There has never been a better time to champion Canadian films than the present. If you haven’t done so, you can start with the world premiere of Seagrass at the Toronto International Film Festival at the Scotiabank Theatre on Friday, September 8th. Seagrass will also have a British Columbia premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival on September 29th at the Rio Theatre. We will try not to give too much away but it’s important that movie-goers around the world can experience the best of what we have to offer.
Award winning writer and director, Meredith Hama-Brown, weaves her own personal experiences into a story set on a fictional gulf island in 1994. The film was mostly shot on Gabriola Island with some locations in Ucluelet and Tofino and the scenery is absolutely stunning.
Meredith Hama-Brown told us the title Seagrass was initially from a deleted scene where Stephanie (Nyha Huang Breitkreuz) talks to her younger sister Emmy (Remy Marthaller) about how she got over her fear of swimming through seagrass. Although that seagrass is now hidden under the surface, the metaphor continues its grasp.
Meredith grew up in Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island. Although she enjoyed drama in school, a career in film and television seemed beyond her reach from a remote and somewhat isolated community. Once she graduated from Film and Television at the University of British Columbia, Meredith really started to blossom. She became a professional actor but her real passion remained writing and directing.
With Seagrass, Meredith Hama-Brown is able to honestly reflect on some very personal history while still creating an imaginary tale that floats along some very important issues.
One issue is imaginary friends due to introversion. If you have a heart, you’ll fall in love with Emmy, performed magically by Remy Marthaller.
With Emmy, you’ll be transported back to your childhood, when you just wished the other kids would play with you but you were too afraid of rejection to approach them. Maybe you had a toy or stick that became your best friend instead?
Grief is also a central theme. We know there are several stages but how does that keep coming up and how does one move forward while still honouring someone who has been lost? Judith (Ally Maki) has to overcome a lot of guilt which is a challenging struggle. Guilt is a good word to describe her anchor.
Racism is also something subtle that builds in the film and we can see how when miscommunicated, it can do real harm. Nobody likes to be called out on it but we are all prejudice. If you are unable to allow yourself to recognize your own shortcomings, how do you expect things to possible progress?
Vulnerability is crucial to this story. You will have to watch the movie to see how. A common challenge many writers have is creating believable and strong characters of the opposite gender. Steve (Luke Roberts) has the trappings of masculinity while maintaining likability and coming across as slightly sympathetic. He’s a complex father with many faults as well as strengths.
Pat (Chris Pang) served as a believable conduit to raise the stakes. He was able to create tension and drive a wedge in the family while maintaining good intentions.
The talented Nyha Huang Breitkreuz was able to use her professional dance background to add to Stephanie’s alluring persona.
As fellow West-Coast Canadians we can also be proud that Telefilm has gotten behind this movie. We can cross our fingers that this will lead to more British Columbia stories coming to the big screens in the near future.
If you aren’t able to attend the world premiere at TIFF, Seagrass is sure to be a VIFF screening not-to-be missed.