Honestly I was never a huge fan of Road to Avonlea. I was very young and hugely faithful to Anne of Green Gables and could not fathom liking, what I saw as, a remake of it. Of course I still used to watch it sometimes despite my stance on the issue. Many of us might remember Sarah Polley when she played the sort of Pollyanna character named Sara Stanley, and now in her early thirties Polley continues to evolve as one of our most cherished Canadian artists.
With such films as The Sweet Hereafter (1997), eXistenZ (1999), and Go (1999), Sarah Polley was set up for international stardom. Cast as Penny Lane in Almost Famous (2000), Polley backed out after a couple of rehearsals because she wasn’t feeling the character and chose instead to work with a Canadian director whom she greatly admired, John Grayson, on The Law of Enclosures (2000). As a young girl Polley chose the independent film route which has fashioned an acting filmography that is all over the map and punctuated with awards.
I haven’t really followed Sarah Polley’s acting career that carefully but her directing projects have got my attention. Away From Her (2006) and Take This Waltz (2011) were two films which seemed to reignite the hope and belief that English Canadian films are not only possible but can be real contenders on the international scene. Not only does Polley stay in Canada because she loves living close to friends and family, but she also loves to create here at home despite our embarrassingly low arts funding.
‘For me it was the most ideal environment to make a film in as a filmmaker and also as an actor, there’s so much more creative control in this country and the less money you have the more creative control you have. So for me it’s the perfect environment to make films in.’
She is also very well known for her activist work throughout the country. Blacklisted at twelve years old by Disney for wearing a peace sign at a Washington State dinner during the Gulf War, Polley forged on. She got some teeth knocked out of her at a protest, an event which was highly publicized, and she remains an avid supporter of the NDP in Ontario. She is a proud and vocal socialist.
Polley’s latest directorial film was the documentary Stories We Tell (2012) which explores the way people tell stories based on how they experienced the event and how they saw the people involved in it. This documentary is about Polley’s own family and a secret her mother kept from them for many years.
‘I decided to make a film about our need to tell stories, to own our stories, to understand them, and to have them heard.’
The film is beautiful and shows Polley’s delicate sensitivity towards storytelling, memory, and individual experience. I found it to also be a courageous retelling of family history which most people would hide like a dirty secret. There is nothing static about this film. It is innocent, truthful, heartbreaking and heartwarming, far from being self-indulgent and fuzz free.
Click HERE to read more on Sarah Polley from her personal post on the NFB blog about her documentary Stories We Tell
Sarah Polley interviews: