Michka Saäl

Spoon

2015, documentary, 65 minutes, English and French

Credits        Reviews        Screenings Backstory

 

Synopsis

A dialogue born in a prison between Spoon Jackson — a black American poet imprisoned for life — and Michka Saäl. A poetic and political exchange imprinted on the dunes of the Mohave desert and her interior landscapes.

 

trailer

Credits

Written, directed and produced by Michka Saäl

 

Image: Sylvestre Guidi, Rénald Bellemare

Sound recording: Pierre Bertrand, Catherine Van Der Donckt

Sound design: Catherine Van Der Donckt

Editor: Michel Giroux

Poems: Spoon Jackson

Music: Ricky Ford

 

Produced with support from the Canada Council for the Arts, Aide au Cinéma Indépendant du Canada, and PRIM.

With Spoon Jackson and Michka Saäl

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Reviews

 
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Two soul mates

"One could say that, having both come from the desert, Spoon Jackson and the filmmaker were made to meet… between here and elsewhere, shadow and light, presence and absence, between words and images, where art tries to piece together broken lives, where cinema and poetry attempt to share ‘the same moment’, two soul mates who share the same sensibility.”

GéraRd Grugeau, 24 Images, June 2017

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A return to cinema of pure poetry

“Spoon is a return to a cinema of pure poetry that marked the first film of Michka Saäl, Far from Where? A cinema that builds a soft and languid relationship to the world. In Far from Where?, the difference and the gap between sound and images express displacement, the distance between one world and another (two continents, two times: youth and adulthood), of an exiled person who heads toward another place. In Spoon, the difference between sound and images contrasts an interior, authentic world and an exterior world that is closed and unattainable. Spoon has a disembodied voice, but this voice makes itself heard with conviction and self-confidence.”

Guillaume Roussel-Garneau, Liberté, autumn 2015

 

Screenings

2019

Cinéma Moderne, Montreal

Cinéma Paraoeil, Rimouski

2018

Hot Docs Redux, Toronto

 

2017

Cinématèque Québécoise, Montreal

 

2015

FID Marseille

Montreal International Documentary Festival

Festival dei Popoli, Florence

DOC Cévennes, Lasalle, France

Taiwan International Documentary Festival

University of Montreal

International Festival Signs of the Night, Lisbon

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Backstory

A still from  Spoon.

A still from Spoon.

Small pleasures

It’s so hard to make a film, it takes so long and it’s so thankless that I allow myself small pleasures once in a while. So my small pleasure is to film books because I love books as much as film, if not more. So I said to myself, “This time I will put books by poets everywhere and film them.” I had no idea what we would do with them. But there you go, we found a use for them.

Michka Saäl, University of Montreal, Observatoire de cinéma au Québec (Mardis OCQ), 2014

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Art vs. money

I made the film with a Canada Council grant. In other words, very little money. So everyone had to be totally committed. Otherwise, there’s no point and we wouldn’t succeed. Obviously, the other three and I weren't paid much. We did it for other reasons, to reflect on questions of form.

Michka Saäl, University of Montreal, Observatoire de cinéma au Québec (Mardis OCQ), 2014

Michel Giroux and Michka Saäl editing  Spoon,  2015 .

Michel Giroux and Michka Saäl editing Spoon, 2015.

 The inner and outer worlds of Spoon

Sylvestre Guidi, my director of photography, and I chose black and white for Spoon’s inner world. His imprisonment, his absence from the world, which would be expressed through the physical movement of the dancer-actors. And then colour for his childhood memories. These were important decisions for the form of the film. Long before we started shooting we had talked about that.

Michka Saäl, University of Montreal, Observatoire de cinéma au Québec (Mardis OCQ), 2014

Finding humanity through humour

All the poetry was written, and even the prose. Obviously, the little games between us weren’t written. I wanted to take them out. But (Michel) said, “No! Wait! That’s what gives the film its humanity. That’s what’s beautiful.” I didn't see it. I didn’t want people to hear me. In the end, these scenes seem to touch people. It shows the rapport between us. I only wanted the poems, which would have been beautiful, but maybe a little cold.

Michka Saäl, University of Montreal, Observatoire de cinéma au Québec (Mardis OCQ), 2014

 
Michka Saäl and Sylvestre Guidi on location in the Mohave desert.

Michka Saäl and Sylvestre Guidi on location in the Mohave desert.

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Pierre Bertrand and Michka Saal shooting Spoon.

Sound in Spoon

The first person who did sound with me, Pierre Bertrand, told me I could record conversations without the prison knowing, and put them directly onto my computer. Normally, our calls would last about 12 minutes. After that, they cut us off. During the 12 minutes, there are at least 5 or 6 interruptions. I taught Spoon to pick up where he’d left off. Not to comment, but just to keep going. So the sound editing (by Catherine Van Der Donckt) was a huge job.

Michka Saäl, University of Montreal, Observatoire de cinéma au Québec (Mardis OCQ), 2014

Michka Saäl and Ricky Ford, who provided the soundtrack, talk to Spoon on the telephone.,

Michka Saäl and Ricky Ford, who provided the soundtrack, talk to Spoon on the telephone.,

The realness of human contact

I was editing a scene of the film when Michka suddenly passed me the telephone. « It’s Spoon. He wants to talk to you. » Just like that, without any preparation, I started speaking to this person who I found, quite frankly, incredibly special. I had been living with him virtually already for a while, and this direct contact was even more intense. I remember that he spoke with a surprising candour, as if we had known each other forever. For him, contact with another human was obviously precious, and for me too. The kind of experience that Michka, through the depth of her endless generosity, gave me time and time again.

Michel Giroux, Editor, 2018

Hearing the film

It saddened us that Spoon might never see the film. We thought that, given Spoon’s ample imagination, which had given him the staying power to survive 40 years in prison, we could play him the soundtrack, like a radio, and allow him to imagine the images, inspired by the photoplay of the film that Michka had sent him. Spoon was very touched to hear the film. The power of sound…

Michel Giroux, Editor, 2018

Spoon Jackson and Michka Saäl at California State Prison, Los Angeles County, Lancaster.

Spoon Jackson and Michka Saäl at California State Prison, Los Angeles County, Lancaster.

Michka, magic and realness

I have seen Spoon through the photos Michka shared of the dancers/actors, and the light and darkness, the shades she captured in the desert. I heard Ricky Ford and my flute over the phone, and it sent chills down my heart and inspired my spirit. Yes I saw and felt the lake, the desert and the dancers. The magic of Michka’s creations and it all equals realness.

Spoon Jackson, poet, 2018

With Spoon in our hearts

My favourite film. Another story of redemption through art in the same vein as Prisoners of Beckett. We had shot a little in Montreal, but the main shoot was in the California desert. Michka said, “I want you to come with me to visit Spoon in prison before we start shooting.” What an extraordinary person! We stayed with Spoon all afternoon eating junk food out of vending machines that the inmates were not allowed to use on their own. And then we left with Spoon in our hearts and kept him with us for the shoot in the desert.

Sylvestre Guidi, Director of photography

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