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Passionflower

Writer / Director 2011
Passionflower Films
Feature Film / Drama / Colour / Red Camera

On the brink of puberty in 1962 suburban Winnipeg, Sarah Matthews is increasingly challenged and confused by her mother’s instability and sexual power. While her father refuses to acknowledge that the family is fracturing under the stress of his wife’s mental illness, Sarah uses her creativity, inner strength, and a new friend to discover her own identity. With courage, Sarah bears witness and demands truth from the adults around her, demonstrating love’s capacity to endure.

 

Screening in Competition:

  • Official Selection Vancouver International Film Festival, Vancouver, Canada, October 2011
  • Official Selection 45th Worldfest – Houston International Film Festival, Houston, Texas, April 2012
  • Official Selection Prescott Film Festival, Prescott, Arizona, August 2012

 

Official Selection:

  • Newport Beach Film Festival, Newport Beach, California, May 2012
  • Gimli Film Festival, Gimli, Manitoba, July 2012
  • Rendezvous With Madness Film Festival, Toronto, Canada, November 2012
  • Anchorage International Film Festival, Anchorage, Alaska, December 2012
  • Sedona International Film Festival, Sedona, Arizona, February-March 2013
  • Jerome Indie and Music Festival, Jerome, Arizona, May 2013
  • White Sands International Film Festival, Las Cruces, New Mexico, September 2013
  • Beyond the Curve International Film Festival December 2020-January 2021
  • 4th Dimension Independent Film Festival Paradiso Ubud, Bali, April 14-15, 2021

 

Awards:

  • Prescott Film Festival, Prescott, Arizona, August, 2012 – Jury Awards for Best Narrative Feature and Best Director
  • 45th Worldfest – Houston International Film Festival, Houston, Texas, April 2012 – Awarded Platinum Remi for Theatrical Feature Film Dramatic Original; Awarded Remi Award for Best Editing of a Feature Film
  • Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF), Vancouver, Canada, October 2011 – Recognition of an Outstanding Performance in a Drama, Kristen Harris, Passionflower
  • Kristen Harris wins Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Feature Film for Passionflower, Manitoba ACTRA Awards
  • Anchorage International Film Festival, Anchorage, Alaska, December 2012 – Passionflower wins Best Audience Choice Award for Feature Films
  • Beyond the Curve International Film Festival December 2020-January 2021

WINNER – BCIFF AWARD OF EXCELLENCE:

      • BEST DIRECTOR:  Shelagh Carter
        BEST ACTRESS:  Kristen Harris
        BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:  Kassidy Love Brown

 

COMPETING FINALIST:

      • BEST NARRATIVE FEATURE:  Shelagh Carter
        BEST ACTOR:  Darcy Fehr
        BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:  Ethan Harapiak
        BEST ORIGINAL MUSIC:  Shawn Pierce

 

WINNER:

      • BEST DIRECTOR:  Shelagh Carter
        BEST ACTOR:  Darcy Fehr
        BEST ACTRESS:  Kassidy Love Brown
        BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:  Kristen Harris

 

FINALIST:

      • BEST NARRATIVE FEATURE:  Shelagh Carter

 

Screening:

  • Air Canada acquired PASSIONFLOWER to screen on flights March 1st – June 30th 2013
  • Super Channel acquired PASSIONFLOWER to broadcast March 20th – April 25th 2014
  • Royal College of Psychiatrists UK features PASSIONFLOWER on its Minds on Film Blog, September, 2014
  • Bell Media acquired PASSIONFLOWER to broadcast October 1st, 2015-March 31st, 2017
  • Hollywood Suite acquired PASSIONFLOWER to broadcast September 1st, 2015-February 28th, 2018
  • CanadaScreens acquired PASSIONFLOWER for their streaming service and has included it in their Women in the Director’s Chair promotion 2016.

