Teresa MacInnes, British Columbia born-and-raised, has been a Nova Scotia resident for seven years. She came to filmmaking through social work, and found that by telling stories through the lens she was able to make more of a difference in people’s lives.
“After a couple of years in social services you realize very quickly the perpetuation of problems,” she says. “I discovered the power of mixing social issues with video-making, and giving people a voice.”
She is one of the many filmmakers presenting work in Halifax at the ViewFinders International Film Festival for Youth, the five-day festival now in its fifth year. Whether by intent or accident, the program is weighted with documentaries and socially aware fare, with no dearth of Nova Scotia-based talent on and behind the camera.
In 2001 and 2002, MacInnes directed two NFB documentaries about violence in public schools called Learning Peace and Waging Peace. That led her to focus her films on people who were approaching social problems from a proactive stance rather than just wrestling with their consequences. Teaching Peace in a Time of War, from 2004, is MacInnes’ film about Hetty Van Gurp, a woman whose son was killed in a bullying incident. “She decided to try and help schools practise peace education versus getting bitter,” says MacInnes. “She went to Serbia to try and implement some of her ideas over there. We followed her, went to Serbia three times, and made the film.”
Teaching Peace showed at last year’s ViewFinders and Atlantic Film Festival. At a screening, Van Gurp inspired a group of St. Pat’s students to raise money and join her on another Serbian trip. A number did, along with other students from around Nova Scotia and across the country (“We were touring the film, and we went to Vancouver and Montreal to different screenings and at both of them we picked up a couple of students,” says MacInnes). This year she and her producer/husband Kent Nason present Hope for the Future, the documentary that follows the 32 students who went to Serbia in an attempt to promote peace and attend a Youth-to-Youth conference in March 2005. The students haven’t stopped there: “They established an organization they call Students for Teaching Peace and they started fundraising last year and went to Belfast this last March break, 2006.”
The kids aren’t only socially conscious, many have ambitions to be filmmakers themselves. Nineteen-year-old Shawn Wilson was a grade 12 student at Eastern Shore District High when the project started. He’s now at SMU. “I’ve always been interested in film,” he says. “And when the opportunity was put forth to my film and video class to go another country to possibly do a film while we were there, I couldn’t say no. Serbia was a trip I’m still processing to this day—the differences between what the children there have gone to compared to what we have gone through. We learned from the people—we’re right in the middle of it.”
Newfoundland-born, Concordia-educated filmmaker Eva Madden’s bread and butter is as a sound designer at local Power Post productions, having done sound in film and TV productions in Vancouver on shows such as The X-Files. Her three-and-a-half minute film Maximum 50 will be appearing in ViewFinders’ Reel Issues short program.
It came out of a workshop through the AFF and the Nova Scotia Film Development Corporation. She was given one 50-foot cartridge of Super-8 film and two days in which to make her movie, but was not allowed to edit it, working on the soundtrack independently.
“That’s where the title comes from, because we had 50 feet of film to work with,” she says. Deciding to maximize her stock by doing a time lapse, or stop-motion, film, she shot runners at the 25th annual Terry Fox marathon in Halifax. “I wanted to follow some action, and document something. I really went on instinct, I’d never done that before, I really was just guessing.
“Serendipitously, it turned out really, really well.”
Madden uses a narration taken from Terry Fox’s journals in the film. “He wrote some amazing stuff. His attitude was ‘I’m doing this because it needs to be done.’ I found that inspiring—sometimes you just have to act.”
ViewFinders International Film Festival for Youth, April 18 to 22 at The Oxford and Bayers Lake Cinemas, $6.50-$8, 422-6965, www.atlanticfilm.com