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Paloma Nuñez

Paloma Nuñez, actress, actor,

B: in Chicago, Illinois

Born in Chicago, Paloma Nuñez and her parents moved to Florida when she was one year old. When she was eight she moved to Sudbury in Northern Ontario. Her professional career began in Toronto after she graduated from the University of Guelph (Drama and Math). She completed the Second City Training Centre’s Conservatory Program and began to perform in improv shows at The Bad Dog, The Second City Training Centre, the Impatient Theatre Co and Comedy Bar. She also teaches improv comedy at the Second City Training Centre and with The Bad Dog Theatre Co., and The Assembly.

Official website.

Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

Man Down (2008, short)

Lucky 7 (2011)
Flutter (2012, short)
Spotlight (2015)
Terrific Trucks Save Christmas (TV-2016)
A Nutcracker Christmas (TV-2016)
Mouthpiece (2018)
Masters of Romance (2018)

TV Series – Cast:
Terrific Trucks (2016)

TV Series – Guest appearances:
The Border (2008)

Warehouse 13 (2010)
Debra (2011)
Lucky 7 (2013)
Remedy
(2015)
The Strain (2015)
Killjoys (2015)
Newborn Moms (2015)
The Girlfriend Experience (2016)
Odd Squad (2016)
Stay Out of the Desert (2016)
Baroness Von Sketch Show (2016, 2017)
Conviction (2017)
Schitt’s Creek (2017)
Workin’ Moms (2017)
Saving Hope (2017)
My Kitchen Can Be Anything (2017)
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2017)
The Beaverton (2017)
But I’m Chris Jericho! (2017)
Falling Water (2018)
In Contempt (2018)
Gary and his Demons (2018)
Soul Decision (2018)

Spotlight, movie, poster,

Vinnie Karetak

Vinnie Karetak, actor,

In addition to occasionally showing up on camera, Vincent “Vinnie” Karetak is Chairperson of the Qaggavuut Performing Arts Society, which is tasked with delivering Inuit cultural programs in and around Nunavut. The ultimate goal of the board is the build a performing arts centre in Nunavut. Meanwhile, the board is busy with providing programs for youth and children, recording elders with their stories and teaching artists to teach their art. Vinnie lives in Iqaluit, is married and has 2 boys.

Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

Two Lovers and a Bear (2016)
Ukaliq and Kalla Go Fishing (voice, 2017, short)
The Grizzlies (2018)

TV Series – Guest appearances:
The Terror (2018)

Two Lovers and a Bear, movie poster

Birks/Telefilm Honour Six

Birks/Telefilm Honour Six, image,

Birks/Telefilm Honour Six
by Staff

(August 20, 2018 – Montréal/Toronto) One director, two actresses, one screenwriter and two others in the early stages of their careers have been honoured by Birks and Telefilm Canada at the sixth annual Birks Diamond Tribute to the Year’s Women in Film. The Tribute celebrates Canada’s diverse film landscape by way of its storytellers on both sides of the camera. New this year, each honouree in the directing, acting, screenwriting and emerging talent categories will receive a cash award from Birks.

This year’s distinguished honourees include one of Canada’s leading documentary filmmakers, director Nettie Wild; actors Tantoo Cardinal, who was given the Canadian Academy’s Earle Grey Award at the 2017 Canadian Screen Awards, as well as Québec’s multi-award-winning Pascale Bussières who began her career when she was just 13-years old; award-winning screenwriter Susan Coyne; and emerging directors Stella Meghie who had a breakout hit with her debut comedy feature Jean of the Joneses, and Jeanne Leblanc who has directed a number of short films that screened with distinction at several international festivals and who directed her first feature film, Isla Blanca, in 2017.

“This year in particular we are very proud to be supporting Canadian female talent within the film industry,” said Eva Hartling, Vice President, Birks Brand and Chief Marketing Officer. “Our annual event in partnership with Telefilm Canada highlights the diversity and power that is setting a new standard both in Canada and abroad. We applaud this year’s honourees and look forward to celebrating their well-deserved recognition.”
 
“Since the inaugural year of the Birks Diamond Tribute, we have had the privilege of spotlighting the illustrious careers of female storytellers from across the country,” said Christa Dickenson, Executive Director, Telefilm Canada. “This year’s recipients are truly inspirational, representing both the diversity and depth of talent in our industry, and stand as examples that other women can aspire to.”

 This year’s group of honourees join previous Birks Tribute alumni including: Jennifer Baichwal, Evelyne Brochu, Amanda Brugel, Caroline Dhavernas, Emma Donoghue, Sarah Gadon, Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs, Mylène Mackay, Tatiana Maslany, Deepa Mehta, Alanis Obomsawin, Sandra Oh, Catherine O’Hara, Sarah Polley, Léa Pool, Patricia Rozema, Mina Shum, Karine Vanasse, Sherry White, and many others.

Norah Sadava

Norah Sadava, actor, actress,

Norah Sadava is an award-winning Toronto-based performer and playwright with a background in devised physical theatre. She is the cowriter, with Amy Mostbakken, of the play Mouthpiece, which follows one woman, for one day, as she tries to find her voice following the death of her mother. Two performers express the inner conflict that exists within a modern woman’s head: the push and pull, the past and the present, the progress and the regression. With Amy Mostbakken, Norah Sadava worked with writer-director Patricia Rozema to adapt Mouthpiece into a screenplay, which was selected to have its World Premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. Both Amy Mostbakken and Norah Sadava make their film debuts in Mouthpiece.

Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

Mouthpiece (2018)

Amy Nostbakken

Amy Nostbakken, actor, actress,

Toronto-based Amy Nostbakken is an award-winning playwright, performer and composer. Mouthpiece, a play she directed, co-wrote, composed and performed in won three Dora Mavor Moore Awards, a 2017 Toronto Theatre Critics Award for Best Canadian Play and the Stage Award for best performance at the Edinburgh Fringe 2017. With co-writer Norah Sadava, she worked with writer-director Patricia Rozema to adapt Mouthpiece into a screenplay, which was selected to have its World Premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. She is co-creator, co-director and musical composer for theatre company Quote Unquote’s production of Now You See Her, which is scheduled to premiere in Toronto in October 2018. A graduate of École Internationale de Théatre Jacques Lecoq in Paris, Amy Nostbakken also teaches physical theatre for both adults and young people.

Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

Mouthpiece (2018)

Credits as a Screenwriter:
Mouthpiece (co-writer, 2018)

Credits as a Composer:

The New Canada (2016, short)
Mouthpiece (2018)

Maison du bonheur

62 minutes – Documentary
Festival release date: April 23, 2017 – BAFICI, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Release date: August 17, 2018 (Toronto)
Canadian distributor:

While on a trip to Paris, director Sofia Bohdanowicz spent a week with Juliane Lumbroso-Sellam, the grandmother of a colleague. Lumbroso-Sellam was at the time 77-years-old and an astrologer who had lived in her Montmartre home for half a century. Lumbroso-Sellam shares her everyday life and the documentary captures her enchanting storytelling as well as her charming daily routine. Writing in POV Magazine, Chelsea Phillips-Carr said “Maison du Bonheur is as much an idiosyncratic portrait of Sellam as it is a personal journey for Bohdanowicz as creator.” Maison du Bonheur had its North American Premiere at Hot Docs on May 3, 2017. This film should not be confused with La Maison du Bonheur (The House of Happiness), a 2006 French comedy film directed by Dany Boon.



Maison du bonheurMaison du bonheur
Crew:
Producer: Sofia Bohdanowicz
Calvin Thomas
Director:

Sofia Bohdanowicz

Cinematographer:

Sofia Bohdanowicz

Editor:

Sofia Bohdanowicz

Cast:Roles:

Juliane Lumbroso-Sellam
Albert Eddassouki
Manouk Kurdoghlian
Pierre Tougard
Claude Tougard-Lumbroso

Herself
Himself
Himself
Himself
Herself

Sofia Bohdanowicz

Sofia Bohdanowicz, director,

B: 1987 in

Sofia Bohdanowicz is a Toronto-based filmmaker. She won the Emerging Canadian Director award at the 2016 Vancouver International Film Festival for her first feature, Never Eat Alone and had a retrospective of her body of work at BAFICI in 2017. Sofia is the winner of the 2017 Jay Scott Prize from the Toronto Film Critics Association and also won Best Canadian Documentary for Maison du bonheur from the Vancouver Critics Circle. We list her credits as a Director first.

Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

Falling with Force (2009, short)

Dundas Street (co-director, 2012, short)
Wieczór (2013, documentary, short)
Modlitwa (2013, short)
Dalsza Modlitwa (2014, short)
Never Eat Alone (2016)
A Drownful Brilliance of Wings (2016, short)
Maison du bonheur (2017, documentary)
Veslemøy’s Song (2018, short)

Credits as a Screenwriter:
Falling with Force (2009, short)

Dalsza Modlitwa (2014, short)
Never Eat Alone (2016)

Credits as a Producer:
Killfilm II (2007, short)

Dundas Street (co-director, 2012, short)
A Drownful Brilliance of Wings (2016, short)
Maison du bonheur (2017, documentary)
Veslemøy’s Song (2018, short)


Maisobn du Bonheur, movie, poster,

Ann Marie Fleming – A Look Back

The Peripatetic Metaphors of Lip Service

(August 16, 2018 – Toronto, ON) As part of our celebrations of our 20th year online, which arrives in February of next year, we’ve launched an initiative to republish past articles we think deserve a second look, as well as draw your attention to older articles from our Take One archives that are being published on Northernstars for the first time. Today’s article, an interview with filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming is just such a piece for the fourth instalment of our Look Back series.

Ann Marie Fleming had made quite a name for herself when in 2001 she released the 45-minute production Lip Service: A Mystery. It was her 19th film where, as the interview points out, each frame was “digitally painted and filtered.”

This film was released before her remarkable documentary Long Tack Sam, with is mentioned in this interview, and long before her 2016 production, Window Horses, which went on to be honoured with the Best BC Film Award and Best Canadian Film Award at the Vancouver International Film Festival’s BC Spotlight Gala. It also won the Jury Prize at the Bucheon International Animation Festival. It also received the Centennial Best Canadian Film or Video Award at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. On December 7, 2016, Window Horses was named to the Toronto International Film Festival’s annual Canada’s Top 10 list. It was presented with Audience Award at the 2016 Animasyros-International Animation Festival and was named Best Picture by the Canadian Association of Online Film Critics. In 2017 Window Horses was presented with the Human Rights Award at the RiverRun International Film Festival.

