Brian D. Johnson screens Purdy doc at Playhouse

Film director Brian D. Johnson mugs for the camera before the screening of his new doc, “Al Purdy Was Here,” on June 8 at the Village Playhouse. Johnson is the former film critic for Macleans Magazine, a poet, musician and he is president of the Toronto Film Critics Association.

Film director Brian D. Johnson mugs for the camera before the screening of his new doc, “Al Purdy Was Here,” on June 8 at the Village Playhouse. Johnson is the former film critic for Macleans Magazine, a poet, musician and he is president of the Toronto Film Critics Association.

Fans of Al Purdy, the nation’s unofficial poet laurate, gathered at the Village Playhouse on June 8 for a special TIFF Film Circuit screening of the new documentary film, “Al Purdy Was Here.” The film was well received by fans of the larger than life poet who was known for the works he published about North Hastings.

Hosted by Hospice North Hastings, the screening also featured a pre-show greeting from writer and director Brian D. Johnson plus a full question and answer session following the film.

Johnson, recently retired after 29 years as the film critic for Macleans magazine, says that the event was unexpectedly wonderful.

“I’ve shown the film in a lot of small Ontario towns, and never know what to expect,” Johnson said in an online post after the event. “Until now, I treated Bancroft as just another pit stop for gas or coffee. What a surprise. The film showed in the Village Playhouse, an absolute gem of a theatre.”

Johnson was thrilled that the theatre and the film were generating revenue for Hospice North Hastings and he was equally delighted by event sponsor, Grail Springs.

“My donated accommodation was the sublime Grail Springs Spa, created by Madeleine Marenette—a Zen Gothic retreat on 110 acres, where I swam in a spring-fed lake and was the only male guest among women who drifted around in white robes,” Johnson said.

The event, according to Hospice North Hastings coordinator and Playhouse manager, Heather Brough, was a great success.

“To have this film play in Bancroft was really meaningful and to have Brian here and to have stories shared about Al Purdy; it really made for a special evening,” Brough said after the screening. “It was one of those nights where people lingered, told stories and made a deep connection to the culture of this area and of this country.”

Event sponsor Madeleine Marentette was equally pleased with the event.

“Grail Springs Retreat has been dedicated to the wellbeing of others for over two decades,” Marentette said. “In this spirit, it is an honour to support our community hospice and its unique venue, The Village Playhouse, bringing the arts, culture and caring together. Hosting filmmaker Brian Johnson of ‘Al Purdy Was Here’ was a pleasure for all of us at Grail Springs; a film that uplifts the mind and heart of the dreamer within us all.”

“Al Purdy Was Here,” was screened in partnership with TIFF Film Circuit. TIFF films will continue to be featured at the Bancroft Village Playhouse through the summer months alongside live music, live theatre and other special events. Proceeds from the screenings support the free programs and services provided in our community by Hospice North Hastings.