Finnish filmmaker Katja Gauriloff has had quite a run this year. Her first feature length documentary film Canned Dreams had its international premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year, where ImagineNATIVE Film +Media Arts Festival's Jason Ryle first saw the film and was "completely blown away."
Gauriloff, 40, was born in Inari, Northern Lapland, where her grandmother is a famous Skolt Sami traditional storyteller. She studied film directing at the Tampere University of Applied Sciences, School of Art and Media and has been involved in filmmaking for over 14 years.
She last presented her work at Toronto's ImagineNATIVE festival back in 2008: A Shout into the Wind followed the lives of the Skolt Sami, an endangered people trying to survive and striving to hold onto their indigenous lifestyle in the harsh climate of northern Finland. The verité documentary was her first foray into the genre. Her fourth film, it is an evocative and thought-provoking reflection on the struggle of indigenous peoples striking the balance between traditional and modern life.
Her latest film, Canned Dreams, screened earlier this spring at Toronto's Hot Docs film festival, which is co-presenting it at imagineNATIVE Film.
Canned Dreams is an intense look at processed food and its production. Gauriloff's gaze is neutral and she takes a humanist approach as she travels across Europe and South America to discover the unique journey of each ingredient in a can of ravioli: from metal mined in Brazil for the tin to the wheat produced in Ukraine and the pork from Romania for the pasta. The audience is offered glimpses of factory facilities that might cause one to question our penchant for processed foods.
In Portugal, we learn that a woman who picks tomatoes dreams of staying healthy enough to work so she can afford to send her daughter off to university, where "she can achieve what I could never achieve."
A Romanian young woman who prepares pigs to be slaughtered wants one day to be a beautiful bride in a pretty dress and makeup, though in reality she is in an abusive common-law relationship with the father of her child. She works to keep her child in diapers and afford abortions when necessary.
Lisa Charleyboy is Tsilhqot’in from the interior of British Columbia. Currently living in Toronto, she's a freelance writer who has written for Indian Country Today, THIS Magazine, and MSN Canada. Sharply savvy in the ways of social media, her blog Urban Native Girl presents pop culture with an indigenous twist. Follow her ImagineNATIVE Festival coverage on CBCNews.ca/arts.
Each scene is visceral. Gauriloff shot Canned Dreams in 16mm and had to carefully plan her shoots as she only had a day or two in each location.
One of the most powerful moments in the film is at a processing plant in Romania where pigs are electrocuted and their throats slit before they're sent for slaughtered. A man who works in the plant says that it took him more than three months to get used to killing the animals, and that even after having killed around 15,000, his heart still cringes.
"I still think of it, and then I think of my family," he says. "Without this sacrifice, what am I going to put on my table?"
After an hour and a half of watching these far-flung stories behind just one example of processed canned food, one begins to question what exactly we're putting on our tables to feed our families.
"If there was one film that I’d like to see again is Canned Dreams," says Ryle, executive director of ImagineNATIVE.
"It’s an incredible documentary, really masterfully made, and the content of the documentary is very current. It’s a film that we can all relate to, but it’s also something that we’ve never really considered before. I really like work that takes something everyday and completely flips it and makes us think about things that we never thought about, and that’s what Canned Dreams does."