Rites of passage

FILMS WORTH WATCHING by Robert Alstead

Ellar Coltrane as Mason in Boyhood
Ellar Coltrane as Mason in Boyhood. Courtesy of IFC Films.

• Last month, Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave his approval for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline. After years of government hard-sell and a blitz of pro-pipeline advertising in BC, the PM’s last-minute, tepid approval of the 1,200km pipeline from the tar sands came as some surprise. As crowds roared defiantly in downtown Vancouver against the pipeline, such has been the strength of opposition that the government didn’t even field spokespeople to defend its decision.

There have been a number of documentaries that look at the environmental dangers posed by the proposed pipeline through some of BC’s most splendid and remote landscapes. One I came across lately on Vimeo was the 35-minute Casting a Voice: Pipelines, Bitumen & Wild Fish, free to view at https://vimeo.com/78876102 It provides an intimate perspective from Northern BCers who fish the giant, wild steelhead salmon of the Skeena River. Dimitri Gammer’s lovingly made film captures the rugged beauty of the area, but also highlights the dangers the terrain poses for the local ecology and businesses that depend on it. “In this country, the tops of mountains can break off and roll down into the valleys,” says author Rob Brown. “It’s the worst location.”

Free, open-air screenings are back at Stanley Park this month, beginning with the recently released, fun, family film The Lego Movie (Tuesday 8th), along with a series of older classics such as Footloose, Pretty in Pink and Dumb & Dumber. The open-air series runs Tuesdays from July 8 to September 2 at Second Beach. Shows start “at dusk” so pull up a blanket in front of the inflatable screen. The films are put on by a company called FreshAirCinema although, ironically, the main sponsor is still a major oil company. More info at www.freshaircinema.ca/summercinema/movies.html

Making the aging process authentic on screen can be tricky given it is usually accomplished by having different actors play the same character. So in 2002, pioneering director Richard Linklater cast a six-year-old boy for a drama about growing up called Boyhood and then went back for a few days each year until 2013 to continue the story. Here, the boy, Mason (Ellar Coltrane), his older sister (the director’s daughter Lorelei Linklater) and divorced parents (Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) age before your eyes.

With his celebrated The Up Series, Michael Apted has documented the lives of the same kids every seven years, starting when they were seven-years-old in 1964 up to the most recent 56 Up. But that was documentary and the 164-minute Boyhood weaves a story of Mason’s growth from first grade to leaving for college.

Along the way, we see Mason dealing with the turmoil of parental discord, family moves, new schools, first loves, lost loves, and so on. The film includes a soundtrack spanning the years from Coldplay’s Yellow to Arcade Fire’s Deep Blue, years in which Harry Potter, Obama and Tropic Thunder become part of the vernacular. “In a way, the film became a collaboration with time itself,” says Linklater.

The film, which is set mostly in Houston, Texas, won the Silver Berlin Bear for best director at Berlin and the Louis Black “Lone Star” Award at SXSW in Linklater’s home city Austin, Texas. It’s out on July 25.

Robert Alstead is making the documentary Running on Climate. Crowd-funding campaign donations are welcome at www.fund.runningonclimate.com

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