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Ingrid Veninger brings i am a good person/i am a bad person

AFF Day 6

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When I read blurbs describing a movie as the product of “experimental filmmaking,” it tends to put me on high alert. I’m either going to see some out-of-left-field brilliance or, more often than not, some pretentious twaddle. Those things aren’t mutually exclusive, either---many times they appear in the same movie.

As such, I went to the screening of Ingrid Veninger’s i am a good person/i am a bad person last night with an attitude cocktail of optimism and trepidation. Veninger (Modra, Nurse/Fighter/Boy) was there in person, along with her daughter and co-star Hallee Switzer, and before the screening described how she was trying to be “braver” with each movie. Experimental? Bravery? This could go either way.

As it turned out, Veninger’s latest film, while far from perfect, had far more going for it than against it. For one thing, it's a very simple but affecting story, which has Veninger playing a filmmaker who takes her teenage daughter along on a tour of European festivals. Both women are searching for something they can’t quite explain to each other, their private thoughts keeping them disconnected from each other on what should be a mother-daughter bonding trip. Eventually they split up and, if they don’t quite get what they want, they at least get the catharsis of facing certain truths.

Veninger, the actual filmmaker, has a great sense of humour about her character, who’s doing the festival circuit with a movie that concludes with dozens of isolated shots of penises. The woman, Ruby White, is actually less mature than her daughter, and it’s fun to watch the real-life mother-daughter team play these reverse roles.

The movie also looks great, especially considering it was shot digitally on a cheap, fast schedule while Veninger and Switzer actually were festival-hopping with Modra earlier this year. Veninger stayed after the screening to explain how the movie was made, a process that included a hastily-written script and impromptu filming in Berlin, Paris and Bradford, England. Bit parts were cast via Skype, scenes were shot wherever Veninger felt the right vibe and several takes had to be redone due to people in the background looking at the camera, unaware that a movie was being filmed.

This is what Veninger meant by “experimental,” and considering the practical constraints, it’s impressive that she’s come up with something so accessible and accomplished. The film does meander along at times, making its 82-minute running time feel much longer, but it’s an enjoyably off-the-cuff take on the nature of art and family.

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