By Monique Beech
Take away the selective casting, heavily scripted dialogue and staged scenes of pseudo reality programs like Survivor and you’re left with a true genre of reality film, the documentary.
CBC Newsworld honours this genre by holding its second documentary festival series to support the art of Canadian filmmakers. First stop in the Festival’s nine-city tour is Ryerson University, where three films will be shown in Jorgenson Hall from Jan. 31, to Feb. 2.
Director Mark Johnston’s Blood Snake and Tears headlines the festival on Friday, Feb. 1. It examines the impact tobacco and smoking have had on his neighbours and his family I Simcoe, Ontario.
“This journey was about resolving those inherent contradictions I felt living in a tobacco producing area,” Johnston says.
Originally meant as a minor character, Johnston’s mother, Barbara, shines through in the film. Her development of emphysema and the pleas of her grandchildren to “quit the stinky habit” prompt her to end her 40-year battle with nicotine, in turn she re-discovered her voice.
“She found that at Christmas time, with her kindergarten class, she could sing for the first time in 30 years,” Johnston says.
Equally touching is filmmaker Gerry Rogers’ award-winning film My Left Breast appearing on Saturday, Feb. 2. The documentary exposes every step of Rogers’ struggle with breast cancer.
Rogers chose to document her personal struggle through the lens of a small digital camera.
“Cancer’s the antithesis of life. By making this film I saw it as an opportunity to do something creative with cancer,” Rogers says.
Rogers’ creative venture has earned her two Gemini awards, numerous appearance in film festivals worldwide and an appearance on the Rosie O’Donnell Show. However, she says her biggest reward is the uplifting words left by fans on her message board, www.myleftbreast.com.
Director Matt Gallagher shines through in the festival’s third film, Falling from the Sky, premiering Thursday, Jan. 31.
The documentary follows Heather Macdonald, a Vietnamese orphan who returns home a lifetime later to recapture her roots and to visit the site of the plane crash that nearly took her life on her journey to Canada.
“I was overwhelmed by the images we were shooting — lush colours, all the noise and congestion of Ho Chi Minh City, formally call Saigon, and visiting the crash site were all incredibly powerful,” Gallagher says.