Al Purdy Was Here

Toronto International Film FestivalTIFF DocsNoBrian D. JohnsonMarni JacksonBrian D. JohnsonAl Purdy Was Here is the story of a crusade to revive the legacy of an iconic Canadian poet. It revolves around a fundraising campaign to restore Al Purdy's A-frame house on Roblin Lake in Ontario's Prince Edward County,and make it a writing retreat for young poets. Built by Purdy and his wife with salvaged materials in 1957,the A-frame was a mecca for the pioneers of CanLit,including Margaret Lawrence,Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje. Now,14 years after the poet's death,as a new generation discovers his work,Al's modest cabin becomes an unlikely beacon for a creative renaissance. Purdy has been variously called the last,best and most Canadian poet. We learn how this Trenton high-school dropout,who hopped freights during the Depression and worked at mattress factories,forced himself to be a poet-writing bad verse for two decades before finding his voice at the A-Frame. Saving a ramshackle cottage built on a bog seems a quixotic enterprise. But with the triumph of The Al Purdy Show,a star-studded benefit at Toronto's Koerner Hall,the A-frame is saved. And it becomes clear that there's more to the crusade than preserving a literary landmark. It's generating its own art,from a new play about Purdy's formative years to The Al Purdy Songbook,a benefit album featuring artists such as Leonard Cohen,Bruce Cockburn and Sarah Harmer. The film's ultimate focus is not on a dead poet,but on the living characters bound up in his legacy-from Al's 90-year-old widow,Eurithe,who watches the restoration with an unrelenting eye,to the A-Frame's first resident poet,a vivacious young feminist who finds herself strangely falling for the old-school male whose secrets lie buried in its walls.15/09/2015201590Documentary, Biography, MusicEnglishCanadatt4196504