Actress and filmmaker Sarah Polley turns her lens inwards with the deeply personal and surprising documentary Stories We Tell.
“When you’re in the middle of a story, it isn’t a story at all, but only a confusion,” says Michael Polley, narrating the opening moments of home video that we see of the Polley family. You come to know them intimately over the next hour in actress and Oscar-nomianted filmmaker Sarah Polley’s ground-breaking and deeply personal documentary Stories We Tell (2012). Beginning as an exploration of the life of her late mother, Diane, Polley introduces us to a cast of characters made up of her family and then, slowly, expands the circle wider to include her mother’s friends and colleagues. As she dives deep into the line between myth and memory that can be created within the family unit, she uncovers a startling truth about herself.
“A powerful and thoughtful film, it is also not what it at first seems, which is part of the point Polley appears to be interested in making.” – Roger Ebert
The brilliance of Stories We Tell is in the unexpected: what begins as a fairly conventional look at the past takes an unexpected twist. Yet then that twist itself becomes intricately analysed and the documentary becomes less about the Polley family – although they are the vessels for delivering the narrative – and more about dissecting the way we tell stories themselves, what that means and what that says about the families as a whole. Sweeping the international film festival circuit on its year of release following a premiere at Venice, it’s considered one of the great documentaries of the 21st century.
– Maria Lewis, Assistant Film Curator