Directed by Zacharias Kunuk, Peter Lynch, Catherine Martin and 10 others. 127 min. Opens May 20 at The Royal.
To mark the centennial of Parks Canada, a patriotic cadre of 52 filmmakers and musicians went into the wilds to interact with iconic landscapes in every part of the country. Each participant travelled to one of 13 different parks; the roster included everyone from Zacharias Kunuk and Peter Lynch to Shad and Melissa Auf der Maur.
The resulting films have been packaged together under the banner of The National Parks Project. Often mesmerizing, these idiosyncratic travelogues are nature films like none you’ve ever seen—or heard, for that matter. The filmmakers’ musical partners are often given as much prominence on screen as the various creeks, crags and outcroppings.
Ohbijou’s Casey Mecija gives alluring performances as both singer and actor in director Jamie Travis’ surreal excursion through Kouchibouguac National Park in New Brunswick. Elsewhere, Auf der Maur joins Sam Shalabi and Jamie Fleming for an outdoor psych-drone guitar jam in Sturla Gunnarsson’s atmospheric ode to Newfoundland’s Gros Morne.
In other corners of the country, the visual dimension definitely assumes precedence, as in the eerie nighttime glimpses of Saskatchewan’s Prince Albert National Park in the segment by Quebecois filmmaker Stéphane Lafleur or Keith Behrman’s similarly stunning views of Cape Breton Highlands National Park.
Either way, The National Parks Project contains a bounty of marvels for armchair travellers willing to adopt the film’s ruminative, wide-eyed mode and accept its invitation to space-out in some of the country’s most majestic places. At their most potent, the creations here simultaneously reinforce and reconfigure our collective notions of Canadiana.
All that’s missing is the voice of Lorne Greene
National Parks Project: Original Soundtrack