someone who takes charge of her life. I could be overgeneralizing.

Learn more about this film on the FIAF site, cineuropa.org, or by watching the making of video below.


Making of Calamity Jane with Rémi Chayé

You can also watch an interview with the director, on the FIAF Facebook page.

They talked quite a bit about the actual animation production. I wanted to learn more about the song at end, which was very poetic.


The Plague Dogs, 1982

  • Dir. Martin Rosen, USA
  • 86 min.
  • In English

Quick take: Very dark, but I liked it. A selection from special guest, Wes Anderson.

In this stunning adaptation of Richard Adams’s eponymous novel, two dogs, Snitter and Rowf, break out of a research laboratory where they are repeatedly abused for testing purposes. Once free, they meet Tod, a cunning fox, who helps them survive in the wild. Though the lab director tries to keep the escape quiet, an increasing number of sheep are discovered dead and rumors that the dogs are carrying the bubonic plague start to spread.

This was one of the selections by special guest, none other than director Wes Anderson. As he says in the introduction, it starts off unsettling and basically stays that way throughout the whole film. It’s by the director of Watership Down, Marten Rosen, and like that movie it’s also quite dark for an animated movie. Not really for kids, even though they rated it as age 10+.

Also, the film has some pretty well known names lending their voices, including John Hunt, Christopher Benjamin, Nigel Hawthorne, Patrick Stewart.


Josep

  • Dir. Aurel (Le Monde cartoonist)
  • France, Spain and Belgium
  • 80 min
  • In French, Spanish, Catalan, and English with English subtitles
  • Mature Audiences

A dying gendarme remembers his encounter with Catalan artist Josep Bartolí in a French concentration camp after the Spanish Civil War.

I really don’t know that much about the Spanish Civil War, other than it was neighbor against neighbor. I know Picasso made a famous painting about a bombing. But after I saw this film, I did a little research about the artist and looked up some of the camps. He lived a very interesting life, outside of his experiences in internment camps. The internment camps had people living in extremely poor conditions. Pretty sad. Very good film.


Aya of Yop City (Aya de Yapougon)

  • Dir. Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie, 2013
  • 84 min.
  • In French with English subtitles
  • Ages 10 and up

Aya, a 19 year old girl lives with her parents in Yop City, a neighborhood in Abidjian. She spends time with her best friends Adjoua and Bintou. While Adjoua and Bintou like to spend her evenings dancing, drinking and flirting, Aya would like to become a doctor. Trouble starts when Adjoua realizes she is pregnant by Moussa who is the spoiled son of one of the richest and most feared men in the whole country.

I’m glad I made time to see this. Funny and with a few side stories here and there. It’s based on a comic by the same name, which makes sense because there are some real characters!


Isle of Dogs

  • Dir. Wes Anderson, 2018
  • 1h 45min.
  • In English and Japanese
  • Ages 10 and up

When, by executive decree, all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island, 12-year-old Atari sets off alone in a miniature Junior-Turbo Prop and flies across the river in search of his bodyguard-dog, Spots. There, with the assistance of a pack of newly-found mongrel friends, he begins an epic journey that will decide the fate and future of the entire Prefecture.

Ok, they snuck this one in last minute. I was not expecting to be able to see this at all, because it wasn’t on the list. But it was, of course, very entertaining. One of my favorite scenes is towards the end, where the boy character recites a haiku and everyone’s mind is blown.


That’s it for the full-length films I saw. Next are shorts!

Event: Omotesenke, Green Tea Ceremony

Japan Society's workshop on the Japanese Tea Ceremony
Screen capture from event page for Japan Society’s workshop on the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

The Japanese art of tea ceremony is a time-honored tradition still widely practiced today, but with so many tools and so much etiquette, learning this beautiful practice can seem daunting. At our workshop, an instructor from the Omotesenke Domonkai Eastern Region USA school of tea ceremony will guide guests through the delicate steps of a traditional tea ceremony in a casual setup.


I forgot to write about this event I attended, from way back on 26 February, 2020. Given the number of world events that occurred since then, it kind of slipped my mind. It’s something I would write about, so I’m going to include it now.

History

We’re usually given pamphlets at most Japan Society events. I kept my mine, so here are a few basic facts:

Chanoyu is the green tea ceremony and Omotesenke is one of the schools of green tea ceremony. Members of the Omotesenke school taught our course. The other two schools are Urasenke and Mushanokojisenke.

“Sen no Rekyu established the basics of Chanoyu as it is practiced today.” Rikyu (1522-1591) was a tea master during the Momoyama period, and was a tea master for both Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi who were shoguns during his lifetime.

The Metropolitan Museum has a detailed essay, Japanese Tea Ceremony, that provides an overview of the history and culture surrounding this ceremony, and the development of “the simple and quiet form of Chanoyu called Wabicha”. This led to the wabi aesthetic, and there are examples of beautiful, wabi artifacts related to the tea ceremony on the Met website.

Tea Utensils

The pamphlet listed all the tea utensils, and we also had our own at our individual place settings.

