By Tara Bradbury
From female prisoners in Pakistan and AIDS workers in Soweto to Canadians’ love-hate affair with winter, Barbara Doran’s work as a documentarian has allowed her glimpses into life and situations at home and around the world.
Doran, founder of production company Morag Loves Company, has been making films for close to 30 years, but not only documentaries: her 2001 CBC-TV mini-series “Random Passage” won two Gemini Awards out of six nominations, and was nominated for a Directors Guild of Canada award for outstanding achievement.
Other projects include “Young Triffie’s Been Made Away With,” directed by Mary Walsh, and “Love and Savagery,” starring Allan Hawco.
Her latest film, “The Grand Seduction,” is based on the Quebec movie “La Grande Séduction” and is set to debut at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 8. It will open the Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax on Sept. 12.
Filmed in Trinity Bay, “The Grand Seduction,” directed by Don McKellar, stars “Friday Night Lights” actor Taylor Kitsch, Irish star Brendan Gleeson and local performers such as Gordon Pinsent, Mark Critch, Mary Walsh and Cathy Jones, and is set in an outport town in need of a doctor.
When a big-city physician shows up, the town launches a campaign to seduce him to stay, allowing the community to secure a factory and saving it from financial ruin.
Doran’s success as an award-winning filmmaker might be helped by the fact that she doesn’t take no for an answer, says Critch.
“She has the two best qualities in Newfoundland and Labrador women: she’s stubborn, and she has a big heart,” the actor/comedian told The Telegram. “She truly cares about her projects and the people in them, but she’s too crooked to give up when it seems impossible to do something. She is successful out of spite.”
What is your full name?
Barbara Marie Alacoque Doran.
Where and when were you born?
St. John’s, in 1946.
Where is home today?
I divide my time between St. John’s and my summer house in Port Rexton.
What was one act of rebellion you committed as a youth?
I dated a protestant boy, against my family’s wishes.
Do you have any hidden talents?
Cooking, I guess. When I was younger I did a little palm and tea leaf reading as a fundraiser for the transition house in St. John’s and the Women’s Centre. I wasn’t very good at it, guesswork mainly, if you’re at all intuitive.
Who inspires you?
My mother, long deceased, inspires me, and the books that I read and films I see. I’m always inspired by people I meet from other cultures when I travel — the farther-flung, the better.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Semi-retired. I don’t ever see myself leaving film behind. I may not produce, but I’ll do something. And I’d like to spend most of my year at my house in Port Rexton, expand my vegetable garden and write.
Who is one person, living or deceased, you’d love to have lunch with?
Ken Loach, filmmaker.
What are five songs on your music playlist?
Charlie Hayden’s “You Win Again,’ Maria Callas’ “Casta Diva,” Thomas Tallis’ “Allegri, Misere,” Anita Best’s “Never Met a Liar” and Ron Hynes’ “Record Man.”
What are you reading at the moment?
In fiction, I’m reading every book Ann Enright has ever written, as she was the guest at Winterset Writers’ Festival this year. I spent a few days with her and she is not only a fantastic Booker Prize winner, but she’s a witty, crusty and delightful human being. In non-fiction, I’m reading Christopher Hitchens’ “Arguably.” Brilliant!
Who would play you in a movie about your life?
What is your greatest regret?
I wish I had been a better mother. I married at the age of 19 and had no idea about raising children. When my marriage fell apart five years later, I had two small children, no income and sometimes had to hold down two and three jobs that left little time for my children.
What’s the toughest thing about your job?
Spending so much time trying to put the financing together and slogging through the mountains of paperwork that has become the burden of the film industry, because of agencies’ pressing need for transparency and accountability. When you’re spending more than 90 per cent of your time with financing and administration, there is little time left over for creative thinking. Then at night you worry how you will keep the film company alive, pay people and keep going until your next production, which could be never.
What’s been your most memorable experience?
Holding my newborn son, Sean, in my arms for the first time. And then three years later holding my daughter, Erin, for the first time.
What was the most vivid dream you’ve ever had?
I am dreaming I’m swimming in a canal that at first is beautiful, then the sky darkens, the canal becomes dark, dank and muddy. At the end of the canal there’s a huge ship coming towards me and I know I have to get out, so I see a ledge and try to hoist myself up onto it, but it’s full of screaming rats. The ship is nearly on me now and it’s the full length of the canal, so I realize I have only one choice: to dive under the ship, but when I rise up to dive into the dark water, it, too, is full of rats. It’s at that point I wake up screaming. Haven’t had that one in a while and hope it doesn’t come back to me again because I’m talking about it. I’m sure it stems from my days as a rat killer in a biology lab. Rats’ revenge, so to speak.
What’s the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
I was filming on board a cruise ship off the Cayman Islands when I was making a film about Harlequin Romance writers/readers/models. There was a storm and in the middle of filming, a pole fell from 30 feet above me and knocked me to the ground. I ended up with a scull fracture and a detached retina. But the strangest thing was to be carried through the cruise ship on a palette by six semi-nude male cover models.
What would you do if you won the lottery?
I’d buy a house in Greece or Morocco and one each for my two children.
If you were an animal, which animal would you be?
A koala bear, because they smell great, feel great and they’re so cuddly you can’t help but love them.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
Having my dress fall apart at my graduation dance at Holy Heart. My sister had loaned me her dress, topless with a dramatic pattern or huge roses and a tuille. Because my sister was substantially more buxom than I, my sisters stuffed tissues, panty hose and whatever else was to hand to fill out the strapless bra I was wearing. Because I love to dance, I did so with abandon and at one point I looked at my dancing partner/date who had stopped dead in his tracks. When I looked down at the dress, there was panty hose, tissues and toilet paper spilling out all over the place. At the age of 16 you think you’ll never recover because he, of course, never asked me out again, and all the other Heart girls couldn’t control their snickering. The date fled in one direction and I in the other.
What is your personal motto?
“What we take life to be is what our lives become.” (James Baldwin)