Dec 25, 2016

The Viking on 35mm, Jan. 15-16th Bytowne Cinema

The Viking (1931) on 35mm, screening Jan. 15th 2pm and Jan. 16th 9:10pm at the Bytowne Cinema

Preceded by an Associated Screen News Short from 1931. 

Two Newfoundlanders – good guy Luke Oarum (Charles Starrett) and bully Jed Nelson (Arthur Vinton) – compete for the love of Mary Jo (Louise Huntington). Not wanting to leave Luke alone with Mary Jo, Jed ensures that his rival comes seal hunting with him on a ship skippered by Captain Barker (Bob Bartlett), even though Luke has a reputation as a 'jinker' – someone who brings bad luck to his shipmates.

After several misadventures on board ship – for which Jed always makes Luke appear responsible – the two become isolated on the ice during the hunt. Jed attempts to kill Luke, but when a fierce storm cuts them off from the ship and Jed becomes snowblind, Luke leads him back to land by crossing the ice-floes on foot. They arrive back in town just as a memorial service for them is being held. Jed tells how Luke saved his life and Luke wins the hand of Mary Jo.

This extraordinary portrait of the Newfoundland people’s 'dramatic struggle for existence' was produced by the Delaware-incorporated Newfoundland-Labrador Film Company, headed by twenty-eight-year-old Yale graduate Varick Frissell, an explorer and documentary filmmaker who by the age of twenty-three had already explored the interior of Labrador by canoe. The role of the ship’s captain was played by legendary Capt. Bob Abram Bartlett, the Newfoundlander who had captained Robert Peary’s 1908-09 expedition to the North Pole.

Not only was The Viking one of the first talkies, it was also the first location shoot outside Hollywood financed by Paramount Studios and, most notably, the first film to record sound and dialogue on location – on the ice-floes themselves, no less. Though Frissell shot all the extensive actuality scenes involving life aboard ship and the seal hunt, Paramount insisted that Hollywood director George Melford (Dracula) direct the fiction scenes. When test screenings confirmed Frissell’s concern that the overt melodrama of these sequences conflicted with and detracted from the power of the actuality content, he returned to Newfoundland to shoot more footage that would replace many of the clunky romantic scenes. He set sail on the Viking in March 1931, but six days later the ship exploded, killing twenty-seven men including Frissell and all but one of his crew. The cause of the explosion was never determined and Frissell’s body was never found – despite a handsome reward offered by his wealthy family.

The film was released in its initial form, including the awkwardly staged love scenes that do indeed detract from the authentic portrait that Frissell had wanted. To capitalize on the publicity, the film’s title was changed from White Thunder to The Viking and was advertised as 'the picture that cost the lives of the producers, Varick Frissel, and twenty-five members of the crew.' It enjoyed a good deal of success in the early thirties, then faded into obscurity.

Though The Viking is technically not a Canadian film, its particular mix of dramatic fiction with footage of the wild, hostile and foreboding landscape imbues it with an especially Canadian spirit and style that distinguishes it from many of the legally Canadian quota quickies' of the same era. It has much in common with the work of Robert Flaherty and is comparable to the contemporaneous The Silent Enemy in that the environment becomes a principal character in the drama.

– Andrew McIntosh, Canadian Film Encyclopedia

Apr 19, 2016

Check back in early 2017 for our new screenings series.

Check back in early 2017 for our new screenings series. Everything will be on film - 16/35/70mm!

Jan 21, 2016

Terminal Device plays Feb. 4th, 7pm Bytowne Cinema

Terminal Device, 2k DCP, 68mins, Directed by Ross Turnbull

Bytowne Cinema, Feb. 4th 7pm Co-presented with the MEGAPHONO Festival

A personal essay film, Terminal Device mixes autobiography, film critique, recreated scenes, and archival footage. When viewed through the oft-sinister, pop cultural lens of one-armed-man films, the director’s story as a lifelong amputee gains unexpected resonance.

Whether the nefarious comic villain, Captain Hook, the relatively benign outsider, Edward Scissorhands, or the monsters in various B-grade horror films, handless characters and their scary prosthetics consistently skew the narrative. A densely entertaining, subjective work that reworks mainstream cinema images in the manner of films like Room 237, The Clock, and 24 Hour Psycho, Terminal Device theorizes, describes and shows what it is to be one of the men with hooks.

