Director Brigitte Berman’s The River Of My Dreams: A Portrait of Gordon Pinsent will open the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival on Wednesday, October 19th. Berman and Pinsent are both coming to St. John’s to attend the Festival’s Opening Night Gala screening.
“In Gordon, you’ve got the unlikely artist, coming from a very small town in Newfoundland, he had a dream and he pursued that dream,” Berman said about the subject of her film.
Prior to making The River of My Dreams, Berman made documentaries about Bix Beiderbecke, Artie Shaw, and Hugh Hefner. All four films look at the lives of successful men with a connection to show business.
“What interests me is looking at the artist and the human being and how the two interact. You’re an artist and you do creative things but you’re also a person who has a day to day life.”
Berman is fascinated by the decisions successful artists make about how much of themselves to give to their creative practice. Her work explores the control and balance required for an artist to maintain a full life while also dedicating enough time to their practice to make powerful work.
“In some ways I find Gordon the most interesting as an artist because it’s all about the dream and making it happen. It’s about that force inside you that won’t let you let go, that drive.”
Berman knew she wanted to make a film about Pinsent after meeting him at an industry party hosted by the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
“I thought oh my gosh, he is the most engaging man with the most amazing stories. I would like to make a film about him.” Berman admitted it wasn’t easy to convince Pinsent, who had already been the subject of several documentaries, to be the focus of another. What finally convinced him to do the project was its innovative use of motion capture animation.
“We were looking at different ways of doing a documentary ourselves. I’ve made a number of them and I always want to try something new,” Berman explained about her team’s decision to use digital animation.
“We have digitally re-created a younger version of Gordon, rather than using an actor. It’s Gordon as his digital self that plays him as a younger man.”
Although it required her to master a new style of directing, Berman loves the possibilities that motion capture animation opens up for documentary filmmaking.
“You have to have someone do the motions, you have to get all the emotion into the face at the right time. It’s a very different way of directing. You need to design the entire atmosphere digitally.”
Berman often worked with her husband Victor Solnicki, who was a producer of The River of My Dreams: A Portrait of Gordon Pinsent. Solnicki passed away on the afternoon of the film’s premiere at TIFF this fall.
Berman says that Solnicki had been very excited to bring the film to the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival because he was eager to see how a Newfoundland audience would respond to this portrayal of a provincial icon. Berman is proud to be bringing the film to Newfoundland and sees it as a way of honouring her husband who always supported the work she did as a woman filmmaker.