Click here to read The Peripatetic Metaphors of Lip Service: An Interview with Ann Marie Fleming from Issue 35 of Take One magazine, published 17 years ago in December, 2001.

The Peripatetic Metaphors of Lip Service

The Peripatetic Metaphors of Lip Service

The Peripatetic Metaphors of Lip Service:
An Interview with Ann Marie Fleming

by Leslie Bishko

Ann Marie Fleming – a.k.a AMF – is a prolific independent filmmaker. Her 18 films, made over the past 14 years, range from experimental and animation to documentary and dramatic genres. They explore themes of family, history and memory in a continuing media critique.

At a recent Vancouver screening of her latest film, Lip Service: A Mystery, AMF stood before the packed house saying, “Why would anyone want to do this? I don’t know.” Clocking in at 45 minutes, each frame of Lip Service is digitally painted and filtered. The effect is both painterly and dreamy and looked stunning on 35mm film, projected on the large screen at a local commercial theatre. The protagonist of the film is a detective (played by Valerie Buhagiar) whose upper lip is missing. She narrates the story of her first job, which is the investigation of the disappearance of a young man’s mother. In the process of her telling the story with a tough matter–of–factness, we learn that she is not who she seems to be. She uses her disfigurement as a veil between her inner self and the circumstances in which she finds herself. While the mystery is eventually resolved, the real purpose of Lip Service is a poignant observation about the central character’s identity and the subtle transformation that happens to her despite her tough outer shell.

The painted and filtered effects are constant throughout the film, sometimes directing our attention to a particular story point, other times creating ambiguity in our interpretation of the images and the story they represent. Adding to the eye candy, animated sequences interact with the live–action footage to form another layer of narrative. So we have four things going on at once – the voice of the narrator; the live–action footage; the manipulation of the footage; and an animated visual commentary of both the footage and the narration. It’s a busy film to watch, but one that also lets you drift among these levels of story and image. Like the painterly effects, the voice of the narrator is a continuous ramble. It’s not unlike the voice that lives inside your head, never taking a breath. The constant voice and moving graininess set up the dream–like tone that lets you float along with the story. “As some of you know, I’m very peripatetic,” said AMF before she slipped out of the theatre and the screening began. I had to look up peripatetic in the dictionary. The OED defines it as “performed or performing while moving about.” This is AMF and her film, Lip Service, precisely.

How did you develop the ideas behind Lip Service?

There were four separate events in my life having to do with missing persons and isolation that blended together to form the fictional narrative for Lip Service. When I was living in Toronto in 1995, I used to go for a weekly appointment across town. I ignored the street names because I had a landmark, a used–car–showroom marquee. You could see the marquee from miles away. One day, I drove right past my stop because the sign was gone. There was a news report on the radio about how they had found the body of a Jane Doe in her 30s when the concrete floor of the showroom had been demolished. It was determined that she had been there since the 1950s. I started to think about who this person might be. Maybe she was a post–war European immigrant, someone with no family, no friends, looking for work. Then I met a doctor in Toronto who had last seen her son three years ago. She usually visited him once a month – he lived in Montreal – and when he didn’t show up for one of their meetings, she went to his apartment and found it empty. She contacted the police and private investigators, but he was never found. Later I attended an artist residency at the Akademie Schloss Solitude in a castle outside of Stuttgart, Germany. I spent the first six months in the writers’ wing. Most of the residents who were there went home from time to time. Sometimes in the snowy, bleak winter, I would find myself alone for days. The only way I would know if people were there is if they left their overshoes outside, in the hallway. I imagined that since I wasn’t in regular contact with my family or friends, nor did I have a regular schedule, I could be gone for a couple of weeks before anyone would even think to ask about me. Later still, when I was travelling in Italy, I met a woman whose brother had moved to Canada several years earlier, and they were out of touch. When their mother was seriously ill, and subsequently died, she tried to contact her brother, but he had left his job and didn’t leave a forwarding address. She had literally lost him. So you can see, the subject was on my mind.

I’ve made several works involving first–person monologues. I wanted to deal with issues that concerned me personally, but in another kind of voice. I created the character of the narrator, who is an out–of–work single woman in her 30s who has lost her upper lip due to an altercation with a dog. I’ve always been interested in the voice of an unreliable narrator ever since reading Robert Browning’s My Last Duchess. The narrator in Lip Service is so obsessed with the way she thinks people look at her, because of her disfigurement, that she sees the whole world through this filter. She thinks of herself as a monster and creates a tough–guy persona to compensate for this. This is why I decided to animate the film. The original video footage is heavily processed and manipulated, with animated elements weaving in and out. We see her – and what she is looking at – filtered. However, where she sees ugliness, we see beauty. I decided to do it all digitally because I didn’t have access to traditional film equipment at the time. I wanted to be able to do something in–house, so to speak. Something hermetic.

The main character’s voice is the driving force of the film. What is it that makes her an unreliable narrator?

She is an unreliable narrator because she is so obsessed with her lip. What she sees as a severe mutilation colours how she thinks other people view her. As it is treated in the film, sometimes you can see something strange going on in her upper–lip region. Sometimes you can’t. You don’t really know how bad her lip thing is. You know much more about it through her narration than through what we actually see. Because she sees herself as a monster, she mistrusts everyone else’s motives. We all have this potential for self–loathing and it completely colours our world at times – how we act, how we perceive others. Her self–image as a single woman in her late 30s who is unattractive, friendless and unemployable is justified by blaming these factors on her lip. I’ve been thinking of this unreliable narrator thing since reading My Last Duchess, and, in the manner of the Victorian novels, my detective doesn’t even have a name. She doesn’t even have an initial. She is trying to disguise herself as an everywoman, even while pointing out her unique particularities.

