BUILD GOD // place

Laura and I were in Saskatchewan partly so that I could go back to Caronport and find a house where we can shoot my film in August. I went door to door up and down Spruce St, the last street in the town, the street where trailers back onto the village cemetery and then onto fields. I told people I was from Edmonton but I used to live in number 87, just down there, could I possibly come back and film in their home? I'd forgotten what it's like to be an outsider in a town so small. I told one woman about my partner and she assumed I was a lesbian and immediately became unkind to me. I told another woman that this was my first real movie project and that it was, among other things, about a conflicted relationship with Christianity, and she said she'd love to talk over coffee and would we need any meals while we were on the shoot?

This is how I tried to explain the movie in the grant application I wrote for the Alberta Foundation for the Arts:

Set in one of the small Bible-college towns scattered across the prairies, Build God explores how a vaguely religious impulse manifests in a child caught, simultaneously, within the void of the prairie, and the airtight belief of an evangelical community which denies the reality of this void. How can a child find concrete, comprehensible meaning in such a situation? If, as that child has been told, God is “up there”—the only agent in a terrifying expanse of space—it seems to be up to the individual to fill in the blanks and try to understand his immediate world through significant actions. Josiah tests the bounds of his own agency, his effect on the environment and its effect on him, the ways in which he can impose on others and they in turn infringe on him. Under a seemingly limitless sky, what are the limits?

Josiah’s story is based heavily on my childhood experiences, and my interest in making it stems from a desire to unpack the interactions between religion, community, the landscape, and the individual which have been formative in my own life and which are so particular to this part of Canada. At the same time, I think that Josiah's disconcerting activities recall universal elements of human childhood—which is not nearly as simplistic or innocent as many people prefer to remember. I can't think of a place where the darker aspects of childhood are more apparent than the setting of Build God: a dirt-poor village set down in the middle of a field, where the church has catalyzed a sense of mysticism and where in the summers there is literally nothing to do.