Canadian Content to Shine at Berlin Film Fest By Evelyn Robinson
(February 8, 2014 – Toronto, Ontario) Like virtually every other month of the year, February has kicked off to a series of film festivals across the country and around the globe, featuring everything from beloved classics to fresh and provocative new work. This week, Canadian content by some of the country’s finest emerging directors and producers is being featured at the 64th Berlinale (Berlin International Film Festival) in various categories, and despite having no contenders for the iconic Golden Bear, Canada is anticipating an enthusiastic reception from the vibrant city of art, film, and music.
Like virtually every other month of the year, February has kicked off to a series of film festivals across the nation and around the globe, featuring everything from beloved classics to fresh and provocative new work. This week, Canadian content by some of the country’s finest emerging directors and producers is being featured at the 64th Berlinale (Berlin International Film Festival) in various categories, and despite having no contenders for the iconic Golden Bear, Canada is anticipating an enthusiastic reception from the vibrant city of art, film, and music.
This year’s schedule runs from Feb. 6 to 16, featuring five Canadian productions. The Berlin Special program will showcase Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky’s riveting documentary Watermark, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and racked up awards and nominations including Best Feature Length Documentary at the 2014 Canadian Screen Awards. Using ultra high-definition equipment, the film explores the way in which water plays an environmental, political, social, and cultural role on the people of the planet. Another TIFF alumni, Triptych, will also feature in the Panorama program which focuses primarily on art-house and independent works. The brainchild of director and playwright Robert Lepage and Pedro Pires, the 90-minute film is an adaptation of Lepage’s stage play Lipsynch, a nine-hour marathon of intertwining stories illuminated with vivid imagery and innovative stage direction which explores the nature of language and memory. The Generation section includes Robert Morin’s world premiere of 3 Indian Tales which focuses on the lives of young First Nations over the course of a year, and will be presented before a panel of teenage judges.
Québec is also offering up its own delightful contributions in the Forum section, with Jean-François Caissy’s ground-breaking portrayal of rural school kids in Guidelines (La marche à suivre) and Denis Côté’sJoy of Man’s Desiring, described by EyeSteelFilm as: “an open-ended exploration of the energies and rituals of various workplaces. From one worker to another and one machine to the next; hands, faces, breaks, toil: what kind of absurdist, abstract dialogue can be started between human beings and their need to work? What is the value of the time we spend multiplying and repeating the same motions that ultimately lead to a rest – a state of repose whose quality defies definition?” Côté is enjoying an increasing presence at the Berlinale, with his Alfred Bauer Prize winner Vic+Flo Saw a Bear appearing in 2013 and Bestiary in 2012.
Stay Tuned for Talent
Selected by Telefilm Canada, the “Ten Canadians to Watch at the Berlin International Film Festival” include the filmmakers as well as Amreeka producer Paul Barkin with his in development feature, Afterlands; First Nations producer/actor Adam Beach; filmmaker Ingrid Veninger; The Grand Seduction producer Félize Frappier with her in development project, Kuessipan; and Phyllis Laing and Liz Jarvis, co-producers of Aloft.
Canada has never failed to bring fascinating content to the fore which pushes boundaries and presents challenging new perspectives which established institutions and franchises are hesitant to encounter, and recent years have seen the number of Canadian productions on the worldwide level increase alongside a flourishing infrastructure of arts programs at the post-secondary education level. The National Film Board is an advocate of tackling issues which have a large societal impact yet face a lot of stigma – photographer Nance Ackerman’s Cottonland is one such feature which deals with the various layers of implications caused by painkiller addiction. Other works explore the divergent aspects of sexuality, from sex addiction to the social dilemma which originally plagued (and to a small extent, continues on) the LGBT community in Jean-Marc Vallée’s C.R.A.Z.Y. which won 38 awards and 6 nominations, including Best Canadian Feature Film at TIFF. With revered directors like Denys Arcand (Jesus of Montreal) and aspiring new talents emerging, there remains no question that Canada is carving out a fine niche of rich film tradition which is changing the way the world thinks about film.
Lepage himself is no stranger to tackling difficult content, with works such as Needles and Opium taking the Canadian stage by storm since its debut 20 years ago and reinvigorating itself with an English-language production. Combined with Lepage’s magnificent stage artistry, thirst for metaphor and a resilient, unbounded imagination, there is small wonder that the theatre icon is continuing to make waves, even in the film world. His work is expected to work up a storm at the awards this year, including Berlinale.