How did the filter metaphor work its way into the film?

My initial idea for this story was to be able to see the world filtered through the detective’s eyes. I began production with the idea of rotoscoping over live–action images. I wanted to blend the complete casualness of shooting with a hand–held, mini–DV camera with the careful, meticulous world of animation. Richard Linklater’s animated documentary Figures of Speech, though stylistically different from Lip Service, marries live action with animation and is a good example of the direction I wanted to take. My plan was to keep the live–action quality of the backgrounds and paint over the characters and props with Photoshop. As I experimented with different styles, I couldn’t come up with anything that I liked. I wanted to make something that didn’t look like digital out of a digital medium, but I didn’t want it to look cartoony, and I ironically started playing around with the “real” filters in Photoshop, like photocopy, etc. I thought they were pretty beautiful, but instantly recognizable and clichéd as individual illustrations. To see them move was something else. I had originally wanted to play up the lip thing, and then I thought it was more interesting to leave it ambiguous. I wanted, even though I was using filters, to emphasize the handmade–ness, and had originally wet–erased the backgrounds in such a way that you clearly see the characters moving through an ever–radiating substance. The air around them was palpable. Because quite a few people were working on this film, there were issues of consistency, and I ended up going for a more erased background. The filters I used were a watercolour and a cross–hatching after a blow–up to film resolution. This was done in a batch–capture – it took several weeks to transform the 21,000 original mini–DV frames after I edited it – and then I did kind of a crash–colour timing. As well as hand–erasing around the characters, the detective’s lip is smudged and the eyes of all the people are erased. Because the images are so painterly, I took a nod from Japanese animated films where they make the eyes larger for easier audience identification. I thought if they could see the actual eyes in Lip Service, it would be less alienating. The thing is, it works so well that after a very short time you don’t even see the art working anymore. You are just following the story. Or, that’s what it’s like for me.

Without giving away the mystery, your detective does manage to find some answers by the end of the film. Does this mean that she also finds an identity and self–acceptance?

I don’t know if she finds any answers. What she discovers is her own vulnerability as a single person out in the world, without friends, family or community. She doesn’t need a lover or a child or anything like that, but she realizes how important community is and that it includes her. It’s not something outside of her. She also comes to accept a new time in her life. She is dependent on other people and they on her on a day–to–day level. She learns this through her attachment to the young man she is helping, to whom she feels responsible. It’s like she has to accept being an adult and the terrible things that can mean, rather than the fantasy role–playing that she’s been trying to hang on to, a Lone Ranger version of herself. On the other hand, she’s still a loser. She’s a lousy detective. She’s bad with money. But she does manage, for a while, to forget about seeing herself in terms of her lip.

How do you see Lip Service in context with your earlier work?

My work often incorporates the themes of family, history and memory, and there is always an acknowledgement of experience. My stories are often autobiographical. Lip Service is a fiction, but it brings a lot of people’s stories together. And again, it’s a first–person monologue. In terms of how it was made, Lip Service most resembles You Take Care Now (1989), which was a mixture of live–action video, film and animation. It plays around with different textures, trying to tell a slightly different story with the visuals rather than the sound or narration.

What’s next for AMF?

Right now I’m working on a documentary about my great grandfather, Long Tack Sam, who was a famous, world–traveling Chinese vaudeville magician and acrobat. What I can’t find in moving footage of his shows, I’m recreating through stills and illustrations. I hope to develop a dramatic feature–length script about his life story as well. I’m also keeping busy as head of independent production at Global Mechanic, which my partner, Bruce Alcock, and I started in the spring of 2000. We’re making multimedia commercials and independent films.

What is your experience of making both commercial and independent work?

The commercial world quickly co–opts what independents are doing. I think independent animators should be part of that process, instead of having other people capitalize on their ideas and techniques. There is a lot to be learned in the commercial world. It would be nice to have more of a mix. At Global Mechanic we like to work with people from all types of disciplines. Commercials are not for everybody, but we like them because we’re able to try out so many different techniques and the jobs don’t last very long. Being able to experiment with different forms of image production with a decent budget is in some ways a dream. We haven’t been that involved with other sectors of commercial animation, such as a series or features, as of yet. We like to be able to have a lot of creative input and we like to be able to change things to keep it interesting. Me, I like doing my independent work.

What excites you? What limits you?

My animated work is quite hermetic. I’m just starting to work with other people. It’s driven by the technology, I guess. I need other people to do what I can only talk about. I like to think of myself as part of a film culture, an art–practicing culture, not just an animation culture. There are a lot of really talented people out there. I’m always inspired by other people’s work and I’m always thrilled to see people turn out independent work for reasons that do not come from the forces in the marketplace.

Also see: Ann-Marie Fleming’s filmography.

Northernstars logo imageThis interview was originally published in Take One, Issue 35 in December 2001. Northernstars.ca acquired the digital archives of Take One in 2007.

