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April 8, 1999
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SJP


Polley's feet firmly on ground
By BRUCE KIRKLAND


Sarah Polley has three major films coming out: Doug Liman's Go, which opens tomorrow, David Cronenberg's eXistenZ later this month, and Audrey Wells' Guinevere later this year.

She is featured on the current cover of Vanity Fair as a rising talent. Entertainment Weekly recently touted the 20-year-old Toronto actress a surefire new millennium movie star.

But the outspoken Polley, who recalls Veronica Lake in glamorous good looks yet conjures up pioneering Canadian suffragette Nellie McClung in her political activism, is much more excited about Toronto's sixth annual Hot Docs, the Canadian International Documentary Festival set for May 5-9.

"I would say that out of all those things that you just mentioned," Polley said in an interview yesterday, "I'm probably a lot more passionate about today."

Polley is on the blue-ribbon jury for the festival and showed up at the Hot Docs press conference yesterday to help promote the event and reconnect herself with the Canadian film industry, "which is where I belong." Polley was a media magnet.

"It's extremely hard," Polley groused good-naturedly about her celebrity. But she appreciates that if the media get excited about her in connection with Hot Docs, it helps the festival.

"I wouldn't have thought it but, if it's true, I'm really glad. That for me is the only good thing that could ever come out of something as stupid and meaningless as fame! But it's a weird thing that it means anything at all." To underscore the point, Polley mentioned Monica Lewinsky's fame: "So it is absurd."

Polley was eager, if apprehensive, about the Hot Docs jury.

"This is something that I place a lot more importance on than any of those other things. For me, it's a really great way for me to remember what I'm actually interested in and who I am and remember that that (her emerging fame) is something that is going on independent of me.

"I really love documentary films and we make really great documentaries in this country. If anything I feel a little bit under-qualified doing this. My only reservation is: Do I really have the right, beyond loving documentaries, to be on a jury?"

At last year's Toronto filmfest, Polley saw Nettie Wild's A Place Called Chiapas, a Canadian film about the Zapatista rebels and their fight to protect Mexican Indian peasants. It showed her how powerful documentaries are, Polley said.

At the time she told herself: "Yeah, it was invigorating and inspiring, but now I have a responsibility to do something with that information. Films can change lives."

Polley, the offspring of actors, currently is making a film herself, an untitled seven-minute drama she wrote herself. "Basically, it's to see if I have any talent at all. I have no illusions that being a director is something I can do."

In part, Polley took the ensemble role in Liman's tragi-comic Go to watch his unorthodox filmmaking techniques, especially his natural-lighting and hand-held camera work.

But she is not keen on her own work in it, which is why she didn't participate in promotional sessions for the film.

"I always knew that I wasn't the right person to play that part -- and I still believe that. In a way, I shouldn't have done it. I think someone else could have done it better," she said.

Polley plans to re-think how she chooses film roles, especially in U.S. movies. "I think you learn from your mistakes.

"I'm really glad you challenged me about the Go thing because I've been doing no publicity for it. But I'm glad I didn't totally escape because I'm really glad I did it, for a lot of reasons, and there were really great things about doing it and there are good things about the movie.

"But, in the end, it's not the kind of thing I'm supposed to do with my life."


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