Stories We Tell

Today has been a very interesting day. I just now put the finishing touches on my radio documentary assignment, and so I have now completely left the spiritual realm of Hare Krishna. Whether or not I’ll be returning is up in the air, but I do feel like it would be interesting to get an even more in-depth story out of it.

Before I came over to school to get the editing done, however, I was doing some “work” for an assignment from my Journalism and the Arts class. We’re to review one of four things; a documentary (Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley), a theatre production (something titled along the lines of “A Craigslist Cantata”), an Aboriginal art show at Harbourfront, or Justin Bieber’s album Believe.

The process of choosing wasn’t too difficult. I would have no idea how to even start to review a contemporary art show, I would not be able to purchase Justin Bieber’s album without feeling a huge feeling of shame, and I’m not really interested in paying $30ish for the purpose of reviewing it.

So this afternoon, at noon to be exact, I went and watched Stories We Tell.

It’s playing at the Kingsway, which is a wonderfully quaint movie theatre around the intersection of Royal York and Bloor. It’s small, but the theatres inside are huge considering, and there was a wonderfully weird montage of clips that played before the film started.

I didn’t know what to make of the film at the beginning. Sarah Polley does not give things away easily, and she slowly builds things up as she goes. The film starts talking about how her mother and father met, followed by the birth of their children, and the secrets slowly, slowly start to leak out until the biggest bombshell is dropped somewhere around the halfway point of the movie .I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who has yet to see it and want to, so I’ll leave my plot summary there.

What the doc does really well is highlight how unreliable memory can be. There aren’t a ton of instances of this, but there are moments when Polley will show one interview saying one thing, then she’ll cut to a different interview with someone contradicting the previous statement.

Polley also lets the seams of documentary filmmaking show, a technique that can sometimes be irritating but in this case makes everything all the more fascinating. The audience can hear Polley ask her various interviewees questions along the lines of “What do you think about the fact that I’m making this documentary?” and the people don’t necessarily respond with “Oh yes, it’s fabulous, keep going with it.”

There’s a moment very early on in the movie where Polley talks to one of her sisters, and her sister, being candid, says “I was just wondering ‘Who the fuck cares about our family’?” It’s an extremely common question, as we often think our families are terribly uninteresting. But the more one pries into one’s family, I think, the more one discovers how unfailingly dysfunctional almost every (if not every) family truly is.

There were only two songs with lyrics used in the film, with one being “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver near the beginning, and the other being “Demon Host” by Timber Timbre, appearing near the end. The latter song is ridiculously haunting (see embedded video below this paragraph) and it lent some real emotional power to a scene that was essentially composed of a bunch of Polley’s interviewees looking at the camera.

I wasn’t expecting to actually tear up a little during the movie, but I did. There’s an extended scene where Polley is talking to her father that will hit you in the gut. If you see the movie you’ll probably know what I’m referring to.

Tomorrow I’m going to finally put down my thoughts about the Wavelength Festival I attended from Thursday to Sunday. I wasn’t officially media, so I didn’t write about it at Grayowl Point, but my friend did and you’ll get some really great ideas of each of the bands’ performances from her. In my thoughts on it I’ll probably just refer to it as a whole, but we’ll see how it goes. Enjoy your Tuesday, my friends.

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