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Film festival shakes it up

Global Visions moves to spring and expands to full week

By: Scott Hayes

  |  Posted: Wednesday, May 07, 2014 06:00 am

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  • NATURALIST FILMMAKER – Albert Karvonen: Philosophies On Life, Nature and Wildlife Filmmaking documents the achievements of the renowned Alberta filmmaker.
    NATURALIST FILMMAKER – Albert Karvonen: Philosophies On Life, Nature and Wildlife Filmmaking documents the achievements of the renowned Alberta filmmaker.
    Supplied photo
  • ANTI SOCIAL – Anti-Social Limited follows Chris Hoard, a man who has spent most of his years in jail, as he tries to get his life on track.
    ANTI SOCIAL – Anti-Social Limited follows Chris Hoard, a man who has spent most of his years in jail, as he tries to get his life on track.
  • TALENT SCOUTS – In The Universal Language, filmmakers Fred Kroetsch and Kurt Spenrath travel to Peru in search of undiscovered musical talent.
    TALENT SCOUTS – In The Universal Language, filmmakers Fred Kroetsch and Kurt Spenrath travel to Peru in search of undiscovered musical talent.
  • EVERYBODY DANCE NOW – New Constellation is a short film that tells the story of an Edmonton organization that encourages dance by the disabled and able-bodied.
    EVERYBODY DANCE NOW – New Constellation is a short film that tells the story of an Edmonton organization that encourages dance by the disabled and able-bodied.

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Global Visions Film Festival

Screenings at Metro Cinema (the Garneau Theatre), the Art Gallery of Alberta and the Royal Alberta Museum
General admission tickets range from $8 to $12 per screening.

For details, call the Global Visions information hotline at 780-405-4570 or visit www.globalvisionsfestival.com.

A new time, a new venue and an expanded schedule … all of these have organizers hoping that this year’s Global Visions Film Festival will be the best and biggest ever.

Canada’s longest-running documentary film festival was formerly an extended weekend affair in late winter that juggled screenings between Metro Cinema (in the Garneau Theatre) and the Art Gallery of Alberta.

Now the expanded festival is being held for a week and a day in the early to mid-May period, and it offers patrons the unique venue of the Royal Alberta Museum theatre for some of its screenings. It still offers a wide selection of the most interesting and most talked about documentaries from home and abroad, helping it to keep its title as Canada’s longest-running documentary film festival.

Guy Lavallee, former programmer and new executive director, said everything happening now fits well into the fest’s long-term expansion plans. The most important detail was timing.

“Some of the things we want to start doing next year or three years – or five years – from now, we just knew we wanted to be more in that summer festival season pocket,” he began.

“So I started looking at the calendar and realized that there’s a massive gaping hole in May where there was nothing really going on, festival-wise. By this time of year, everybody is so ready to get out and just enjoy doing something.”

That’s why the festival is now an eight-day event and clocked in to end on the eve of the May long weekend. This is perfect, he said, because Thursdays are so much better than Sundays for a grand finale.

“We decided to go a little off the chart and go Thursday to Thursday. We’re a little bit of a strange group so it’ll be a fun way to test the waters,” he laughed.

Also it gives the fest the ultimate kick-off spot to the summer festival season. Moving to the new time slot also gave the organizers a prime opportunity to consider expanding on other things, like offering up another venue – the Royal Alberta Museum – as well as taking up more than three days on the calendar.

That’s more in line with other major documentary festivals across the country and the world, especially Hot Docs, the Canadian international documentary festival that just ended on Sunday in Toronto.

This year’s festival still follows in the footsteps of its previous incarnations, meaning it’s dedicated to providing socially relevant films from around the world.

Lavallee said how much he’s looking forward to Above All Else, the opening night film. It’s a story about social injustice resulting from the Keystone XL Pipeline as one man goes up against government, industry and even his own neighbours to stop the pipeline from crossing his land. Even though it takes place in Texas, it should still have a huge audience.

Here’s a brief look at some of the feature and short film presentations, including a few with some St. Albert connections.

1:45 p.m.

“I want people to think about their existence in terms of the natural world because I think that’s the only world that is really important.”

That’s what acclaimed Alberta naturalist filmmaker Albert Karvonen, now 83, previously said about his work and his philosophy on life. He spent many years documenting the natural world for the benefit of many. Now, his daughter Ava has come out and made her own film as a tribute to her dad, and naturalism in general.

Ava – already with many credits in the industry – decided it was time that a nature-loving documentary be made about the man who made documentaries about loving nature.

“I put a lot into it myself. I wanted to do it as a tribute to my dad just to archivally capture his story,” she said.

