– Young Canadian Doc-Makers Break Out
Notes on the Gaze is all about the ways that women see each other, which might also be the subtext of Nimisha Mukerji’s upcoming —and much anticipated “Tempest Storm”, a profile of the eponymous octogenarian burlesque performer whose breasts were once famously insured by Lloyds of London for $1,000,000. “The trick with this film was to find an original way of approaching the material that went beyond a conventional bio-pic doc,” says Mukerji. “Everyone wants to put the project in a box, so the goal is to find ways that set it apart. The fact that the film centres around the story of a woman in her 80s, and deals with aging and sexuality, has proven to be a hard sell because it isn’t mainstream to see these kinds of films. They either don’t get made or don’t have wide releases.”
Mukerji has had considerable success with her previous projects: her debut feature 65_RedRoses, about a young woman coping with cystic fibrosis, was critically acclaimed by The New York Times and screened on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network. By any measure, Mukerji’s measured, compassionate movie was a hit, but she explains that even genuine breakthroughs don’t always lead to open roads: her similarly themed follow up Blood Relative —a study of an activist in India trying to combat blood disease—was harder to get made. “Blood Relative had a significantly smaller budget than 65_RedRoses,” says Mukerji. “Which was really difficult, because when you factor in the costs of filming in India versus filming in my own neighbourhood where I didn’t have to pay additional travel or living costs, the price of making my second film was considerably more expensive.”
One thing that Mukerji has done in between feature projects is shoot episodes of Border Security: Canada’s Front Line, a popular reality series focusing on the work of customs officers stationed at airports and checkpoints across the country. She says that while the material is obviously far removed from the subjects of 65_RedRoses and Blood Relative, the experience has been useful and instructive.
“You couldn’t influence what was happening in any way, and you usually had one chance to capture a moment or scene or ask a question before events would move on,” says Mukerji. “The producers behind the project were documentary filmmakers themselves, and had a lot of integrity in approaching the material. As a director for television you often don’t have any control, or very limited control, over the edit, so in that respect it is very different from one-offs or features, which are more director-driven.
School, it seems, is never really out.
Adam Nayman is a critic and lecturer in Toronto. He gets too many e-mails and is tardy in replying.