B.C. filmmakers present intimate views at the Vancouver International Film Festival
B.C. filmmakers present intimate views of the province’s people and vistas at the Vancouver International Film Festival
It’s impossible not to feel compassion for local 23-year-old cystic fibrosis patient Eva Markvoort when she succumbs to a body-racking coughing fit, caused by mucus suffocating her lungs, while her mother helplessly looks on. It’s alternately touching to see the resilient Markvoort cradle her sister in a tender moment of role reversal. Local filmmakers Nimisha Mukerji and Philip Lyall captured scenes from this poignant roller coaster for months, knowing Markvoort could die, for the documentary 65_RedRoses (which screens October 9, 10, and 13 at the Vancouver International Film Festival).
“It was really hard and it was really emotional,” Mukerji says in an interview at the Straight, “but every time that it felt overwhelming, or that you just want to help this girl so badly, the only thing we could do together was keep making the film because this was what she wanted.”¦I think that gave a lot of strength to keep going.”
Lyall explains that he met Markvoort in first-year theatre classes at university and later met Mukerji in the UBC film-production program. A year after graduating in 2006, Lyall says, he took Mukerji to see Markvoort, who had fallen ill and was awaiting a lung transplant. “She was such an interesting, dynamic person in such a dire-straits situation,” Lyall says. Mukerji adds: “The doctors had basically given her a pager and said, ”˜If this pager goes off, you have a second chance at life. And if it doesn’t, you have less than two years.’ ” Both agreed they had to do something.
Mukerji says Markvoort was intent on sharing her story. “She was like, ”˜If I don’t get this transplant, I don’t want it to not mean anything.’ I think because she really wanted it, it made us decide to take the risk and just go ahead and start filming.”
With a $20,000 loan but no funding, the pair embarked on a journey that provoked tears at either end of the emotional spectrum. The duo captured everything from the intimate relationship Markvoort developed with two other CF patients on-line (they couldn’t meet in person due to potential cross-infection with possibly fatal bacteria) to St. Paul’s Hospital surgeon John Yee drawing inner strength from prayer before operating on her.
After meeting Markvoort, both filmmakers became organ donors. (Anyone interested in doing the same can visit www.65redroses.com/.) “[If] you’re poor or you’re a student and can’t afford to donate to all these causes, one thing you can do is you can become an organ donor,” Mukerji points out. “It’s empowering to know that there is something you can do as a young person.”
For a different look at the female body, there’s Petals—Journey Into Self Discovery (October 11), which is another B.C. film in VIFF’s Canadian Images program.
Victoria-based director Beck Peacock spotlights photographer Nick Karras, who embarked upon a controversial series of sepia-toned photographs of vulvae that he compiled in a book called Petals. It began when Karras wanted to show his partner, who had body-image issues, the beauty of her own vulva. Other women became interested in the self-empowerment aspect of the work. Reactions range from publishers deeming the work pornography to women using it for catharsis. Peacock uses Karras’s work as a springboard for related topics, such as labia-reduction surgery and female genital education.
“When I hearken back to what I’ve heard with kids and the way kids, especially girls, are brought up,” VIFF Canadian Images programmer Terry McEvoy says by phone about the film, “there’s a sense of shame and embarrassment, whereas this is a bit of celebration of yet another body part.”
On the flip side of the gender divide, Terry Miles’s Vancouver Island–based film The Red Rooster (October 9 and 10) follows a young man coping with writer’s block by escaping into affairs while vacationing with his adulterous brother. “There’s a similar tone to [Miles’s] When Life Was Good last year [at VIFF],” McEvoy says of the film, “and”¦since Terry is very much of that generation and has a fine ear, it does speak true to that generation.”
Also from B.C., there’s Cole (October 8 and 9), about a man torn between small-town familial ties and pursuing his dreams in the city, by Mothers&Daughters director Carl Bessai, who won the VIFF best western Canadian feature film award for Normal in 2007 (and a special citation for Unnatural & Accidental in 2006). “His touch gets more and more mature and refined every year,” McEvoy notes.
He also praises the performance by local actor Sonja Bennett (VIFF audiences saw her in last year’s Control Alt Delete), who stars as the protagonist’s sister, trapped in an abusive relationship. “You can project things onto her character,” McEvoy explains. “I think that’s a tremendous strength: if you can play a character that people can project things from their own history and own experiences onto her. It really requires a delicate hand as an actor.”
The Red Rooster boasts gorgeous B.C. vistas, and Cole showcases scenic views of Lytton. “I think it’s shot as only a British Columbia resident could shoot it,” McEvoy says. “It’s very sensitive to that environment, and Lytton plays itself very well”¦and it’s well presented in the film. I like to see a film like that that has a strong sense of place, an unabashed and unashamed sense of place.”
A sense of place plays a central role in the short documentaries “This Land”, a 2,000-kilometre journey to the northernmost Canadian point of habitation, and “Finding Farley”, which follows a family re-creating Farley Mowat’s Canadian travels. (The two B.C. films—by directors Dianne Whelan and Leanne Allison, respectively—screen together on October 13 and 15.)
McEvoy explains that all of these B.C. films were chosen from about 600 Canadian films submitted (200 were features). Because of that fact, he says, “In their own way, each of these films, I would have to say that I consider them exceptional or outstanding.”