One thought-provoking feature and three shorts put Canadian filmmakers front and centre at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Trick or Treaty?
2014, 85 min.
Whose land is it anyway?
With typical show don’t tell style, Alanis Obomsawin has crafted another documentary that artfully lays the issues bare (land rights, suicide, forgotten murders, assimilation) that could likely apply to aboriginal peoples world-wide.
There are few images that reach the screen without purpose from the selection of protestors signs (“Idil no More/Idle No More/Idle Know More”; “Treaty  Rights Not Greedy Whites”; “Honour Your Word”) to the visually spectacular (beautiful and ugly) closing montage (fuelled by sage comments from Crazy Horse, notably “One Earth, One Mother, we are the land”), the continuing plight of Canada’s First Nations thanks to governments current (omnibus bill C-45 wreaks havoc with all manner of essential issues) and past (the Indian Act and the establishment of residential schools) is presented for all to see, hear (the largely live music is compelling) and reflect upon (producing anger, outrage, fear and shame depending on the viewer).
The present-day protests (2012-2013) are well documented. Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike is a key component, Obomsawin wisely allowing a heckling journalist at the 31-day-in press conference’s “What about the money [alleged corruption…]?” jibe to make the edit, but is never referred to again (perhaps the filmmaker’s next subject matter?).
Most heartening is the 10-week-long walk by First Nations youth—idealistically led by David Kawapit—from Whapmagoostui to Ottawa, promising to transfer the hope for the future (participant Ben Raven optimistically decrying, “secure our future for generations to come”) from the won’t-take-no-for-an-answer women of the First Nations community (the men on both sides not being able to trust one another and truly live in peace) to youth of all sexes and persuasions. All of us can only hope that the coming generation can collectively find ways and means of sharing this vast country that truly belongs to us all and not continue to be the slave of too-clever-by-half pieces of paper. JWR
Me and my Moulton
2014, 14 min.
Learning to love the unusual
Director/writer Kove has knocked one out of the proverbial park with this short-animation gem that looks as wonderful as its themes.
Set in the filmmaker’s home country of Norway, the tale of family life is presented from the point of view of the middle daughter, surrounded on either side by two more girls and watched over by a pair of architect parents who happily eschew whatever normalcy is for cutting edge designs (the three-legged chair is a hoot), avant-garde art (literally stitched into Finnish fabric) and the long-awaited, imported bicycle—the Moulton—that threatens to make the three siblings the laughing stock of the otherwise conservative neighbourhood (replete with divorce—Oh heavens!—no less).
Expertly narrated by Andrea Hovig and with a with-you-at-every-frame score from Kevin Dean, this wee film is a must-see for anyone who needs/wants to understand why and how (respectively) the world can be a better place if only we would celebrate the different amongst us rather than look down on them. JWR
Martine Époque, Denis Poulin
2014, 11 min.
Looking better than it feels
This experimental MoCap (motion capture) animation is of interest to the eye, but the ear and heart remain undernourished. Employing a quartet of dancers very literally behind the scenes, gives the captured images an intriguing fluidity overtop of an animated background that artfully works its way through water, fire and ice.
Pianists Twin Muse (Hourshid and Mekushod Afrakhteh) deliver a somewhat passionless rendering of the final segment of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (oh to have had Jon Kimura Parker at the filmmakers’ disposal—cross-reference below). Curiously and disappointingly much of the movement (Époque and Frédérick Gravel) had little connection with the music—particularly its preponderance of ever-changing metre and rhythms.
Perhaps the artistic trust and the ghostly forms might next consider bringing Saint-Saëns wonderfully eerie Danse Macabre to cinematic life and death. JWR
The Weatherman and The Shadowboxer
Randall Lloyd Okita
2014. 10 min.
Who were those masked men?
Okita has masterfully employed all the tools of his craft to construct a compelling portrait of two brothers whose shared, horrific past is remembered differently. The Weatherman survives by putting heavy emphasis on showing up rather than getting it right. The Shadowboxer revels in his scars and wounds, even if fresh ones can evoke a truly awful past.
Anyone who has ever experienced something they’d rather forget but can’t, will savour these few minutes of truth that do stand still. JWR