Friday, February 9, 2018

0. Toronto

Two married couples, each consisting of a husband and wife, are seated on opposite sofas in a dimly-lit living room.  They are about to watch Two Hands: The Story of Alan and Hannah, which, only three months after its release, has become the most watched documentary ever made by a Canadian.  One of the couples is dressed alike, both husband and wife wearing a white t-shirt with two red, right-handed handprints printed on the front.  They are promotional shirts created to go along with the film.  The other couple is dressed in normal casual clothes.

The only person in the room to have already seen the film is the husband in the promotional t-shirt.  He is also the only one of the four who is featured in it.  He knows what is about to be shown, and feels some trepidation over what the others are about to learn.  This film, which he helped bring into existence—perhaps against his better judgement—reveals aspects of his life that otherwise would have remained unspoken, at least to certain people.   As many are, he was a different person to different people, and until this film had been able to control what was known of himself to whom.  Now his contradictions would be waved to the world, his different selves side by side–summer camp versus school-year, education and work as a scientist versus pursuit of the supernatural, bouts of blind rage versus bland normalcy, drunkenness versus sobriety—his  various sides, not suitable for all to know, lain out for all to see.  Whatever the result of this viewing, he feels that it will be an answer to, or a culmination of what had started during a summer more than half his life ago, a punctuation mark at the end of seventeen years wandering in the wilderness, literally and figuratively.   He glances at the two women on the two sofas, the nearest, his wife, the other, his wife’s sister.  One is, in a way, a cause of all that happened, the other, in another way, a result.  What will they say when the lights come back on? 

They are both watching him, as is the sister’s husband.  He hesitates, hoping for the power to go out, as if that will solve things.  He realizes that’s the way he has always dealt with confounding problems, hoping for the power to go out.  The power fails to fail.  He sighs, turns out the lights, aims the clicker, and closes his eyes.

The start is a cymbal crash and a thunderous organ chord, all stops pulled, as the screen blares white and then contracts through murky greens and purples that gradually resolve into a dark and cloudy image—the vulnerable shell of an overturned canoe floating in a river.  As the organ fades the image clears and someone off camera is shouting names. Abruptly the scene turns to daylight and the canoe, still overturned, is alone on a grassy bank.  A voiceover commences as the camera pans left. 

My name is Daniel Imamura.  I am the creator of this film.   I’m one of those shown in this Global TV news footage of a cluster of people standing on the Cariboo Dam in Burnaby, British Columbia.  I’m the fellow on the far left.  The fair-haired man next to me is William Kendall, whom you will get to know during the course of this film.  Beside him is my cousin, Martin Fujiwara, the television actor, and the woman next to him is Monique Simard, his wife.  We are watching an RCMP Recovery Dive Team as it searches for the body of Alan Lennox, the renowned wildlife artist, who was also my brother- in-law, the husband of my late sister, Hannah.  Alan disappeared on the small stretch of river immediately upstream from the dam approximately eleven hours before this scene was filmed, when his canoe overturned.  His body, as is now well known, was never found.  Right there—you see William turn and touch my arm.  He is saying to me, ``He’s not here.  This river is too small to hide a person this long, especially Alan.”  You can tell from my expression and body language that I’m not convinced.  He had to be there, somewhere, in that dark, brown water.

Three people witnessed the accident.  I was one.  I was standing on the north bank of the river a hundred metres upstream from the dam and had my camera running. It was I who filmed the lightning flash.  A man named Milt Harvey also saw the canoe go over.  He was also about one hundred metres upstream but on the south bank.  The third witness was William Kendall, who was in the canoe and went into the water with Alan.  None of us saw Alan resurface.  William was being somewhat glib, and coy, when he said so easily, “This river is too small to hide a person this long.”  He had known all along that Alan was not there and that the police divers would find no trace of him.

The image freezes and changes from colour to black and white as the voiceover continues.
I began this film almost a year before Alan Lennox disappeared.  It started as a very personal project.  It was my way of dealing with my sister’s death.  I intended to chronicle the stages of grief and, hopefully, recovery of her famous husband, my brother-in-law, who was also my close friend.  I expected that Alan would eventually climb up from his sorrow and start to paint again, and I hoped that his progression, from devastation to creativity reborn, would inspire and lift me too.

But as in any personal story, there was no way of predicting how things would turn out, and Alan’s apparent death, at first glance, seemed to have heaped tragedy upon tragedy.
This could not be farther from the truth.  You will see that Alan accomplished exactly what I had hoped to document, but, as always, he did it in his own brilliant, crazy way—making it up as he went along, and, well, by cheating.   

Next there is a headshot of  Daniel Imamura, the film’s creator. He is sitting in an editing studio and he says:

Everything I present here is true to the best of my knowledge and understanding.  If you watch the entire film, you will understand why I felt it necessary to say this, staring into my own lens.


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