Daw­son shows eighth film at TIFF

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - RAN­DALL KING

NOT even Guy Maddin has been as fre­quent a guest at the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val as Deco Daw­son, who pre­sented his eighth work this year at the pres­ti­gious event.

Daw­son joined Win­nipeg­ger Sean Garrity at the fest this year as the only two Win­nipeg film­mak­ers, a re­peat of the year 2001 when Daw­son (al­ready on his sec­ond visit) won a short film award for FILM(dzama), his cel­e­brated por­trait of artist Mar­cel Dzama.

Daw­son’s 2012 en­try Keep a Mod­est Head is sim­i­larly a por­trait of a real artist — Jean Benoît, the last of­fi­cial mem­ber of the French Sur­re­al­ist group, but fil­tered through Daw­son’s own oft sur­real sen­si­bil­ity.

“This is a dif­fer­ent way to re-imag­ine a pro­file of an artist,” Daw­son says in a phone in­ter­view from Toronto. “It’s not en­tirely bi­o­graph­i­cal but this one is much more rooted in the bi­og­ra­phy of Jean Benoît than the Dzama pic­ture was, but again, it’s very free and it plays loosely with the nar­ra­tive.”

That’s putting it mildly. The film is also dis­tinct among Daw­son’s other films in that it is shot in colour and em­ploys an un­prece­dented amount of visual ef­fects to ex­press the re­fracted views of Benoît as a child, re­call­ing his sex­u­ally-charged mem­o­ries of grow­ing up in Quebec.

“We re­lied heav­ily on a visual pal­ette that I hadn’t ex­plored be­fore, just dar­ing my­self to move in this other di­rec­tion,” Daw­son says, adding that he was in­deed chal­lenged by cre­at­ing visual ef­fects he never tried be­fore.

“I taught my­self all those tricks com­pletely and it was like go­ing from el­e­men­tary school to a Ph.D. pro­gram in the course of 20 months,” Daw­son says.

The ac­tual time it took to com­plete the film, from the mo­ment Daw­son first met Benoît to its pre­mière in Toronto was more like eight and a half years. Benoît him­self died in 2010 at the age of 88. Daw­son is sat­is­fied the film is an ap­pro­pri­ate re­mem­brance of the oft out­ra­geous artist.

“He and (fel­low sur­re­al­ist) An­dré Bre­ton had been ap­proached many times by film­mak­ers who wanted to shoot some­thing and any­thing that was ever done was hor­ri­bly con­ser­va­tive and unin­spired,” Daw­son says. “So he was very re­luc­tant be­cause he had been burned so many times, but af­ter show­ing him se­lect clips from cer­tain of my movies, sur­real mo­ments, he said, ‘Deco, for you, OK.’

“As re­sis­tant as he was at the be­gin­ning, as soon as he signed over, he was game for any­thing.”

Keep a Mod­est Head will have its Win­nipeg pre­miere at the WNDX film fes­ti­val on Sept. 29. The Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val wraps up Sun­day.

JOHN WOODS / NA­TIONAL POST

Deco Daw­son’s lat­est film will have its Win­nipeg pre­mière on Sept. 29.

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