2006, Movies

Muffins for Granny (2006, Nadia McLaren)

This is an artsy, dare I say ambitious, documentary about the survivors of Canada’s residential school system which desperately needs a bigger budget and a surer hand to achieve its goals. And that’s unfortunate, because it’s a story that definitely needs to be heard. I hope that someone has made something more successful since. (If they have, please comment so I can watch it.)

This film is a series of interviews with native Canadians who suffered from Canada’s residential school system. But the interviews are interspersed with footage, as they often are, but also with animation, and the making of the titular recipe. I get the idea, and I think it was a good one. There’s a whole lot of ambition in the vision that you don’t normally see in a talking head documentary about the past. It could have worked.

However, the execution is extremely clunky, to the extent that it feels like a student film. Here are some examples:

  • The interviews are cut up and interspersed jarringly, sometimes seemingly combined at random.
  • The chapter headings often don’t appear to have anything to do with the content.
  • The recipe pops in and out at random (as does the other footage) and sometimes so quickly that if I blinked I might have missed it.
  • The score is sporadic and, more than anything other than the editing and lack of animation (see below) seems to indicate a distinct lack of money.
  • But, most importantly, the animation, which is well done, is barely here. It comes in fits and spurts and is used so sparingly that I wonder what the point of it was. The whole thing could have been animated but I wonder if that was a budget constraint. That animated film might have worked better, though we would miss the famous of the interviewees.

It’s very clear this is the work of a first time filmmaker. And what’s unfortunate is that she was not given the resources to succeed, whether that’s enough money to make a superior film or just enough resources (such as access to a good editor, or some support from an experienced filmmaker who could have solved some of these issues.) I honestly think that, had the execution matched the vision, this is a film that might have been seen by a lot of Canadians. (Stories like this need to be watched by all Canadians.) But it’s such a clunky film that it’s hard to recommend it.

6/10 because the content is important

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