Die Gotterdammerung – Reason and Mercy

Die Gotterdammerung is the last in Richard Wagner’s cycle of four music dramas titled Der Ring des Nibelungen or The Ring Cycle.

Last year I wrote a short blogpost about The Forest Bird in Wagners Siegfried. This year, I was lucky enough to see the COC production of Die Gotterdammerung, and found myself pondering the role of birds, both in music and in the stories we tell.

 

Like the opera Siegfried, birds are featured once again in Die Gotterdammerung, but this time we meet two ravens called Reason and Mercy. Tragically (this is opera after all) these ravens are the messengers who decree Siegfried’s death. Birds have something to tell us indeed.

 

Screen Shot 2017-02-19 at 5.46.29 PM The raven is perhaps humankinds most storied bird. The mythology of the Haida is based on the epic cycle of stories about the Raven and his various exploits.  One of the best-known of these stories tells how the Raven disguised himself in order to enter the house of the Sky Chief, from whom he stole the sun, moon and stars to give to humankind.

 

Be it stories or music, birds are our long time cultural companions. British composer David Matthews believes that western music inspired by birdsong goes back at least as far as the 16th century. You can read more about his ideas in this essay. Matthews also understands what it means to be losing our birds.

 

 

 “Many of our birds are in decline – the cuckoo among them: fewer people now hear this essential sound of spring. Fortunately we still have blackbirds in great numbers, but we had better take care of them, and our other songbirds, otherwise we shall end up with the silent spring that Rachel Carson warned us of in her famous book of that title. Birds were singing millions of years before we evolved: they were the inventors of music. Maybe our future depends on theirs.”

 

Wise words indeed.

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Gratitude

With gratitude, 2016 was a good year for The Messenger. 2017 will be a challenging year for our environment and the world we live in. We hope that the film will continue to inspire and inform.

Winner: Prix Buffon, Paris Science, Le festival international du film scientifique, 2016

Winner: Special Jury Award, Visions of Nature/Voices of Nature Environmental Film Festival 2016

Special Mention for Best Documentary, CinemAmbiente, Italy 2015

Winner: Best Environmental Film Prize, Festival de l’Oiseau et de la Nature, Abbeville Cedex, France 2016

Winner: Best of Fest, International Wildlife Film Festival Missoula, Montana 2016

Winner: Best Theatrical Feature, International Wildlife Film Festival Missoula, Montana 2016

Nominated: Best Cinematography in a Feature Documentary, Canadian Screen Awards 2016

Nominated: Best Editing in Feature Documentary, Canadian Cinema Editors Award 2016

Nominated: for Dutch IntL Science Film Festival NTR Audience Award & Youth Jury Award, 2016

Winner: Whistleblower Award Cinema Verde Environmental Film & Arts Festival, 2016

Winner: Favourite Documentary Feature, North Bay Film Festival, 2016

Winner: Best Conservation Film, Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, 2015

Winner: Top Ten Audience Award, Hot Docs 2015

Recipient of the 2015 Carl Nunn Media and Conservation Award presented by Ontario Nature

 

Now available on itunes in Canada and the USA.

Canada: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/movie/the-messenger/id1177748023

USA. https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/the-messenger/id1082871787

 

The 6th edition of DREFF – Dominican Republic Environmental Film Festival, Santo Domingo

Can’t say enough good things about Dominican Republic Environmental Film Festival (DREFF).

This was a very different kind of film festival.

DREFF is an initiative of Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (GFDD) and the Global Democracy and Development (FUNGLODE) Foundation. Their goal is to promote environmental films and raise the level of public awareness.

 

publico-4They do this by connecting the film a dedicated audience. The Messenger was paired with several high school groups and screened at different locations in Santo Domingo. Teachers had prepared the students for the screening (including assignments) so they were very attentive!  Filmmakers accompanied their films into the classroom, engaging in lively Q&A’s. It’s great to see environmental films reaching these younger audiences and to see these audiences connecting with the material.

The screenings were rewarding, as was the company. All filmmakers stayed in the same hotel, and spent many wonderful evenings talking — exchanging ideas, perspectives and stories from around the globe. Our screening days took us in very different directions, as many filmmakers travelled all over the Island to present their works to a variety of cities, towns and communities. Programming included films from Chile, the Yukon, South Africa, the UK, the USA and more.

 

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Personal Highlights included a walk through the botanical garden accompanied by a local bird guide who pointed out many resident species that I had previously never seen or heard.

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On the last day of the festival we participated in a beach clean-up. Hundreds of people were present, combing through layers of debris, most of which were discarded plastics. The site of all this garbage along the beach was sobering.  Shocking as it seems, recycling programs are rare in Caribbean countries and there is so much waste! (What ever happened to glass bottles and deposits?) And bottled water is such an environmental tragedy on every level).

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While the beach clean-up left us with the feeling that so much work needs to be done, the festival was a shining example of what can be done, and what is being done with positive and tangible impacts.

