... FESTIVALS ::
FILMMAKERS DESERVE HIGH PRAISE
Saint John, Jan 2005 - The film festival Saint John One burst into year 2 with a vengeance in late January, driving an ambitious three day schedule of films and art for local audiences at the Saint John Arts Centre.
But, film was not the only item on the agenda. What was impressive about the festival... was its intent to bring together seemingly unconnected groups of people and demonstrate that, perhaps, they have much more in common than they realize through displayed sculpture, digital video, live music, and still photography.
For film buffs, the pickings were great, starting with the feel-good National Film Board documentary "I Made a Vow". This touching and humorous documentary was viewed after its director, former Saint John broadcaster and journalist Juanita Peters (photo above, Peters (R) with organizer, Norean Goldston) held court with the audience with an interactive discussion on the experience of making the film. Peters, a former journalist at CHSJ-TV and CBC-TV, departed for Halifax just a few years ago, where she began her career as a director. Glad to see her back, if even for a short time, were old friends who arrived to applaud their former co-worker (photo of friends and former co-workers L-R Jane, Janet, Juanita and Kendra), before she fulfilled her duties as speaker.
Other high points were the showing of a Gretchen Kelbaugh-produced and directed video about a band of dragon-boat-commandeering female cancer survivors, and a just completed trailer for her upcoming digital feature film, Margaret and Deirdre, which is currently being scored by the triple threat New Brunswick-based composer / musician / vocalist, Vetch.
Another thoroughly enjoyable viewing was that of the Mark Hemmings produced and directed, Geist; the story of a soul captured at moment of death through hauntingly beautiful stop / start animation. Hemmings, a local stills photographer who is beginning to carve out a name for himself as a filmmaker, brought his pure vision and strong eye to the making of this stylistic 2-minute experimental short, which is as moving and powerful as a short film can be. An interesting footnote is that Hemmings also composed the music and played the instruments for this impressive first work.
Productions aside, the atmosphere at Saint John One earned fans for its casual approach, amazing food and musical groove. Sweets and Savoury, a local catering company provided from-scratch dips, breads, and finger foods of every size and shape that left many wondering how they could get the recipes. Hats off to Janine van Winssen and Jen Butler for their wickedly delicious creations.
Down the hall, the audience ebbed and flowed with a rotating group of musicians and vocalists (photos above and to right) as they improvised their way through a number of sets, giving a great show for those present. At Saint John One, if the films and food didn't transfix you, the free form synthesizer, guitar and drum sounds did.
Here's to 2006 and Saint John One, Version Three.