There are 12 sterling examples of Canuck cinema coming to the Vancity Theatre’s Canadian Film Week celebrations. Here are some of our choices.
The Pass System
Just as the full, wrenching details of the residential-school system are starting to sink into society at large, out comes this documentary illuminating another ugly hidden chapter of Canadian history. For almost 60 years, Indian Act officials around the Prairies refused to let First Nations people move freely, requiring them to get a signed pass even for the most mundane trips off-reserve. Filmmaker Alex Williams manages to build a solid yet artfully cast case, sometimes simply zooming in and lingering on the few remaining passes themselves (signed for everything from hospital visits to hunting). Amplifying the atmosphere are Vancouver cellist Cris Derksen’s intensely haunting, driving strings. Witness and expert accounts point a damning finger at authorities right back to John A. Macdonald himself—all of whom, it’s proven in documents, knew the pass system was a violation of Canadian law. The practice hampered natives’ ability to carry on day-to-day business or make a living. But mostly it reminded them constantly of their lack of power, their every move scrutinized. The price of violation? Jail. In the film’s most disturbing segment, elders remember the horrors and loneliness of being locked away in residential schools, and how parents were never granted the requested passes to visit their children there. Troubling stuff, coming out in the wake of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
April 20 (11:15 a.m.); April 21 (8:05 p.m.)
> Janet Smith
As Charles, the great Fred Ewanuick predictably carries this amiable local debut from writer-director O. Corbin Saleken, while Chelah Horsdal (The Man in the High Castle) is hardly a slouch in her role as his put-upon fiancée, Audrey. Actually, Horsdal’s response to a highly unusual relationship problem—Charles can see two minutes into the future—is a model of tempered sweetness and compassion. Same goes for Saleken’s receptiveness to his supernatural theme, which ends up going further than you thought it would.
April 17 (8:25 p.m.); April 20 (5:30 p.m.)
> Adrian Mack
The Lion’s Path
Finance-school dropout Alex follows his girlfriend, Jade, to the rural retreat she’s been attending, where former professor and Nietzsche devotee Gabriel conducts experiential therapy designed to pursue “the truth”. Gabriel’s increasingly unconventional and questionable methods trigger tensions as Alex becomes conflicted and confused about the rules and conduct of the cultlike community. Strong performances from the cast, skilled pacing, and solid direction make this quiet thriller a notable and engaging debut from Quebec filmmaker Stéphan Beaudoin.
April 20 (12:50 p.m.)
> Craig Takeuchi
Once you sync up with its rat-a-tat groove, this is the best way to kill 100 Canadian minutes—augmented with weed and a maxi-bag of Old Dutch All Dressed. Jonathan Culp stitched together over 450 tax-shelter-era Canucksploitation movies to fashion a wild sort-of narrative in which perpetually morphing iterations of Donald Sutherland and Maury Chaykin (among many others) take on a plot involving UFOs, boobs, and exploding phones. Plot might be the wrong word; Taking Shelter is more of a portal, or a working time machine, or some sort of temporal-lobe-seizure-inducing form of trance technology with Christopher Plummer pulling the levers.
April 16 (10:15 p.m.); April 20 (9:30 p.m.)
> Adrian Mack