SJIWFF25 – WEDNESDAY!

Hello, Internet, today is Wednesday, October 16th, and here’s what my day was like:

The LSPU Hall had a 3-screening, 2-reception day today. I worked from 11AM until the 9:30PM screening of the sold out Cast No Shadow, which I actually got to see! Hurray! But I writhed in jealousy as I watched a full compliment go upstairs for the short films at 7pm. Writhed.

There were 40 people at the Lunch Shorts today, and folks were raving about it as they came out. At 2pm, the ACTRA Newfoundland Branch held their AGM in the theatre (so far as I can tell, that wasn’t actually a festival event, just a cunning use of a time when folks are in town), and then presented the John Drainie Award to the incomparable Mack Furlong.

By the time folks had cleared out from that reception, there was a gathering of short-film goers for the 7pm screening. The crowd didn’t actually ebb until almost 7:10, when the last of the stragglers headed up to take in the screening.

Shortly thereafter, what might not be, but certainly seemed to be, the entire festival staff barreled into the building with banner bugs from their extensive list of sponsors, transferring the signage from a reception at the Christina Parker Gallery to the second space for a reception hosted by WIFT-AT – Women in Film and Television Atlantic. WIFT is a very cool organization that you should check out, and honestly, who doesn’t love the people who provide cupcakes and pink champagne in the middle of a busy day? Nobody, that’s who.

And then: a sold out screening of Cast No Shadow, and keeping true to my signature move of knowing nothing about the films in advance, I knew nothing about it in advance.

I found out during the introductory speeches that Cast No Shadow was written by Joel Thomas Hynes, a local writer, musician and actor of some renown. I also found out that it features Joel’s son, Percy Hynes White, who once trick-or-treated at my house by substituting “I’m a PIRATE!” for the more traditional phrase. That memory was dashed within the first, oh, 3 minutes of the film.

I have to say that throughout this film, I was struck by how recognizably “JTH” it was. (Sidenote: I just had a solid giggle when I glanced at those initials and, for a moment, compared him with the JTT of my childhood.) Hynes writes stories set in a Newfoundland that is hard, monochromatic and confining, a world entirely incongruous with the jellybean-row, sheets-on-the-clothesline province that we see in those gorgeous commercials. I also noticed that there were things that were awfully familiar… and one moment in particular, at a dance, made me furrow my brows, because I knew I had seen that before in JTH’s writing. Turns out I had: the film is based on Hynes’ Say Nothing Saw Wood, which is a story that you can buy in paperback, and one that I’ve seen on stage at least twice. So… I am a bit embarrassed, but hey. Full disclosure, right?

The story of this never-stood-a-chance, kleptomaniac kid with an overactive imagination who chews with his mouth open was delivered in browns and greys with remarkable attention to lighting. Percy really is lovely in it, and I’m not alone in thinking so: he won Best Actor at the Atlantic Film Festival. His work with Joel as his abusive father was pretty hard to watch, and I’m not sure how much of that discomfort is due to the knowledge that that’s actually his dad and how much of it is just that the scenes are mightily uncomfortable.

Young Jude meets a wild-haired woman in the woods, played by Mary-Colin Chisholm – brilliant actress and all-around very nice woman – and finally learns about his family and the world that was, perhaps before it became the dystopia he lives in now. Chisholm is astounding in this film, and it’s fascinating how she can flip from witch to kindly woman with a trick of the light.

Maybe my favourite part of Jude’s personality is the bit that I don’t remember from before: the things he steals, he paints gold, in preparation for the day when he might meet a troll and have to pay them off. It is impossible not to see Jude’s scrawny form as a child, and therefore the victim of his circumstance, even when he is at his worst, but his collection of concealed, spray-painted scavengings gives us a look at the child he could have been, if only things had not been quite so awful.