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Toronto International Film Festival

Sarah Polley reveals family secrets in 'Stories We Tell'

September 08, 2012|By Nicole Sperling
  • Sarah Polley and her father, Michael Polley, after the Toronto International Film Festival premiere of her new documentary about her family, "Stories We Tell."
Sarah Polley and her father, Michael Polley, after the Toronto International… (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles…)

TORONTO -- After debuting in Venice and Telluride to effusive praise, Sarah Polley's riveting, quasi-documentary "Stories We Tell," is continuing to receive audience admiration with its Toronto debut.

The film is a deeply personal piece of art from Polley that not only explores how we tell stories, but specifically traces her own discovery of a family secret that was buried when her mother passed away when Polley was 11.

Polley, who has hoped to do no interviews on the film until it is released theatrically, published this blog post to elucidate the origins of her tale.

The movie took five years for Polley to make. It proved so taxing that the director, who received acclaim for her debut film "Away From Her" in 2006, escaped for a year to make her sophomore feature "Take This Waltz" with Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen.

In its Toronto premiere, Polley brought her entire family along -- most of whom play pivotal roles in the film, specifically the father who raised her, Michael Polley, and the man whom she discovered to be her biological father.

What is left out of the film is how the news has affected Polley personally, an issue she addressed briefly during the post-screening Q&A.

"Everyone in the world has the fantasy that their parents are not their real parents," she said with a laugh. Yet what was for years a joke among her and her four older siblings wasn't funny once she learned the truth.

"I had a fever on and off for over two weeks after I found out," she said. The film, she said, "was really hard to make. I wanted to get the hell out of the edit bay every day. I spent a lot of time on my BlackBerry when I was there. I'm not a tortured artist in any way. I enjoy working on films but this was pure agony."

Michael Polley, also an actor, was so inspired by the discovery that he took to writing his own version of the story, which is predominantly featured in the movie. "It's a lovely story," he said after the screening. "I wish I made it myself." 

Though the film has yet to nail down U.S. distribution, it is scheduled to open in Canada on Oct. 12.

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