The following program has been curated for VUCAVU by NADINE VALCIN, a Toronto-based Producer, Writer and Director. Valcin's #GEOGRAPHIES2018 program titled Here and There includes five works that explore ideas about the places we come from and the places we come to inhabit. 

Valcin's selection is the first of four free curated programs that will be released from May until September 2018 and are part of VUCAVU's #GEOGRAPHIES2018 series which broadly reflects on notions of memory and identity as being connected to the physical; whether that be physical spaces, built architectures, the body landscape and the written word. The curatorial focus of the #GEOGRAPHIES2018 series is to cast new perspectives on what has already been named and defined. Geographies are existing physical entities that are often named and re-named, through active reflection on them with different lenses that are created and transformed through the passage of time.

** PLEASE NOTE : This program is free for a private single-user use only. Groups and institutions wanting to screen this program to the public can inquire about group rental rates at admin@vucavu.com.

We would like to acknowledge funding support from the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario. 

We also acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $153 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.

 

 
Nadine Valcin

Nadine Valcin
Producer, Writer and Director

"Here and There"
Essay by Nadine Valcin

Nadine Valcin is an award-winning bilingual producer, writer and director. Her factual and documentary work has been shown in Canada on CBC, CBC News Network, TVO, W, Artv, Réseau de l’information (RDI), Société Radio-Canada (SRC), TFO, as well TV One and the History Network in the United States.

She has directed four documentary projects for the National Film Board of Canada, including the critically-acclaimed Black, Bold and Beautiful (1999) and Une école sans frontières (A School without Borders, 2008). In 2016, her short experimental film Heartbreak was one of 20 finalists among over1700 submissions to the inaugural TIFFxInstagram Shorts Fest in 2016. Her current focus is on dramatic projects. She has written and directed three short narrative films and is developing two feature films as well as the virtual reality experience Ghosts of Remembrance about the forgotten history of slavery in Canada.

Nadine has been awarded numerous grants and prizes including two prestigious Chalmers Arts Fellowships and a Drama Prize from the National Screen Institute for the short film In Between. She holds a professional degree in architecture from McGill University and is an alumna of Doc Lab, Women in the Director’s Chair, and the National Screen Institute.  She was an artist-in-residence for the 2015-16 academic year at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University and the recipient of the 2016 WIFT-T/DGC Ontario Director Mentorship.

Here and There
An essay by Nadine Valcin


 

Our  understanding  of  ourselves  is  deeply  rooted  in  the  spaces  we  occupy.

- David  Hartt 

Here and There is a collection of five films that explores the places we come from and the places we come to inhabit. It is about the tension and transition between those two locations and the dislocation that ensues when we move from one to the other. The films embody spatial, temporal and cultural contrasts while giving voice to a diverse array of subjects: a Mauritanian chef, a young Cree woman, a Zimbabwean activist, several Haitians living in the Dominican Republic and displaced Indigenous peoples from northern Manitoba. 

The Salt Caravan by Maya Ombasic centres on Atigh Ould, the charismatic Mauritanian chef and owner of the Berber restaurant La Khaima in Montreal and his quest for the mythical salt that is at once a geological object and a seasoning imbued with a very specific flavour.

As the chef vividly describes the journey and the process that must be used to retrieve it from the Sahara Desert, the salt becomes the embodiment of longing and home. This mineral can only be found there, but can bring the flavours of home, back here.

The Salt Caravan emphasizes tension and dislocation by using only interior locations. We never actually see the streets of Montreal or the Sahara Desert but instead experience these geographic locations only through allusions. This cinematic choice also reinforces notion of confinement and distance, the condition of being trapped and only able to access the place of longing through memory and imagination.

Ould’s remarkable storytelling skills and the minimalist model of the caravan he constructs transport us to the Sahara Desert. The sand he so lovingly runs through his fingers becomes the signifier of the place he yearns for. The intimate film is shot in close quarters, looking inwards, shunning windows and exteriors. It emphasises close-ups over wider shots, accentuating the world that Atigh conjures inside over the outside world that surrounds him. The minimalist spaces we see him in are adorned with objects that evoke his homeland. They are at once interstitial spaces that are neither here nor there, and simultaneously overarching spaces that are both here and there. 

