Written and directed by Andrew Cividino, based on his short of the same title
Jackson Martin, Nick Serino and Reece Moffett
In theatres April 8
Last spring, word got out that Dundas, Ontario filmmaker Andrew Cividino’s first feature was making a big splash at the Cannes Film Festival. Sleeping Giant won two nominations and glowing reviews. Pretty sweet for a micro budgeted drama about three teens on summer vacation on the shores of Lake Superior.
Back home in Canada, some months later, Sleeping Giant was named Best Canadian First Feature Film at the Toronto Film Festival, one of Canada’s Top Ten Best Films and it won a Canadian Screen Award. There were eight other awards. Glowing reviews and word-of-mouth made it the film to watch for. So why did it hit so hard? We spoke with Cividino for some clues.
From the idea to completion to an incredible array of international awards in a little over a year is rare. And for your first feature no less.
Yes. It’s been a really incredible journey traveling around the film circuit to forty-five festivals in twenty-nine countries and seeing how audiences respond around the world. It’s been a uniformly positive response and it’s been great and a wonderful year.
What is it about the film that has hit audiences’ sweet spots?
It is hard to know the alchemy is that makes the film something that people connect to. All you can do is trust your instincts that the story you want to tell needs to be told and be true as you can to your vision.
How personal was it?
The film is defined by my own experiences of when I grew up and spent summers on the shores of Lake Superior and specifically those locations. The story itself is fiction but the place and the aesthetic are real.
The Sleeping Giant is a massive land formation that resembles a body in repose. It dominates the landscape and it’s a great symbol and setting.
I cared about that space so much I felt daunted by that challenge. I wanted to capture what it feels like to be on it and walk through the forest; it’s like walking through Middle Earth. I wanted to capture that and it was great to see people were responding to the setting and were transported. I was stoked.
For me the title has two meanings the landscape and the sleeping giant its set against and the character Adam a sense of awakening, he so many things happen to him until he decides to take action and he’s not necessarily sure of the consequences.
I appreciate is that it is so Canadian in its essence with the landscape, the way the boys are, the things they do and talk about.
What I wanted was not to be flag-wavingly Canadian in the sense of Canadian hockey sticks. I wanted to avoid the kitschy idea of Canadians, not a flag, but because it’s specific to the experiences that are familiar. Anyone who grew up in rural Canada or had cottages or made summer trips have experienced this before. Its specific and true to what we are. We’re cold lake swimmers.
Do you keep up with the boys?
I keep in touch with all three of them and we saw each other at Canada’s Top Ten and the Canadian Screen Awards; the whole gang got together.
Any plans to revisit them in the style of 7 Up or Boyhood?
It’s interesting. I thought of that when I was first framing the story. It was bookended by these characters as grownups. That was an early iteration, but I have no plans now to work on a sequel.
Are you nervous about future expectations after such success?
I think it’s a choice and I choose not to feel any pressure. If anything the pressure is off in a way because I can work towards my next film and doors have open and people have come forward. I’m very grateful for that. I do chase stories that really compel me and in ways that are most true to me.
Now that you’ve released it, are you getting some distance?
My relationship with a film continues to evolve after I finished working on it I hope it will continue to. It’s like reading a book, ten years later like a book you’re a different person when we finished it I knew every worked and now its a bit more distant. im able to sit with an audience and diff experience an less stressed out. It’s out there in the world and out of my control. It’s not so bad.
Are you interested in adapting others’ material?
Yes, I’d like to adapt material that isn’t mine, scripts and novels. I would be happy to adapt something at some point and make it my own. Some of my short films have been adaptations.
What is next?
I’m adapting another of my shorts, a sci-fi film based on Jon (?) Martell feature film and working on a new projects that aren’t locked in yet so I can’t talk about them.