Laura-Lynn Petrick, one of my favorite photographers, also happens to be an incredibly talented director. So it was no surprise to hear that her new film, “Superior (Gitchi Gami)” had premiered at some prestigious film festivals – including the official AVIFF selection at Cannes. Brimming with nostalgia, the tenderness of new love, and a score that’ll make you pack up your summer and hit the road, this silent documentary short is everything we hold dear and true. Because without adventure, we would be nothing. —Maya Eslami
“Superior. A silent documentary shot on super 8 film in Northwestern Ontario, scored by two Canadian musicians… In the middle of summer two young lovers leave the city of Toronto in a 1981 Pontiac Parissienne, and drive 16 hours northwest to the land of Lake Superior, 5 hours east of their hometown, Thunder Bay. They set up camp in the back country of the lake’s woods and live off the land for seven days, with no technology, as they fall in love. They reconnect with their environment and find peace and serenity among their mystical landscape. The time they have is unforgettable, filled with beauty, and spiritual fulfillment, as they re-acquainted themselves with the power of the wilderness. Lake Superior will forever resonate in their hearts.”
WHAT YOUTH: How did “Superior” come to pass?
LAURA-LYNN PETRICK: I filmed an annual tradition… Every summer for a few weeks, my oldest friend and I drive from Toronto (where we live) to Thunder Bay (where we grew up). The drive is very long, but impressive and contemplative. Out the window gets more beautiful by the hour, the more north you go. So the film came about very naturally, Kai brought his girlfriend with us on the road trip & I filmed their journey. We camped in the back country for many days, on the shore of Lake Superior. We didn’t see a soul for days. They were freshly falling in love & I found it to be so beautiful. The film documents their energy and their interaction with this mystical environment. I didn’t know I’d turn the footage into a short film & I didn’t tell Kai or Alex (my stars) that I was making a film, so it happened very naturally.
Who scored the documentary? And was that part of your original plan?
I have a strong connection to instrumental music. I love melody and the way it provides a meditative feeling. When I went to the east coast of Canada last fall, around the time I was thinking of editing the film, I was introduced to two very talented, interesting Canadian musicians from the region, Kurt Inder & Harley Alexander. I got in touch with them after deeply perusing their musical archives. I chose the songs I loved the most for the film & they were down to collaborate. Their music really suits the down to earth nature of my film & I love that we share Canadian experiences.
We obviously love anything shot on super 8, but why go with that medium?
As do I, it’s gorgeous. I primarily use this medium, mostly because it is incredibly portable & relatively lightweight. It’s also non intrusive so it makes it easy for my subjects to open up to the camera and remain candid & natural. It’s really a great option for a one woman crew operation. I can capture people in my fly on the wall style.
What was it like premiering the film at Cannes?
Cannes is crazy. Very bad n bougie so to speak. But it was overall an honour. It was pretty interesting to see a diverse audience observe my film and respond to it. It was an emotional experience seeing my home region and great friends on the big screen.
Submitting to film festivals can be so daunting. How was that process like for you?
It’s pretty tedious but kinda fun, like shopping on ebay or something. You get a bit of a rush each time you click “submit” – I was riffling through the Film Freeway site selecting festivals in my places I always wanted to visit. You think everyone will accept the film, but that’s not the case. Very randomly, my film was accepted in Cannes.