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Another screening tomorrow of Before Tomorrow

Film festivals come complete with film reviews, with the book of one-paragraph synopses and the smaller booklet of one-liner descriptives telling potential movie-goers about different films. I'm familiar with the books and material and I wrote four of the one-paragraph blurbs in the festival guide (so that's four films I can knock off my list.) When trying to decide what to attend, everyone asks people on the street, tries to get the angle on the latest buzz or peruses all the written or online material to make selections and come up with a plan for a screening or a day. That's one method.
The other method is the taking a chance, walking in blind, choosing based on the enticement of the film's title or the convenience of the screening time. There's an adventure to seeing a film of any kind, but especially one for which I've read no reviews and don't know any of the actors, where it takes place, or even the slightest hint of the story. If, as the viewer, I'm drawn in and won over, then it is really good moviegoing.
Friday morning, 10:00 am. My first film of the festival (although not my earliest, as I'm planning some 8 am views). At first thought, it seems like a decadent time to go to a movie. Somehow illicit, like we were cutting class or skipping out of school. And we weren't even ducking out of responsibilities to go to a matinee, but to a film that started before noon. The thing that made it feel the most like we should be at a movie, inside a theater, as opposed to anywhere else in town was the rain. In good film festival style, it was raining. Since it was raining, we should be at the movies. Perfect.
Before Tomorrow (Le Jour Avant Le Lendemain). French. Okay, that sounds good. I heard the foreign flicks this year are worth seeing. But wait, the only French in this film were in the credits, telling us the film was made in Quebec. The dialogue was in an Inuit language, with English subtitles. Directed by a pair of women who worked on the lauded Canadian film Antanarjuat: The Fast Runner: Marie-Hel~Ane Cousineau and Madeline Ivalu. Ivalu also stars in the film as the grandmother, with her grandson on screen and off, Paul-Dylan Ivalu.For more about _ The Fast Runner_, visit The Fast Runner . Before Tomorrow came to Santa Barbara via the Toronto Film Festival , where it won the Best Canadian First Feature Film for Cousineau and it has just left the Sundance Film Festival where it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize. The story of the making of the film can be found on their Web site, by clicking here.
Shot in northern Quebec, produced by
Igloolik Isuma Productions (responsible for The Fast Runner, and founded to tell Inuit stories in Inuit voices) and the film collective Anait Video Productions in an effort to document Inuit women's stories, we follow Ninioq and Maniq in an intense story of survival, sorrow and joy through an exploration of how cultural stories are told and legacies shared.
I felt moved, disturbed, close to tears, joyous throughout the film. It was a meditation on life and death, silence and music. Meticulously conceptualized and filmed, the viewer is transported to the Arctic on the eve of life changing inexorably for the people there, the first signs of which were metal needles and smallpox. That being said, this isn't a film of conquest or contact, but of community and the beauty of life. We're seduced by wide expanses of tundra, of watching seals, of close-up shots carefully documenting the intricacies of everyday life in the far north and the harsh realities of waiting by an air hole, chewing skins, sewing boats. But there were moments in the narrative I was left wanting a little bit more, like the moments we see Maniq holding the puppies he would train to be his sled dogs before they disappear without a trace. And the ending was just a little too vague. But still, the stark beauty of life and death, family and tribe tells an elegant story of what comes before tomorrow.
The next showing of Before Tomorrow is Wednesday morning: Schedule.
For more of our Film Fest 2009 blog, go to independent.com/filmfest2009

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