 

Press Coverage

From The Winnipeg Free Press (Winnipeg, MB, October 2012) — Director Came Full Circle with Family Film:

Local writer-director Shelagh Carter had to steel herself to examine her troubled relationship with her mother in her film Passionflower, on now at Cinematheque. But there was a symmetry in the experience. After all, it was a movie, seen almost four decades ago, that brought Carter to a deeper understanding of that relationship in the first place.

…at this stage of her life, Carter might not be inclined to use a phrase as dismissive as “just a movie.”

“At the Actors Studio, you learn your inner life is so much a part of your art,” she says. “It’s funny how you can turn a lot of that into gold, to take something that’s happened to you and use it in a way that’s artistic.

“It’s also very freeing because it’s just honest,” Carter says.

From an interview with The Manitoban (Winnipeg, MB, October 2012) — Childhood experiences with mental illness

Shelagh Carter: I really want truth on the screen. I really want people to feel they are actually looking at a situation, it isn’t cinema vérité, but I hope it’s truthful. Therefore you don’t “see” any acting.

The Manitoban: How did you keep performances natural with the actors?

Shelagh: I worked really hard when we were casting to get the right chemistry. I’ve been teaching acting for a number of years now and I’m not coming to the film inexperienced. I’ve made short films [that] have been invaluable in preparing me.

From The Daily Courier (Prescott, AZ, August 2012) — Passionflower and its director win jury awards:

Canadian director Shelagh Carter’s semi-autobiographical picture, “Passionflower,” was honored with the Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature. Carter, who was clearly surprised by the award, teared up when her name was announced.

“This is such an honor,” she said.

But if that award was a happy surprise, then Carter was even more taken aback to receive the Jury Award for Best Director on “Passionflower.”

“Oh, my God,” she managed to get out, before again breaking down in tears. “I’m so grateful,” she continued. “I’m crying, which is ironic, because I was going to say I’m the happy ending.

“To reach an audience is a great privilege, and if my film speaks to you, I am so grateful,” she said.

Festival Executive Director Helen Stephenson told her, “People understood the heart of your film, and that’s what the jury talked about – that really came through and you really got that on the screen.”

From The Sheila Variations’ Interview with Shelagh Carter (April 2012):

I was told once to never trust a camera operator who doesn’t know how to dance. It’s really true. I favor moving cameras that feel the performance without leading the performance. The inspiration, finally, for some of that was The Godfather. This came from Andrew [Forbes, Director of Photography]. He was watching a particular scene in The Godfather where they would tell so much information with a very simple camera move. We filmed in order as much as we could, and of course the house was also a character. Every night before the next day, the AD, Daniel Lavoie, who was lovely, I’d worked with him before, and Andrew and I, would walk the next day’s scenes. We’d have a plan and then if something disastrous happened, like we blew a light or whatever, we would improvise, but we always had a plan.

From The Sheila Variations’ Interview with Kristen Harris (April 2012):

You can tell instantly when you finish a scene based on the director’s reaction if they are responding – taking in what they’ve seen and responding to what they’ve seen and want to build on that versus somebody who’s looking at something and they’re superimposing what they want onto it, and their desired effect is for you to conform to what they’re superimposing upon you. There’s so many subtleties of that. You can experience that in so many different ways. And I am not saying it as a pejorative, it’s not necessarily a negative thing. I don’t necessarily like it when people just let me go my own way, but there was something implicit between Shelagh and I. I just felt, “Oh, she’s gonna let me play.” I felt that instantly after the first scene that we did. I think I wanted to do Passionflower because of her.

 

Reviews

From The Focused Filmmographer (August 2013):

Taking an important and truthful look at a type of abuse stemming from mental instabilities and insecurities, Passionflower passionately presents a family’s struggle in a bold, realistic and personal fashion…. Tough at times to watch (and meant to be so), the film’s narrative is important, serious, personal and powerful.

From Dorene M. Lorenz (December 2012):

Director/writer Shelagh Carter’s compassionate feature is easily one of the top three shown at this year’s Anchorage International Film Festival… Insightful, thought provoking, heart wrenching – the subtext of this film is “Mommy has issues” and the performances by Kristen Harris and Kassidy Love Brown are outstanding.

