Possible Worlds – 6th Canadian Film Festival: Program Launch

Possible Worlds - Featured

Possible Worlds poster 2011The Reel Bits was privileged to be invited to the program launch of Possible Worlds, the Sydney-based Canadian Film Festival run by The Festivalists, who are now celebrating their 6th year along with the Festival. This year, Possible Worlds will showcase 20 Canadian feature films at three venues across Sydney from August 8 to 14.

Possible Worlds will see fourteen Australian premieres, and the Festival’s Artistic Director Matt Ravier notes that “Canadians are known for their friendliness, and we like to think of Possible Worlds as Sydney’s friendliest film festival”. To emphasise this point, many of the screenings will come with a complimentary welcome drink on arrival. Films shown at The Factory will also be followed by live music and parties, along with special guests Annette Mangaard (Kinngait: Riding Light Into the World), Jay Cheel (Beauty: Day) and Jeff Topham (Liberia ’77). So what treats does Possible Worlds have in store for Sydneysiders and pilgrims alike over the week of dizzying delights across the cinemas of the CBD, eh?

Score: A Hockey Musical

Opening Night

Nothing screams “Canada” like the national sport of hockey, “the greatest game in the land”, so it was only a matter of time before someone came up with a musical take on the often violent game. Score: A Hockey Musical is Michael McGowan’s follow-up to One Week and promises not to follow the Glee path, but rather be a throwback to the best tradition of the musical and, according to the Possible Worlds program, “the pre-ironic teen comedies of the ’80s”. Australians may find reason to rejoice or cringe with the presence of Olivia Newton-John as a free-spirited “hockey mom”.

Spotlight: Bruce McDonald

Maverick filmmaker Bruce McDonald gets a spotlight at this year’s festival, showcasing his talents for all things music. His film Pontypool, selected as one of the best Canadian films in 2008 by the Toronto International Film Festival and seen at Australian film festivals in the last few years, makes another appearance here along with two other intriguing films.Trigger stars Molly Parker (Deadwood), Sarah Polley (Splice) and the late Tracy Wright (Me and You and Everyone We Know) in the story of an all-girl rock band who implode under the weight of their own success, and try to get back together a decade later. The music-infused film, originally planned as a companion piece to the director’s Hard Core Logo, it features a score by Broken Social Scene, who form the basis of the third McDonald film to screen at the festival, This Movie is Broken. Here McDonald creates a hybrid movie that combines an outdoor concert of Broken Social Scene and a fictional romance between two lovers who attend the concert.

Along with the films, the Bruce McDonald spotlight will include a photo exhibition, lives bands and of course, parties.

This Movie is Broken


Of the sixteen remaining films in the festival, 12 of them are Australian premieres and a further two see their first screenings in Sydney. On the launch night, we saw a special screening of Beauty Day, the insane debut documentary from Jay Cheel, a film critic on Canada’s Film Junk. Telling the story of Ralph Zavadil, the proto-Jackass whose daredevil stunts amused Canadian cable viewers during the ’90s before it nearly killed him, it is as heartwarming as it is nuts. Cheel will be in Australia for the festival. Similarly, documentarian Jeff Topham will bring his personal account of life in Libera in the 1970s, Libera ’77, out for its Australian debut. Canadian director Annette Mangaard explores how the isolated Inuit Nunavut community became celebrated for its art in Kinngait: Riding Light Into The World. Screenings of all three films will be followed by Q & As with the filmmakers.

The Whistleblower, which is not due out in Australian cinemas until 15 September, stars Rachel Weisz, Monica Belluci and David Strathairn and will no doubt attract audiences keen to catch an early glimpse of this acclaimed film, having already earned director Larysa Kondracki an award for Best Director at this year’s Seattle International Film Festival. The similarly star-studded Daydream Nation, named for the Sonic Youth album and continuing the festival’s musical theme, stars Kat Dennings (Thor), Josh Lucas (The Lincoln Lawyer) and Andie McDowell. Coming highly recommended is the French-Canadian The Salesman (Le Vendeur) from debut filmmaker Sébastien Pilote, starring veteran actor Gilbert Sicotte (Mesrine) in this realism-based drama. Similarly intriguing is You Are Here, an experimental film from video artist Daniel Cockburn, explores memory and the subconscious and offers a puzzle to be solved. How can we go past A Drummer’s Dream, John Walker’s doco on the best drummers in Canada accompanied by a live drum show?

The remaining seven  films playing in the main program include:

  • Familiar Grounds (En Terrains Connus) – Dir: Stéphane Lafleur
  • Jaloux – Dir: Patrick Demers
  • A Beginners Guide to Endings – Dir: Jonathan Sobol
  • The Bang Bang Club – Dir: Steven Silver
  • Heat Wave (Les Grandes Chaleurs) – Dir: Sophie Lorain
  • Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie – Dir: Sturla Gunnarsson
  • Modra – Dir: Ingrid Veninger

Closing Night

The festival will end, as all good things must do, with Small Town Murder Songs. Described as a “minimalist masterpiece”, the gothic crime drama meets mystery thriller from Ed Gass-Donnelly builds its narrative around the soundtrack from the indie gospel band Bruce Peninsula, and features a performance from Peter Stormare (Fargo).

Small Town Murders

Possible Worlds: 6th Canadian Film Festival runs from 8 to 14 August at the Dendy Opera Quays, the Factory Theatre and the Australian Museum in Sydney.

The Reel Bits is the cinema arm of DVD Bits. Richard can be found on Twitter @DVDBits, Sarah on @swardplay and The Reel Bits @The_ReelBits.