Scott McQuillin

Scott McQuillin, actor,

Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

The Presence (2017, short)
The Crescent (2017)
In Escrow (2017, short)
Danny Dare Me (2018)

TV Series – Guest appearances:
The Mist (2017)


The Crescent, poster, movie,

Woodrow Graves

Woodrow Graves, actor,

Child actor Woodrow Graves made his acting debut in the 2017 feature The Crescent.

Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

The Crescent (2017)


The Crescent, poster, movie,

Terrance Murray

Terrance Murray, actor,

Terrance Murray made his acting debut in the 2017 feature The Crescent.

Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

The Crescent (2017)


The Crescent, poster, movie,

Danika Vandersteen

Danika Vandersteen made her acting debut in the 2017 feature The Crescent.

Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

The Crescent (2017)


The Crescent, poster, movie,

Seth Smith

Seth Smith, director,

Dog Day frontman, Nova Scotia-based Seth Smith’s first feature film, Lowlife, won the top audience award at the Atlantic Film Festival in 2012. His 2017 feature film, The Crescent screened in the popular Midnight Madness program of the Toronto International Film Festival. It was the only Canadian made film officially selected to screen under this category. It won three awards including Best Soundtrack at the Atlantic International Film Festival.

Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

Rome (2010, short)
Lowlife (2012)
Patsy (VR-2012, short)
Wind Through a Tree (2015, short)
I Am Coming to Paris to Kill You (2015, short)
The Brym (2016, short)
The Crescent (2017)

Credits as a Screenwriter:
Rome (2010, short)
Lowlife (2012)
Wind Through a Tree (2015, short)
I Am Coming to Paris to Kill You (2015, short)
The Brym (2016, short)


The Crescent, poster, movie,

The Crescent

99 minutes – Drama, Horror
Festival release date: September 14, 2017 – TIFF
Release date: August 10, 2018
Distributor: Raven Banner Entertainment

Following the death of her husband, Beth (Danika Vandersteen), with her toddler son Lowen (Woodrow Graves) in tow, retreats to a seaside cottage at Silver Crescent Beach. The loss of her partner has been emotionally draining, and the added pressures of single parenting have become more than she can bear. To help cope, Beth turns to her art – the abstract printing process of paper marbling. But the work often leaves her reminiscing about her past life. Though the implications of his father’s absence aren’t fully understood, Lowen also feels the loss. He demands constant attention of his mother, acts out, and develops a strange fixation with the ocean. As mother and son attempt to rebuild their bond, a mysterious force from the sea begins to haunt them. Meanwhile, a motley crew of local residents is getting way too close for comfort. Beth can’t take it anymore. She descends further into grief. And in a rash act, fuelled by a desire to be with her husband again, she abandons her son and attempts to drown herself in the sea. Lost and alone, Lowen is forced to fend for himself, save his mother, and confront the dark force beyond the ocean’s gate.

Trailer and poster courtesy of Raven Banner Entertainment.



The CrescentThe Crescent
Crew:
Producer: Nancy Urich
Executive Producer:

Rob Cotterill
James Fler
Rob Heydon
Andrew Thomas Hunt
Alison Lidster
Michael Paszt
Marc Savoie

Associate Producer:

Jeff Bowes
Darcy Spidle

Director:

Seth Smith

Screenwriter:

Darcy Spidle

Cinematographer:

Craig Buckley

Editor:

Seth Smith

Composer:

Seth Smith

Production Designer:

Paul Hammond

Art Director:

Kat Shubaly (Set Decorator)

Costume Designer:

Kathleen Darling

Cast:Roles:

Danika Vandersteen
Woodrow Graves
Terrance Murray
Britt Loder
Amy Trefry
Andrew Gillis
Scott McQuillin
Merle Barnes
Chik White
Andrea Kenyon
Richard Sparks

Beth
Lowen
Joseph
Sam

Michèle Cournoyer – A Look Back

Michèle Cournoyer – A Look Back

Michèle Cournoyer – A Look Back
by Staff

(August 8, 2018 – Toronto, ON) This is our third installment of our Looking Back series. The first two reproduced content that was already online but we felt was worth highlighting as part of the run-up to our 20th anniversary. This week’s article is new to Northernstars as is the subject, Québec animator and director Michele Cournoyer.

As mentioned in that first post on July 20, one of the highlights of what we have accomplished since launching in February of 1999 was acquiring the digital archives of Take One Magazine in 2007. It had ceased publication in 2005 after a stellar run as the go-to source for information about Canadian film.

We have been slowly and carefully mining this resource and from time-to-time we come across articles about filmmakers we needed to add to the website. Michèle Cournoyer is such a case. Active from the late 1960s, the animated short she is best known for is Le Chapeau, or The Hat in English. We discovered an article titled Where Memories Breath Darkness: Underneath La Chapeau of Michèle Cournoyer. Written by Chris Robinson it was originally published in a 2002 issue of Take One, which was devoted to Forgotten Classics. We are pleased, 16 years later, to reproduce that article on Northernstars and hope that you are as happy as we were to “discover” this remarkable filmmaker.

Click here to read Where Memories Breath Darkness: Underneath La Chapeau of Michèle Cournoyer.
Also see: Michèle Cournoyer’s filmography.