Director Ross Turnbull will be present for a short Q&A after the screening

Nov 17, 2015

Isabel by Paul Almond Bytowne Cinema Jan. 20th


Directed by Paul Almond
Bytowne Cinema, Jan. 20th
1968, Rated PG, 110mins, 35mm print!

dir: Paul Almond, 108mins, 1968, 35mm print (PG)

Starring Geneviève Bujold, Therese Cadorette, Gerard Parkes, Marc Strange, and Al Waxman.

Isabel is an intense and spooky psychological thriller written,
produced, and directed by Paul Almond. It stars the luminously
beautiful Geneviève Bujold as a young woman who returns to her
childhood home in the Gaspé region of Quebec to attend a funeral.
There, she starts experiencing a series of supernatural visions
forcing her to confront the dark secrets of her family's past. Her
co-stars include Therese Cadorette (La Famille Plouffe) as her sister Estelle, Gerard Parkes (The Boondock Saints) as her eccentric uncle Matthew, Marc Strange (The Forest Rangers) as a mysterious stranger,  and a young Al Waxman (The King of Kensington) as a creepy childhood

Isabel was the first Canadian feature film funded and distributed by
Paramount Pictures. Upon its release it received mostly stellar
notices and was favorably compared to the works of Ingmar Bergman and
Alfred Hitchcock, both for its stunning, stark photography, and its
dark psychological themes of sexual repression and violence. New York
Magazine film critic Judith Crist called it a "A beautiful and
exciting film...brilliantly cinematic". It won five prizes at the
Canadian Film Awards, including four of the top ones: Best Actress
(Bujold), Best Actor (Gerard Parkes), Best Editing and Best
Photography. The Directors Guild of America also nominated Almond for
their Best Director Award.

At the time of Isabel's release director Almond was best known as a
veteran TV producer and director who had worked in extensively in
Canada, England, and the United States. Over his long career he
directed six feature films and over 130 television TV shows and
teleplays, including a version of MacBeth starring Sean Connery. In
England he was the creator and director of the first film in the "7Up"
documentary series. The production of Isabel in the late 1960's was
his attempt to build a sophisticated art cinema in Canada comparable
to what was going on in Europe. Isabel was the first of a loose
trilogy of films including The Act of the Heart (1970) and Journey
(1972). Almond was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Directors
Guild of Canada in 2007.

During the 1970's Isabel lived on in screenings on CBC, but it slowly
fell into obscurity. Despite its acclaim, it remains unavailable on
streaming services or DVD. This screening will be projected from an
archival 35mm film print from the collection of Library and Archives
Canada, screened with permission from Paramount Pictures and presented

by the Lost Dominion Screening Collective.

Oct 1, 2015

Kandahar Journals, Nov. 11th Bytowne Cinema

Kandahar Journals (2015, Canada 76 minutes)

Bytowne Cinema, Nov.11th, 9:10pm, 2015
Directed by Louie Palu and Devin Gallagher
Written by Murray Brewster
Murray Brewster and Louie Palu will be in attendance
Produced by Louie Palu in association with the documentary Channel
Q&A with Louie Palu and Murray Brewster after the show.

Tickets can be bought at The Bytowne Cinema box office starting at approx 4pm on Nov. 11th.
Photo © Louie Palu

Kandahar Journals is the story of a photojournalist who reflects on
the events behind his psychological transformation after covering
frontline combat in Kandahar, Afghanistan from 2006 to 2010.

April 2006. Photojournalist Louie Palu, finds himself in the midst of
body parts and the smell of burned flesh. On his first visit to
Kandahar he is covering a suicide bombing. Arriving in the country as
the wars violence spirals out of control, Louie is unaware that he
will spend the next five years covering the conflict. He begins
writing a series of journals reflecting on his personal experience and
what the war looked like and felt to him.