From What Do I Know (December 2012):

This film isn’t easy, and it doesn’t offer any easy solutions. Nevertheless, even though this film didn’t begin until close to 11pm I was wide awake and completely in the film the whole way. It’s the story of a young girl whose beautiful mom is behaving badly. Today we have a word for this – mentally ill… Making the film even more powerful was that I knew from my chat with Shelagh that the little girl was sitting near me in the theater. BTW, she’s all grown up now, art has gotten her through all this, and she is a professor of film and theater in Winnipeg, Canada.

From Uptown Magazine (October 2012):

What Brown does with the part might appear to be subtle, but is an incredibly intense bit of acting. The story itself is quite personal and is told with nuances that a younger first-time director might rush through. Carter’s years of training as an actress, teacher and filmmaker come shining through in the script and the planned randomness of the shots. The pairing of her vision with cinematographer Andrew Forbes’ more than capable eye give the film a dreamlike realism, falling somewhere between Twin Peaks and Mad Men. One particular scene involving a visit to Beatrice’s mother’s hospital room is especially compelling as Forbes’ work with light is masterful without being overly stylistic.

Passionflower is a beautiful, personal film that will entertain you — and may even send you to places that you might be afraid to visit.

From CBC Manitoba (July 2012):

Winnipeg-based writer-director Shelagh Carter makes an assured debut in this restrained, elegant drama, which explores a young girl’s state of mind as she witnesses her mother’s mental breakdown in 1960s suburbia.

There’s a Mad Men vibe to this drama, but Carter focuses on female experience, with strong performances from newcomer Kassidy Love Brown as 12-year-old Sarah, and from Kristen Harris as her mother, the seductive, magnetic, dangerously unstable Beatrice. Harris turns in a figuratively (and sometimes literally) naked performance as a woman living with mental illness at a time when people don’t even have words to describe her experience. (Everybody just thinks Beatrice is “too emotional.”) There’s also fine work from Darcy Fehr as Sarah’s confused father and Mitchell Kummen as her only school ally.

From Cinema Beach (May 2012):

…gorgeous work done by cinematographer Andrew Forbes, whose lighting and camerawork allows the characters to move and fumble around, deep into the shadows, and speaks to the manner in which mental health issues were dealt with at the time – swept under a rug, hidden in a closet, etc. Production designer Ricardo Alms also deserves a huge amount of credit, as the sharp-eyed attention to detail with early 60s period touches truly help to sell the world… Shelagh Carter does a remarkable job of anchoring her film to a touchstone in reality, which, here is the very real toll that this conflict takes on the rest of the Matthews family. Darcy Fehr, in particular, is strong as the long suffering David who, in his own way, attempts to stay strong for his family while struggling to understand (with what limited information available at the time) what’s happening with Beatrice… one of my favorites at NBFF [Newport Beach Film Festival] this year… you may just be wowed when you least expect it. Such is the case with Passionflower, which you should definitely see if given the opportunity.

From The Sheila Variations (April 2012):

I was blown away by its power. Doing a period film is never easy, but Shelagh gets the details just right: the cars, the kitchen appliances, the home decor, the clothing. Phenomenal performances, too, by all of the leads. It’s a mix of Mad Men and John Cassavetes. Raw and beautiful. I wish I could fly out to Newport Beach to see it. Shelagh has been making the festival circuit now with her film, and it has been racking up well-deserved awards.

From the Vancouver International Film Festival programmers (September 2011):

Sarah (Kassidy Brown) is on the brink of adolescence in suburban Winnipeg, haunted by the example of female sexuality provided by her mother Beatrice (Kristen Harris). It’s the early 60s, just around the corner from the sexual liberation movements; the ferocious Beatrice embodies sexual freedom without the cultural support and validation that would soon come. Torn between repression and its opposite, she’s tearing herself and her family apart. What Beatrice represents is impulse without understanding, a hunger for life without any idea of what it should actually be like.