Where Memories Breath Darkness

Where Memories Breath Darkness, image,

Where Memories Breath Darkness:
Underneath La Chapeau of Michèle Cournoyer

By Chris Robinson

Addiction bottles you with the impact of thunderous silence. A force so intense you are swallowed unawares. Existence reduced to extremes. You stagger between moments accompanied by tuneless instruments. Every movement determined by invisible strings. Inevitably you fall short. An evacuation of emotions collapses you into the hopelessness of a stained shirt. You reach an almost peaceful apathy. A mundane aftermath of despair. The echoes of memories are reduced to incomprehensible shadows. You can’t see it though you know it could not but be. A life atrophied. You were. You are not. Will you be?

“The past is never dead. It is not even past.
– William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun

In Michèle Cournoyer’s film Le Chapeau (The Hat), an exotic dancer performs in front of shapeless figures with dark hats. As she dances she remembers being abused as a child. The puppet strings of the adult world left this woman/child not far from the womb, skulking through a lightless tunnel. Sex without love; true love lost to the breezes of childhood. The impact of Le Chapeau lies in its complexity of emotions. This is not just a film about sexual abuse. It is a film about addiction, love, seduction and emotional manipulation.

For Cournoyer, Le Chapeau was a personal battle. For months she struggled with “technological addictions” – computers and photography – physical demons and creative roadblocks in order to find her film’s voice. As she tumbled further into emotional torment, Cournoyer found her Virgil – Dante’s guide through the rings of hell in The Inferno – in the form of veteran NFB producer/animator, Pierre Hébert (La Plante humaine). Hébert’s support, encouragement and guidance lifted Cournoyer out of her own circle of hell and closer to creative paradise. The result is one of the darkest, dirtiest and most complex films to emerge from the cold, scrubbed halls of the NFB.

Art has always been a fierce struggle for Cournoyer. Whether as a painter, independent animator or NFB filmmaker, she has fought dark shadows throughout her life. She was born in Saint–Joseph–de–Sorel, Quebec, in 1943. While hospitalized for a time at the age of 12, her father brought her an oil paint box and she started painting. (She had been drawing since she was five years old.) Michèle Cournoyer, director, animator,However, her formal artistic education was put on hold at the age of 17 when her mother became seriously ill. She stopped everything to care for her mother and assumed the caregiver role in the domestic sphere. Then her world stopped at age 20 when her mother died. She grew up fast, an ersatz mother for a heartbroken family, which included two brothers and a sister. Still, she painted, printed, drew, sculpted and gave everything to art. She spent two years in Quebec City, moved to Montreal, then headed to London, England, to study graphic design. “I went to ‘swinging’ London in the 1960s with a $90 plane ticket and a government grant of $2,000. I was printing pillows on pillows, pearls on pillows, hands on gloves. There my images started to move with music, and then film came to me one day.”

Cournoyer was living in a boarding house where she became friends with a photographer. After seeing the man with his baby, she got the idea to make a simple film called L’Homme et l’enfant. It is series of still photos showing the man holding his baby; eventually flowers cover the baby. “I made the film during lunch hours and it was quite natural for me. It was very clear to me that I would continue to make films.” Cournoyer lived in a surrealist world where there was always a story in motion. She sent L’Homme et l’enfant to the Canada Council and received a grant to make another film that she planned to shoot in Italy. Set in Venice, it was about a young woman who was about to be married, but her veil flies off and blows around the countryside. However, the film never did get made, and Cournoyer returned to Montreal where she found work as a costume designer on La Vie revée (Mireille Dansereau, 1972), La Mort d’un bucheron (Gilles Carle, 1973) and L’Arrache–coeur (Danserseau, 1979). “It was an important time for me. I also did commercials and paintings.”

In 1975, Cournoyer became involved with Atelier Graff, an artist–run co–operative. The co–op made films, painted and held group exhibitions. Cournoyer, however, continued with her own work, but she had very few solo exhibitions because she sold her work to pay the bills. (She has none of these paintings today. All were sold or given away to friends.) More importantly, she continued making her own films. Spaghettata (1971) shows a woman eaten by spaghetti to the accompaniment of the Italian national anthem. “It was a rejection of all things Italian. After living there, I had had enough.” As with L’Homme et l’enfant, Cournoyer again used collage and photos. Spaghettata was a collaboration with her long–time friend – and NFB animator – Jacques Drouin. Drouin and Cournoyer shot the film in one evening while cooking spaghetti. It was presented as part of a group exhibition in old Montreal. “There was an Italian chef, an art book, a painting of a stove and the projection of my film. It was a crazy, fantastic night.”

Her next film, La Toccata (1978), was based on the dream of another. A man in a field plays Bach on a piano. A woman slowly emerges from the piano. After a few flirtatious moments, she runs off and cuts into the ground with a knife. Eventually she opens the ground and finds an orchestra. The woman is so moved by the new music that she jumps into a man’s bassoon. With a definite surrealist edge, La Toccata is a critical view of relationships. The men are insensitive and immobile. The woman is always on the move, from one old song to another. She has no centre or stability. Throughout Cournoyer’s films women are trapped, if not physically than mentally.

Then came her lobster phase. “I was painting a lot of lobsters. I had dreams of lobsters. I even painted myself in a bathing suit with a lobster.” Old Orchard Beach, PQ (1982) deals with, yes, lobsters. Once again, Cournoyer used a photo–collage technique. The film is entirely set at Old Orchard Beach. The first half is akin to an Eadweard Muybridge experiment. We see bodies in motion, all shapes and sizes. The film then focuses on a man glaring hungrily at a woman’s backside. Suddenly the beach becomes a playground for the lecherous. The women transform into canned sardines. The lifeguard, the icon of safety, turns into a lobster as he makes love to the woman. Cournoyer creates an ugly, self–destructive environment. The woman embraces the lobster and clearly enjoys the bestial moment. Women are active participants in their own oppression. The woman is self–destructive, seemingly desperate for companionship.

