Tag Archives: documentary

Tuscany dawn

IMG_3886Tuscany dawn a video by watershed96 on Flickr.

Summer, dawn. Wild creatures are plentiful in this country rich with human history. Olive groves and vineyards are here in plenty, but so are rambling woods, interconnected and harboring deer, birds, and many small animals indigenous to the land.
Tuscany has also nurtured art and craft in many forms. I came with my camera, others have come to cook, to practice ceramics, painting, sculpture etc. The ambiance seems to inspire.

What’s up? Doc? Storytelling for the 21st century

In the 21st century, this increasingly web-connected world may at times feel like everyone everywhere is trying to tell you something.

Throughout history, societies have had voices that tell stories to pass on the news, reinforce or change values, or whatever. Today, in addition to professional news media, peer-to-peer news (think of Egypt) has emerged, a manifestation of  Marshall McLuhan’s global village – bless the visionaries –  yet often cannot provide the thoughtful reflection that requires time and resources and the storyteller’s skill.

Since time immemorial, the place for the storyteller who reveals as well as tells has been an important element in the social glue that keeps societies, communities, families and individuals connected.  In the pre-web 20th century documentaries emerged as one medium for storytellers to reach a 20th century world – beyond the family and community to whole societies.

A great inheritance from the late 20th century is the web, that lets storytellers, including documentary storytellers, break out of societies to touch other societies in a peer-to-peer language but with a professional’s skill.

With the retreat of government and broadcasters in Canada from documentary support, the doc community and DOC are speaking up in many ways. Find and enjoy documentaries on the web and in the theatre;  you will be richer for it.

Last Harvest – a documentary

LAST HARVEST premiers at PLANET IN FOCUS October 25, 2015.  Next, it will be shown at the Whistler Film Festival in December, 2015.  Congratulations to filmmaker Hui Wang on her first documentary.

About the film:

As China emerges more on the world stage and fills our store shelves, many of us want to know more about it.   Hui (Jane) Wang’s  intimate documentary  LAST HARVEST is about a couple who are displaced by one of the huge projects transforming the Chinese economy. This couple could be our parents; they could be us.

Lobster dinner in Little Harbour

A couple of years before the turn of the turn of the millenium, I had an epiphany in the hamlet of Little Harbour near Twillingate Newfoundland, just after a lobster dinner.

My host had walked me down to see the boats he and his neighbours had built, and we were soon engrossed in discussion …  follow this link for more …

a stage in Newfoundland is a shed built over the water

stage at Little Harbour

Habitat for Inhumanity

Every now and then you see something you almost wish you had not seen. It disturbs you; it forces you to realize something about your world that you might rather not think about.

Below, watch Canada’s first prefab prison being built.  It’s not far, just minutes away from my comfortable home where I can settle in one of several rooms filled with the paraphernalia of my life and look out into my yard or my street, open the door and step out or just crack the window and hear bird song. Reminds  me somehow of Johnny Cash . . .

There is nothing humane about prisons, no matter what the spin.  Who ‘deserves’ to be in one? There are no simple answers really, and perhaps that’s what’s most disturbing.

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Outside the Broadcast Box – Doc Stew on the table

On Tuesday evening, November 2/10, Liz Marshall introduced the main ingredients for the evening’s event, and I watched as the panelists and audience cooked up a strangely familiar stew of this and that, with many flavours mixed in.

Acknowledging the panelists and the audience of practitioners, Marshall spoke briefly and directly about how committed documentary filmmakers have a tough, demanding time of it.

The panel presentations and discussion reminded me of two periods in my lifetime when social values were on the table.  Beginning in the ‘60’s, thoughtful, passionate youth (in the western world) decided the recipe for our lives was too bland.  We gave up on ‘Fanny Farmer’ and the ‘Joy of Cooking’ with their patriarchal roots and scents of sexism, and we wrote ‘Yoga Natural Foods Cookbook’ and ‘Mama Never Cooked Like This’.  Like last night’s doc stew, many of the recipes needed work to reach any level of excellence (or even provide basic nutrition).  But the point for today is that many documentary filmmakers are trying to break old, unhealthy funding dependencies or, especially the emerging practitioners, never get hooked on that diet.   I heard some complaints after the panel that ‘nothing new’ came out of the discussion, but that’s not the point; good recipes have always come out of collaboration, tasting and sharing, and even competition.  On a slightly deeper level, this is the social, cultural process of mutual storytelling that has nurtured and sustained us since time immemorial.  Without this, cultures starve.

The second was the period we were developing non-profit co-operative housing in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s.  Government funding was flowing like the Nile in flood.  We could not break the ground fast enough and raise enough homes to capture it all.  We got better and better at it though, and buildings seemed to grow out of the ground and communities sprouted. We had the infrastructure to negotiate the Byzantine relationships of private and government sectors, with thousands of people employed and volunteering to harvest it all.  Then came the dry season.  Some bright leaders in the co-operative housing sector felt the change coming and invited American social housing practitioners to a conference.  Too busy, too dependent and too blind, almost everyone attending rejected the entrepreneurial vigour of our colleagues in the south.  When governments changed, we were not ready when the river of plenty dried up.  Sound somewhat familiar? Documentary filmmaking in Canada has burgeoned in the past decade or so, nurtured by a river of funding.  Practitioners and DOC have evolved to capture the opportunities and now continue to evolve into new realities.

I think documentary filmmakers in Canada have the creativity, energy and profound commitment to storytelling, both as production and process, to survive and even thrive. Last night, I applauded the commitment of the organizers and the panelists and even the disgruntled in the audience, because everyone there is writing the next recipe book. There will be a more diverse diet than in the recent past.  Some of the ingredients will be familiar but they will be blended with the new and (dare I say) some less digestible ingredients laid aside in fatter times.  Our moderator and panelists reminded us of both, so if you weren’t able to be there, check it out when DOC posts the evening’s proceedings.