By Kalinowski, Tim on May 21, 2019.
The Lethbridge Sustainable Living Association will be holding a special screening party for filmmaker Robin McKenna’s critically acclaimed documentary “Gift” on May 30 at Casa.
“Gift” is based loosely on the bestselling novel “The Gift” by Lewis Hyde and delves into two main ideas: building a local economy based on the notion of freely giving rather than hoarding resources; as well as the broader question of what it means as an artist to give of your talents, time and energy to enhance the lives of those around you.
“There is an idea at play of a culture of gifting where wealth is meant to be passed on, and not hoarded,” McKenna confirmed in a recent interview with The Herald. “That is a bit of a subversive idea. Our culture is based around the idea of private property and accumulation, and what this film, and the Lewis Hyde book, presents is a different view of wealth.”
The film includes several interlocking stories each exploring different ideas of what it means to have an artistic gift and how gifting others with it freely creates a circle of gratitude and reciprocity which intimately connects all within it.
A synopsis of the film explains, “On North America’s Pacific Northwest Coast, a young Indigenous man undertakes the elaborate preparations for a potlatch – to make a name for himself by giving everything away. In Rome, Italy, a factory occupied by migrant families is transformed into a living museum, protected by a barricade of art: a model of resistance, and an invaluable gift. In the pirate utopia of Burning Man, a mutant bumblebee art car distributes honey in a post-apocalyptic desert landscape. Meanwhile, in Auckland, New Zealand, artist Lee Mingwei prepares to launch Sonic Blossom – a ‘transformative gift’ of song.”
“The idea of creativity and art is at the core of the film,” says McKenna; “there is also a precariousness to that existence. Even making a film like this, it took me five years to make – and even then it was precarious. It was like, you are not making a living, you are labouring to do something for different reasons (other than monetary gain). I think it is a beautiful and emotional film, and it’s about what makes us human, and what connects us, in an age where everything is for sale and about profit. It is about what is the value of something that can’t be measured, or counted, or bought, or sold. There is something very human about it and that creative spark or spirit is something I think we all have. Not just those people who call themselves artists.”
The Lethbridge Sustainable Living Association shares many of the film’s values, says president Mandy Sandbach, and that is why the group signed up to be one of first five organizations to host a screening in Canada.
“I watched the trailers (for the film) and I went, ‘Wow, that’s in alignment with I want in my own world, in my own life,’ says Sandbach. “And in terms of the Sustainable Living Association, we have a lot of conversations around how we can do this thing called economy a little bit differently. Whether it is through barter and trade, or growing local food, or seed-sharing communities so we can share in that reciprocity. When we (at LSLA) talk about regenerating our community the gift economy is something which always comes up; so when I saw that trailer it evoked something in me that made so much sense.”
One powerful moment in the trailers and in the film shows a woman dressed in a beautiful fabric gown asking another woman in an art gallery, “May I offer you a gift of song?” The lady being asked is confused at first, but awkwardly accepts. She is brought into a side gallery and seated in a special chair. The one who made the offer begins to sing a beautiful opera aria. The woman being offered the gift sits mesmerized and clearly moved by this special song being freely offered to her.
“People do personally kind of get teary-eyed in that moment of the film,” acknowledges McKenna. “I think it is partly because music just touches a different part of us and opens our heart in a different way that words can’t do. There is something about having to sit and be present and fully receive that gift, for the length of the song – it’s sometimes hard for people. Part of what the film is also about is the challenge of receiving and the blocks we have to receiving.”
Sandbach says it is the Lethbridge Sustainable Living Association’s honour to host a screening party for McKenna’s “Gift,” and she hopes many Lethbridge residents will come out to watch the film in the spirt it is intended: as a gift freely offered.
“I would invite people to come out for sort of a gentle inspiration,” says Sandbach, “and that is what I feel from what I have seen in the trailer for the film – that it will remind us and connect us to moments of human interaction where we can stop and not be so rigid in saying what am I getting? Or what am I getting out of this? Maybe there is a different way we can be.”
The screening party will start at 7 p.m. at Casa. Beverages and appetizers will be served. Entry is free of charge for all. Donations to the LSLA will be gratefully accepted for those who choose to give in that way.
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