Tag Archives: Sarah Polley

Polley attacks Bill C-10

Some of the biggest guns in Canada’s creative community – including Oscar-nominated actor/writer Sarah Polley – are heading to Ottawa today to protest against a controversial provision on film and TV tax credits now before the Senate banking committee.

The high-profile group of writers, producers, directors and actors say they will take the federal government to task for trying to push through an amendment to the Income Tax Act that could cripple the financial foundation that supports Canadian-made film and television.

“This legislation threatens freedom of expression as well as the very financial foundation upon which this industry was built,” Polley said yesterday. “Take that away, and many of us would be hard-pressed to understand the motivation to stay here.”

“The main reason that I choose to make films in Canada, and act in Canada, is because public funding allows a level of creative freedom that is simply not possible with private money,” Polley added, whose feature-film directorial debut, Away from Her, was nominated this year for two Academy Awards.

The actress’s comments come a week after Canadian Heritage Minister Josee Verner faced an onslaught of questions about why her department should have the power, as a provision proposes, to cut off tax benefits for productions that contain graphic sex, violence or other content that the government finds offensive.

Equally upsetting to Canada’s cultural sector is the fact that this so-called “morality hammer” applies only to Canadian TV and film projects. Hollywood and other foreign productions that apply for tax credits get a free pass.

“I can’t think of an issue that has galvanized people in the arts community the way this one has,” said Polley. And the idea that Bill C-10 applies only to Canadian productions and not to Canadian tax credits subsidizing American productions is “horrific,” she added.

“That’s one of the more amazing things about this bill. Why should Hollywood studios, who apply for our tax credits, not be subject to the same criteria? The whole thing is sloppy. Of course we shouldn’t invest in movies filled with excessive pornography or hate. That makes sense, and there are rules [under the Criminal Code] to prevent that. But there are a lot of things that have not been rigorously thought through.”

Actress Wendy Crewson (ReGenesis, 24, Air Force One), who is travelling to Ottawa on behalf of ACTRA, said the amendment affecting film and TV tax credits has to be re-addressed. “Freedom of speech is at stake,” she said. “It underlines the kind of dismissive attitude this government has to the cultural sovereignty of this country.”

The provision is buried in an omnibus bill that is primarily intended to implement the taxation of non-resident trusts and foreign-investment entities and implement amendments to the Income Tax Act.

Last week, Verner said she would wait a full year to wield new powers to deny film and television producers tax credits – should those powers be granted to her.

Under the amended legislation, the government would be able to pull financial aid for any film or TV show it deems to have crossed a line, even if other government agencies, such as Telefilm Canada, have already invested in them.

Verner told the committee she would allow members of the entertainment industry to draft guidelines to establish what would not qualify for the credits, and how those guidelines should be applied.

But sources in the production, legal and business community say that the proposed guidelines have already been drafted and a copy circulated internally. Verner’s office denies those reports.

Source: Globe and Mail

At 77, Pinsent on brink of international attention for role in ‘Away From Her’

TORONTO (CP) _ As Gordon Pinsent opens the door of his downtown condo with a welcoming smile, it’s easy to see why he was Sarah Polley’s first and only choice to play Grant, the devoted husband who watches his wife of 45 years sink into the thick fog of Alzheimer’s disease in "Away From Her."

The native Newfoundlander has all of Grant’s grace, his soft-spoken kindness, his gentlemanly manners despite still grieving the death in January of his own wife of 45 years, Charmion King.

Pinsent is even wearing the very same navy cable-knit turtleneck he wears throughout the powerful "Away From Her," a film adapted by Polley from an Alice Munro short story that’s already wowed critics at the Toronto, Berlin and Sundance film festivals in advance of its mainstream release May 4.

"She didn’t have much convincing to do," Pinsent, 77, says of Polley’s push for five years to make the film with him and iconic British actress Julie Christie in the lead roles.

"You know, you can be a working actor in this country all your life, and it’s just terrific, but you don’t always get the stuff that’s a bit more challenging."

He bursts into laughter when told audiences at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, were buzzing about his performance after taking in the movie there in January, wondering aloud where this unknown first-time actor had been discovered.

The notion that Pinsent, three years away from his 80th birthday, could be on the brink of international attention after 40 years as a stage and screen legend in Canada both tickles and astounds him.

"It’s a bit weird, actually, and funny," he says of the attention. "It feels fabulous. But I felt strange after the Toronto film festival as a matter of fact. At the time, I was saying to Sarah: ‘This is not right.’ We’re used to a little more negativity. I said: ‘My God, it seems abnormal. Nobody is saying anything bad about it."’

Talk that he and the luminous Christie _ the duo is perhaps one of the most attractive elderly couples to ever be seen on the silver screen _ could be in the running for recognition come awards season in Hollywood is now causing Pinsent to prepare for some hard work promoting the film.

"Lionsgate is certainly going to push it," he says. "As for nominations, who knows about all that except I do know that you have to be in shape to chase it down. I don’t feel like going to L.A. to stay, but if it’s useful to Lionsgate I’ll do whatever I have to do to push the piece."

Would he go to the Oscars?

"Oh sure!" he says as his blue eyes light up. "Even if Julie just wanted me to accompany her, I’d go."

"Away from Her" is a true tour de force for Pinsent, who’s in almost every scene playing Grant with a quiet and dignified despair. The one-time philanderer watches his wife, Fiona, immediately fall for another man after her dementia worsens and she asks to be admitted to a care facility.

Grant is haunted by suspicions that perhaps Fiona isn’t sick so much as she’s trying to get back at him, many years later, for his dalliances. But when Fiona falls into a life-threatening depression following her boyfriend’s departure from the facility, Grant unselfishly does what he can to save her.

"It’s a bigger job and a tougher job than maybe anything he’s ever done," Pinsent says. "And where does it go? Where does love go? Where do you go, the leftover?"

Those are questions that Pinsent is now intimately familiar with following King’s death on Jan. 6 after a battle with emphysema.

"It was something I wasn’t necessarily drawing on except in a general sense of how anyone must feel at a certain time of life after spending so many years with a partner," Pinsent says, blinking back tears. "It’s almost impossible to grasp. It was something that was absolutely unexpected and Grant was not necessarily equipped; nobody would be. How do you prepare?"

He admits he initially felt hopeless when his own wife died.

"When this happened in the family, I thought to hell with everything, I am going to run away from it all, nothing else could be important, it truly couldn’t," he recalls, again fighting back tears. "But I thought: I can’t do that. It will lessen her importance if I give up, because she wanted me to go on and do things and so on. And so I am writing and staying busy."

What attracted him to Polley’s script, he says, is how realistically it portrays the vagaries of a long marriage and how every union goes through good times and bad times to end up stronger in the end.

"I don’t know how interesting it would be in the case that it was total happiness from Day 1 for the entire length of time. I actually don’t think that’s possible. The difficulties from the past were something the two of them had quietly and nicely put aside because they had both grown up, in a sense. And she had waited for him to grow up. That’s what goes on in a marriage."

Pinsent couldn’t be more delighted with how the film turned out, he says, and has special praise for Polley, who marks her feature-film directorial debut with "Away from Her" after acting since childhood. He laughingly refers to her as "this old woman of the cinema" at the age of 28.

"She’s such a giving person," he says. "She’s had her hand at being an actress and a very unionized kind of a person, so she’s been very much giving as opposed to taking from this industry. She’s done very well as an actress and now as a director too, so the girl has just amazed us all."

Sarah Polley’s "Away From Her"premieres before emotional Sundance audience

SALT LAKE CITY (CP) _ Canadian actress and director Sarah Polley confessed to being nervous about how an American audience would receive her feature-film debut, "Away From Her," as she arrived for its Salt Lake City gala premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.

"It’s exciting to see how it will play outside of Canada," Polley said as she fought off jitters before taking to the stage at Salt Lake City’s downtown Rose Wagner Center to welcome the crowd and introduce her film.

"I have absolutely no idea."

