“To be an artist means to never avert one’s eyes” – Akira Kurosawa. Former governor general Adrienne Clarkson references this quote to describe author Margaret Atwood’s ability to look at all the details, from the most horrible to the most beautiful. Through the films in this playlist, viewers can study the lives and work of literary icons such as Atwood and Leonard Cohen, whose writings have been translated for international audiences, and artists such as Francine Valentine, an observant 12-year-old poet and student whose powerful voice shines a light on the transformation of her community housing complex.
The poets in this playlist use their acute observations and imagination to connect with their readers through metaphor, imagery, symbolism, tone, setting and theme. Look closely at the world around you. What do you see? Using the poems in these films as examples, write a poem or create an art piece that explores a social or political issue affecting your life, family, neighbourhood or community.
Poet and novelist, Margaret Atwood is a household name. Yet few know the private Margaret Atwood. Who is the woman and writer behind these stories? Our film crew keeps pace with Atwood and her partner Graeme Gibson as she jets to speaking engagements around the world, visits the set of The Handmaid’s Tale and takes a family holiday. The film explores Atwood’s “backstory”, her early days in the Canadian wilderness and as a poet. Atwood’s novels are explored, including her latest, The Testaments, the highly anticipated sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. Personal stories are shared by friends, family and, of course, directly by Atwood herself.
This feature documentary presents a thoughtful and vivid portrait of a community facing imposed relocation. At the centre of the story is a remarkably astute and luminous 12-year-old black girl whose poignant observations about life, the soul, and the power of art give voice to those rarely heard in society. Unarmed Verses is a cinematic rendering of our universal need for self-expression and belonging.
This feature-length animated film centres around the story of Rosie Ming, a young Canadian poet invited to perform at a Poetry Festival in Shiraz, Iran. Rosie lives in Vancouver with her over-protective Chinese grandparents, and has never been anywhere on her own. But once in Iran, she finds herself in the company of poets and Persians, all of whom tell her stories about her past, the Iranian father she had assumed abandoned her, and about the nature of poetry itself. This is a film about love, finding your own path, and learning how to forgive.
This informal black-and-white portrait of Leonard Cohen shows him at age 30 on a visit to his hometown of Montreal, where the poet, novelist and songwriter comes "to renew his neurotic affiliations." He reads his poetry to an enthusiastic crowd, strolls the streets of the city, relaxes in this three-dollar-a-night hotel room and even takes a bath.
Eskasoni is the home of celebrated Mi’kmaq poet Rita Joe. This Cape Breton village is enjoying a revival of Indigenous traditions and spirituality which inspires much of Rita Joe's writing. For twenty years her poetry and her presence have touched thousands with dignity. This video is a celebration of the spiritual pride of the Mi’kmaq as embodied in Rita Joe's writings and her life.