  • tea bowl
  • Chaki, the container that holds the powdered tea
  • Chashaku, the tea scoop
  • Fukusa, the silk cloth for wiping the tea container
  • Mizusashi, container for holding fresh water
  • Kama and Hishaku, kettle of boiling water and ladle, respectively
  • Kakemono, a scroll hung for guests
  • Tokonama, alcove where scroll is hung
  • Chaseki, the tea room

Overview

For the ceremony, first they demonstrated, then we got to try. They provided us with a little tin of matcha to take home. I didn’t take any photos this time, but there are a few on the Omotesenke website. Given the time that’s passed, don’t remember as much, but  here are a few things I do remember:

One thing at a time. Something that gave the tea ceremony a more ceremonial feel was that there was no multi-tasking. For instance, no holding the tea cup while pouring the water. Put down the scoop before picking up the whisk. It was more meditative and slowed things down a bit.

A place for everything and everything in its place. We had little placemats for our tea settings showing where items should be placed before and sometimes after being used. It was very organized.

Very sweet desserts! There’s a type of sugary sweet that is served before the tea ceremony. To me, it tasted like a block of pure sugar! This was something I did not expect. We were told the reason is because green tea is kind of bitter and the sugar helps it taste nicer.

A few more questions

How does matcha differ from sencha, hojicha, or other green teas? From attending another event on green tea, I am much more informed about tea. All tea is made from the same plant. It’s only in the processing that determines if it’s black tea or green tea, etc. Most teas are steeped. Matcha is the actual tea leaves, that have been finely ground into a powder. So where green tea has many health benefits, it’s still only steeped in water. In matcha, you actually consume the leaf itself. But matcha has caffeine, so we were told to be careful of how much we added to our cups.

What do people talk about at a tea ceremony? I asked one of the two presenters if people talked to each other at the tea ceremony. She turned the question around and asked the group what they thought. People guessed that the ceremony was quiet and there was no talking at all. She said there can be some discussion, but usually only one person asks the questions to the host and talking is kept to a minimum. The focus is on the ceremony and the meditative atmosphere.


The actual tea ceremony didn’t last that long. I suppose I assumed it would be longer or more elaborate than it was. Maybe other activities like putting on a kimono or selecting the scroll would add to it.


PS – I didn’t take any photos, but one of the people from the tea school took one and I found a picture of me.

Tea Ceremony at Japan Society
Me sitting right by the screen at the tea ceremony presentation.

Event: Lecture on Sake Etiquette

I recently attended an online lecture on sake etiquette. Here are a few notes from the lecture.

In 2020, the Japan Society’s Annual Sake Lecture & Tasting was held online. View

Normally the Japan Society holds an annual sake lecture and tasting, which I’ve missed in previous years. Due to the restrictions on large groups, they didn’t hold an in-person event but they still held an online lecture on sake etiquette.

The lecturer was Timothy Sullivan, founder of UrbanSake.com. He was very knowledgable about sake etiquette and sake. He had a long sake list, with tasting notes, which you can find on the Japan Society website.

Here are a few tips from the lecture.

Sake Etiquette Tips

Here are eight tips for enjoying sake, if you want to have proper etiquette:

Tip 1: Don’t pour for yourself. I’m not sure if this is bad luck, or bad manners, but this was the Number 1 tip our lecturer made sure to share with us. He later explained that “O-shaku” is the manner of pouring for others.

Tip 2: Keep the Wa. Wa (和) is a Japanese concept of peaceful unity and conformity in a group. It focuses on harmony. In general, it’s rude and/or impolite to disturb the wa – including in sake etiquette.

Tip 3: Use 2 hands when pouring for others.  Our lecturer compared pouring sake with 2 hands to the way business cards in Japan are received with 2 hands, too. I think this practice holds true for more formal situations, but it’s considered more polite.

Tip 4: Don’t “slam” your sake when drinking. Although the small sake cups resemble Western shot glasses, that’s not why they’re small. The smaller cups allow you to pour for more people.

Tip 5: When pouring for other people, only fill the glass about 80% full. It’s considered rude to do this. When it’s full to the brim, it makes it difficult to actually drink from the cup without spilling.

Tip 6: Offer to pour for someone else, to get someone to pour for you. Getting back to the first tip, if you want more sake and your cup is empty, offer to pour for someone else.

Tip 7: When receiving sake, use 2 hands to hold your cup. One hand holds the cup, while the other supports from below.

Tip 8: Don’t drink before the kanpai. Kanpai is like the group cheer and it disturbs the wa to drink before the kanpai. At formal gatherings, often the sake will be already poured so that they can do the kanpai quickly and no one has to worry if everyone has been served.


Drinking Styles

Kenpai/Henpai

This is a style of drinking and sharing sake in which two people of unequal social or professional status actually share the same drinking cup. The junior person pours for their senior, who drinks the sake. Then there’s a large dish of water that the sake cup gets rinsed in. Then the senior person pours for the junior person. This style of sake etiquette is apparently restricted to only one region and discouraged when anyone might be sick (like now).

Mokkiri, overflowing style

This is more for casual drinking settings. In this situation, a taller clear glass is set inside one of those wooden sake boxes. The sake is poured into the glass until it overflows into the wooden box. The lecturer recommended lifting the glass and drinking from that, first. Then when the sake level has gone down, pouring some liquid from the box into the glass.


Finally, one last tip…

In casual settings, the rules relax a little. But, even in a casual setting, it’s polite for everyone to drink the same drink. For example: don’t ask for sake if everyone else is drinking beer. Remember: don’t disrupt the wa.