Our deteriorating environment, the crash of ‘08 and conflict around the world were recurrent themes in this year’s crop of Prairie Tales submissions. If that apocalyptic subject matter doesn’t sound very cheery, rest assured that our province’s media artists have found engaging, entertaining and, more often than not, amusing ways to treat this material. Of course it’s not all politics and monsters in this year’s program, but even those works that focus on the eternal theme of the human condition often bear the translucent watermark of our uncertain times.
Witness Caitlind r.c. Brown’s s p a c e, the experimental piece with which Prairie Tales 12 lifts off: it’s a metaphorical love story that asks flat out, “Where are we going?” Wherever it is we’d better hope it’s not to the world of James Cadden’s Escape from Death Planet, unless we’re watching the carnage from the safety of a rescue shuttle.
The creative team that is DROOLART takes us into deep space in another sense entirely with a wild ride through four capacious imaginations in the animated Tales from the Heart. Then it’s a messy splashdown to earth in a very current sense with Tar Sand Pudding, Xstine Cook’s rambunctious, kid-powered eco-satire, followed by Andrea N. Mann’s A Dozen Ways, a charming all-egg-ory about transformation inspired by the economic downturn. T.J. Lynch’s touching Water Under the Bridge similarly traces a path to personal metamorphosis, in his case through memories from a painful past.
Halfway through the program, we now pay a quick and invigorating visit to Greg Doble’s Coffee Stop, after which Trevor Anderson sets the pace anew with his latest essay piece Punchlines. Sheryle Carlson’s short, sharp, shock of a mini-doc Glimpses of Injustice: The Annual Olive Harvest in Palestine returns us to current affairs in the West Bank, and we polish off the leg with a heady, meta-film celebration of, well - film - in Kyle Whitehead’s Maverick.
Finally nearing the end of our odyssey, we pay one last visit to outer space, dangerous planets and monsters with The El Huge-O Maximus, yet another installment in Carol Beecher and Kevin D.A. Kurytnik’s ongoing Intergalactic Who’s Who series. Then we hop in the car with comedy troupe Sciencebear for their cleverly executed Greenwash Gang and grab one for the road at The Empress, Lyle Pisio’s wistful stop motion romance, before ending - square in the zeitgeist of a year in which apocalypse movies flooded the box office - with Jay Mosher’s amusing, animated Would you believe it’s the end of the world, Kenneth?
And there you have it. Another year in the life of Albertans refracted through the diverse approaches and visions of some of the best our media artists have to offer. It was a pleasure to sit and watch these and many other submissions with my fellow jurors: artist David Hoffos; Melody Jacobson, former Executive Director of the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers, currently ED of the Alberta Motion Picture Industry Association, and former Prairie Tales Tour Coordinator Leslea Kroll.