This weekend, the ReFrame Peterborough International Film Festival hits theatres in the city’s downtown core – you won’t want to miss it. The selected documentaries hold their own importance against each other, and show how hopeful futures are still within reach against global issues. The selections are raw, but the filmmakers are and determined to be heard.
For those unable to commute to Toronto, ReFrame acts as a cool opportunity to catch second-run films that either screened at Hot Docs or obtained a brief run at a specialty theatre before hitting VOD. The film festival also hosts panel discussions with filmmakers, and even features a section dedicated to children titled ReelKids at ReFrame. A neat bonus to ReelKids that might entice those kids unwilling to read: subtitles are read aloud.
Wylie Writes caught two premieres at ReFrame before the festival kicks off on Friday, January 29. Below you’ll find additional reviews (written by Gregory Breen, Trevor Jeffery, Shannon Page, and myself) of films that previously played at Hot Docs and are getting a second life at Peterborough’s enlightening film festival.
After the Last River (DIR. Vicki Lean)
York University graduate Vicki Lean debuts with After the Last River, and shows audiences just how promising her career will be. She already has all the best qualities of a gripping, knowledgeable filmmaker.
However, she may be early in her career, but I can already sense that Lean has a tendency to overstate a situation; such as the helplessness that thrives in Attawapiskat, a First Nation in northern Ontario that has been shaken up by exclusive mining. The tattered housing was already in need of desperate updates, but the newfound diamond mining (in association with De Beers) has caused harmful elements (like mercury) to litter essentials such as food and water.
I can understand why Lean would want to repeat Attawapiskat’s dire circumstances. The neglect towards the First Nation community has relentlessly continued, and it’s important that viewers see just how long Attawapiskat has been ignored for.
Much like Fractured Land, After the Last River digs deeper into the issue of industrialization and how it affects others. I prefer After the Last River over Fractured Land because Lean seems to be more involved in the issue and during her interviews – it rubs a reciprocal feeling onto the viewer who also feels like they’re part of Attawapiskat’s voice.
After the Last River may find life in theatres that specialize in documentaries (Toronto’s Bloor Cinema, for instance), but I wouldn’t be surprised if the film goes staright-to-PBS or TVO due to television being the filmmaker’s most accessible platform. For future films, Vicki Lean may want to trade in narration for graphics and title cards. Her guiding voice is appreciated, but she could have passed some work towards an editor who could translate and use it to break up the film with a different pace.
After the Last River screens at ReFrame on:
Saturday, January 30 at 3:00 p.m. @ Showplace [SOLD OUT: Rush Tickets Available at Door]
Before We Arrive: The Story of the Weber Brothers (DIR. Rob Viscardis)
The rock-doc is hard to master, yet first-time filmmaker Rob Viscardis does so without breaking a sweat.
The Peterborough-based filmmaker had a head start by directing various music videos, and he transfers those stylistic choices to various interviews in his documentary. The challenge that comes with a feature-length project is the balancing act between showcasing a band and providing enough content to give the film a less-heady presence.
Viscardis follows a safe albeit dependable narrative by chronicling the success of Ryan and Sam Weber from their early days as musicians to capping the doc off at the band’s current popularity. Along the way, we meet their mentors (most notably Ronnie Hawkins who helped mould the historic rockers of “The Band”), and fellow musicians who admire Ryan and Sam’s talent and modesty (“Weber Brothers” keyboardist Shai ‘Cookie’ Peer, poet Prufrock Shadowrunner, and Juno award-winner Serena Ryder).
Before We Arrive actually benefits quite a bit from the Ryder interview. Not only is it fitting to the doc’s conversational feel, but the one-on-one acts as a connecting bridge from humble artists to what qualifies as mainstream success. Ryder understands both sides to the craft, but agrees with the Webers about how a musician’s creative process should be.
Despite leaving room for energetic performances and honourable opinions from the band, Before We Arrive: The Story of the Weber Brothers flies by at 60-minutes without coming across as a conceited promotion for the band. I believe Viscardis could be very successful with his breakout film, but he’ll need to add more to it to pad out the length. In my opinion, I could’ve watched Ryan and Sam play their instruments for, at least, another ten minutes.
Before We Arrive: The Story of the Weber Brothers screens at ReFrame on:
Saturday, January 30 at 11:45 a.m. @ Showplace [SOLD OUT: Rush Tickets Available at Door]
Also screening at this year’s ReFrame Peterborough International Film Festival:
Al Purdy Was Here (Saturday, January 30 at 7:30 p.m. at Market Hall)
All the Time in the World (Saturday, January 30 at 1:15 p.m. at Showplace)
Dogs on the Inside (Saturday, January 30 at 1:15 p.m. at The Venue)
Fractured Land (Saturday, January 30 at 7:30 p.m. at Showplace)
Haida Gwaii: On the Edge of the World (Sunday, January 31 at 10:00 a.m. at Market Hall)
Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi (Friday, January 29 at 1:45 p.m. at The Venue)
Lowdown Tracks (Sunday, January 31 at 2:15 p.m. at Showplace)
The Messenger (Friday, January 29 at 7:30 p.m. at Showplace)
Click here to visit ReFrame’s official website!
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