OIFF spotlight: Highway Gospel is skateboarding ‘documentary with heart’

Photo Credit: Judy via Flickr

The Ottawa International Film Festival, running from Aug. 18-20, is less than a week away. OIFF’s social media director Christine Skobe tells us about one of the festival’s documentaries, Highway Gospel, in the first of a series of posts being published on OIFF’s blog.

For years, Ottawa has had a lively, blossoming and creative filmmaking scene. Though Ottawa is not a powerhouse of production like Toronto or Vancouver, the city holds a unique position when it comes to Canadian cinema. Home to several successful production companies as well as independently owned arthouse theatres, such as the Mayfair and the Bytowne, Ottawa’s filmmaking scene is finally getting the recognition it deserves. 

And so in conjunction with the presentation of the second annual Ottawa International Film Festival (OIFF), we’re presenting the Festival Spotlight – a hub for all things film in Ottawa.

Highway Gospel plays at the OIFF on Aug. 19

OIFF, a grassroots non-profit organization, was founded in 2010 with the purpose of bringing local, national and international filmmakers together with film enthusiast in the national’s capital. With a focus on independent filmmaking, the OIFF mandate includes a commitment to supporting the development of film talent in Ottawa, as well as providing filmmakers with opportunities to showcase their work alongside major international films.

Today’s spotlight is on the Ottawa-premiere of Highway Gospel – a documentary with heart. An official selection at the HotDocs and DOXA film festivals, OIFF is pleased to present such a unique and Canadian film. The film captures an insider’s look at the extreme sport of slalom skateboarding — and the lifestyle that goess with it.

Directed by Jaret Belliveau and co-directed/produced by Craig Jackson, Highway Gospel is, at its heart, a story about passion, dedication and extraordinarily unique characters. Shot over a four-year period, the film is a true labour of love. With scenes shot in Ottawa, British Columbia, Washington State and Sweden and a summer spent working out of Belliveau’s ’76 Volkswagen, Highway Gospel tells the tale of people coming together to form a community and putting everything on the line for the sport they love. The film’s Ottawa Premiere is being held by OIFF in association with the World Championship of Slalom Skateboarding, which is taking between Aug. 19-21, in Ottawa as well.

OIFF is taking place at Empire Theatres, in the World Exchange Plaze

While this is Belliveau’s directorial debut, the NSCAD graduate is no stranger to the world of Canadian art and film. Majoring in photography, Belliveau’s work was selected to be a part of the Swiss exhibit “reGeneration: 50 Photographers of Tomorrow” at the Musee de L’Elysee. A bit closer to home, his photography can also be seen at The Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto. Beginning with his minor in film history, Belliveau transformed his flair for the photographic image to that of the moving image. 

Belliveau notes the difference between Gospel and the hyper-commercialized skateboard industry that is portrayed by the media. Where previous Hollywood films such as Lords of Dogtown or Grind present one side of skateboard culture, the Gospel team focuses more on the emergence of downhill skateboard and the culture that surrounds it. Within this newly development discipline, the filmmakers find a way to challenge stereotypes, break down barriers and present a heart-warming, often comedic portrayal of real struggles and achievements.

Highway Gospel runs 91 minutes and will screen at 8:00pm on Friday, Aug. 20. Tickets can be purchased on the day-of at Empire Theatres at the World Exchange Plaza (111 Albert Street) or online at OIFF.ca. The film has an OIFF unofficial rating of 14A for language and reckless behaviour. Check out Highway Gospel’s Facebook and official site for even more coverage. 

Thanks, Christine! And for the full OIFF schedule, visit the film fest’s website.