Even to the most seasoned veterans of Vancouver’s film and television community, Crazy8s has something to offer. Ali Liebert has been a fixture in the industry for close to 20 years, rising to prominence as an actor in shows like Bomb Girls and the Leo-winning feature The Devout. She recently finished production on her second full-length film as director, after helming the TV movie Amish Abduction in 2018. But nothing in her career means as much to Liebert as her first Crazy8s short, “The Quieting”.
“I wouldn’t say the relaxing has started quite yet,” says the exhausted filmmaker, reached at her Vancouver home by the Straight. She’s fresh off of the competition’s murderous eight-day production schedule, averaging a decent four hours sleep per night after bouts of crying. But she still needs to cut a trailer among other things, prior to the film’s debut along with the five other finalists at Saturday’s Crazy8s gala. “But the crazy part is done,” she adds, audibly relieved. “I didn’t have a completed movie eight days ago, and now I do. That is just incredible.”
It was the legendary Anne Wheeler who first urged her Bomb Girls star to get behind the camera and “tell your story”. Friends pointed to Crazy8s as one of her best options. The result, written and directed by Liebert and slickly lensed by Josh Knepper, stars Sara Canning as a 30-something woman who, on the eve of her first date with a woman, finds herself reckoning in unexpected ways with coming out.
“It is my story,” Liebert says. “It may seem kind of specific—a motherless, late-blooming queer—but I’m hoping the themes reach a wider group of people. I’ve only really been out for five years. There aren’t a lot of stories about people coming out in their 30s or older. The night before my first date with a woman was such a turning point for me—and it was something I felt I wanted to share.”
The film’s emotional register has universal resonance, specific or not. It’s the way Liebert tells her story that’s so bracingly original, and moving, although the less said about its narrative surprises the better. Viewers should simply bear in mind that Liebert herself describes “The Quieting”—which was shot in her apartment and includes personal items repurposed as talismanic props—as “meta-insano, like you wouldn’t even believe”, making it the purest expression of Ali Liebert we’ve ever seen.
“That is true. I’m gonna try to get through the gala without falling apart,” she says with a chuckle, although the most haunting aspect of the whole job has been putting herself out there as a writer-director. “You’re completely vulnerable in a different way,” she says. “So this feels like my first movie. I’m very grateful for my two MOW [movie-of-the-week] experiences, but this is me introducing myself. In a craaaazy way.”
The 21st annual Crazy8s gala screening takes place at the Centre for Performing Arts on Saturday (February 22). More information is at www.crazy8s.film/.