Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Laser Tag, Potatoes on a Stick, and Independent Films - interPLAY Day Three Review

Yesterday morning it was a bit tougher to get out of bed and launch myself into interPLAY mode. This wasn't due to lack of enthusiasm but rather due to late night shenanigans involving closing down the beer gardens and then moving on to the Tavern On Main instead of going straight home as a sensible person might have. While I was moving a bit slower, I was still moving, and the Intrepid Junior Bloggers and I decided to hit the festivities at about noon.

When we arrived things were a bit quiet on King Street due to the rain that had been happening off and on all morning. The rain had seemed to stop, though, so our first visit was to Tiny Tim's mini-donut vendor to acquire some of those delicious little circles to accompany our morning Starbucks. We sat under the covered tent by the Transalta stage listening to the talent competition, eating mini-donuts and planning our interPLAY attack for the day.

The girls had asked that I spend the day with them so I decided to forego any other plays and simply see interPLAY with them, and hopefully see a bit through their eyes. They had decided in advance that we needed to visit the free laser tag area, so after we finished our meal of mini-donuts off we went. I think the free laser tag was quite likely one of interPLAY's most child-fun aspects and yet it was never busy. I'm not sure why, but perhaps because it was a bit off the beaten path many people didn't realize it was there. However, the Junior Bloggers knew and had spent a good part of Friday there, so they knew their strategy. They had warned me to wear sensible shoes, but apparently these were not sensible enough as I was soundly beaten down by two young women who followed me around simply shooting their lasers at me. They were a formidable little team, and even the young man running the laser tag commented that my daughter in particular was quite sneaky, simply hiding in corners and shooting people as they went by. I'm hoping she hasn't added "sniper" to her future career plans, but I do know that laser tag was a complete hit with all the kids who tried it (and quite a few of the adults, too).

After we emerged from laser tag hot, sweaty, and tired (and some of us deeply embarrassed by our shameful performance) we headed over to the marketplace. The marketplace this year hosted an amazing number of booths, and I was very impressed with the variety and scope of the vendors. From clothing to candles, artworks to jewelry, there was something to appeal to everyone. The extra room available to the marketplace allowed them to really expand it, and this was yet another great aspect to this new interPLAY home on King Street.

We were just finishing in the marketplace when I realized the Aerial Angels were starting their street performance, so we rushed off to find a seat. The girls absolutely love the Angels, and so do I. This was their choice for best street performance at interPLAY, and I would agree. The Angels just manage to astonish you while also making you laugh, and I continue to hold them in very high regard. My daughter considers them role models, and in this world of Lindsay Lohans and Paris Hiltons I would much prefer she sees strong, confident, healthy, and visionary women like the Angels as women to emulate. We watched the entire performance, and then headed off in search of snacks.

The girls both opted for selections from the ice cream trucks that were scattered around the interPLAY site while I decided it was time to try deep-fried potato on a stick. That is exactly what it sounds like, a fresh potato cut into a spiral, deep-fried and then doused in your choice of flavouring. I chose cheddar, and all I can is that these delectable items are like a cross between potato chips and baked potatoes, and I'm quite glad I can't have them more often as I would need to spend a lot more time at the gym to compensate. Once we had finished our snacks (some of us now high on sugar, while others were loaded down with starchy carbs) we went off to meet a friend who had just arrived on King Street.

We found our friend, and the girls decided he was their next laser tag victim. Unfortunately he also happens to be someone with a bit of a video game addiction and they found themselves becoming his victims instead. Their former bravado was replaced with a bit of shock when they realized that he was quite good at this laser tag thing. Once again they played several rounds of laser tag, and once again came out hot, sweaty, tired, and very, very happy.

When we emerged from laser tag we discovered the rain had begun again, so we parted from our friend in order to grab some supper before returning last night - because last night was the finale of the interPLAY Film Festival, and I knew this would be an event not to be missed. My niece had agreed to come with me, and never having been to a film festival I was curious to see what her response to it would be. I'm pleased to say she is now an independent film festival fan, and I know given another opportunity to attend one that she will most certainly go.

I was delighted when I entered the Keyano Recital Theatre last night and saw a fairly decent sized crowd in attendance for the final night of the film festival. This is, of course, the first time any such thing has ever been attempted in Fort Mac, and one always has to wonder how it will be received. People - it was amazing! Toddske and Tito of YMMPodcast approached Events Wood Buffalo with their vision of a film festival, and that vision coupled with passion and initiative resulted in the start of something that I think will eventually be huge. The film-making community here may be small and just in it's infancy, but there is a desire and a passion for it that was just waiting to be recognized and encouraged. I was thrilled to see so many local people willing to take on the 48-hour challenge and enter a film (in one case despite never having made a film before). I was delighted to see so much local talent - directors, actors, and all the rest - using this opportunity to showcase their work.

Look, I'm not a film-maker but I know a bit about what it takes to be involved in a creative process. Just for this blog I spent my entire weekend (and then some) at interPLAY, both having fun but also "working" in order to bring my perspective on it to you. I know that it takes time, commitment, energy, passion, vision, and sometimes a lot of headaches in order to create something of which you are proud, and so independent film-makers have my deepest respect.

A few more independent films were screened, and then the four entries in the 48-hour challenge were shown. I was completely amazed by the level of talent and effort displayed by the four film-makers who took this challenge, and I suspect great things could well come from all of them in the future. I just love that they had the opportunity to do this in their own city, and I know they appreciated this chance, too.

The full results of the interPLAY film festival awards can be found here, and I won't repeat all that information. All I really want to say is that the local effort that won best film, "Tale Lights", was done by Fort McMurray residents who wanted to share their take on our city - not an "all good" or "all bad" tale, but rather a story that walked the centre line. I think that is what so many of us - podcasters, bloggers, filmmakers - are trying to do now, people. We are trying to take control of the message about Fort Mac, not to paint it in an exclusively rosy glow but rather to show the true portrait of this city we call home. We want to be the ones to tell the world about our city, and not entrust drive-by journalists or TV crews to capture who we really are. I am so pleased that a film with this scope and vision won the best film award, because I think it truly speaks to the renaissance that is going on here.

So, there it is, people. This morning I woke up, looked around my house, and realized it looks like a tsunami swept through it. After more than 3-days of interPLAY related neglect there are dozens of household chores to do, and I'm about a week behind on all of them. The dog needs some serious attention as she feels quite miffed at being left out all weekend, the Intrepid Junior Bloggers are exhausted, and frankly I feel a bit like I've been hit by a very large speeding truck. And in the final analysis it was so very worth all of it, because this was, by far, the best interPLAY I  have ever seen. This was an event worthy of a city this size, and I want to thank everyone - Events Wood Buffalo, Keyano College, YMMPodcast, all the volunteers, all the directors and actors in the plays, all the musicians, all the street performers, all the sponsors, all the radio stations, all the marketplace vendors, all the food vendors, and, finally, all of those residents who came out to this weekend - because we shared something special this weekend. We saw an event that has been a staple summer activity become something incredible, and with the potential to just keep getting better. I am proud to have been a part of it in just a very small way, and I was so very, very happy to see you there, Fort Mac. I know I will see you there next year!

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