Acclaimed Canadian film artist Sarah Polley to speak at York

Acclaimed Canadian film artist Sarah Polley will be the featured guest on Jan. 11 in the Department of Film’s ongoing series on independent cinema. Polley will present a special preview screening of her new feature film, Away From Her, at 7pm in The Cinema in the Accolade East Building at York.

Right: Sarah Polley on location during the filming of Away From Her © 2006 Capri Releasing.

Polley both wrote and directed the film, which stars veteran Canadian actor Gordon Pinsent and Oscar winners Julie Christie and Olympia Dukakis. Polley adapted the screenplay from the short story "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" by celebrated Canadian author Alice Munro. Atom Egoyan, an internationally acclaimed film director, is the film’s executive producer.

 Away From Her traces the paths of marriage and memory in a compelling story of love and loss. Grant (Pinsent) and Fiona (Christie) have enjoyed 50 years of married life full of tenderness and humour. Their serenity is broken only by Fiona’s restrained references to the past, complicated further by her increasingly evident memory loss. Moving Fiona into a nursing home specializing in Alzheimer’s disease, Grant is not allowed to visit for the first month so she can "adjust". When he sees her again, Fiona has forgotten him and turned her affection to Aubrey (Michael Murphy), another resident in the home. Heartbroken, Grant visits daily, bearing witness to the growing bond between Fiona and Aubrey. When Aubrey’s wife, Marian (Dukakis), takes Aubrey home, Fiona becomes deeply depressed, and Grant embarks on the greatest act of self-sacrifice of his life.

Above: Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent in a scene from Away From Her. © 2006 Capri Releasing.

Polley has been writing and directing in Canada for the past six years. In 1999, she directed the short film The Best Day of My Life, and wrote, directed and produced Don’t Think Twice, starring Tom McCamus and Jennifer Podemski. She wrote, directed and co-produced I Shout Love (2001) starring Kristen Thomson, who won an Actra Award for her performance. The film also won a 2003 Genie Award for Best Live Action Short Drama.

Parallel to her work as a screenwriter and director, Polley continues to build a successful career as a film actor. Deliberately choosing the "path less travelled", she is well-known for her thoughtful choice of roles and the intelligence and integrity she brings to her craft. Following her breakthrough performance as Nicole in Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter, she starred in Audrey Wells’ Guinevere and has gone on to work with a host of eminent independent filmmakers. Her screen credits include Kathryn Bigelow’s The Weight of Water, David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ, Hal Hartley’s No Such Thing, Don McKellar’s Last Night, Wim Wenders’ Don’t Come Knocking, and Isabel Coixet’s My Life Without Me and The Secret Life of Words.

Away From Her is Polley’s feature directorial debut. The film received its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall. Distributed domestically by Capri Releasing, it will open in theatres across Canada on May 4.

York film Professor John Greyson will introduce Polley and moderate a question and answer session following the screening of Away from Her at York on Jan. 11. Admission is free of charge, but seating is limited and a ticket is required for entry to the event. Tickets may be picked up in advance from the Department of Film, Room 225, Centre for Film & Theatre.