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The Song and the Sorrow: Film debuts this weekend

 

October 10 is World Mental Health Day and according to the Canadian Mental Health Association: “Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend or colleague. By age 40, about 50 percent of the population will have or have had a mental illness.”

The National Film Board will be releasing this Saturday at the Atlantic International Film Festival in Halifax The Song and The Sorrow. Through the lens of Canadian filmmaker Millefiore Clarkes following Juno award winning musician Catherine MacLellan, the film is a journey to understand Catherine’s father, Canadian folk legend Gene MacLellan’s mental illness which led to his suicide.

Produced by Rohan Fernando and Paul McNeill, and executive produced by Annette Clarke for the NFB’s Quebec and Atlantic Studio, The Song and The Sorrow contains archival footage and intimate interviews with friends, family members, and musicians who knew and played with Gene—including Anne Murray, Lennie Gallant, and the late Ron Hynes. The film reveals a troubled and loving man who was never at ease with fame and money. The land and people of Prince Edward Island inspired Gene MacLellan’s music and are a vibrant presence in Clarkes’ documentary.

In an interview both Catherine and Millefiore talk intimately about the film.

How did you both collaborate in making this film?

Millefiore: “Focusing The Song and the Sorrow on Gene’s struggle with mental health was Catherine’s initiative. When I first approached her about making this film, the focus was more on the creative legacy between a parent and child, about the complex relationship and inspiration derived from a parent with a large personality and artistic temperament. I was also interested in how sadness and loss can precipitate creative expression. However, I was nervous to ask her about his suicide. I didn’t want to exploit her personal tragedy. But Catherine was at a point in her life, 20 years after Gene’s suicide, where she was looking for ways to talk about her experience. She got back to me immediately suggesting that we focus on Gene’s struggles as well as her exploration of how that has affected her and her family.”

How many threads to this film are there?

Millefiore: Quite a few. A daughter’s story of her father’s legacy of mental health struggles and suicide; Catherine’s story of her own struggles as a result; Gene MacLellan’s rich and enigmatic musical and personal legacy; and a bit of Canadian music history woven in there. It could have been a much longer film. There were so many paths to follow. It was always an endeavour to contain the film and keep it focused while touching on all these threads.”

What is the message the film wants to deliver?

Catherine: “The biggest message I’d like people to get from this film is how important it is to talk about mental health, and how in doing that we can all be a part of reducing the stigma that keeps so many people from finding the help they need. I hope that people get a sense of the lasting effects of a suicide and how we really need to continue the conversations surrounding mental health to help the people all around us who may be suffering.”

What did you enjoy the most about the making this film?

Catherine: Interviewing Lennie Gallant, Ron Hynes and Marty Reno was a really nice experience for me. They were all close to him and had interesting experiences and thoughts to share. Getting to visit with Anne Murray was a bit intimidating for me at first, she’s such a legend and I hadn’t met her since I was a little kid. She shared some really great stories and was very kind and generous with us.

Showing at the Atlantic International Film Festival on Saturday, September 15.

Award-winning producer Kat Baulu shares her passion and new project

Meet Kat Baulu, a producer with Quebec/Atlantic Studio at the National Film Board (NFB) of Canada, a public producer, and distributor. In an email interview, Baulu talked about her career and the call for proposals for short films on Reimagining My Quebec.

Reimagining My Quebec is a new initiative for anglophone, allophone, and Indigenous filmmakers from Quebec and Nunavik that will give emerging and established directors a chance to create artful short documentaries with the NFB.

When it comes to what Baulu enjoys most about her work, she said she enjoys those with a clear purpose to their work. “I admire people who lead their lives with mission and purpose. One person who inspires me is legendary Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin,” she said. “With an astonishing career spanning over five decades at National Film Board of Canada, she’s made over 50 films that focus on issues facing Indigenous people in Canada. Alanis embodies what it means to make art for social impact. It’s humbling to witness one person who truly makes a difference every day.”

Baulu’s work as a producer raises social impact, even from her previous documentary work on Gun Runners. Baulu’s role is responsible for supporting creators to tell relevant and meaningful stories about Canada to Canadians and people around the world.

“The best part of my job is accompanying filmmakers in their creative process: from idea to finished film through to impact with audiences,” she said. “I love creating conditions for filmmakers to thrive artistically and express their point of view. I root for their success.”

“Collaborating with artists in the public space is such a privilege. At the NFB, our values are driven by relevance. Every day we ask ourselves, are we raising under-represented voices? Is what we are creating valuable and meaningful?” she added. “I am thrilled to work with filmmakers on their creative interpretation of reimagining their Quebec because I believe we have a chance to surface issues of identity, class, and status for further discussion and raise consciousness about the positive change we dream about for our society, and our world.”

Baulu is excited about the current project – Reimagining My Quebec, which is an opportunity to make a short English documentary in Quebec with the NFB.

“Reimagining My Quebec is the brainchild of my executive producer Annette Clarke. She is a true champion for filmmakers and storytellers of all stripes. She is a Newfoundlander and believes that great stories often emanate from a deep sense of place,” Baulu said. “We hope this call will draw out unique and intimate stories from across Quebec, which surprise and transform us.”

The type of story she’s looking for revolves around something Scottish documentary filmmaker Scott Grierson calls, “creative interpretations of actuality,” which focusses on the human condition through point-of-view documentary storytelling. “If you have a story that you are uniquely positioned to tell, that you have a personal connection with, that you have unique access, this call for proposals is for you. We are excited about powerful, emotional and important social issue-driven stories,” Baulu said. “For us, the process is as important as the outcome. What is your relationship to your participants? How will you treat them at the beginning and the end of the process of making your film? We are enthusiastic when filmmakers are considering their ethics as well as the art and impact.”

The deadline for submissions is August 8.