A special report from Tara Jeffrey: "See Grace Fly", an award winning Canadian Independent Film, is finally ending its long battle for the big screen. Shot over 20 days in various locations around Vancouver, British Columbia in 2003, the film was made for a minuscule $65,000 and "the kind of favours you only ask once," as one of its stars Paul McGillion put it. Obviously the audience at the Vancouver Film Festival last September didn't notice, because both original showings received a standing ovation.
The film centers on the characters Grace McKinley (Gina Chiarelli), a brilliant 38-year-old woman with schizophrenia and her brother Dominic (Paul McGillion). When their mother dies, Grace disappears leaving her repressed missionary brother to return from Sierra Leone and deal with the funeral. To make matters worse, Grace didn't report the death and is now wanted by the police for questioning. Wandering the streets of Vancouver she is fuelled by an indomitable will to spread her biblical tidings to the masses; the truth of which forces Dominic to question his own beliefs, threatening to shatter both their lives, to where death may be the only way to freedom.
Paul McGillion explains. "It initially came from Gina, whose aunt is a paranoid schizophrenic. She told me the story a long time ago, about her aunt and how she lived on the streets of Montréal. Gina's father was a missionary and he came to Montréal and tried to find his sister. At the time he hadn't seen her for a number of years, and finally tracked her down to this park. I thought that was such an interesting thing, the relationship between them; he eventually got her into hospital to get diagnosed."
The actor goes on to add, "We talked about that idea and decided it was a neat story...Gina and I produced plays together many times and we'd love to do a film, and I said 'You know, what about that story? We went from there and got Pete McCormack on board, who's a fantastic writer, brilliant mind I think and gave him the seed of the idea. He took it and wrote the script from there, so it's roughly based on that conceptual point; the idea is 'inspired by' but not the story of."
Pete McCormack, writer, director, musician and more, describes the story as, "a metaphorically layered, quasi-religious thriller/drama/downer about a schizophrenic woman who looks like hell, is in psychosis the whole time, and who is trying to convince her repressed missionary brother - who by his own admission hasn't been laid in 4,000 years - that their mother's funeral on Friday is really just a front for the Second Coming."
Needless to say the story is peppered with as much dark and quirky humour as its writer/director's comments suggest. McGillion sums it up. "It's worth seeing, I think it's got an important message, how many times do you walk past people that are homeless on the street and really don't think much about it. And now, I think I always do, I wonder where that person comes from, how did they get there? They must have had a mum and dad at some point in time, brothers and sisters possibly, and now they're in this destitute situation; so it's sort of a sad thing."
Awards aside it would be so easy for this gem of independent film making to slip quietly into obscurity. Three years down the line, various film festivals and a number of prominent awards under its belt, the film's makers are still passionate in their 'faith' for their movie. With its big screen release "See Grace Fly" is finally starting to pick up momentum and though currently limited to Canadian theatres there are high hopes of an international distributor finally standing up and paying attention. Thanks again to 'TJ'.