Back from a great weekend at the Kingston Canadian Film Festival. Outstanding effort by all the organizers and volunteers in putting together a well curated and delivered program.
Lots of films to choose from but I wanted to share some personal highlights:
Stella Meghie’s debut feature “Jean of the Joneses” – outstanding script, funny, poignant and real. Beautifully shot and honestly one of the most satisfying stories I have seen in a feature film for quite a while.
Short answer – George Miller nailed it the first time. In the true spirit of indie film making he made the film he wanted to make doing whatever he had to do to pay for it. Lots of stories around how he raised the reported $400K he needed (including offering his services as a medical doctor in exchange for cash). The Australian government of the day only issued grants for “artistic” films – not berserk actions films. So he persevered, raised the money he needed privately and rest is history. Mad Max went on to gross over 100 million dollars worldwide and was the benchmark for profitability for over 20 years (until Blair Witch showed up).
What he created was something that I had never really seen before – a film that felt as crazy as most of the post-apocalyptic characters that inhabited that particular landscape. Working with limited resources, improvising camera techniques as he went along, with innovative stunt work (being an emergency room doctor no doubt inspiring the stunt-men) and nothing but physical film effects (no CGI in 79) Miller created a believable world for his protagonist. Mel Gibson (looking about 19) was an inspired choice to play Max. His characters have long hinted at inner turmoil and rage and that comes across well in this film. More »
Lots of legitimate griping out there about how “Big Hollywood” (if it even really exists anymore) cranks out repeatable, highly programmed, based entirely on something else that made somebody money once “content”. One of the appeals of independent film is that, although nobody wants to starve, expectations are for the most part more balanced between those driven by love of film and those driven by love of spreadsheets. It’s an old argument that despite the decentralization of content distribution modalities seems to be very much in play today.
It wasn’t always so, there was a time when studios took risks, recognized artists for what they were and as an outcome some of the greatest films and artists of the 20th century emerged. Two of my favorite examples were Sam Peckinpah and Stanley Kubrick. Two more different artists you would be pushed to find. What they had in common was a very “indie/outlaw” approach to filmmaking while still working within the system.
March 31st finds the Lost Dominion Screening Collective presenting “The Luck Of Ginger Coffey” at the Bytowne Cinema at 9:15pm. This is an excellent opportunity to see a great film by a truly unique Ottawa film maker – Budge Crawley. Based on a novel by Brian Moore, directed by Irvin Kershner and starring Robert Shaw and Mary Ure it was Crawley Films first “Hollywood” film by a studio that typified (if not founded) the Canadian independent film scene. It’s a great story, very well acted by Shaw and Ure and typifies a “Canadian” perspective of life’s challenges in a way that is honest and yet still entertaining. Go see it – it’s always great to see a movie made for grown-ups. A great mood setter is Ottawa Indie Fest’s Canadian Indie Film Night gathering at the Lunenburg Pub at 7:00pm on March 31st.
My introduction to independent film was in the late 60s and 70s. Living in Ottawa at that time there were precious few venues to watch anything that wasn’t a studio film. We had the Ottawa Public Library, universities and college, the NFB and Archives but that was pretty much it. So as a consequence much of early film education came from books and magazines. Those articles and film stills provided a glimpse into a world I never knew existed. From those roots my lifelong love all things film related and in particular independent film emerged. In those films the freedom of expression, the ability to transcend conventional narrative, the creative use visual and audio was inspiring and exhilarating to experience. Many years later the world has changed immeasurably but those are still the reasons I find independent film so exciting today. More »