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Ms. Polley 

People are already calling to ask how the interview went. I'll get to it, don't worry. Let me go back a little: My day clambered to life on the air at CKDU. Thanks to Hillary for guesting again---we navigated the review embargo while still trying to blab about the movies at the festival. I've heard since the show that the review embargo is the festival's way of covering its butt, but much of it is really just recommendation. Fully two-thirds of these movies on their list won't get a Halifax release anyway, or so I've been told. For example, Strangers With Candy is one that's already had its first run, and with very few second run options in this town, we'll probably have to wait for DVD.

How To Eat Your Watermelon In White Company (And Enjoy It), is a documentary about Melvin Van Peebles, best known for his groundbreaking early-70s film Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (I hope I got the right number of Esses in there), a picture that portrayed a radical and empowered black man fighting “The Man” and was instrumental in starting the so-called “Blaxploitation” cinema. The documentary explains that Chicago-born Van Peebles got his creative start in France in the 1960s, writing novels (in self-taught French) and making films before moving to San Francisco. Besides being a film director, he performed and recorded his own music, a kind of early rap, as well as writing stage musicals for Broadway. As he got older he directed more films and did a stint on Wall Street as a floor trader before writing a book on the financial markets, performing in a cabaret and returning to direct movies. The guy is amazing. The film doesn't go much into his personal life, though the filmmakers do interview his now-adult children, including his son, actor Mario Van Peebles, and they make mention of their father's knack for attracting women, often seeming to have more than one on the go. I chatted with the director, Joe Angio, and weirdly enough, he and I have a mutual friend in NYC who makes documentaries: her name is in the credits of his picture as a "thanks to."

OK, so, Sarah Polley. We were introduced on the AFF floor of the Delta Hotel, where, like a military operation, the festival nerve centre is encamped, surrounded by posters and promotional materials. She is slight, with small, soft hands, looking quite formal in a black dress with lovely, multicoloured stones in her necklace and earrings. She has a touch of the flu and was a little croaky-voiced (she was happy to take an offered mint)---the result of a hectic Toronto International Film Festival schedule that saw her film, Away From Her, find distribution in the US with Lions Gate (meaning we might actually get to see it here on the big screen). Despite being under the weather, she answered all my questions without flinching. I found her to be very humble, friendly, and forthcoming. We spoke about subjects that ranged outside the comfort zones of her film and Alice Munro, whose short story she adapted, into the abstracts of her career and directorial intent. She even ventured to speak about her relationship with Hollywood versus what she has going on in Toronto, particularly the point on a certain Cameron Crowe film when she decided she didn't want the kind of attention the role would have earned her. Polley's instincts seem to be serving her well, as coming back to Canada to be a director, and a damn good one, has given her credibility to burn. Given the fact I mentioned yesterday, that she's been in showbiz for so long, I was thrilled to find her so open and unaffected. And yeah, you genre nerds, she even mentioned Dawn of the Dead, unprompted. She called it “a vacation.” I stopped in to see the final few minutes of Away From Her at The Oxford, and if sustained applause and moist-eyed punters spilling into the night is anything to go by, the reaction to the film was very positive. Polley had a brief Q & A afterwards, and her voice sounded better. Down in the spotlight at the front of the theatre, she looked so tiny.

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Vol 26, No 28
December 6, 2018

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