Play It Again (And Again, And Again)

Do filmmakers get bored of their own work?

Caught the Atlantic Shorts program yesterday, a five-film selection that included Tarek Abouamin's Gawab, a thoughtful, introspective piece that examines how family connections and cultural environment can pull at different ends of the rope when it comes to an immigrant's sense of identity. I found it even better the second time than the first (the same cut played at the Halifax Independent Filmmakers Festival in the spring).

Better the second time. That got me thinking: if that was my reaction, how did Abouamin, who must have been seeing the film for the zillionth time, feel about it? It's something most of us probably don't think about - I know I don't - but being that filmmakers have to make and watch endless cuts of their movies, some of them must be utterly sick of their work by the time anyone else sees it.

Not Tarek, though. He says the screenings are a little painful, but not because of the movie is mind-numbingly familiar.

"It's still hard for me because the emotions are still the same," he said. "On a technical level, it's hard for me to critique it because the emotions get in the way.

Well, so much for that theory, at least as it applies to very personal documentaries.

As for the rest of yesterday's shorts program, it was a real mixed bag that, if it was played in order of production value and sophistication, could almost be seen as representing the development path of a budding filmmaker. There was an extremely raw student film (Trip), a cute, modest short about people jumping over stuff (Being Parkour), a curious but competent doc about a guy who makes art out of chewing gum on the sidewalks of North London (The Chewing Gum Man) and, at the top of the food chain, the slicker work by Abouamin and Eva Madden-Hagen, whose Winter Wave Riders provided a glimpse of what's to come at the inaugural Canadian Surfing Film Festival.

I had a chance to talk to Madden-Hagen afterward at a CSFF launch party. She was supposed to be participating in a discussion panel with fellow surf filmmaker Yassine Ouhilal. But Ouhilal had to bail - apparently the surf was too good yesterday and there were riders to be captured on film.

That somehow seemed appropriate. Surfers surf. They don't do discussion panels. And as Madden-Hagen told me, "You can't schedule waves."

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