Last October, Toronto based filmmaker Ingrid Veninger put on quite the show at The Royal for a weekend, showcasing five features that she funded as part of what was known as the 1K Wave. After winning the $5,000 Jay Scott prize from the Toronto Film Critics Association shortly after she dropped her well received film festival favourite i am a good person/i am a bad person, she rolled it into a one of a kind funding program. Giving back to other like minded filmmakers, Veninger went through over thirty pitches and selected five to be completed and screened under the tight budgeting.
The first of these films to see a proper release, once again at The Royal, Me, the bees and cancer goes the documentary route to tell the story of a month in the life of long time Canadian filmmaker John Board and his struggle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. A near lifelong homeopath, the highly sought after First Assistant Director (who worked on nearly every David Cronenberg production from The Brood to M. Butterfly, and who shows up here briefly to talk about the nature of addiction with his friend) talks about his love for natural remedies while exploring bee sting therapy (known as apitherapy) to treat the massive, cancerous lump growing just under his armpit.
Co-directing along with producer Jim Donovan, the tone of the film is appropriately chummy, and oddly not that didactic towards Board’s preferred remedies. It’s hard not to argue that Board’s methods aren’t snake oil remedies, but rather carefully calculated and realized natural remedies, but the message never gets crammed down the throat of the viewer despite the film opening with a hip-hop styled commercial Board did to shill for his own Hollywood Survival Kit. But that very commercial seems very much in line with Board’s own personal attitude: a genuine unwavering system of personal beliefs that he has a lot of fun with. He even ribs himself about how he can’t seem to quit smoking, which given his circumstances and lifestyle he wisely outs as a personal contradiction.
What the film does a truly great job of showcasing is just how Board is still able to work and never get discouraged when finding out that he has a potentially deadly (but at this point treatable) disease. He never misses a beat, at one point even fully taking the reigns on a production to fill in for a director that falls ill. His treatments look painful and labour intensive, but the film places the focus squarely on staying positive, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that.
Also, in the spirit of giving back that led to this film getting funded in the first place, the 7:00pm show on Friday night acts as a benefit for The Actors’ Fund of Canada, an organization designed to give help and assistance to entertainment industry workers in times of need and crisis. It shows a ripple effect that would be awesome to see continue with Veninger’s prize money paying off continued dividends for the greater good for years to come.
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