***update: Catharine Parke’s short documentary Very Good Dirt will screen in the shorts section “Around the World in Eight Shorts” on Saturday, March 7th, at 7 PM at the 2015 Vancouver International Women in Film Festival. WIFTV President Carleen Kyle spoke with Catharine about her film a few months ago for the blog post below.***
Catharine Parke wears many hats. The WIFTV member is an accomplished documentary and factual television professional winning Leo Awards for Best Direction in an Information or Lifestyle Series for Get Stuffed, Best Screenwriting in a Documentary Program or Series for Ice Pilots NWT and a Producer nomination in the Best Information or Lifestyle Series category for She’s Crafty.
This collection of short films will be showcased at the Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner at the Cannes Market. Right away I realized that her favourite hat is the one she wears making her more personal, passion projects.
“Very Good Dirt is a short documentary that sifts through the sentimental memories of a long-lost town and contrasts them to the practical life of the farmer who now works the land,” says Parke. “The resulting film is a poetic meditation on the meaning of place, all set in the great emptiness of the Canadian prairie.”
Catharine was born in Winnipeg and although she left the prairie as a young girl she had fond memories of visiting her uncles near the town of McConnell. She honoured a lingering longing to return and dragged her husband back to where her relatives used to live. Once there she was struck by how the place that haunted her memory was now abandoned and deserted.
She started thinking about the significance of change. How the meaning of place and thing are different depending on the context. She was fascinated by a place dripping in nostalgia and a people very much still attached to the land and what it used to mean. This idea gripped her and she embarked on a research project engaging the locals, their memories, photographs and mementos.
Catharine and her husband, an avid photographer, returned to the area five times making sure to shoot the area’s beauty in all of the four seasons. The winter shooting presented the most challenge. At twenty plus below in a remote rural location the couple used the car as a generator to power their equipment. Their efforts and passion are evident in the images they collected.
It is evident in talking to Catherine that the making of Very Good Dirt had a profound impact on her. She was humbled by the stunning vistas and details of the prairie landscape and moved by the people that inhabit it. The experience ignited an interest in the area that extends to daydreaming about a longer project tracing the history back to the ice and lake retreating that formed the prairie.
What’s next for Catharine, besides seeing that Very Good Dirt enjoys a successful festival run? Besides enjoying her day job, she’s percolating ideas, being inspired by the films she is watching and eager to see where her passion will take her. Whatever it is I’m sure it will be heartfelt.
By Carleen Kyle
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