MUFFINS FOR GRANNY (Nadia McLaren) Rating: NNNN
Four years in the making, director Nadia McLaren's documentary tribute to her grandmother is a marvellously assured and moving debut, the kind of film that launches careers.
Granny doesn't actually appear much, and the muffins are almost as elusive. There are occasional shots of Nadia and her family baking, which seems gimmicky at first, but wait until the final five minutes or so for the payoff - it's worth it.
The bulk of the doc is interviews with six native elders who describe the physical, emotional and sexual abuse they suffered at Catholic residential schools. The accounts swing from sad to downright gruesome, just as the storytellers move from sadness to anger to serenity.
Interspersed with these visually spare interviews are gorgeous nature scenes set to music that's moving but not cloying. Less effective are graphic-novel-style images that certainly convey terror but don't match the aesthetic of the rest of the film.
One could argue that McLaren's subject has done the work for her - it would be hard not to be moved by these stories - but she's the one who's packaged them so effectively. The true test will come if she makes a less personal film next time. Get on that, Nadia, we can't wait. At Camera Saturday (July 21).