"But this all feels like gravy," added Polley, 28, dressed in a red silk shirt and black pants.

"I was so happy to get to make the film in the first place, and I was so thrilled the reaction wasn’t horrible at the Toronto film festival, so this just feels like icing. I owe a lot to both these festivals."

Polley need not have worried that the film, a bittersweet love story about a couple married for 45 years and the intrusion of Alzheimer’s disease into their idyllic life together in rural Ontario, would flop here at Sundance. There was barely a dry eye in the house as the final credits rolled on the film late Friday night. Audience members not overcome with emotion cheered lustily.

"Away from Her" stars Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie, unspeakably lovely in her 60s, as Grant and Fiona, a couple still sweetly in love in their twilight years despite past infidelities and ups and downs in their long union. It’s based on a short story by Canadian literary star Alice Munro. When Fiona insists on being sent to a care facility when her condition worsens, a reluctant Grant goes along with it, only to watch her forget about him and become deeply attached to another man.

Grant, guilt-ridden about his own past affairs, is agonized, but after her new friend leaves the home and Fiona falls into what seems like a life-threatening depression without him, he does all he can to re-unite them and save his wife.

The 76-year-old Pinsent, the Newfoundland-born actor so familiar to Canadian audiences after decades as a beloved presence on stage, screen and television, is a revelation as Grant _ and someone Polley fervently wanted for the role.

Pinsent’s own wife of 44 years, Charmion King-Pinsent, died just two weeks ago at age 81, adding a particular pathos to the role.

"I feel like we all love him," Polley said on the eve of her trek to Utah to take in the 10-day festival in the nearby ski resort town of Park City where 10 other Canadian productions will be screened.

"He’s somehow part of the national psyche, but we do sort of take those people for granted sometimes, and we sometimes forget we have one of the best actors of his generation in our midst," she said.

"I was so excited to write that role for him when I read the story and saw him in it, and it was so obvious that you needed someone with that instant charm and that sense of who he is and who he was. He’s amazing."

The Sundance audience seemed to agree. One couple _ Catalina Corwin, 44, and Dennis King, 53 _ cuddled and kissed throughout the film, particularly during the many moving glimpses of the profound and selfless love Grant so clearly feels for Fiona.

"It was very moving, and I guess you could say a great date movie," said Corwin. She and King have been dating for a few months.

"It was really about true love, enduring love, and how it can survive so much," King added.

Another audience member said she was blown away by Pinsent’s performance.

"The actor, I had never heard of him before, but he was unbelievably good," said Linda Allen, 57, a Salt Lake City resident eager to catch the film when she read about it.

"He was really heartbreaking. And the film itself was so moving, it just had so much insight and sensitivity about growing older _ I was really surprised that someone so young was behind it."

Wayne Clarkson, head of Telefilm Canada, was delighted to see the film chosen as the Salt Lake City premiere gala.

"It’s not often you get to the mountains of Utah and watch the premiere of a magnificent Canadian film and take in a magnificent performance by Gordon Pinsent," Clarkson said following the premiere.

"It’s really a fantastic night, for Sarah, for Gordon and for Canada."

Sundance crazily supportive says Polley

TORONTO (CP) _ Sarah Polley couldn’t be more delighted that her first feature film, the powerful "Away from Her," is the choice for the Salt Lake City gala on Friday at this year’s prestigious Sundance Film Festival.

"They’ve been crazily supportive of me throughout my career and so it’s really nice to end up there with my first feature," Polley says of the way Sundance embraced some of her shorter cinematic pursuits before she adapted an Alice Munro short story into "Away From Her," starring Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie.

"I’ve always felt, oddly enough, like it was one of the only places I went where I was treated as a filmmaker and not an actress with a hobby."

Nonetheless, the Canadian actress and director is also well aware that the buzz a film generates at Sundance doesn’t necessarily translate into success at the box office _ and she doesn’t intend to worry about it while she hangs out in the ski resort town of Park City, Utah to take in some of the 10-day festival that starts this Thursday and ends Jan. 28.

