I would be hard-pressed to not say this is the type of film that epitomizes a festival since every film shown is there for the same reasons. However, playing in a prime slot (Friday evening at the Orpheum), this movie was very accessible to those that want to reach beyond mainstream independent and foreign films to further immerse themselves into what a festival film might be like.
Ten Canoes had an almost perfect balance of reality storytelling, cultural documentation, and overall sense of beauty. It is rare to see a narrative in which you walk away feeling like you saw a documentary and that everything in it was true. And, in this movie I wouldn't doubt that the story narrated by an unseen character is an ancient aboriginal morality tale. Or was it the longest joke told to get to a punchline? I don't think that was the case, but on the surface it may have seemed that way.
If I were to compare it to other films created in remote places, this one surely had a polished look of a mainstream film. The first-time actors, and all their quirks, certainly came through but also made the story much more real.
The natural landscape brought you into the environment as comfortably as possible - I could feel as if my feet were stamping the same grass, trudging the same water, or being roughed by the same dirt. I could smell the smoke and felt the pests buzzing around my ears, wanting to swat them away. This feeling was due to the beautiful cinematography and sound. Also, a huge thank you to the festival folks for creating the perfect environment to see this film - in large, perfect projection at the Orpheum, and top-notch sound quality. I also think the very large crowd made for a great atmosphere.
One more mention about the story... the way the story has to unfold for you takes a lot of explaining by the narrator. But, this is done exceptionally well so you are not lost as to the time and place in which the three stories happen.
If you didn't get to see this on the big screen, I hope it comes back to Madison to screen again in all its glory. It would still be very good at home, but I think you'd take away something different than seeing it in a theater.
Thank you for bringing this to the festival!