Bermuda International Film Festival – Stories We Tell – Sarah Polley

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It makes an odd kind of sense to me that I came all the way to Bermuda for BIFF to see a Canadian film.

Having grown up here between the years of 84 to 89 the entire trip has been awash in memories of my own, and the own story of my life, which as pointed out by Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace during the films opening is only a story in the telling, definitely not in the living of moment to moment. Every where I look down here I see myself, there I am in the water, there I am on my moped, there I am thinking I’m so grown up as a senior in high school. Catching up with my friend Tina Arorash, we chatted about our high school years, and she saw me differently to how I saw myself, so we compared tales and memories, each of them similar but made unique by the person experiencing them and telling them.

That is what is the heart of Polley’s masterful film as well, proving she’s not only a talented actress, but a masterful director, as previously illustrated with the lovely Away From Her.

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Sarah turns the unblinking camera on herself and her family this time around, documenting the way each member, and family friends, recall the life of her mother Diane, who passed from cancer while Sarah was still a young child.

The film is a gem, in turns delightfully humorous and then heartbreaking as the stories unfold.

And though she spends only a little time on camera, who Sarah Polley is is at the heart of the film. Through the course of her gathering stories on her mother, getting a fuller picture as a woman, Sarah learns about her true parentage.

That in itself is a kick in the gut for the viewer, and one can only imagine the life-changing effect it had on the man who raised her, her dad Michael. We do get a glimpse into his mind as he wrote and voices the narration that compliments the film, and like Sarah and the rest of the family, they are unafraid to reveal themselves to the camera.

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She travels from Toronto to Montreal to find more about the relationship her mother had, and the revelations are wonderfully handled, once again with humor and sorrow.

While the film tells the story of Sarah and her family, the way we remember our lives, the way we tell them, applies to us.

Sitting on the island I consider one of my most treasured homes of all the places I’ve lived, I find myself re-examining my own life, hearing my story in my head, smiling at memories happy and sad, I’ve been misty-eyed, I’ve shaken my head at some of the things I’ve recalled and even done since my return.

So maybe, just maybe, I was supposed to come home to see this film, bringing the best of Canadiana with me in my heart and on the screen in front of me, while reacquainting myself with my own past.

I’m glad I waited to see it… Thank you Sarah and my home in Bermuda.

The Bermuda International Film Festival runs until Thursday, what are you seeing?

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