Cannes screening a major boost for N.L. director

Newfoundland director Deanne Foley still can't believe that her second feature-length movie Relative Happiness will be hosting its world premiere on May 20, as part of a showcase of Canadian productions.
Australian actor Melissa Bergland is seen on the set of Relative Happiness in Hubbards, N.S. in November. The romantic comedy is directed by St. John's-based Deanne Foley. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Newfoundland director Deanne Foley still can't quite believe it's true.

Her second feature-length movie Relative Happiness will have its world premiere May 20 as part of a showcase of Canadian productions running parallel to the Cannes Film Festival in France.

Telefilm Canada selected the movie to be shown along with 15 others as part of its Perspective Canada-Cannes program from May 15-22. It's a rare opportunity that will give the film exposure to buyers, sellers and producers from across the globe, Foley said.

"It puts a spotlight on the film," said the St. John's-based director. She is now finishing post-production after a 16-day shoot in the Halifax area last fall. "It will be down to the wire, as they say, before we send the film off for the Cannes screening.

"I would be over the moon if we were picked up by an international distributor and sold to countries around the world  It's like the mecca of the film worlds."

Based on the novel of the same name by Cape Breton writer Lesley Crewe, Relative Happiness tells the story of Lexie Ivy, a 30-year-old woman who is successful, witty and independent but has so far been thwarted in her quest for true love. She embarks on a twisted romantic journey when two men wind up at her bed and breakfast in rural Nova Scotia.

"Lexie's a little bit lost in the woods when it comes to love," said Foley. "And I think there's a lot of women out there who are independent, they have their career together and they're happy and satisfied in the life that they've created but they still want to share with someone."

Second feature film for director

With a budget of $1.25 million, Relative Happiness is Foley's second feature film after Beat Down, a funny, poignant movie about a young woman's dreams of pro wrestling. It screened in 2012 to critical acclaim across Canada, the U.S. and Europe.

Foley hopes to build on that success with Relative Happiness and a cast that includes Australian actress Melissa Bergland of the TV drama Winners & Losers in the lead role of Lexie. The film also features Susan Kent of This Hour Has 22 Minutes who plays Lexie's best friend, Susie, and Johnathan Sousa of Rookie Blue as Adrian.

Robb Wells, known as Ricky of Trailer Park Boys fame, appears in a cameo role.

Crewe, 58, started writing books at the age of 50. Relative Happiness was her first novel and was released by Nimbus Publishing in 2005.

"I never anticipated any of this," she said from Homeville, N.S., a tiny Cape Breton community southeast of Sydney.

"It's just mind-blowing. I wrote the damn thing in my bathrobe in the basement. It was just like a diary run amok."

It still seems surreal that the film will be seen at Cannes, said Crewe, whose seventh novel comes out this summer.

"Things can happen. You don't have to be young and beautiful and thin to have good things happen to you."

Foley hopes the screening at Perspective Canada-Cannes will be the start of a busy film festival circuit for Relative Happiness. Making an independent movie is no small feat, but getting it before audiences is another major challenge, she said.

"It is a huge problem and I think every indie filmmaker across Canada feels frustrated by that. I don't think we can possibly compete with American blockbusters.

"It's a tough marketplace. But at the same time, I feel every good story finds a home."