Frustrated by the technical complications of Old Orchard Beach, PQ, Cournoyer turned to rotoscope animation for her next film, Dolorosa (1988). A woman examines herself in the mirror. She sees flabby skin. She is aging. Yet inside she feels as young as ever. We see her dancing, living and loving. She is a healthy, vibrant woman trapped within a decaying facade of mortality. The NFB provided Cournoyer with facilities for the film, and she even was given an office in the English studio. Receiving the Board’s commitment to make her next film, Cournoyer applied for the NFB’s Cinéastes recherché program in 1989. Being in her 40s, and having made a number of films, she doubted whether she would be eligible; however, producer Yves Leduc (La Boit, Juke–Bar) determined that she was indeed eligible. (The aim of the program was to allow filmmakers to make animated films under professional conditions, something new for Cournoyer.) She submitted La Basse cour (A Feather Tale), a scenario about an addictive relationship, and won the competition.

Apart from Le Chapeau, La Basse cour (1992) is Cournoyer’s strongest film. It opens with the shot of a cracking egg forming a face with tears. Something has been broken. A sleeping woman receives a call from her lover. He wants her to come over. She obeys and arrives in a take–out delivery box as a chicken. The man holds her, rocks her, pulls her feathers off and begins to eat her. Initially, the woman allows herself to play this role, but she realizes she must take control of the situation before she completely loses herself. The final shot of the film shows the woman waking up, the man snoring beside her, and feathers on the ground. The addiction is over.

With the success of La Basse cour, Cournoyer was hired full time by the Board. Her first “official” NFB project was an entry for the series Droits au coeur (The Rights from the Heart). She chose the topic of freedom to discover talent. Cournoyer worked on a computer for the first time, using a combination of live action, photography and drawings. Une Artiste (1994) is about a young girl who turns her domestic space into a creative environment, upsetting her father. It provides a clear example of the Where Memories Breath Darkness, image,naiveté of The Rights from the Heart series. The father goes from uninterested to supportive for no apparent reason. Cournoyer had initially proposed that the father be an alcoholic, but this was felt to be too strong. It seemed that reality had no place in the series.

Le Chapeau (2000) was also for The Rights from the Heart. This time Cournoyer chose to depict sexual abuse. She initially set out to make the film by using photo montage and a computer. She made a precise storyboard and created some images on the computer. However, she soon realized that this technique was not working. “I took some photos of an actor in the stairs, in a bar, and I tried to do some reproductions of the photos. But it was too precise and doing the inbetweens was a nightmare. There were some beautiful parts, but something was not working and I was feeling extremely sick.” Cournoyer became so sick that she was unable to work for three months. She was dizzy, emotionally strung out and she reached the point where she couldn’t even go out doors.

The sickness, however, proved inspiring. Cournoyer began to draw black ink on paper at home. Pierre Hébert became the new head of the French unit and he told Cournoyer to start again. “She was going nowhere,” says Hébert, “and in my judgement her original approach was a dead end. She showed me the first crude drawings that she had been doing when she was researching the film, and I thought they were very powerful. I thought she should restart from that point.” He then insisted Cournoyer remove the computer and all photographic references from her office. “He removed all my crutches. I had been working for two years. It was like a divorce. I had to start again.” Hébert’s suggestions proved liberating, albeit addictive in their own way. “It was like a religion. It was in my mind all the time. I was raping my brushes and staining my drawings. It became more and more liberating. I worked in a primitive, direct communication with my devils and found the story in the execution.”

 
Le Chapeau is one of the most important films to emerge from the NFB in a long time. It was done without compromise. Superbly edited by Fernand Bélanger and Jean Derome, there is no cut in the film, only metamorphoses; an ambivalent endless rape. Memories, objects and characters mingle and merge Where Memories Breath Darkness, image,neglecting their temporal and spatial boundaries accompanied by Derome’s powerful musical score. Past and present fuse, and we are implicated in the acts of abuse. Like Dante, but guideless, we experience a hell our minds cannot imagine.

“It never happened.” “It’s all in your imagination.” “You’re over exaggerating.” These are responses to people who have been abused emotionally, physically or sexually bullied by those they trust. What is most disturbing about La Chapeau is not the graphics. It is the memories and images that loom underneath our hats. We unwaveringly define ourselves through what we can see. What we do not see, we doubt. Le Chapeau, like all of Michèle Cournoyer’s films, takes us to places we do not want to see, to a darkness that lurks behind our scared small–talk smiles. In this darkness we stumble.

Also see: Michèle Cournoyer’s filmography.

Northernstars logo imageThis article by Chris Robinson was originally published in issue 36 of Take One Magazine, July 2002. Northerstars.ca acquired the digital archives of Take One in 2007.

Michèle Cournoyer

Michèle Cournoyer, director, animator,

B: November 14, 1943 in Saint-Joseph-de-Sorel, Québec

Michèle Cournoyer was honoured with a special retrospective and art exhibition at the Ottawa International Animation Film Festival in 2015. She received a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts on March 1, 2017 recognizing her body of work. We list her credits as a director first.

