Oct 132011


Warning: this video contains suggestive animations of fruit, human sacrifice, and some coarse language. “The Island” is a short film by Trevor Anderson, a filmmaker from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Anderson is a self-taught independent filmmaker who is currently in post-production on his tenth short film. His work has screened at countless film festivals around the world, including Sundance, Berlin and Toronto.

I saw “The Island” accidentally the first time, then realized I knew the filmmaker. Once upon a time, we both lived in the basements of lesbian professors in Edmonton. We were an exclusive subculture immortalized in a line from a non-fiction piece by Janice Williamson: “gay boys who live in the basements of dyke professors and wonder about the status quo.”

“The Island” for me is carnivalesque in that Rabelaisian sense of being both outrageous and intolerant of hypocrisy which means here being intolerant of intolerance. The film begins plainly enough in the hinterlands, one man walking against a blank canvas of snow, the starkness of the landscape emphasizing the stark hatred in the “fan mail” the narrator receives. What follows is simply beauty made from ugliness, a massive flight of fancy that describes a utopia of tolerance and celebration and freedom.

The last line troubles things with one of those perfect tugs on the tablecloth. Like Anderson believes too much in an interdependent and connected humanity, one that even includes the ignorant and intolerant, to move permanently to this Rabelaisian island.

At the Hot Docs International Documentary Festival, Anderson won the inaugural Lindalee Tracey Award, presented to “an emerging Canadian filmmaker working with passion, humour, a strong sense of social justice and a personal point of view.”

If you like Anderson’s style of autobiodoc filmmaking (a term I’m trying to put into common usage so please pass it on), then please check out the trailer for his last film, “The High Level Bridge” (and if you’re enticed pay the $1.99 to download the full film and support this indie filmmaker). “The High Level Bridge” is a short meditation on the untold history of suicides off of Edmonton’s High Level bridge and concludes with Anderson dropping his camera off the bridge into the icy water below.


Purchase the film at Trevor Anderson: Dirty City Films.

“The High Level Bridge” was  selected for the Sundance Institute’s Art House Project. From Anderson’s website: “In 2005, the Art House Project was created to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Sundance Institute and pay tribute to art house theatres across the USA. Twelve art house theatres from around the country were designated and united as Sundance Institute Art House Project theatres. In 2006, a Sundance Institute 25th Anniversary retrospective series was made available for each of the theatres to show in their local communities. The Sundance Institute Art House Project has since grown to a total of 17 participating theatres nationwide and continues its commitment to expanding the reach of independent cinema across America.”


  6 Responses to “Numéro Cinq at the Movies: Trevor Anderson’s “The Island,” Introduced by R. W. Gray”

  1. This was great. Funny, poignant, a social commentary inside a rather fun little 6 minute short. I’m really enjoying the series, Rob.

    The trailer on the High Bridge reminded me a bit of “The Bridge” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bridge_(2006_film) a documentary about suicides off the Golden Gate bridge. Your friend’s movie seemed to have a very different tone (from the little I saw) but interesting nonetheless.

    Thanks again.

  2. Another great film. Short & satisfying. Thanks.

  3. Rob, engaging with the series has become a welcome Thursday morning ritual for me, and once again I admire the film; particularly, all its tonal complexities. Now, I’d love to see an “autoethnobiodoc” about “gay boys who live in the basements of dyke professors and wonder about the status quo.” Williamson’s line made me roll … I only wish I’d been one of the upstairs-dwelling dyke professors. Maybe someday.

  4. rj, thanks for the link. I’ve been curious to see that doc. Yes, I think Anderson’s is quite different in tone. Highly recommend the download. Because of the distributor it’s the only way he can currently offer it on the web. But I like how he approaches the unspeakable / repressed topic with dark humour — seems suited.

    Mary, I want to see that autoethnobiodoc too. Maybe Anderson will read this and pick it up as a topic for a future film. And thanks for making it part of your ritual. I am liking making it part of mine.

    Interstitially wanted to footnote this: Anderson met Miranda July at TIFF a couple of years ago. He described to me being speechless and unable to approach her. Then this summer I head Miranda July tell the story of meeting Jane Campion at the same festival / lab I believe. And she chased Campion out into the hallway and, as she described it, scared the crap out of Campion with her geeky excitement so that Campion fled. I like that all three of these filmmakers are connected in the Thursday night series so far.

  5. Wow, what a wonderful example of art inspired by pain! I love how the fantasy island invades the frozen prairie, and then the irony of that final line spoken from what seems such a lonely, desolate place.

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