Longtime Canadian film critic Brian D. Johnson certainly chose well for the subject of his feature documentary Al Purdy Was Here, premiering this week at the Toronto International Film Festival. From a recent write-up in Maclean’s magazine, the weekly publication that for a great many years counted Johnson as its chief film critic:
Purdy is the sensitive award-winning artist described, the year before his death in 2000, as “the best Canadian poet” ever for Michael Ondaatje. And he’s also the hypermasculine, working man’s poet, fond of fighting, drinking and womanizing, who would argue and insult, then go “pee on your car tire,” as an indulgently acerbic Margaret Atwood remarks, twice, in the subtle and engaging Al Purdy Was Here.
In the shadow of tonight’s big gala screening of Spotlight, for which all principal Boston Globe reporters portrayed in the film will attend, Johnson is one of several Canadian journalists bringing films to the 40th anniversary edition of TIFF.
Per Canadian Press reporter Victoria Ahearn, there is also this year at the event freelancer Katherine Monk with Rock the Box (about Vancouver DJ Rhiannon Rozier, who famously posed for Playboy) and Toronto Star investigative reporter Michelle Shephard, who co-directed Guantanamo’s Child.
Johnson has previously made two short films. His 2010 animated comedy Yesno was based on the poetry of Dennis Lee and featured, among the voice talents used, both the aforementioned Atwood and Ondaatje.
Previously on FishbowlNY:
The Very Modest Beginnings of TIFF
— Al Purdy Was Here (@AlPurdyWasHere) September 11, 2015