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By Ren Tomovcik
Ottawa-based filmmaker Izabel Barsive was drawn to the lens from a young age, taking her first snaps with a film camera when she was just 8 years old. But little did she know back then just how far the lens would take her, and she could scarcely imagine the journeys that lay ahead of her when she stepped behind the camera.
A few years ago, Barsive was working happily in documentary radio when she spontaneously decided to enter a contest for new francophone filmmakers outside Quebec. The contest asked entrants to submit a proposal for a 30-minute documentary, and Barsive was inspired to submit her idea for a piece on contact improvisation, a postmodern dance technique that focuses on points of physical contact.
Barsive won the contest, along with three other filmmakers, and was thrust headlong into the world of documentary film - a world which would captivate and motivate her in the years to come. Since then, she has directed, produced and edited several films, and finds herself loving the world of motion pictures more than she would have thought possible.
Barsive’s latest project is not a documentary, but it still has a special thread in common with the very first film she made.
Last year, Barsive produced a 26 ½ minute experimental dance video entitled Lustrale, using some of the latest moviemaking technology and drawing on a wealth of local talent.
On March 20th, Lustrale will see its world premiere at the National Art Gallery as part of the Ottawa Film Festival - and will carry the added honours of being the only piece at the festival to be produced and filmed entirely in the city of Ottawa with all-local talent.
The dance in Lustrale tells a haunting story - it is the tale of two women making the passage between life and death. One woman proceeds with confidence and acceptance, while the other has a more difficult journey. With the support of her companion, the second woman ultimately comes to accept her fate as the duo dance their way through a surreal world.
Dancers Jacqueline Ethier and Christel Bourque float through a dreamlike setting in Lustrale.
Barsive was drawn to the project for its innovative subject, and relished the opportunity to use light, water and music to create an ethereal world that pulls viewers right into the frame. She felt intimately connected to the story of a woman’s journey, and explains that ‘water and woman’ is somewhat of a personal theme for her, an element she felt compelled to explore.
The spellbinding dance number featured in Lustrale was first brought to life onstage by choreographer Anik Bouvrette, artistic director of Tara Luz Danse, and it makes the transition to digital video with stunning grace. Bouvrette and Barsive had collaborated previously and were excited to work together on a project to which they both felt closely tied. Together, they created a masterpiece of experimental dance cinematography that artfully combines simplicity and sensuality.
There is no dialogue, but a lulling stream of poetry in English, French and Italian is interspersed with the music that flows throughough the film’s eight scenes. Lustrale’s soundtrack features original music created specially for the film by Ottawa-based composers Joel Daze and Peter Storzenecker, and the production features local dancers Jacqueline Ethier and Christel Bourque.
The seeds for the film were first planted back in 2005, when Barsive applied for and received research and creation grants and funding from the City of Ottawa, the National Film Board and the Ontario Arts Council. In 2008, she received her main grant from the Canada Arts Council and the 2008 Corel Endowment for the Arts Award.
The grants made it possible for Barsive not only to bring to life her creative cinematographic vision for the project, but enabled her to learn at the same time: she received training as a director of photography during the making of the film, with the support of the National Film Board mentorship program. The opportunity partnered her with the talent and tutelage of camera expert Jan Zuchlinski.
Lustrale was produced with the newest technology, and is one of the first experimental dance videos to make use of the HD Red Camera. The film's Director of Photography, Karl Roeder, is one of the only professionals in the Ottawa area who is experienced with the Red Camera.
On the set of Lustrale: Karl Roeder (Director of Photography), Izabel Barsive (Director)
and Anik Bouvrette (Choreographer). Photo by Jeff Lively.
Barsive is overwhelmed by the support for Lustrale, and is inspired and encouraged by the burgeoning profile of experimental dance in the arts community. She looks forward to the screening at the Ottawa Film Festival, relishing the opportunity to present something new and groundbreaking to a public who may be unfamiliar with the art form. After its premiere, Lustrale will next make its way to Mexico, where the piece will feature at dance film festival Agite Y Sirva in April.
Lustrale is nothing short of an adventure, and it is a journey which Izabel Barsive hopes to share with as many travellers as possible.
IZABEL BARSIVE and LUSTRALE
LUSTRALE AT THE OTTAWA FILM FESTIVAL
World Premiere - March 20th, 2009, National Gallery of Canada, 7:00 pm. Lustrale will be screened between two other films: Le noeud de cravate and Killing Time.
Visit the official Lustrale website for more photos and information about the film.
MORE FROM IZABEL BARSIVE
- Intensification: A Sound Investment - Video for the City of Ottawa, produced, directed, shot and edited by Izabel Barsive.
- Izabel Barsive's documentary on the mining industry and its impact on Inuit communities, SOUS LE TOIT DU MONDE, will air at 8:00pm on Tuesday, March 3rd, RDI. (In French)
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