Director: Chelsea McMullen Writer: Chelsea McMullen Starring: Rae Spoon Runtime: 76 min
Like people, not every film can be easily categorized. My Prairie Home (2014) is just such a movie, as it refuses to adhere to a specific genre and combines aspects of a documentary with those of a musical or music video. The result is a new and unique sort of film that works perfectly to portray its ideas as it introduces an audience to a bright young musical star.
In My Prairie Home, director Chelsea McMullen takes the viewer on a tour through the life of indie folk singer Rae Spoon as well as of the regal Canadian prairies. Spoon is an undoubtedly talented young Canadian, and McMullen allows ample time for us to listen to Spoon’s soulful music as the film is set up not as a traditional documentary but more as an extended music video. As the film progresses, Spoon examines personal issues such as the loss of religion, the fluidity of gender and sexuality, and the challenges of an abusive home life. Spoon’s life fascinates, and it is a real treat to get to know more about this individual as we begin to listen to their music for the first time, meeting Spoon in more ways than one.
My Prairie Home may open with recognizable shots of the Canadian prairies, but they do not appear as one would expect; instead, the scenery is all upside down. This technique works wonderfully to disorient a viewer and alert them that what they are about to watch is wholly unique and refuses to adhere to preconceived rules, notions, or guidelines. Here is a new kind of documentary, one that tells its story through music as well as through interview. The shots themselves are gorgeous, highlighting the scenery of the Canadian landscape as well as simple, everyday treasures. Complimented by Spoon’s gentle and emotional music, the resulting scenes are a pleasure both to watch and to listen to.
Interspersed throughout the scenery and music videos are the interviews with Spoon themselves, which are equally as enjoyable as the more artistic scenes. These conversations are honest and revealing, yet McMullen and Spoon address tricky topics with delicacy and care. Already introduced to an original style of documentary, the audience is now presented with new ideas in regards to gender identity; just as the film defies a fixed genre, Spoon refuses to accept a fixed gender. Spoon’s explanations are so gentle and easy to understand, however, that even the most traditional in the audience must be forced to stop and think about these ideas. Reoccurring visual motifs, such as male and female washroom doors out of which one curiously waits for Spoon to emerge, strengthen the points while providing an interesting technique.
My Prairie Home is a straightforward film with a touch of whimsy and a lot of forward ideas. Not only is an audience introduced to a shining young singer and some excellent music, but they may also have their preconceived notions, both in regards to documentary filmmaking and beyond, challenged as well. To top it all off, stunning shots of the majestic Canadian landscape make this film both an auditory and visual treat. You’ve likely never seen anything like this film, but it is definitely worth checking out, and you just might emerge as a fan of a certain young Canadian folk singer.