alice & bastard in the Toronto Star

It’s a long way to Wonderland, Alice

Good karma directed film of latchkey kidDarren Plester as Bastard, Kalyx Malek-Parker as Alice in "alice & bastard".

A contender at Female Eye Film Festival

Jun. 17, 2006. 01:00 AM



When making her first film, Alice & Bastard, Vancouver writer and director Ana Valine counted her good fortune in having friends in the industry, a healthy margin on her credit card and good karma. Chosen to screen in the Female Eye Film Festival, which opened Thursday, Alice & Bastard began with an insistent little voice. “There’s not an ounce of fact in this story. I guess I have an over-active imagination. I was hearing this kooky little character. And I wondered what this little person would do in the world.”

The character was 4-year-old Alice, a trailer park resident, circa 1977. She lives with her mother, who has been getting it on with the TV repairman, and a much older brother, a layabout known only as Bastard. The movie is shot entirely from the little girl’s point of view, often from the floor to about waist height of the adults.

Alice sees a lot during the short’s 18 minutes. She accompanies her brother on his daily visits to a strip bar, and is left for hours alone in their mother’s old car; she pours her mother gin during a noisy card game with two trailer park girls; and she overhears mum’s noisy coupling with the repairman. “That TV is always breaking down,” she tells herself.

Valine, 39, shot the movie on digital video in a trailer park in Langley, B.C., not far from Vancouver, for $5,000 — mostly the retro costumes and sets — on her credit card.

Valine says she didn’t want to hire a child actor for the part of Alice. ” I wrote a letter to a daycare and basically asked, `Do you mind if I come in and stalk your children?’ I found her in 10 minutes.” This was Kalyx Malek-Parker, whose parents were supportive of Valine’s project, despite the sometimes off-colour content of the script.

She cast Darren Plester, a crew member from one of her special events jobs, as Bastard. Vancouver actor Tammy Bentz plays the mother. Her production designer, Robyn Badger, is one of the card-playing friends, while the other is played by the manager of the trailer park where the occupants of one home lent her their digs for the three-day shoot, free.

“I was so blessed with the whole shoot. Everything and everyone we needed came when we needed them. It was sort of, `Hey, you come here, put this on.'”

Alice & Bastard started on the festival circuit last fall in Vancouver, and won one of B.C.’s Leo Awards this spring for best production design. “People either really love it or they just don’t get it,” says the filmmaker.

At Saskatchewan’s Yorkton Film Festival, it won for best fiction direction and best emerging filmmaker.

Alice & Bastard is now up for a prize at the Female Eye festival, where award-winning films will be re-screened tomorrow night at 7 p.m. in the National Film Board Cinema, 150 John St.

Today’s screenings include a program of shorts directed by women; the documentary Rosita, by Barbara Attie and Joan Goldwater; and a dramatic feature, End of Silence, by Anita Doron. Tickets to screenings are $5.

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