Lumberfros
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Lumberfros

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3½ STARS
Stéphanie Lanthier (Canada, Workers of the World!)

Screenings:
Sunday, May 1, 9:30 p.m.
The ROM Theatre (100 Queen’s Park)
Tuesday, May 3, 1:30 p.m.M
The ROM Theatre (100 Queen’s Park)


Another strong(ish) showing by the NFB at Hot Docs 2011, Lumberfros takes us into Boreal forest of northern Quebec. In the grand tradition of the NFB, Lanthier’s film serves as a slice of cinematic anthropology, enlivening the viewer’s understanding of the Canadian experience by providing them backdoor access to someplace they’ve never been.
In this case, “someplace” is a remote logging camp where several generations of brush-cutters live, work, and rough-house. Hardened Quebecois vets work alongside eager immigrants from Asia and Africa, all of them chasing the big money and romance of modern lumber-jacking. A fitting inclusion in the Workers of the World! program, Lumberfros hews closer to the workers than their work, giving us just enough of a sense of brush-clearing’s vacillations between tedium, danger, and excitement.
Lanthier lucked out considerably in Mamadou, an African immigrant who emerges as one of the film’s central figures (and easily its most likeable). Expressing discontent with minimum wage exploitation in Montreal, Mamadou chased the Canadian dream north. Comparing himself to Alexander Ovechkin, Mamadou takes due pride in his work ethic, while also finding a spiritual element to hacking through the roughage.
You can chalk Lumberfros‘ intermittent dullness up to the repetition of the labour, but it still nags. Lanthier’s film is meditative to the point of drowsiness at times, her social-anthropological inquiry often seeming wholly inert. You know, in the grand tradition of the NFB.

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