The obvious touchstone here is Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence, and Harris’s harrowing performance recalls the passion and torment that Gena Rowlands put across in that film. But this is really the story of Sarah, the victim of exposure to an adult world that she can’t comprehend except in terms of repulsion. Sarah’s triumph over her fear and confusion comes through art: it’s how she learns to validate her sexuality while controlling it. The movie is a record of her journey, one that mirrors that which our culture would soon go through: from the destructive binary opposition of chastity and sin towards an integration of freedom and responsibility. Movingly personal and provocatively political, emotionally searing and keenly intelligent, this is a powerhouse of a film.

From The Province (October 2011):

Director-writer Shelagh Carter’s feature debut stars wise-beyond-her-years (both actor and character) Kassidy Love Brown as a girl on the brink of puberty in 1962 suburban Winnipeg. But the movie belongs to the incendiary Kristen Harris with her feral performance as the girl’s troubled mother. Guy Maddin regular Dary Fehr is buttoned-down dad, but no buttons stay fastened on Harris’s character. She slices through the small talk at a living room cocktail party, and chews up a neighbour’s husband with a slow laugh. Framed by Carter’s on-the-nose period detail, Harris torches the screen.

From Reel Life (October 2011):

(One of three “seriously fine films” the author recommends from the VIFF lineup):

Passionflower is a realistic portrait of middle class life in the suburban 50s/60s/70s/80s/today… it amply portrays the dysfunction we have inherited and continue to pass on to future generations.

The acting is cold but believable; the patriarchy palpable despite the husband’s attempt to play the good guy. I love how the film alludes to both committing adultery and how the women play their civilized role perfectly while the men – who have for the most part defined the roles – simply do what they do with impunity.

And, of course, the children suffer the most. Passionflower is the pet name of the daughter who sees and absorbs everything; I love how the film questions whether she will become conscious of the dysfunction she has witnessed and learned enough to heal from it or simply live it as most civilized folks are doomed to do.

One of the highest commendations I can give you is that my daughter asked to see it again. She said it was really real…

From the Vancouver Observer (October 2011):

It is 1962, the sexual revolution is nigh, and Sarah Matthews (Kassidy Love Brown), a Manitoba suburban girl, is on her way to adolescence.

Sarah’s mother Beatrice (a daring Kristen Harris), a former model, is a profoundly sexual woman who not only faces prejudice within her social circle but also mental instability. After a cocktail party she organized at her home, things start to spiral downward.

Sarah, who witnesses her mother’s shenanigans and troubled ways to deal with her demons, begs her father David (Darcy Fehr) to intervene, but to no avail. She then turns to a school classmate, who shares her same passion for drawing, to serve as her refuge from a wrecked home life.

After serveral mishaps by Sarah, David faces reality and steps up in order to save his family. But will it be too late?

Passionflower is Shelagh Carter’s first directorial effort, based in part, on her own life. “It is the film that had to be done first as an artist,” she commented about the film. “It is personal, honest and very committed to that ‘child’ I was long ago.”

Produced with the Participation of
Telefilm Canada

Produced with Financial Investment from
Manitoba Film & Music

Sarah
Kassidy Brown

Beatrice
Kristen Harris

David
Darcy Fehr

Charlie
Mitchell Kummen

Tommy
Ethan Harapiak

Constance
Susan Kelso

Myra
Cindy Marie Small

Bill
Lyle Bernard Morris

Bud
Jeff Skinner

Robert
John Bluethner

Honey
Jacqueline Guertin

Dr. Holtzman
Blake Taylor

Anna
Dana Horrox

Miss Smith
Rebecca Gibson

Vivian
Pat Hunter

Girl
Keziah Brothers

Soda Clerk
Kevin Gabel

Vice Principal
Lois Brothers

Principal
James Janssens

Man in Hat
Brad Loewen

Nurse #1
Dolares Seller

Nurse #2
Nicole Hargrove

Man at Counter
William Zuk

Orderly
Richard Carter

Patient
Dennis Carter

Rosie
Ralph

School Kids
Abbey Thickson
Kassandra Classen
Anika Lowenthal
Kelsey Chmelnytzki
Caetlyn Fehr
Kennedy Riehl
Camil Huberdeau
Nazriy Demkowicz
Carlyn Allary
Rylan Mayberry
Cindy Wood
Sadie Lowenthal
Desirae Brown
Zoe Mills
Isabella Mak

