Quickly establishing himself as one of Sydney’s most ubiquitous film aficionados, Matt Ravier next presents the 7th Possible Worlds Canadian Film Festival from August 13 to 17.
As overseer of this year’s Sydney Film Festival’s official meeting place, The Hub, and founder of film events group The Festivalists, Ravier could be forgiven for easing off on the day-to-day running of his Canadian event. But the passion that fuelled those start-up years still very much drives the French-born expat.
“When we first had the idea of putting on a Canadian Film Festival, we had no idea how it would be received. It was a really crazy idea, in some ways,” he recalls. “Unlike Italian cinema or French cinema, there isn’t a lot known about Canadian film’s long and illustrious history and there isn’t a big Canadian population here that we can draw from. So it was [founded] with the idea that it would be fun to have this celebration of Canadian cinema that people just discovered.”
The response from local audiences was immediate. “What happened validated our faith, in that we saw that Australians just ‘got’ Canadian films. Whether it is because it is not quite that American perspective, that it is more an outsider’s look at the mainstream – I think that felt really familiar to Australian audiences,” he says.
According to Ravier, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. “A lot of the feedback we get is that Canadian film feels a little bit more unique, a little bit more from the heart and that it does not adhere to the formulaic,” he says.
A quick glance at some of the high-profile 2012 titles supports the notion that Canadian output can be just as irreverent as some of our local works. For example, Ken Scott’s sperm-donor comedy Starstruck, actor Martin Donovan’s directorial debut, the hostage-themed drama Collaborator (co-starring David Morse) and Thom Fitzgerald’s lesbian road-movie Cloudburst (with Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker. Pictured, right).
Ravier points out that an individual’s vision, regardless of how idiosyncratic, is valued above all. “The desire to tell stories that are a little more personal is a constant in Canadian cinema, regardless of budget restrictions or some need to entertain as wide an audience as possible,” he observes.
His unofficial favourite this year is just such a work: Anne Émond’s Nuit #1 (pictured, top), a two-hander about the physical limits and emotional complexities of a one-night stand. “A brutally honest film, some of the most exciting, angry, rebellious cinema I have seen in a long time,” says Ravier.
Other fictional works in Possible Worlds that embrace a unique perspective include the rural-set family melodrama Wetlands, the stark character-study Francine (starring Oscar-winner Melissa Leo) and another Ravier favourite, War Witch, a coming-of-age drama set against a war-torn African landscape.
Canada’s documentary sector also displays its own singular mentality or, as Ravier puts it, “that need to really understand the world and not just accept the version on the 6 o’clock news or the mainstream media.” Highlights this year are: Surviving Progress, a vast study of existential meaning in the modern world; the Sundance hit Indie Game: The Movie (pictured, right), which examines the eccentric world of video game programmers; the Mount Everest odyssey, 40 Days at Base Camp; and a hip-hop doco on Senegalese rapper Didier Awadi, United States of Africa.
Sensing that our chat is becoming a little too-focussed on the weightier, issue-based segments of his festival, Ravier reminds us that Canadians, like Australians, enjoy a good laugh, too. To that end, he has included box-office smash Goon, a blue and brazen ice hockey comedy from Michael Dowse (Fubar) starring Jay Baruchel and Seann William-Scott (“It’s a sports film and it’s got everything you’d expect in a sports film but there is a hidden side-story that really takes you by surprise,” he offers); Roller Town, an ultra-kitsch send-up of the short-lived roller boogie scene from the early ‘80s; and the coming-out queer musical, Leave It On The Floor.
The 2012 event will also be the culmination of Ravier and his team’s Top 100 Canadian Film Countdown, which began many months ago via the website and social media outlets. “The aim was to remind film lovers all over the world that we know a lot more Canadian cinema than we think we do. We wanted people to realise just how impressive the body of work that Canadian cinema really is and how interesting and unique these films are,” says Ravier. The aim of the exercise was the same as that of Ravier’s film festival: to continue to grow the love and appreciation for the region’s filmmaking. “It is by no means a definitive or objective list,” he says, “but more just comes from a desire to share our love of Canadian cinema with as many people as possible.”
Visit the official website for more information on Possible Worlds.