FILM REVIEW: National Parks Project
- May 20, 2011 12:59 PM |
- By Eli Glasner
An iceberg in Sirmilik National Park, depicted on film by director Zacharias Kunuk. (National Parks Project)
So there I was, heading home after a preview screening of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and all I could think of was getting back to the haunting visuals of The National Park Project.
If there's an antidote to the summer season of cinematic silliness that's now upon us, it could be this project: a soaring and, at times, almost abstract series of short films exploring Canada's national parks.
For the series, organizers sent out groups of musicians paired with Canadian filmmakers. They paddled, backpacked and stomped their way into different national parks, one for each province and territory.
The result is several inspired match-ups. Jim Guthrie, Sarah Harmer and Bry Webb of the Constantines set out to capture the Gwaii Haanas National Park Preserve with director Scott Smith. While his camera bobs on the waterline, Harmer strums and sings along. Scenic vistas that appear as it lifted straight from a Group of Seven painting. The film ends on a mountain in silhouette, with only a sudden puff from a surfacing whale breaking the stillness.
With 13 short films in total, there are too many moments to catalog, but indulge me as I share a few more highlights.
- Sirmilik National Park in Nunavut is depicted on film by Zacharias Kunuk (Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner), set to music by Andrew Whiteman and Dean Stone of indie group Apostle of Hustle and featuring throat singer Tanya Tagaq. The screen is a wash of white spaces mixed with the odd urban counterpart, say a basketball court sitting on the edge of the ice, with kids playing a game of pick-up. Mixed in throughout is an elder talking about changing weather patterns and his fading powers of prediction.
- In Nahanni National Park, located in the Northwest Territories, Jace and Olga of The Besnard Lakes jam with rapper Shadrach Kabango, aka Shad. Audiences get a couple of guitars, some speakers and wide-open spaces with heavy clouds looming in the distance.
- Perhaps my favourite segment comes from Peter Lynch, director of the documentaries The Herd and Project Grizzly. Kalimba wiz Laura Barrett, Woodpigeon's Mark Hamilton and Rollie Pemberton (rapper Cadence Weapon) provide the soundtrack for a look at the land where the buffalo once roamed: Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta. You can almost feel the wind as the camera shakes while capturing the open plains. The music begins with drumming as Lynch zooms his lens onto individuals posing alongside bleached animal skulls. The drums morph into an indie-rock, honky-tonk stomp as Cadence Weapon repeats the phrase: "I don't want to play the new songs."
I could go on, but with since there's a fantastic website with each short film in full, you can check it out for yourself. With so many artists and so much ground to cover, some repetition does sneak in. But all in all, it's an inspiring new way of looking at Canada's original sacred spaces.
RATING: Four snow-peaked mountains out of five.
Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site as seen from the air in director Scott Smith's short film Looking Around Without Blinking. (National Parks Project)
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