"People lose a lot of sleep and waste a lot of energy trying to predict how a film will go over at Sundance, if people will like it, if it will get sold, what it will mean at the box office," Polley says.

"And if you just look at the statistics, and try to analyze something, all you can come up with is that it’s completely unknowable and not very interesting."

"Away from Her" tells the story of Grant and Fiona, a couple who have been married 45 years and, despite infidelity, are still sweetly in love only to find themselves torn apart by Alzheimer’s disease. It features astonishing performances by Pinsent and the ever-luminous Christie, and joins some 10 other Canadian productions appearing at the festival this year.

Polley has a point: some films _ like last year’s "Little Miss Sunshine," for example _ are buoyed by the attention and the buzz heaped on them during Sundance, while others have made big splashes at the festival but gone on to flop at the box office.

Sundance, long respected as a showcase for independent cinema, has come under criticism in recent years when dubious stars like Paris Hilton started showing up, much to the reported dismay of founder Robert Redford. It was Redford’s intention more than 20 years ago to start up a film festival that was decidedly anti-Hollywood and low on glitz.

None of that matters to Wayne Clarkson, head of Telefilm Canada who’s headed to Sundance on Thursday and vows to ski even though he’s never hit the slopes before in his life.

The important thing is the interest and publicity a high-profile festival like Sundance can bring to the Canadian film industry, he says.

"I think it’s the biggest year yet we’ve had in terms of total films represented and I love the eclectic tastes represented in all of them," Clarkson says.

Sundance, he adds, is the perfect place for Canadian films to make some waves.

"Sundance’s strength and power is independent American cinema so it works for us since so many Canadian films are independently produced," Clarkson says. "Films like ‘Fido’ and ‘Away from Her’ already have U.S. distribution deals, so for those films, Sundance is really just to generate interest and what publicity and promotion they can get. But for other films, their U.S. rights are still open and they’re trying to get bought in the States and internationally."

On that front, Clarkson believes "How She Move," a film from Ian Iqbal Rashid that tells the story of a teenaged girl from Toronto with an unlikely passion for step-dancing, has a strong chance of getting snapped up.

"It’s going to be interesting to watch given the No. 1 box office hit last week (‘Stomp the Yard’) was about step-dancing, and ‘How She Move’ is exactly that," he said. "It doesn’t have international or U.S. sales yet, and the timing is good and the subject is very hot."

The strong Canadian presence at Sundance, Clarkson says, also bodes well for 2007.

"I would hazard that the success in terms of the selections and the sheer volume of representation by Canadian films at Sundance _ that’s going to be sustained at Berlin and at Cannes," he said. "It’s going to be one of our most successful years, and I say that artistically and I say that commercially."

Polley agrees that something seems to be afoot in the Canadian film industry, recounting how she recently talked to a group of York University film students who were optimistic that they could make it big in Canada.

"They were are so excited about being Canadian filmmakers, and about staying here, and I’d never heard that," she says.

"There seems to be excitement around it. It’s a relief for me, as someone who’s been involved for the past six or seven years in the Canadian film industry and it wasn’t pretty. Just the idea that some kind of embarrassment has been taken out of the equation is a real relief and that Canadian films are kind of cool again … that’s really exciting."

Telefilm/Canadian selection at Sundance

Montreal, November 30, 2006 – Telefilm Canada is proud to announce that seven Canadian feature-length films have been officially selected at the prestigious 2007 Sundance Film Festival – the strongest Canadian line-up since 2003. Four of the Canadian filmmakers will be returning to the Festival for their sophomore year: Jennifer Baichwal (The True Meaning of Pictures: Shelby Lee Adam’s Appalachia; 2003), S. Wyeth Clarkson (deadend.com; 2003), Sarah Polley (I Shout Love; 2002) and Ian Iqbal Rashid (Touch of Pink; 2004). The 2007 Sundance Film Festival takes place in Park City, Utah, January 18¬-28.