This film explores a photojournalist’s firsthand account of his
psychological state while covering a war. The film follows Louie’s
journey covering the war in Kandahar from 2006 to 2010 and its
aftermath. The narrative spine of the story is built around Louie’s
personal journals written in Kandahar. The visual narrative weaves
back and forth from the chaos and experiential side of the war using
combat footage shot and directed by Louie to the banality of everyday
life back home in North America directed by Devin Gallagher. These two
narratives have been combined into a single film to give a personal
and up-close view into the experience of a combat photographer. The
film pivots between these two contrasting experiences which Louie
struggles to bridge. Over the years Louie meets soldiers, civilians
and is witness to violence and trauma, all of which is weaved into the

Directed by both Louie and his co-director Devin Gallagher the film
explores Louie’s lifelong interest in understanding war connected to
his family's experience and his formative years as a photographer.
Over time Louie is transformed by the war as the violence increases.
The longer he covers the war, the more he realizes the disconnection
that exists with the public back home, the war and himself. By the end
of the film he must come to terms with the impossibility of
photography to convey the reality of war because it is a personal

This film includes footage of combat, physical injury, and death. Some
visitors may find this material disturbing and unsuitable for children

Writer Murray Brewster will introduce the film.

Q&A with Louie Palu and Murray Brewster after the show.

POV Magazine article with Louie Palu

More on the film here

Apr 22, 2015

On the Trail of the Far Fur Country, Bytowne Cinema, May 24th

On The Trail Of The Far Fur Country, Bytowne Cinema May 24th 6:25pm

This is a documentary about a documentary.

In July 1919, a film crew set out on an epic journey across Canada’s North to capture the life of the fur trade for a silent feature-length documentary commissioned by the Hudson’s Bay Company.
For six months, their expedition travelled by icebreaker, canoe, and dog sled, capturing every aspect of the trade as well as extensive footage of daily life in the North. In all, they shot roughly 75,000 feet of film.

The Romance Of The Far Fur Country premiered on May 23, 1920, in Winnipeg, before touring Western Canada and screening in Europe, constituting the first real exposure of most Canadian and European audiences to the reality of Canada’s North and its Aboriginal peoples.

Although well known in its time, within a decade the film disappeared from circulation and from public consciousness. The canisters of film sat undisturbed for nearly eight decades in a British film archive.

In 2011, an effort began to restore the film and bring it back to the communities where it was originally shot.

Nikkel’s new documentary captures a remarkable event: people watching the footage from 1919, seeing images come to life, and recognizing their family members, their landscapes, and their lost traditions. Contrasting the present and the past, On The Trail Of The Far Fur Country is an intimate portrait of Canada and its Aboriginal peoples, and a chronicle of how life in the North has changed in the last century.

Director Kevin Nikkel will be in attendance to introduce his film, and he will be available to answer questions from the audience after the screening.  Film website is here.

Apr 1, 2015

Skip Tracer April 21st Bytowne Cinema 9:15pm


dir: Zale Dalen, 1977, Canada, DCP, 14A, 95mins

Starring: David Petersen, John Lazarus, Mike Grigg, Rudy Szabo, Sue Astley

Skip Tracer is a free-wheeling private detective story set on the mean streets of Vancouver in the late 1970's, with the twist that the detective is a loan agency's debt collector hunting down “skips” who have stopped repaying their loans. The film stars David Petersen (The Grey Fox) in the role of John Collins, a collector trying to regain his status as his agency's “Man of the Year” while reluctantly mentoring a young protegé in the business. Propelled by Petersen's wry performance, the film plays like a post-hippie critique of capitalism and “The Man”, mixing together elements of social satire and film noir. The lighter comic touches help to highlight the harsh realities of people living beyond their means in a ruthlessly monetized society, where the bonds of debt tie together debtor and creditor in a precarious dance of ambition, greed and (largely masculine) pride and shame.

Skip Tracer was the feature film debut of director Zale Dalen, who went on to a long career in Canadian television. The film played at the Toronto International Film Festival and in major cities around the world, earning its money back in its initial run, but since then it has suffered from haphazard distribution and has mainly been kept alive as a cult title through VHS distribution (often under the alternate title “Deadly Business”), or16mm screenings, and rare appearances on TV. More well-known in England and Germany than in Canada, it has nevertheless been rediscovered by Canadian audiences in recent years thanks to select revival screenings such as the one held at the Ontario Cinematheque in December 2006. At the time they described Skip Tracer a “Canadian classic”, and we're not going to argue with that description.

In cooperation with Zale Dalen and Library and Archives Canada (LAC), Ottawa's Lost Dominion Screening Collective has procured a brand new 4K digital transfer from the 35mm preservation master print held in LAC's film collection. This will be the best print of the film screened since its 1977 debut, and the audience at the ByTowne Cinema will get to see it first. It will be a great chance to see an under-appreciated West Coast cinematic gem.