Diner Customers
Bob Kinley
Dianne Zuk
Brett Kinley
Kent Brown
Candace Brown
Mike Wood
Chris Zuk

Producer
Polly Washburn

Director / Writer
Shelagh Carter

Associate Producer
Hersh Seth

Associate Producer, Marketing / Distribution
Joy Loewen

Casting Director
Lori Stefaniuk

Extras Casting Director
Patricia Kress

Producer Intern
Pina Robinson

Production Coordinator
Matthew Etches

Production Coordinator
Kathryn Kinley

Location Manager
Jeff Skinner

1st Assistant Director
Daniel Lavoie

2nd Assistant Director
Kari Peters

Production Designer
Richardo Alms

Graphic Artist
Nicholas Burns

Graphic Artist
Elyssa Stelman

Art Department Assistant
Rhayne Vermette

Art Department Assistant
Diana Justl

Set Decorator
Bill MacInnis

Property Master
Jeffrey Bruyere

Assistant Property Master
Kristen Longtin

Costume Designer
Lauren D. Martin

Tailor
Jean Marc Lafond

Seamstress
Angela Wells

Key Hair
Roberta Gale

Key Makeup
Brie Tait

Cinematographer
Andrew Forbes

Camera Assistant
Bryan Verot

Camera Assistant
Brad Crawford

Lead Data Management Technician
Aaron Zeghers

Data Management Technician
Ryan Simmons

Gaffer
John Clarke

Best Boy - Electric
Nicolas Phillips

Best Boy - Electric
Reed Makayev

Lamp Operator
Thayer MacInnis

Generator Operator
Mark Motoch

Electric
Robert Rowan

Key Grip
Riel Munro

Best Boy - Grip
Jonathan Kennedy

Grip
Cory Anderson

Grip
Russel Cook

Sound Recordist/Mixer
Stan Mak

Sound Assistant
Ainsley Friesen

Dialogue-Continuity Script
Shira Newman
Anna Fjarosz

Poem "Passion Lifted Her" by
Deborah Schnitzer

Family home paintings by
Manly Geller

Classic Cars Provided by
Alfred Howse
Glenn Bosko
Bill Rigby
Jason Shore
Carl Holly
Richard Sorensen
Ernie Howse
Ted Delorme

Editor
Michael Reisacher

Sound Edit Facility
La Hacienda Creative
Mid Canada Production Services Inc.

Creative Director
Brian D'Oliveira

Dialogue Edit / Re-Recording Mix
Jeremy Reid

Sound Design
Florence Masson

Foley Artist
Stefan Kozminchuk

Project Coordinator
Erik Virtanen

Additional Re-Recording
Howard Rissin

ADR Recorded at
Channels

Colour Timer
Ryan McGregor

Opening Titles and Visual Effects
Michael Reisacher

Post Production Services Provided by
Mid Canada Production Services Inc.

Director of Operations
Chris McIvor

Production Coordinator
Stephan Recksiedler

Director of Post Services
Tony Wytinck

Duplication Supervisor
Gord Higham

Online Editor
Andrew Shire

Original Score by
Shawn Pierce

Score Recorded at
Systems Two, Brooklyn, New York

Recording Engineer
Mike Marciano

Recording Assistant
Joe Marciano

Additional Arranging by
Henry Hey

Score Produced and Mixed by
Shawn Pierce

EPK
Heidi Phillips

Stills
William Zuk

Legal Counsel
Pitblado LLP

Banking
Bank of Nova Scotia

Production Accountant
Kathryn Martin

Financial Review
Kevin Stewart, SCA

Insurance Brokers
Multimedia Insurance Brokers

Title Clearance
Thomson Compumark

Filmed on location in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

© 2011
Passionflower Films Inc.
All Rights Reserved

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