Canada Selects Four Debut Feature Length Films for Cannes Docs-in-Progress Showcase
New voices were given center stage at the Canada Docs-in-Progress Showcase, part of the Cannes Festival’s Film Market, with four first feature-length docs in the final stages of production presented to an industry crowd on Friday.
The showcase was brought by Telefilm Canada, in partnership with RIDM (Rencontres Internationales du Documentaire de Montréal) and in collaboration with Hot Docs.
Of the four Canadian projects showcased at last year’s edition, both “Geographies in Solitude” and “Cette Maison” went to world premiere at the 2022 Berlin Film Festival, before moving on to Hot Docs along with “And Still I Sing.” “Geographies in Solitude” picked up three gongs along the way, including best Canadian feature doc in Toronto.
This year’s showcase started with “Back Home” by Vancouver-based filmmaker, photographer and artist Nisha Platzer.
It follows her pursuit to get to know her older brother more than 20 years after he took his own life. Through vérité scenes shot with her brother’s friends, intimate recollections re-imagined on 16mm and Super8, and lyrical, handmade visuals, “Back Home” explores questions of identity, forgiveness, loss and healing.
Platzer, whose last short “Vaivén” (2020) competed at festivals worldwide, works with and teaches handmade film.
For “Back Home,” she used experimental techniques on celluloid to play with light and shadow. These included scratching and puncturing the film, using plants as a film developer, burying the film in the earth and using her brother’s ashes.
“It was an experiment – in the same way the soil strips the emulsion on the film. There’s this point in the movie where you see a golden aura: that’s the effect of the ashes on the celluloid,” she tells Variety.
The film is built in a non-linear way, displaying a tidal quality which Platzer says echoes the process of grieving, moving in and out of emotionally charged scenes with her brother’s friends to more quiet, reflective moments.
“Back Home” is produced by Filipino-Canadian documentary filmmaker Joella Cabalu (“Born Identities,” Toronto Film Festival, 2021) with support from the Telefilm Talent to Watch fund, Telefilm Canada’s grant for first feature films. It is expected to be released in September 2022.
Justine Harbonnier’s debut feature doc, “Caiti Blues,” follows the daily life of 30-year-old singer Caiti Lord in the hippie town of Madrid, New Mexico, as she strives to find her artistic voice while working at a local bar.
After growing up in New York where she started a career as a child performer on Broadway, Caiti became overwhelmed by the pressure and decided to leave and start a new life. The film explores universal struggles of self-acceptance, the burden of social norms and the ideological challenges of a whole generation. It combines two narratives, switching between past and present, as Harbonnier mixes her own footage with images of a video diary shot by Caiti, who started filming herself at the age of six.
“When I started filming her, she was about to turn 30, and I was interested in this specific age – there are a lot of coming-of-age movies, but this age is also a turning point in many people’s lives, she’s trying to come back to music. What’s interesting about Madrid is that it’s full of artists who decided to give it all up and reinvent themselves but are still in the artistic process,” says Harbonnier.
“Caiti Blues” is produced by Nellie Carrier of French Canadian production outfit Cinquième Maison and Julie Paratian’s Bordeaux-based Sister Productions, specialized in documentary and fiction films with an international, feminist approach.
Currently in post-production, the film is seeking to fill its post-production funding gap before an expected release late 2022.
Iranian-Canadian filmmaker Shahab Mihandoust directs and produces his debut feature doc “Meezan,” set in Iran’s Khuzestan province, on the border between Iran and Iraq, where he grew up.
The territory, which remains highly strategic for oil extraction, suffered greatly from the Iran-Iraq war. But beyond war and oil, the livelihood of the local community depends on the waterways.
Mihandoust built his film like a tryptic, filming on a trawler, at the harbor, and in the factory where workers are paid by the volume of shrimps they peel.
“The reason I am focusing on labor is because the voice of labor is the most absent in what shapes the history of this region – by voice, I don’t mean what people say but how they move, how they work. “Meezan” means “scale”: it looks at how the scale imposes a violence on people. It’s happening on the margins of this oil industry, but these people don’t benefit from it, their lives depend on their catch at sea.”
The director’s previous work, the short film “Zagros,” a reflection on the connection between labor and culture through the art of carpet-making in Western Iran, picked up best medium-length doc at RIDM (Montreal International Documentary Festival) in 2018. He hopes to wrap up post-production this summer and has started work on the second of what he hopes will be a trilogy of films on the region.
“Yintah” is the debut feature by trio Michael Toledano, Jennifer Wickham and Brenda Michell.
“Yintah,” which means “land” in the indigenous Canadian Wet’suwet’en language, follows activists as they mobilize their nation in a decade-long battle against fossil fuel corporations, the Canadian government, and militarized police. Building homes and a healing center on the route proposed for a series of gas and oil pipeline projects, the families assert their right to protect their land.
Wickham and Michell are members of the Wet’suwet’en community and both actively participate in the nation’s governance system. A filmmaker and journalist whose work focuses on environmental pollution and indigenous land defense, Toledano has co-produced several documentaries with VICE Canada on the indigenous community’s combat. He told Variety how his involvement in the film led to him being arrested and detained by police for several days.
The film is co-produced by Todelano, Wickham and Michell, alongside producer and editor Franklin Lopez of Yintah Film Ltd., and producer and editor Franklin López, who has been making political films for over 30 years with a focus on social justice and environmental issues.
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