Fresh off two sold out screenings at the Hot Docs festival in Toronto and some very loud online buzz, The National Parks Project opens formally at The Royal in Toronto on Friday, May 20 for a full week long run of shows. The anthology film was conceived of as a project for Discovery Canada in conjunction with the centenial of Parks Canada and paired various Canadian filmmakers and musicians with some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. On Thursday May 19, the NPP kicks off it’s run with a special concert at The Royal featuring 15 of the musicians who have their music in the various films, including members of Broken Social Scene, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Do Make Say Think, and The Constantines. Tickets are a steal at $15 and the show starts at 9:30 p.m. with doors at 8:45 p.m. On May 20, the film will screen in it’s entirety with all 13 shorts running together much as it did at Hot Docs (also $15 and screening at 8:00 p.m.). For the remainder of the week, films will be divided into two programs and will be $10 for single shows and $15 for double bills. Check out The Royal’s website for full details.
Criticize This! caught up with the directors of two of the shorts within the project. Peter Lynch, possibly best known for his work on the 1996 documentary Project Grizzly, traveled to Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta to film Paahtomahksikimii (The Place Where Lakes Go Into The Mountain) along with musicians Laura Barrett, Cadence Weapon, and Mark Hamilton. Jamie Travis, who had previously only made short fictional films including the Patterns and The Saddest Children in the World trilogies, went to Kouchibouguac National Park in New Brunswick with musicians Ohad Benchetrit, Don Kerr, and Casey Mecjia to create the only narrative short of the series, Mystic Morning. Together they talked about their vastly different relationships with the wilderness, the challenges of composing a film based around both nature and music, and how The National Parks Project is different from anything either of them had previously attempted. When the film is divided into two sections for it’s exhibition, Peter’s film will screen in Part 1 and Jamie’s will screen in Part 2.
Andrew Parker: What drew you guys to The National Parks Project and how were you approached to do it?
Jamie Travis: I got a call one day from Geoff Morrison, one of the producers who I had known from the film scene for years, and he put this offer on the table that was pretty irresistible and also pretty scary because this is not what I do. I am not a documentary filmmaker. I don’t go outside into the wilderness very much. There were many risks involved that were just really exciting to me. I sort of wanted to challenge my ways of filmmaking so I just couldn’t say no.
Peter Lynch: With me, Ryan Noth, one of the producers, told me about the project early on in it’s inception. He had worked with my wife as an editor on a number of projects so I just sort of gave him feedback on his early ideas and then a couple of years later he just told me that they were ready to go. I was pretty excited about that and I just have an interest in nature and music and this project was just a great way to fuse those two passions. National Parks are powerful places and the particular park I chose had a lot of family history on my wife’s side. In a way, it was a bit of a love letter to the family as well.