• Ron Mann gives us Flak

Indie icon Ron Mann gives us Flak – and don’t call him a film­maker By NOR­MAN WILNER

NOW Magazine - Hot Docs - - Front Page -

Does re­vis­it­ing Flak three decades later con­sti­tute its own kind of his­tor­i­cal preser­va­tion? I’m just re­ally happy that Hot Docs was able to pro­gram that film be­cause I got to re­vive it. It’s the same movie, but I think it’s more ac­ces­si­ble for to­day’s au­di­ences. I’ve re­ordered a cou­ple of things, dropped a few scenes, added some mu­sic. You can do that now on the com­puter. For a movie made in 1975, its story – about a bunch of friends deal­ing with the industrial plant pol­lut­ing their neigh­bour­hood – seems aw­fully up-to-date. I didn’t set out to make an en­vi­ron­men­tally con­scious film, but look­ing back, I’m re­ally happy with the 16-year-old who made that movie, who was al­ready think­ing pro­gres­sively about it. It was im­pos­si­ble to be in that house with­out breath­ing in the ex­haust from the gyp­sum fac­tory. Those are friends of mine; they ex­pe­ri­enced that. Some of those guys are go­ing to the screen­ing. It’s a pretty dif­fer­ent world now, es­pe­cially for indie film­mak­ers. There’s been a ter­ri­ble con­sol­i­da­tion of the broad­cast in­dus­try – CHUM funded all of my films, and they don’t ex­ist any more. I’d walk in to pitch Jay Switzer and 10 min­utes later I’d walk out with a deal. That doesn’t ex­ist any more. But costs have come down rad­i­cally. I can go out to shoot a movie and edit it on my lap­top. It could vir­tu­ally cost noth­ing. 3 Hard to be­lieve, but Ron Mann has never brought a film to Hot Docs be­fore. The 2009 edi­tion of the fes­ti­val cor­rects this over­sight by mak­ing him the sub­ject of its an­nual Fo­cus On ret­ro­spec­tive, pre­sent­ing seven of Mann’s films. It’s pegged to the re­dis­cov­ery of his long-lost im­pro­vi­sa­tional short Flak, shot when he was still in high school.

Just back from a week­end at the Coachella mu­sic fes­ti­val, Mann took a break from fi­nal­iz­ing Flak’s new sound mix to sit down for a cup of tea. Se­ri­ously? You’ve never been to Hot Docs be­fore? Even to see some­one else’s film? I live in the city, and I was com­pletely obliv­i­ous to it, to tell you the truth. Only be­cause I’m work­ing all the time – I spend my life in a dark room, like a mush­room. I love it when I fin­ish a film be­cause I can ac­tu­ally go out and go to film fes­ti­vals, and re­al­ize, oh yeah, there’s an au­di­ence that re­ally wants to see th­ese movies, that’s re­ally in­ter­ested in chat­ting and be­ing so­cial. And then I go back into my hole in a tree.

I’m not part of an in­dus­try. I don’t even see my­self as a doc­u­men­tary film­maker, re­ally. I see my­self as a cul­tural his­to­rian. When I go over the bor­der, I don’t say “film­maker.” I know I make films, but it’s not my pri­mary oc­cu­pa­tion. I have to be in­spired to make a film, I have to fall in love with some­thing.

Direc­tor Ron Mann helped spark up the film world with Grass (left) and Twist.

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