Ron Hynes doc to premiere at TIFF

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William MacGillivray's new documentary, The Man of a Thousand Songs, is said to be a revealing look at the personal struggles of renowned singer/songwriter Ron Hynes.

“Well, I think this film is about Ron's light side and his dark side,” Ron says as the film opens. “I think the light side is Ron, and the dark side is that guy that he's got to be when he goes out on stage, or that guy that kind of...took over his life. I think Ron invented this guy, and then he kind of came to you think that's what it's about?” he peers straight into the lens, withdrawn yet intent. His eyes are those of someone who still battles with very dark forces.

Ron speaks of himself in the third person, and as two separate people: Ron and The Man. The latter, according to Ron, took over his life for a period in the late 90s/early 00s, causing him to spiral into a cycle of addiction and dependency.

We walk and talk with Ron, as he recalls the early days and how he got started, takes us on a tour of his childhood home in Ferryland, discusses memories of his Wonderful Grand Band days, and more.

He knows he's good, comparing himself with Hank Williams, Gordon Lightfoot and the like. He's self-admittedly self-involved, which may have initiated his divorce from wife Connie. At one point, nephew Joel Thomas Hynes (who is a big part of the film), reflects, “I know that he's absent from a lot of loved ones lives, and that he's forsaken a lot for the search for the perfect song. There's something admirable about that, and there's something that's not-so-admirable about that, because some really good people can go by the wayside.”

But maybe a huge ego and a great sense of self are required to lay his heart and soul on the line, as Ron Hynes does.

We hear tales of woe about his long-lost relationships with his children, which he claims to be his ongoing personal sorrow of sorrows. The tales are some of the most moving and self-reflective thoughts-out-loud that you'll ever hear.

The final 30 minutes of the film speak openly about Ron's temporary dependency on cocaine and alcohol. It's a story that will knot your stomach. And his third-person description of The Man, which might make you think Ron Hynes is bi-polar, is chilling.

The film includes sweeping views of St. John's, it creeps through the city's dark clubs and pubs, and chats with its residents. Live performances are peppered throughout, along with salty interviews with Ron and Joel.

At its' core, this film is really about struggling with inner demons, and about learning to sit comfortably in your own skin, which is something we can all relate to.

What does Bill MacGillivray have to say about it?

The filmmaker confesses that he never planned for this to be a soft, bland, 'life and times'-type production.

“To Ron's credit,” he says, “he never wavered. We wanted people, fans and strangers alike, to get to know Ron and to be confronted with the brutal fact that it is hard to be someone who lays their art and their life on the line on a day to day basis. I wanted people to be aware that a true artist can never simply stop making their art. And there is a price to be paid for that.”

The film premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) on September 13th. Not too shabby.

MacGillivray says that he and his partner, producer Terry Greenlaw, have always tried to take the local and make it universal.

“People forget the fact that our familiar, everyday world is someone else's exotic,” he says. “The trick is, I think, to try to express the truth of the local rather than the myth of the local. The opening of The Man of a Thousand Songs is a very quick snapshot of St. John's, its people, its manners, its ways – all in a couple of minutes of course, but we wanted this audience to have a context for Ron and a taste of the world that has influenced him and his art.”

The Man of a Thousand Songs premieres at TIFF on September 13th, with two further screenings on September 14 and 18.

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Recent comments

  • Patton MacDonald
    September 16, 2010 - 08:57

    Well, somebody has to be first in the pool so here goes: When I think of Ron Hynes and his music, I always think of his music fondly, because I like his poetry and his story telling and his melodies so much. Other things I thought of when I read your posting included: In 1966 I went to NF for the first time with my little rock band, to follow a girl there. I went in early June and came home at Xmas because I had to see if they would let me do grade 12 in a half year, so my parents would stop mourning my decision to be an itinerate musician. Many things happened and one was in Hawkes Bay. The people there left their generator on late so we could get our gas tank repaired and refilled. So, we played some music for them while we waited. We met some local kids our age and one guy was an excellent musician, who told us he had never seen a paved road, never been as far as Deer Lake. He was going to MUN that fall and looking forward so much to doing it. That's how I had felt before I took off for NF. When I heard "Sonny's Dream" the first time, I realized how "on the mark" Ron's songs are. Of course we met many well travelled people, too. But this guy reminded me of me. I agree with William MacGillvary on how hard it is for "true artists" to live every day when you are driven to do something which consumes you, even when it means you aren't keeping pace with other parts of life, are often removed from "normal life" being lived by people you watched and even love, including yourself sometimes. It's a tough deal. Early on you are often so broke you can't get anything which gives you normalcy. Then, if you reach a point where you have some bucks, people and pressures and the sense of being from outerspace or somewhere help you make easier and poor decisions until you sometimes get back right where you began, or if you make bigger mistakes, you just die. I hope that somebody will help kick this guy and help him realize he needs to do the whole job, not just the other parts. Maybe this incredible artist should realize and enjoy all and not just part of the beauty that surrounds him. I felt sad for him and also mad at him for daring to be an artist and missing some of the most important and beautiful moments he could be having in his life. Living is also an important part of the job, and he needs to look in that direction too, or perhaps I am getting the wrong impression from what I read. I remember being on a stage once under another name and telling the Toronto audience how great it was for a Cape Bretoner to be there, drinking real chocolate milk straight and having electric lights. It caused quite a ruckus with people who actually thought I was serious. Maybe Ron is just misunderstood or mis-described (is that a real word?). Anyway, thanks for this, and long live Ron Hynes and his wonderful music and creativity. If you find out where the doc will show next in Atlantica let us know please.