“It’s a great honour having such an incredible year for Canadian cinema at Sundance,” enthused Wayne Clarkson, who will be attending the Festival for the first time in his capacity as Executive Director at Telefilm Canada. “Canada is also pleased to be at Sundance to take advantage of the sales, promotion, financing and networking opportunities.”

The Canadian contingent for the 2007 Sundance Film Festival is comprised of:
(short film line-up will be announced by the Festival on December 6, 2006)


Away From Her (US premiere)

Directed by Sarah Polley; produced by The Film Farm and Foundry Films Inc.; Canadian distribution by Capri Releasing; US distribution by Lionsgate Films; world sales by Hanway Films

Away From Her is a screen adaptation of Alice Munro’s short story, The Bear Came Over the Mountain. Grant moves his wife Fiona into a nursing home specializing in Alzheimer’s disease. But when he sees her again, she has forgotten him and turned her affection to another resident. Fiona becomes deeply depressed, prompting Grant to embark on his greatest act of self-sacrifice. Film premiered at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival as a Gala.

World Cinema Competition: Dramatic

How She Move (World premiere)

Directed by Ian Iqbal Rashid; produced by Sienna Films Inc.; Canadian distribution by Mongrel Media; world sales by Celluloid Dreams

16-year-old stellar student Raya is on the fast track to success until the unexpected death of her sister, a drug addict, changes everything. Scrambling for a way to clear her family’s financial hurdles, she turns to a most unlikely arena: the electrifying world of step dancing, a type of dance that combines jazz and hip-hop, with cheerleading, tap dancing and stomp moves.

Rêves de poussière (France/ Canada/ Burkina Faso coproduction; US premiere)

Directed by Laurent Salgues; produced by Athenaïse productions, Corporation ACPAV Inc., and Sahélis Production; world sales by Wide Management

Mocktar, a Nigerian peasant, comes looking for work in a gold mine in Northeast Burkina Faso. In this cage made of wind and dust, he hopes to forget the past that haunts him. While becoming familiar with his new life, Mocktar starts to loose his roots. Film premiered at the 2006 Venice Film Festival and has since garnered awards in Belgium and France.

World Cinema Competition: Documentary

Manufactured Landscapes (International premiere)

Directed by Jennifer Baichwal; produced by Mercury Films Inc., Foundry Films Inc., and the National Film Board of Canada; Canadian distribution by Mongrel Media; US distribution by Zeitgeist Films

Manufactured Landscapes follows Edward Burtynsky through China as he photographs the country’s massive industrial revolution. The film leads us to meditate on our impact on the planet, and shifts our consciousness about the world and the way we live in it. Winner of The Toronto City Award for Best Canadian Feature Film at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival.

On a Tightrope (Norway/Canada coproduction; North American premiere)

Directed by Petr Lom; produced by Piraya Film, Lom Films; world sales by Films Transit International

The daily lives of four children living in an orphanage who are learning the ancient art of tightrope walking becomes a metaphor for the struggle of the Uighur’s, China’s largest Muslim minority, who are torn between religion and the teachings of communism. World premiered in the Silver Wolf Competition of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.

Park City at Midnight

Sk8 Life (International premiere)

Directed by S. Wyeth Clarkson; produced by Travesty Productions; Canadian distribution and world sales by Travesty Productions+Releasing

Eight sk8rs are brought together to make the ultimate “sk8 tape.” Crashing at the legendary “Crashpad,” they soon discover its days are numbered and band together to save it. Landing tricks, evading security guards, and wild road trips fill their days, but it will all be for nothing if they can’t save the place they call home. World premiere at the 2006 Whistler Film Festival.

Fido (US premiere)

Directed by Andrew Currie; produced by Anagram Pictures Inc.; Canadian distribution by TVA Films; US distribution and world sales by Lionsgate Films

Welcome to Willard, a small town lost in the idyllic world of the 1950s, where the sun shines every day, everybody knows their neighbour, and rotting zombies carry the mail. What begins as a small town story about a boy and his best friend becomes a biting satare about our world, the price of fear, and the rewards of risking love. Fido will rip your heart out. Fido premiered in the Toronto International Film Festival’s Canada First! Programme

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