In minus 52F, we ventured back to Netherhill, Saskatchewan last month to resume shooting for “The Traitor’s Daughter”, to capture the haunting landscape that sets the stage for so much of this feature length documentary, stretching from Saskatchewan to the very edge of Siberia.
I found myself in awe of a terrible beauty: unforgiving, unchanging, and deeply evocative.
Thrilled to be once again behind the camera, moving forward on this life project, and yet, once again, I ran into an unexpected wall of tightly held secrets. My main interview subject, a confidante of my mother, retains an intractable grip on her promise to honour a lifetime of silence. Yet, after an hour of verbal thrust and parry there is an accidental moment. A revelation. We stare at each other through tears. I am one step closer to solving the mystery of the missing thousand days of my mother’s life in Nazi Germany. But she is torn. Has she said too much? Once again, I wonder at the cost of penetrating a delicate gossamer of half truths that disguised the darkest days in my mother’s life. Who has the right to this story?
The strangest thing happened before we actually were able to start rolling for this key interview in Saskatoon. The radio mike on Elda Clark would not work. There was invisible interference in the air, and yet, nothing in the room that would account for the static that made it impossible to record her voice. Typically, that level of interference is only found in the heart of big cities, like New York, where everyone is on a cell phone , jamming all the available radio frequencies. But we were in the middle of nowhere, relatively speaking. And there were no electronic devices in the house at all that could account for the ‘noise’ on the mike. “”I’ve never seen anything like it!” declared my cameraman, Tony Edgar. ”I’ve tested the mike on all fifty frequencies I have available, but every one is jammed.” Was the ghost of my mother making an appearance? To thwart the apparent ‘poltergeist’, Tony had to grasp the receiver in an iron vice grip with his only free hand to ‘interfere’ with the interference. After an hour, he was ready for an ice pack! The pair of us, hard-core veteran TV-types were left with goosebumps…and shaking our heads. What do you think?
A couple updates now: Despite the fierce national competition for funding to proceed with the filming and research of “The Traitor’s Daughter”, we have a mighty core creative team that will not take “nyet’ for an answer! While we were disappointed not to have made the final list for the Shaw Media Development Fund, we ‘Russkies’ (and honorary ‘Russkies’) will not be thrown off our path! We are still in the running for provincial funding and we have boldly thrown our hat into the gladiator ring for a chance to pitch at the International Hot Docs Forum in Toronto this spring.
In the interim, thanks to support from a surprise prairie fan, we were able to get a couple more critical film scenes ‘in the can’. Cinematographer Tony Edgar leaves me breathless as he finds beauty in the moving poetry of swirling snow, long shadows, and sun dogs.
Watch for more updates on this feature length documentary, as I take you behind the scenes every week at www.traitorsdaughter.com. (after a hiatus making a couple films projects for Global TV, I’m back. Pencils sharpened…