Festival Highlights – American Conservation Film Festival

A weekend at American Conservation Film Festival 

The American Conservation Film Festival was created by a group of volunteers who shared both a devotion to film arts and a commitment to conservation.  Three years ago ACFF screened a short film “Silent Skies” which was in essence, a three minute pre-cursor to The Messenger.  I didn’t make it there at that time, so I was delighted to receive the invite present The Messenger at this years fest and present a key-note talk at the filmmakers workshop.

After landing at Dulles Airport I picked up a rental car and headed down a winding road, through the picturesque fall countryside towards Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Much to my chagrin, the road was at first, flanked with Trump for President signs. I found myself clutching the wheel cursing and working up a sweat, wondering if there was anything I could do to break the spell this putrescent demi-god of late capitalism has cast over many US citizens. Driving through this short stretch of road felt like a trip through purgatory, so when I arrived at the National Conservation Training Center, it sure felt like heaven.

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Potomac River

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I was invited to the festival as a key-note speaker in The Filmmakers Workshop. The festival set out an ambitious agenda for workshop participants with great panelists. Topics ranged from impact film making to pitching to an expo of the latest camera gear.

Highlights of my trip included a peak into the archive with Mark Madison, the U.S. FWS Historian at NCTC. Here they have many treasures – personal highlights include Rachel Carson’s typewriter, her magnifying glass, along with Victorian style bird dioramas.

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The Messenger screened Sunday evening to a full house. I was accompanied at the Q+A by Bridget Tinsley , an ecologist with the Potomac Valley Audubon Society, who are doing some great work with Chimney Swifts and Grassland birds.

The American Conservation Film Festival Continues Oct 29th and 30thAnother full weekend of not to be missed films! I urge anyone in the area to attend.

The Messenger Spreads Its Wings and goes on a Road Trip!

by Joanne Jackson

It is a very exciting fall season for The Messenger.   We have just come back from a  fall road trip.   We also just got word about two more awards and another nomination.  There are over 40 fall screenings booked, with more pending, and we’ve had some new media coverage.  We are now taking pre-orders on-line and preparing to release DVD’s and Blu rays, so our Canadian office is hopping.  The full impact of The Messenger’s film release is certainly not known yet,  but we know that outreach and awareness of the pressures facing songbird populations and the potential impact of bird declines on the environment is being recognized by more and more people.  Many have said the film is ‘transformative’ for them.  The potential for our film to make a real difference in society’s conservation attitudes is enhanced by every grassroots discussion inspired by the movie.

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Being on the road with the film is exciting, encouraging and sometimes exhausting. There is a lot of prep work involved and we usually end up working 24-7, but it is really rewarding to interact with local audiences.   We can’t attend every screening so we really appreciate organizations like universities, colleges, Bird Studies Canada, the film societies and conservation groups who amplify our work by hosting screening events and participating in Q and A’s.

 

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Su Rynard with audience in Dominican Republic at DREFF

 

 

Director Su Rynard made a quick but wonderful trip to the Dominican Republic Environmental Film Festival (DREFF) in mid-September, then went to a special screening at Fleming College in the Kawarthas. (not too far from her cottage).

 

 

 

 

This weekend Su is winging her way to West Virginia, where she is a keynote speaker at the  The American Conservation Film Festival (Shepherdstown, West Virginia).

The Messenger is also being featured at The Antigonish Film Festival in Nova Scotia and The Cinema Verde Environmental Festival in St. Augustine, Florida this weekend. (Cinema  Verde has already acknowledged the film with it’s 2016 Whistle Blower Award.)laurel2016_whistleblower

 

Film participant Michael Mesure took time from FLAP’s busy bird rescue work in Toronto to head north to Pefferlaw, with  Producer Diane Woods to attend a special fundraising screening event for a wildlife refuge called Shades of Hope.

 

Social media and community outreach is critical  for us to let audiences know about screenings.  We could not do the outreach work we do without our subscribers and Facebook Fans support and the dedication of our screening co-ordinator Cayley James.

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Cayley liaises with community groups and looks after a lot of the event details. Thanks Cayley!

At the end of September, I went to some Ontario screening events  in Belleville, North Bay, Sudbury and New Liskeard. More about that under the mini-tour heading below.

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More Awards

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On October 11, at the Pariscience Awards Ceremony in Paris, France, the Messenger was awarded the prestigious Prix Buffon from the  ‘Jury Bioversité’.  The award  was presented to our French co-production partners Films a Cinq and ARTE France.

After the film screened at the North Bay Film Festival, the audience poll voted The Messenger as the Favourite Feature Documentary. 

Earlier this year we received the 2016 Carl Nunn Media and Conservation Award from Ontario Nature. The film was recognized because it “raised awareness of the mass depletion of songbird populations around the world.”  Diane Woods and Su Rynard were there to pick up the award.

The Messenger is currently  nominated in two categories at the Dutch International Science Film Festival. Categories:  The NTR Audience Award and the Youth Jury Award.