She walked with him across the prairie landscape over the four seasons in order to embody his passion for the natural world while documenting him over the passage of time as well.

8:45 p.m.

This is the world premiere of acclaimed and popular Edmonton-based filmmaker Rosie Dransfeld’s sequel to the Gemini Award-winning documentary Broke, the opening film of this festival in 2009. It takes a behind-the-scenes look at Chris Hoard, a man who has spent most of his years in jail but, as an ex-con, has tried to turn the tide and create a business in which he and others like him can overcome the odds.

Dransfeld is really pleased about Global Visions asking her back, especially because she tells local stories that matter.

“I am thrilled that Anti-Social Limited will be screening,” she said. “Although the doc is set in Edmonton, I was only able to sell the documentary to Ontario and B.C., but couldn't make a deal with Alberta's CTV2. The showing at (Global Visions) is perhaps the only possibility for Albertans to see the film right now, unless they wait for (video on demand).”

The film follows Hoard, a compelling subject with a very interesting tale to tell. That tale takes a few unexpected turns, making this film a rare document of life and death on the balance.

“You know you have screwed up in life when you can rate every prison in Canada on a five-star basis,” Hoard said.

Despite his past, he keeps his audience’s sympathies and hopes firmly on his side.

noon

Local filmmaker Jeff Allen put together this short documentary in the hope that consumers would be more appreciative of their purchasing dollars if they understood better the value and the diversity of the native grasslands, “an endangered ecosystem,” as Kelsey Beasley, one of the subjects of the film, states.

“The goal was to talk and discuss some of the challenges that ranchers are facing day to day, and look at some of the alternatives. Some of them are forging out on their own, reaching out to direct marketing and staying away from feedlots … doing things more holistically,” he explained.

“It wasn’t intended to make a real statement. It was really just a conversation and a document as to what’s happening now.”

Operation Grassland Community has collaborated with land stewards for more than 20 years to protect and enhance prairie wildlife habitats for species at risk. Its efforts have also recently branched out to connect with the urban consumer.

noon

Director Frederick Kroetsch collaborated with St. Albert Catholic High School grad Kurt Spenrath on an ambitious undertaking: to track down the coolest music that nobody else knows about. They went all the way to Peru to find the answer.

“We start from the premise that there are certain musical acts that can be incredibly famous in a country. For example, The Tragically Hip … they can sell out the Rexall Centre every night for a week but if they were to play in Akron, Ohio, they’d be lucky if they drew 400 people.”

“Our jumping off point is a group of concert promoters based in Edmonton decide to travel the world to try and find that great musical act that no one has ever heard of,” he continued.

What – and who – they discovered was nothing short of astounding. The result offers some wonderful music along with some amazing perspectives on culture and globalization. The film recently made the rounds at Hot Docs to much acclaim.

8 p.m.

Imagine a world where people of all levels of physical ability can still express themselves through the beauty and power of creative dance. It’s not just a possibility; it’s happening and it’s happening right here.

Paul Kane grad Danielle Peers collaborated with three others to film New Constellation, a short film featuring the Collaborative Radically Integrated Performers Society in Edmonton, also known as CRIPSiE.

“It’s about this really fabulous community in Edmonton that does integrated dance, which is essentially dance for everybody, dance for people with disabilities,” Peers said.

Performance dance might not be everybody’s cup of tea but it’s difficult not to be touched and inspired by the sight of people in wheelchairs dancing with the able-bodied while on stage in front of a totally engaged audience. It’s an inherently unique experience that speaks strong and true, offering a message about passion and compassion all at the same time.

“The quality art is just so exceptional but also that it really is a community of social justice. The kinds of art they make, the way they do art, the way they engage with each other… really make a massive difference in the liveability of each of their lives,” Peers said.

“I was just really pulled by the way those things go together. These are artists doing art, and also creating a better Edmonton, a better community for themselves to live in by doing it.”

8 p.m.

Oh, the strange places that love takes us. A Leduc woman leaves it all behind to move to Tanzania and marry a local mountain guide.

Filmmaker Eric Pauls was convinced that this was the sort of story that would reach out and help people connect with each other and with their own spirits too.

“I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to make a documentary about something pretty unique but also pretty relatable,” he commented.

This is his first independent documentary right out of film school but not his first festival. He previously went through an online film festival in New York.

“This is the first legitimate festival for it, that’s for sure,” he said, pleased with the progress. “It’s pretty hard to get into even the smallest of festivals.”

He added that, apart from some sound technician work, he did everything on the project.

“It’s me with a camera, doing everything. It’s pretty exciting that it could get anywhere and be seen.”

He’s already at work on another project with others in the pipeline. He looks forward to future film festival attention.


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