Monday, February 26, 2024
February 26, 2024

Canadian music legends explored in two films 


Two legendary Canadian music icons are featured in the Salt Spring Film Festival’s “Best of the Fests” monthly film series at ArtSpring, beginning next week.  

Canada’s best-loved poet and troubadour is the subject of Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song. Chronicling the surprisingly inauspicious origins of one of Cohen’s most successful and beloved compositions, which was initially rejected by Cohen’s record label before being recorded by an astonishing 300 artists, this must-see film was recently nominated for the Hollywood Music in Media Award for Best Music Documentary. 

Inspired by Alan Light’s 2012 book The Holy or the Broken and directed by Emmy Award-winning husband-and-wife documentarians Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine, Hallelujah features interviews with Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Clive Davis, Brandi Carlile, Eric Church, Regina Spektor and Rufus Wainwright. 

Advance tickets are already sold out for the one-night-only screening at ArtSpring on Nov. 23, although a limited number of secondary seats will be sold at the door starting one hour prior to the 7:30 p.m. screening.  

One of the most widely-recognized and respected Indigenous people on the planet is profiled in the inspiring new documentary Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. 

Directed by Madison Thomas — who was recently awarded the Directors Guild of Canada’s Allan King Award for Excellence in Documentary — this intimate retrospective of Sainte-Marie’s personal journey traces the 81-year-old self-taught musician’s groundbreaking career and improbable rise to international fame, and includes rare archival material and interviews with Joni Mitchell, Alanis Obomsawin and Robbie Robertson. 

Taken from her birth parents as an infant and adopted out to an American couple who predicted that she’d never become a successful musician, Sainte-Marie defied the odds by flourishing despite a childhood of dislocation and abuse. Her natural musical ability protected her spirit and propelled her from her birthplace on the Piapot Reserve in Qu’Appelle Valley, Sask., through the folk music coffeehouse scenes of Toronto’s Yorkville and New York’s Greenwich Village, and ultimately to international concert halls and the Academy Awards. 

Sainte-Marie broke new ground when she breastfed her son on television in 1977 during her five-year stint on Sesame Street, and went on to become the first Indigenous person ever to win an Oscar, for co-writing Up Where We Belong, the duet made famous by Jennifer Warnes and Joe Cocker, from Taylor Hackford’s 1982 film An Office and a Gentleman. 

Named Best New Artist the year the Beatles came to America and later blacklisted by American radio stations at the urging of presidents Johnson and Nixon and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Sainte-Marie has relentlessly spoken truth to power while challenging perceptions of Indigenous people in music and popular culture. 

“Sometimes,” she says, “you have to carry the medicine a while before people are ready for it.” 

Tickets for Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On, which screens on Wednesday, Dec. 7 at ArtSpring, are available in person at the box office, by phone at 250-537-2102 and online via

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  1. They both sound interesting, though I have to question the description of Leonard Cohen as Canada’s best loved poet and troubadour – Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot might have something to say about that.


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