Love and death shine in short film Leavings, premiering at CineMuskoka this weekend


When creative minds come together amazing things can happen.

And that always seems to be the case when local multidisciplinary artist Sandy McLennan and self-taught multimedia artist Beverley Hawksley get together. Recently, the two joined creative forces to create a short, dramatic film that will stimulate thought and leave the audience wanting more.

Titled Leavings, the 12-minute narrative film is based on poetry written by Hawksley and focuses on the death of one half of a loving couple as well as the private time in which the request for the provision of a burial shroud is fulfilled before news of the passing is shared with family and friends.

The filmmakers see this story as an opening to a consideration of ritual, as practiced and as possible.

“I guess the birth of the idea came from some poetry I had written over the last 10 years or so,” explains the eccentric and highly-talented Hawksley. “After spending the last six moths of my mother’s life with her, I had kept journals and wrote poetry, which wasn’t always specific to that situation but just because it made me think about death and dying.”

Fast-forward to the piece of poetry that originally inspired the whole idea. Hawksley had emailed it to McLennan for editing, as she usually does with her work. Out of his response to that poem, a process was ignited.

I think we both agree when it comes to making art it’s always a process. Something begins and it reveals the next wonderful thing. Generally you go with a direction that flows. With this film we just started writing down ideas. Set it up with the actors and had a general idea of what the action would be. And we all worked together to make the scene.
Sandy McLennan

The actors who portray the couple are real-life husband and wife duo Jamie and Meg Jordan. Hawksley has worked with the Jordans for a theatre performance in the past and says she and McLennan knew they were capable of bringing the kind of emotion that was needed for the role.

Certainly, there are challenges when creating any sort of short films, but for McLennan and Hawksley it wasn’t about only having 12 minutes to convey a message. For Hawksley, the challenge lied in working with a presence of stillness, as Leavings does not have a lot of movement and activity. However, both concur that they were pleased with the outcome.

This was also the first narrative film McLennan has done, and he found it deeply rewarding as well as a labour of love.

“The technical creation of a narrative piece was new to me and Beverley,” says McLennan. “It’s hard. You have something in mind, and you need all of these elements to be in it or not in it. Because it was just the two of us, now we see why there’s expertise in different areas. It was very rewarding, hard work.”

Hawksley says the emotional involvement of the subject matter in Leavings has the two still discussing and talking about the way we deal with death and dying in modern and contemporary culture.

There’s this distance we’ve created from [death]and there’s a movement and interest into rethinking that.
Beverley Hawksley

Leavings will premiere at CineMuskoka at the Algonquin Theatre on Saturday, September 2 at 4 p.m., with a re-screening at noon on September 3. It has also been accepted in the Toronto Independent Film Festival screening at the Carlton Cinema on September 11 at 6 p.m.

Watch a trailer of Leavings below:

The inaugural CineMuskoka film festival runs from September 1-3 at the Algonquin Theatre and in River Mill Park.

A weekend pass to all films and events is $50. Or select the individual films and events you want to see: Algonquin Theatre screenings are $7 each; Filmmaker Forums are free for everyone 17 years and under and $5 for everyone else; and all River Mill Park screenings are free. The charity screening of Sister Elisabeth on Saturday evening is $20, including a wine and cheese prior and a ‘Q and Ale’ after with one beer ticket included. Tickets are available at the Algonquin Theatre box office or online here.

Schedule of screenings for Friday, September 1, Algonquin Theatre:
12:00 p.m. The Rainbow Kid – A young man with Down syndrome searches for a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
2:00 p.m. Filmmaker Forum – Virtual Reality: The New Frontier
4:00 p.m. Shorts Program #1: Laughter & Love – A collection of short films on amorous themes
7:00 p.m. To the Orcas, With Love – What we do to nature we do to ourselves. A filmmaker’s
relationship with orcas inspires her to restore a loving relationship with herself and this remarkable planet.
9:00 p.m. Dim The Fluorescents – The only places a struggling actress and an aspiring playwright can find paying work by using their talents are in role-playing demonstrations for corporate seminars.

Schedule of screenings for Friday, September 1, River Mill Park
8:00 p.m. Mixed Shorts – A short film about what it means to Canoe + a mystery short…
9:30 p.m. Maudie – Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis (Sally Hawkins) falls in love with a fishmonger (Ethan Hawke) while working for him as a live-in housekeeper.

Schedule of screenings for Saturday, September 2, Algonquin Theatre

12:00 p.m. Shorts Program #1: Laughter & Love
2:00 p.m. Filmmaker Forum – Five women at different stages of their careers showcase their work and talk
about their challenges in the film industry.
4:00 p.m. Shorts Program #2: Gumption, Grief, Glory – A collection of shorts on a broad variety of human themes.
7:00 p.m. Sister Elisabeth – A documentary about a nun who escaped from Soviet controlled Hungary in
1950 and survived to go on and build an empire of old age homes to serve the needs of the frail and vulnerable.
9:00 p.m. The Sun at Midnight – A rebellious teenage runaway and a reclusive hunter forge an unlikely bond
when Lia, the teen, becomes lost in the wilderness of the Arctic Circle.

Schedule of screenings for Saturday, September 2, River Mill Park

8:00 p.m. Mixed Shorts – A short film about what it means to Canoe + a mystery short…
9:30 p.m. Weirdos – Just after the end of the Vietnam War and in the midst of the American bicentennial celebrations of 1976, runaway Kit and his girlfriend Alice hitchhike their way along the east coast of Canada.

Schedule of screenings for Sunday, September 3, Algonquin Theatre

12:00 p.m. Shorts Program #2: Gumption, Grief, Glory
2:00 p.m. Forum: Openings, Beginnings – Filmmakers of various disciplines discuss how they got started in
the biz.
4:00 p.m. The Ghosts In Our Machine – Activist and photojournalist Jo-Ann McArthur uses her camera to document the plight of abused and exploited animals and advocate for their rights as sentient beings.
7:00 p.m. Shorts Program #3: A Walk on the Dark Side – A collection of short films to thrill and chill you.
9:00 p.m. Filth City – A comedy about the rise and fall of Toronto’s most infamous mayor…

Schedule of screenings for Sunday, September 3, River Mill Park

8:00 p.m. Awards presentation
8:30 p.m. Bee Nation – A documentary about First Nations kids in the far north competing in a spelling bee.
10:00 p.m. To Be Announced – Back by popular demand… the audience response to the short films in the festival will decide what is screened tonight!

Read more the full CineMuskoka program here.

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