VIFF 2011 Review: i am a good person/i am a bad person

The Vancouver International Film Festival is very good at showcasing Canadian films. Some from directors who have establised themselves and some who are trying to make a name for themselves. The film i am a good person/i am a bad person is a film directed by Ingrid Veninger. Ingrid has already established herself first as an actress, then as a director in films like Gambling, Gods and LSD, Nurse. Fighter.Boy and MODRA. Her latest film i am a good person/i am a bad person is the latest film she directs and plays lead.

In this film, Ruby White is a married director who’s taking her daughter Sara to two film festivals with her as she showcases her latest release, leaving her husband and son at home.

Both are having problems. Sara’s dilemma is obvious as she is testing herself for a pregnancy. Ruby’s dilemma is less obvious emotionally but more physically as the strains of her marriage appear to be affecting her. Ruby is the more bohemian type as she enjoys partying and meeting new people at clubs and is unafraid of trying eccentric things for inspiration and solving problems. Sara is more reserved and often keeps to herself about her problems. Nevertheless their problems cause obvious friction in their relationship and their own lives during their first stop in Brighton. Ruby’s film is showed to a small audience unimpressed enough for one to ask her during a Q&A why she made the film. That leaves Ruby at a loss for words. Meanwhile Sara doesn’t know if she’s pregnant or not and it’s bothering her to the point she wants to leave her mother to visit cousins in Paris. Ruby agrees.

During their three days away, Ruby tries to assess herself as a person, as a wife and as a filmmaker in Berlin before her film opens. Sara meets up with the cousin in Paris and her beau and is able to take her mind off her troubles. Each try their own method in sorting out their problems. Sara is able to enjoy Paris and find it as a source of enjoyment and inspiration in her drawings and her photography. Ruby relies on a poster board sign she wears with “i am a good person” on the back and “i am a bad person” on the front. It is the input she receives from others that draws her insight. In the end, both make crucial decisions for themselves: Ruby for her filmmaking and marriage and Sara for her pregnancy. They meet up again back in Brighton and are able to return as mother and daughter with the satisfaction of their decisions made.

One unique thing about the film is how the alone time of three days helps to develop both Ruby and Sara. While in Berlin, Ruby contemplates herself and her relationship. While in Paris, Sara’s imagination and artistic dreams come alive. While both spend time with themselves and with others, they come to terms with making the huge decisions with their lives in the end.

Another unique thing about the film is that it is very woman-centered, unlike most movies out there right now. Ingrid Veninger directs, writes and plays the protagonist in the film and her daughter Hallee Switzer plays Sara, the main supporting role. The whole story revolves around these two women. It’s here in film festivals where female directors get their works best showcased. In an industry that is very much bottom line and almost completely run by men, it is through female filmmakers through independent companies being exhibited at film festivals where they have their best opportunities to showcase their works. This could lead to more female-based film works in the future. It’s film festivals like these that serve as a reminder that a lot of bottom line-oriented entertainment is missing something valuable.

 Of all the unique things about the film, the most unique thing about it is Ingrid’s shoot-as-you-go approach. For those who don’t know, this film was shot within a period of 19 days. Ingrid shot her scenes in Brighton and Berlin while she herself was out promoting her latest production at film festivals. During the time, she would use some of the film festival audience as part of the audience for this film, for what would be her follow-up. She would also use her interactions with other people as additional footage for the film. This capturing is very unique especially since filmmaking is frequently seen as something carefully directed and edited. I admire Ingrid for her courage to try something new and unique. Basically the only thing about the film that wasn’t that unique was that this is Ingrid plays the lead, as she does in most of her works, and includes her children–Hallie and Jacob–in the works. Here Hallie and Jacob play her character’s children.

This film I believe is meant more to be a personal film than it is to be a crowd-grabber. It is a very though provoking work that will cause some viewers to think as it does reflect on a lot of themes like a failing marriage, one’s career, sudden changes in life, and how to deal with what’s coming. I believe Ingrid did a very good job with her work. Some are calling it her best and most chance-taking work to date.

If you’re looking for a film out of your usual movie-going and are more interested in a thought-provoking film that your typical heavily marketed escapist fluff, i am a good person/i am a bad person is a good choice. At first you think the film makes no real sense but it comes together in the end.

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