They are at once interstitial spaces that are neither here nor there, and simultaneously overarching spaces that are both here and there.

The celebratory mood of The Salt Caravan and its wistful recollections directly contrast the more sombre tone of This Halfway Place. In this first-person narrative, filmmaker-activist Gertrude Hambira documents her journey from Zimbabwe to Canada by recreating its last leg from Buffalo, New York to Niagara Falls, Ontario.

The film opens with her boarding a bus in the United States. We make the voyage with her through peaceful suburban streets to the bridge that is a link between past and present, here and there, her new life and everything she’s known before. Hambira tells her story with both emotion and restraint. Through her bus trip, we remain in close proximity to her stoic face. The only emotion we witness are a few tears she quickly and discreetly wipes from her cheek.

Archival images extracted from her prior documentary work serve as double signifiers, illustrating the conflict she is fleeing, but also her own work as an activist. Their colours are desaturated, a testament to the fact  that they belong to a different time and place. Their violence and urgency strikingly contrast the leafy suburban streets along her bus route, where calm is taken for granted.

Hambira uses several devices in This Halfway Place to create distance and show her alienation. She is isolated and seemingly alone on her bus journey, separated from the landscape by the bus window and from other passengers we never see. Aside from a brief appearance in her archival footage, she never directly addresses the camera. We hear her only in voice over, conjuring the events that led to her to flee her homeland.

The film ends as the bus crosses the bridge that presumably leads to Canada. The screen then fades to white; the blank slate of what is to come and the unknown before her.

We make the voyage with her through peaceful suburban streets to the bridge that is a link between past and present, here and there, her new life and everything she’s known before.
Still image from "Tashina", Caroline Monnet, 2010, Winnipeg Film Group

Caroline Monnet’s Tashina tells the story of a young Indigenous girl who is forced to leave her reserve in Northern Manitoba to pursue her high school education in Winnipeg. Director Caroline Monnet respectfully and delicately supports the first-person telling of the story by the eponymous main character. The film is a journey of contrasts between the landscape that has nurtured her and the rigid built environment of the school that comes to surround her.

Tashina starts with a close-up of an escalator moving upwards, accompanied by a drone-like sound. It is anonymous and percussive, yet also ominous. We don’t see where it comes from or where it leads. It is both a passage and a propulsive force. Beautifully shot, bathed with golden light, the image of the escalator is almost abstract in its rendering. Yet it is also cold and unwelcoming, relentless and mechanical in its motion and devoid of any human presence.

The escalator, a means of getting from here to there, is symbolic of the journey Tashina must take to access higher education. She must leave her community to gain the skills that will allow her to return and assist the people she cares about. The mechanical apparatus is in sharp contrast to the natural images of her home, with its expansive landscapes, a pristine river that flows surrounded by immaculate and undisturbed snowbanks.

These images of nature and its vast open spaces also contrast with the cold and confining interior of the high school she attends. A direct connection to the land is evident to where Tashina comes from, whereas the only nature we see in Winnipeg are a few trees seen through a window.

As Tashina tells her story, we hear fragility and longing in her voice. Her difficult and solitary journey is embodied by the images where we see her only from behind, wandering the school alone. We do not see her speaking on camera, but we hear her voice off screen, articulating her dislocation and reinforcing the tension and the dual nature of her experience as someone who is physically here but from there.

The physical distance that separates Tashina from her home is illustrated by a phone conversation she tries to have with her grandfather. His voice is distant, the connection crackles, and he is unable to hear her clearly. The link is already broken, despite her longing to connect; even technology fails to bridge the gap between the two places.

Tashina’s face is revealed only in one shot in the film, when the camera zooms out as she sits seemingly trapped between two rows of bookshelves, eventually becoming dwarfed by them. She is a small figure in a gigantic space, a young Indigenous woman trying to make her way through the numerous systemic barriers our country has built around her.

She is a small figure in a gigantic space, a young Indigenous woman trying to make her way through the numerous systemic barriers our country has built around her.

Kewekapawetan: Return After the Flood by Jennifer Dysart also starts with an expedition. This time, it is a voyage to South Indian Lake, a 13-hour drive north of Winnipeg, where the filmmaker visits relatives and participates in a community celebration of the land. The film starts with the last leg of her voyage on a boat, the seemingly peaceful and idyllic landscape glowing in the golden hour light. The invisible scars that mark the land are well hidden 10 feet under the surface of the lake, the result of flooding by Manitoba Hydro nearly a half century ago. 

Kewekapawetan is a film about erasure and memory. It’s also about finding a way back to a home that has been obliterated. The tension in the film lies in the invisibility of the very profound scar in the landscape and its devastating repercussions on the community. Dysart's film moves very skillfully between what was and what is, between the present and the past, and between official record and oral history to construct a powerful narrative.

Aside from the archival film footage of the community before the flood, the only remnants of that past are two archival photos of the house where the filmmaker’s father grew up. We see these several times in the film as they are put into context by different people. They are visual fragments of memory that serve as testaments to what was before and is no more. The rest of the past remains strongly anchored in living and oral histories among the elders of the community who can still remember the lake and their lifestyle before the flood. The gathering is an important opportunity to pass down their knowledge of the land to the young children who feature prominently in the film as eager recipients of that wisdom.

Although Kewekapawetan portrays Indigenous resilience in the face of adversity, Dysart’s father's refusal to return to the now-flooded site of his childhood home looms large over the film. The pain is too great for him to face. The here that nurtured him is no longer there. 

... Dysart’s father's refusal to return to the now-flooded site of his childhood home looms large over the film. The pain is too great for him to face. The here that nurtured him is no longer there.

In the documentary Citizens of Nowhere by Nicolas-Alexandre Tremblay and Régis Coussot, the notion of home is embroiled in issues of race, politics and economy. The film deals with the consequences of a law that rendered stateless close to 250,000 residents of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic.

Unlike the other films, Citizens of Nowhere isn’t structured around a personal journey, but instead takes a more journalistic approach, following multiple characters on different sides of the debate. Yet here again, landscape is an important signifier as views of mountains, palm trees, beaches and the ocean establish a seemingly peaceful tropical paradise. And here again, appearances hide the profound invisible scars that plague the island that was separated into two distinct countries with interconnected tumultuous destinies.

The tension and contrast are seen in the images and testimonies of Haitian immigrants and their descendants who live in batey – small, isolated and impoverished communities - and wealthy ultra-nationalist Dominicans who blame them for much of their country’s social and economic ills. Tremblay and Coussot follow the Haitian immigrants into their personal lives gathering intimate portraits of their daily routines while interviewing their critics in a more formal manner. The difficult stories of simple survival recounted by the Haitians are contrasted with the virulent contempt segments of the Dominican elite hold towards them. Community workers, journalists and other Dominicans with more balanced views contextualize the presence of the Haitians and support their fight for residency rights. 

Archival images of Dominicans beating the Haitians and burning down their homes in the aftermath of the legislation are brutal and difficult to watch. However, the most telling moment of the film is a quiet moment when the camera lingers uncomfortably on the silent faces of the leaders of the ultra-nationalist movement, seething with anger towards their chosen scapegoats.

Citizens of Nowhere shines a light on what it is to be stateless: the limbo that emerges when you lose your home, when you are no longer welcomed here, but have no there to go. 


 

We would like to acknowledge funding support from the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario. 



We also acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, which last year invested $153 million to bring the arts to Canadians throughout the country.



 

... appearances hide the profound invisible scars that plague the island that was separated into two distinct countries with interconnected tumultuous destinies.