One of the great things about festivals like the Halifax Independent Filmmakers Festival (HIFF) is its variety.
From the 14-hour (yes, that is not a typo) La Flor from Argentinian filmmaker Mariano Llinás to Mark Jenkin’s BAFTA-nominated 16mm black & white drama Bait and Ja’ Tovia Gary’s cinematic poem The Giverny Document, there is something for almost any film lover.
Moving online in 2020 due to the pandemic, this year’s HIFF runs from November 12-15.
“Like all festivals this year, HIFF was challenged with cancelling outright or moving online,” says HIFF’s festival coordinator, Tara Thorne. “Though film is best experienced in a proper theatre, it’s also the most adaptable medium for home viewing. We’ve made all the festival events free this year and we’re hoping to reach cinephiles and filmmakers across the province through our online platform.”
Featuring a line-up of ten feature films and three shorts programs, while the Festival draws films from all corners of the globe, local independent filmmakers are also in the spotlight.
Among the locals is Halifax-based filmmaker Dawn George who screens her experimental film short Anthology for Fruits and Vegetables as part of this year’s Atlantic Auteurs program.
Exploring the essence of 26 fruits and vegetables, George used eco-processing and eco-reversal based on techniques pioneered by Dr. William Scott from the Rochester Institute of Technology to develop the individual films shot on 16mm and Super 8.
“I would film the vegetable, and then I would take that vegetable, cut it up and boil it down to get a tea from it,” she explains. “Then, I would mix the tea with vitamin C and washing soda, and I would get a developer. I would go through the same process with each vegetable to develop each film.”
Creating a negative using this technique, George further developed the film in an eco-reversal process to get a positive image for each film.
“Usually, this can be a pretty heavy chemical process, but you can also do it with things that are a little gentler on the environment,” says George. “I used hydrogen peroxide, vinegar and water, exposed the film to light and redeveloped it again in the tea.”
But while the method of processing may be a draw for some viewers, George says the enjoyment in watching her film isn’t contingent on understanding how it was made. She also doesn’t want to scare audiences away by being labelled as an experimental filmmaker.
“I think sometimes it can be frightening because you don’t want to feel stupid watching something,” she admits. “But there are also narrative films that people find boring. Not everyone is going to love it, but a lot of people will and maybe someone who has never had an experience with experimental film will see it and think it is a cool way to see film and a new way to see art”.
Drawn to conveying ideas through abstract images, George says it was watching music videos as a child that first sparked her interest in becoming an experimental filmmaker.
“I loved that you could find a feeling, a message or even a story in more abstract images,” she says. “And not someone telling you what you should be seeing, but getting a sense of a feeling or a place or message just through the images and sound.”
Humour is also important and is something George says she uses quite often in her films. She also believes more experimental films could benefit from using it.
…maybe someone who has never had an experience with experimental film will see it and think it is a cool way to see film and a new way to see art.
– Halifax filmmaker Dawn George
“People can relate to humour,” she says. “I’ve been in a theatre, and people laugh at the vegetables. It is a very bizarre experience when you think about it, but obviously, the combination of images and sound connecting with the fruits and vegetables on the screen can be funny.”
George says the Halifax Independent Film Festival is an excellent opportunity not only to see some great films but to also celebrate the local filmmaking community.
“[Audiences] will get to have an intimate experience with the filmmakers and see some stellar films,” she says. “I think HIFF’s programming is pretty amazing.”
As for her film, George invites audiences to see 26 fruits and vegetables as you’ve never seen them before.
Dawn George’s Anthology for Fruits and Vegetables plays as part of the Atlantic Auteurs program at the 2020 Halifax Independent Filmmakers Festival on November 13. Visit eventive.org for more information.