A documentary about The Tragically Hip’s Man Machine Poem Tour needed to be made. After all, it was a pivotal imprint in modern Canadian culture as the entire nation collectively considered the band’s timeless legacy and paid respects to terminally ill musician Gord Downie. Finding filmmakers to handle such sensitive subject matter would be an intimidating order, yet Jennifer Baichwal (Watermark) and Nicholas de Pencier (cinematographer on The Ghosts in Our Machine) rise to the occasion and exceed expectations.
Instead of settling for predictability and using The Hip’s widely-seen final concert in Kingston as the film’s climax, Baichwal and de Pencier use the band’s initial decision to embark on a farewell tour as the film’s early peaking point. Downie’s critical diagnosis triggered an emotional response from the lead singer to reach out to the band’s loyal fanbase with one last hurrah. While this stroke of integrity was admirable to friends and family, it had everyone on edge. Despite concerned apprehension, the musicians unleashed an unforgettable and elaborate experience. From there, Long Time Running invites viewers in on multiple shows around Canada they would’ve missed otherwise. By using an overlapping method of editing, movie goers get a true sense of the band’s creative camaraderie, as well as an understanding of their close connection with audiences. The concert footage is faithful to the rare ecstasy experienced at each venue, and the interview segments are informative as well; especially Downie’s answers that give constant reminders of how uniquely cool, thoughtful, and funny he is.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is briefly interviewed at the Kingston concert. He says something along the lines of, “I don’t know if this is a celebration, or if we should all be sad.” That insight would’ve applied to Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier’s documentary if it wasn’t already clear that Long Time Running exists as a joyous and beautiful unifying hug between artists and their embracers.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie