Yesterday, Friday evening I went to see a screening at the Vancouver International Film Festival (aka VIFF or “Film Fest”) called In the Wake of the Flood. The film is about Atwood’s latest book tour for The Year of the Flood, and the ecological and sustainability messages she promoted in tangent with the tour.

In the Wake of the Flood at The Vancouver International Film Festival 2010

The feature film was preceded by a seven minute short called YesNo. It was inspired by the poetry book of the same name by Dennis Lee, published by House of Anansi Press. The director, Brian D. Johnson, was in attendance to introduce his short and had a short Q&A after the show with local writer, Mark Leiren-Young.

This playful view of a planet on the verge of a nervous breakdown was inspired by Dennis Lee’s book of poetry: an apocalyptic suite about colonial folly, the extinction of species and the destruction of habitat.

I’m not quite sure what I thought of it — as people mentioned in the Q&A, you want to see it more than one time to really grasp it. Brian had several Canadian literary stars reading selections of Dennis Lee’s poetry while the imagery was going on. I think the Q&A afterward really helped us put into perspective why this short was included before In the Wake of the Flood — and it wasn’t just because Margaret Atwood did some of the voice-over.

In the Wake of the Flood was half what I expected, and half unexpected. Having not read The Year of the Flood fully (I’ve read bits and pieces), I wasn’t familiar enough with the story to be a fangirl about the filming of the book tour. But being a CanLit cheerleader, I think is the real reason I wanted to see this film.

On the eve of her 70th birthday, Canadian writer Margaret Atwood set out on an internationa tour criss-crossing the British Isles and North America to celebrate the publiciation of her new dystopian novel, The Year of the Flood. Rather than mount a traditional tour to promote the book’s publication, Atwood conceived and executed something far more ambitious and revelatory — a theatrical version of her novel.

Along the way she reinvented what a book tour could (and maybe should) be. But Atwood wasn’t selling books as much as advocating an idea: how humanity must respond to the consequences of an environmentally compromised planet before her work of speculative fiction transforms into prophecy.

Documentary filmmaker Ron Mann did a really good job of mixing up the visual clips for the film. I enjoyed the day-to-day stuff with Margaret talking, as well as live clips from events. I liked how honest and passionate Margaret was and how she brewed her own coffee, and wanted audience members to take a pledge, and how she narrated the theatrical reenactment. All these things made her seem very down-to-earth and more real in my eyes than just a large Canadian literary icon. I also appreciated the clips from her side-visits, such as bird watching in Vancouver or visiting the community gardens in Kingston. I think there was a good mix of visuals and it really showed how committed Margaret was to her cause: the birds.

“Ron’s idea was to document the tour from a conservation aspect,” says Atwood. “Along the way, we did these performances.” — The Vancouver Sun

I think that this is a really unique way for Margaret to view the film (in response to a question if the film was ‘everything she hoped it would be’). I think it is admirable to step back and give him creative control and not stress. At no point does she seemed bothered that she’s being filmed, or burdened by sharing her thoughts and actions with a camera crew.

The film launched on August 5 in Toronto to coincide with the paperback publication of the book and is now screening at film festivals, literary festivals, environmental festivals, and fundraising events. As I was leaving the theatre, representatives from the Writers Trust of Canada (of which Margaret Atwood is a co-founder) were handing out fliers about a fundraising event in Vancouver: The theatrical version of The Year of the Flood, as seen in clips during In the Wake of the Flood.

Also, for any Vancouverites attending the matinee tonight, Saturday, October 9th, they will be Skyping in Margaret after the screening for a Q&A.