Also see: Where Memories Breath Darkness: Underneath La Chapeau of Michèle Cournoyer.

Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

L’Homme et l’enfant (196?, short)

Spaghettata (1971, short)
Toccata (1978, short)

Old Orchard Beach, P.Q. (1984, short)
Dolorosa (1988, short)

La basse cour (A Feather Tale, 1992, short)
Une Artiste (An Artist, 1994, short)
Le Chapeau (The Hat, 1999, short)

Accordéon (Accordion, 2004, short)
Robes of War (2008, short)

Soif (2014, short)

Credits as an Animator:
La basse cour (A Feather Tale, 1992, short)
An Artist (1994, short)
Le Chapeau (The Hat, 1999, short)

Accordéon (Accordion, 2004, short)
Robes of War (2008, short)

Credits as a Screenwriter:
La basse cour (A Feather Tale, 1992, short)
An Artist (1994, short)
Le Chapeau (The Hat, 1999, short)

Robes of War (2008, short)


The Hat, movie, poster,

Mary Harron Tackles Charles Manson

Mary Harron Tackles Charles Manson, image

Mary Harron Tackles Charles Manson
by Staff

(August 3, 3018 – Toronto, ON) Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the night Charles Manson directed Tex Watson to take Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel to the former home of Terrence Paul Melcher on Cielo Drive in Los Angeles and kill everyone there. The home had been rented to Sharon Tate and director Roman Polanski, who was in Europe working on his next film. Tate, who was eight and a half months pregnant, was slain along with three friends who were visiting. An 18-year-old visitor was also killed as he was leaving the home.

Following her remarkable work on the Canadian mini-series Alias Grace, director Mary Harron has turned her cameras on the women in the Manson cult who committed the so-called Tate/La Bianca murders, flashing back from their home on Manson’s Spahn Ranch to their life sentence in prison. The film is titled Charlie Says and it will have its World Premiere at the 2018 Venice Film Festival.

Marianne Rendón plays Susan Atkins, India Ennenga plays Linda Kasabian and Sosie Bacon plays Patricia Krenwinkel. Matt Smith, who shot to fame in the UK when he was cast as the Eleventh Doctor in the BBC’s iconic science-fiction adventure series Doctor Who and who more recently played Prince Phillip on the TV series The Crown plays Manson.

Mary Harron Tackles Charles Manson, image,
Toronto actress and singer-songwriter Dayle McLeod (pictured) has a supporting role playing Gypsy, Manson’s oldest cult member who recruited new members including murderer Leslie Van Houten (played by Hannah Murray). But she has a second credit in the film as well.

McLeod met Harron while screen testing for a role on Alias Grace. While she didn’t land that role, Harron called her for Charlie Says.

“We met in a coffee shop in the Lower East Side in Manhattan to discuss the role and the film and we were totally geeking out on Guinevere Turner’s incredible script when Guinevere happened to be walking by and spotted us. She joined in and we had a great conversation about the film.”

While shooting the film, Dayle was inspired by the testimony of Patricia Krenwinkle describing the murder of actress Sharon Tate. Dayle wrote a song she called My Mother’s Body which she recorded on her iPhone and shared with Harron who decided to use it under the film credits.

Dayle McLeod, who will travel to Venice for the film’s screening, will release her sophomore album on August 30, 2018; an L.P called Friends, which is also the title of the first single and can be found on iTunes and Spotify.

Click here for more about Mary Harron.
Click here for more about Dayle McLeod.

Ron Mann Returns to Venice

Ron Mann Returns to Venice
Photo from Carmine Street Guitars courtesy of Sphinx Productions.

Ron Mann Returns to Venice
by Staff

(August 3, 2018 – Toronto, ON) When the 2018 Venice International Film Festival kicks off later this month, there will be a few Canadians in attendance. The last time a Ron Mann film was on the program it was 2014 and his must-see documentary Altman screened out of competition. This year he returns with Carmine Street Guitars.

Set in what was once the centre of the New York bohemia, Greenwich Village, the area is now home to lux restaurants, and buzzer door clothing stores catering to the nouveau riche.  However one shop in the heart of the Village remains resilient to the encroaching gentrification: Carmine Street Guitars.

Ron Mann Returns to Venice
Poster for Carmine Street Guitars courtesy of Sphinx Productions.

Featuring a cast of prominent musicians and artists, the film captures five days in the life of Carmine Street Guitars, as it examines an all-too-quickly vanishing way of life.

The main focus of Carmine Street Guitars is custom guitar maker Rick Kelly and his young apprentice Cindy Hulej. They are renowned for their handcrafted guitars made from reclaimed wood rescued from old hotels, bars, churches and other local buildings. Nothing looks or sounds quite like a Rick Kelly guitar, which is the reason they are embraced by the likes of Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Patti Smith and Jim Jarmusch, just to name a few. Kelly opened his store and workshop in Greenwich Village in the late 1970’s. Today it is a mecca for people looking for a sound only a handcrafted guitar can produce.

Written by Len Blum and produced and directed by Ron Mann, the 80-minute Carmine Street Guitars will have its World Premiere at the 75th Venice International Film Festival and will then be celebrated at home when it becomes Mann’s 10th feature documentary and his 8th premiere at TIFF.

Click here for a link to the Venice International Film Festival and other August 2018 film festivals.
Click here for more about Ron Mann.

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