Sundance blog: Telefilm treats, Linklater’s daring Boyhood

Boyhood was the hot event of the morning. Richard Linklater’s long-rumoured, now-revealed, 10 -years-in- the-making film depicting the growth of Ellar Coltrane, who begins the film as a six-year-old and ends the film an 18-year-old.

While casting and makeup have traditionally done the trick in the past, Linklater’s concept was to shoot the same actors every year for 12 years and cut together into one film. What a thrilling idea, on par with The Up Series or the Harry Potter films.

As seen for the first time, it’s not quite a bull’s-eye in execution. It seems Linklater was not immune to the inherent challenges of the concept, specifically having consistently strong performances from the actors across 12 years. We can see the actors improve over time, and it takes the entire length of the film to become completely immersed in the story.

But the stuff great filmmakers are made up of are risks like this – finding new, innovative ways to tell a story, and pushing the medium beyond convention. This is the thrill of Sundance as well: the ideal platform to show these kinds of films and broaden our perspective of commercial cinema.

The end of Boyhood timed well with the Telefilm luncheon on Main Street. Previously, Telefilm has thrown an evening party – always a fun event – but this year a lower-key daytime lunch was in store. With that said, it was no less fun. Familiar faces and clients of ours were there, including Jordana Aarons, Glen Wood and the creative team from Wakening.

I also had a chance to meet some of the other short filmmakers represented, including the young but talented trio of women who made La Coupe (The Cut) including director Genevieve Deludes-De Celles and producers Fanny Drew and Sarah Mannering, and Annick Blanc, producer of Yan Giroux’s Mi Nina Mi Vida.

The team from the Slamdance entry The Chaperone, a 3D short animated which previously played TIFF and placement on Canada’s Top Ten, were there. They are an infectious group of young filmmakers, super creative and ambitious.

While writer/director Johnny Ma did not have a film there, perhaps even more prestigious than a festival slot was his inclusion the Sundance Screenwriting Lab, a week long incubator which brings together bright emerging filmmakers with luminary filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino.

His feature script in development, which dovetails from his lauded short film A Grand Canal (TIFF, TIFF Top Ten, and now a Canadian Screen Award nomination), will now be tracked by the festival and all the other established filmmakers who mentored him through the lab. His energy level from the Lab and the Festival was high.

Acquisitions of the day included Lynn Shelton’s Laggies, with Keira Knightley and Chloe Grace Moretz, and Gillian Robespierre’s Obvious Child both going to A24, while Mike Cahill’s sci-fi romance I Origins went to Fox Searchlight. As typical these days, acquisitions deal takes or weeks to close, thus the slow sales pace from my point of view is not unexpected.

My Prairie Home had its second screening tonight. The programmer described how he and the others fell in love with the film. That’s not surprising – it’s impossible not to be drawn into the elegant mix of music and imagery married in this unique picture. The autobiographical elements of Rae Spoon’s gender identification and the conflict with their evangelical Pentecostal upbringing is fascinating. In fact, perhaps the prevailing trend of the Festival is the prominence of Queer/LGBT themes.

A dozen or more films either confront these issues or simply live in them without conscious acknowledgement. Ira Sach’s Love is Strange, Appropriate Behavior, and The Foxy Merkins are commercially minded comedies, as well as number of documentaries not excluding My Prairie Home can be aimed at both Queer and non-Queer audiences.

Editor’s note: Since this blog was posted, La Coupe (The Cut) has won the Short Film Jury Award for International Fiction at Sundance.

alanbheadshotAlan Bacchus is the Programs Manager for Bell Media’s The Harold Greenberg Fund, overseeing the Script Development Program for Canadian feature films. Alan is a member of the Online Film Critics Society, writing for Exclaim! as well as his own blog,  Alan has also produced and directed a number of short films.