Stay tuned to see if we have more announcements in November. 

 

Mini-Screening Tour

Before I left to head out on a road trip for a Northern Ontario mini-tour,  The Messenger played for one night at the fabulous Empire Theatre in Belleville.  Jerry Archer from KX96 Radio moderated the September 26 event and I was joined by Peter Fuller, Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory and John Hirsch, Quinte Conservation for a Q and A following the film.

 

Then, on Friday September 30, I started the scenic drive north from the Toronto area.  My first destination was Sudbury, and the drive up hwy 69 with the changing fall colours was spectacular.  The Messenger opened that evening at Sudbury’s newly renovated Imagine Downtown Movie Lounge.  Phil Strong, our composer and sound designer who is a Sudbury native was in the city visiting his family, so it was great he was able to join me for the Q and A.  David Pearson and Chris Blomme from Laurentian University came out to participate in the discussion too.  Thanks to Laurentian Film Studies Prof Hoi Cheu for setting up the sound system and bringing  student volunteers to  help with the event.  A special shout out to the Giles and Strong family members who made it opening night and Lorraine Dupuis who put up movie posters for us.

 

Earlier that same week, I was interviewed by CBC Morning North radio host Markus Schwabe.  You can listen the to that interview here.

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On Saturday October 1, I participated in a panel with other industry producers at the North Bay Film Festival about  ‘getting your film into film festivals’.  The whole thing was streamed live on Facebook, so that was a new experience for me!   It was very encouraging to hear the other producers talk about the great opportunities for filmmaking that are taking place in northern Ontario.  Canadore College’s digital cinematography professor Dave Clement moderated the panel. If you scroll down on our Facebook page to Oct. 1 posts, you can watch it there.

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On October 2nd  we had over 160 people at the festival screening of The Messenger in the impressive theatre at the Capital Centre in North Bay.  Moderator Adam Contant from KISS FM Radio,  introduced me and the film. Afterwards Paul Smylie from Nipissing University and Richard Tafel from the Nipissing Naturalists Club joined us for a Q and A. We had a number of educators who made the trek out on that rainy Sunday morning to see the film, so thanks to them and everyone else for being there to ask such thoughtful questions.

 

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Just before the screening I was interviewed by Linda Holmes of CTV and a clip made it on the Northern Ontario evening news.

When festival co-ordinator Holly Cunningham later informed me  that The Messenger was the top audience documentary choice for the festival, I was a bit stunned. What a lovely surprise and wonderful way to enhance our road trip!

 

 

 

Final Stop on the Tour

 

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Proud to be showing at the Messenger at the Empire Theatre in New Liskeard,  part of the City of Temiskaming Shores

 

Although I have worked in the tv/film industry for over 20 years,  and produced many hours of Television programs,   The Messenger is just the third independent documentary I’ve produced.  It is the first  feature film I’m involved with to have theatrical release, so I was really pleased to wind up the mini-Northern Ontario tour in my hometown of New Liskeard. I still have family in the area, so it was wonderful to share the film with the local community at the Empire Theatre in its full theatrical glory on October 3rd.  Drew Gauley of the Temiskaming Screening Room film society kicked off the event. After the screening we had another interesting Q and A discussion.  The town is located in the ‘Little Clay Belt’ agricultural area of Northern Ontario and there are many farms nearby, so the issue of ‘pesticides’ and ‘free roaming cats’ were hot topics.

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L-R Glenn Scott, Bruce Murphy, Joanne Jackson, Mike Werner, Terry Phillips. Photo by Sue Nielsen, The Temiskaming Speaker

 

The Q and A was moderated by Temiskaming Secondary School science teacher Glenn Scott.

I was joined by Bruce Murphy and Mike Werner from The Hilliardtown Marsh Conservation Centre and Terry Phillips, District Director of the Grain Farmers of Ontario.  Prior to the event,  we had some wonderful local media coverage too, thanks to a Twenty questions article in the  Temiskaming Speaker by reporter Sue Neilsen  and  a Morning chat interview facilitated by CJTT  station manager Gail Moore and  Radio host Jack Morin.

Check out the commercial they made for the film!   Just click on the audio file below.

More Campus screenings are currently taking place, and more are being booked.  Find out where & how here.  Educators and libraries can now order educational copies too.  (with public performance rights) in the new Educators section of the Messenger’s website at www.theMessengerdoc.com

To read additional media coverage about The Messenger check out the  press section of this website. 

Special thanks to Mary Jackson, Darlene Jackson, Jennifer Gravel, Shelley Jackson and Patti Dubois (my sisters and sister-in-law) for helping to promote the screening and assisting me at the screenings.

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Jennifer Gravel in front of the Empire Theatre

Thanks to Telefilm Canada for providing  marketing and promotion assistance for The Messenger.

 

If you would like to contact me about the film, please email joanne@songbirdsos.com

 

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