P.E.I. film to play at Cannes film festival in France

Sarah Seeley
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Island filmmaker Harmony Wagner, left, and producer Jason Rogerson are excited that their short film, Queen of Crows, will be showcased at the Short Film Corner during the Cannes International Film Festival in France next month.

An 11-minute short film called Queen of Crows was selected to screen in a Canadian showcase at the Short Film Corner during the Cannes International Film Festival in France next month.

The film was written and directed by Island filmmaker, Harmony Wagner and produced by Jason Rogerson of P.E.I.’s Periscope Pictures. It was the winner of CBC’s 3-2-1 Award in 2012 and Telefilm Canada selected it along with 30 other Canadian short films to screen at Cannes as part of Canada: Not Short on Talent, an industry initiative to promote Canadian films to international markets.

Queen of Crows stars Charlottetown’s Kristen Thompson and Kelly Caseley and tells the story of an eleven-year-old girl who gets in trouble for acting like a crow. The film was was shot in Charlottetown by a crew of 19 Islanders, featuring a multitude of P.E.I. crows.

Wagner said she was inspired by the picturesque Island landscape and its wildlife.

“The crows are intoxicating. It’s a very cinematic experience to watch them. As a filmmaker, you can’t help but look at them and want to incorporate it into a story. I’ve seen cities with crows, but nothing like we have here.”

The film also touches on mental illnesses and the different facets of how they are treated, said Wagner.

“Mental illness is prevalent in society, but we don’t openly talk about it like alcoholism and cancer,” she says.

“The world needs to admit to itself that there is a problem and start talking about it.”

Wagner hopes their film will open the eyes of her audience about the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.

"It’s a caution to approach each case carefully especially when it comes to kids. Don’t do the same thing for everybody because they’re not all the same. I hope that anybody who sees it no matter where they live will feel something. My goal as a filmmaker is touch somebody’s heart and that is difficult to do in 11 minutes.”

Wagner and Rogerson offered Caseley the adult lead in the film after watching her perform on web shows. Wagner said she wanted to watch her to expand her skills as an actress.

“She was always given comedic roles, so I wanted her to take the lead in a more dramatic role.”

To find her young female star, Wagner went to the Dance Umbrella youth musical theatre troupe and watched their performances. She picked out several kids and invited them and to audition for the lead role in her film.

“All the kids were great, but there was a special something I was looking for and Kristen had it,” she said.

When Wagner explained the challenges of acting in a film to Kristen, she was not expecting the young girl’s response.

“She looked up at me with those beautiful, very serious eyes and said ‘I want to do this for my profession.’”

Wagner said she and her team shot the film on the Island to showcase its natural beauty.

“I see the potential for getting the beauty of P.E.I. out there. If you make stories with the Island as the backdrop, people watching it around the world will be thinking ‘Look at this beautiful place.’”

Wagner and Rogerson hope their film’s appearance at Cannes would be the beginning of a film industry on the Island.

“I want to be part of a team that builds an industry here and we are doing our part to create a positive future for P.E.I.,” said Wagner. “We have the capacity to build one here, but in order to have a future on P.E.I., we need to have support. The community needs to get behind it.”

The team is holding a fundraiser to raise money for their trip to France. On April 18, the Guild is hosting Crows Fly to Cannes. The event opens with a screening of the film at 9 p.m. followed by a night of music.

Mitch Schurman, the film’s composer will take the stage along with the blues and rhythm bandGot Bluesand the nine-piece horn groupLady Soul.

Tickets are available by donation at the door and the doors open at 8:30 p.m.

For more information, contact the Guild at 620-3333.

Organizations: CBC, Telefilm Canada, Dance Umbrella

Geographic location: Cannes, Iceland, France Charlottetown Canada

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