The Silver Screen: Hunting Pignut

The Silver Screen: Hunting Pignut

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Ahead of the nation-wide release of her feature length debut Hunting Pignut, Martine Blue talks gutter punks, acceptance and the misfit in us all

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You’ve all likely seen a coming of age film, in some form or fashion. You know the shtick – some forlorn or frustrated adolescent goes on a journey of self-discovery, with meandering paths, rivers and valleys, only to come out the other side changed and fully self-aware. Those are lovely stories, the Chicken Soup For The Soul kind, but I doubt you’ve seen any coming of age flick like first-time director Martine Blue’s gritty and poignant Hunting Pignut. 

Straight From The Urn

How’s this for a synopsis? A young 15-year-old girl named Bernice (in a career-changing turn by B.C.’s Taylor Hickson) leaves her rural Newfoundland community to find a tormented and violent gutter punk Pignut (played by the always enigmatic Joel Thomas Hynes) after he steals her father’s ashes right from the urn!

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If you’re intrigued, and you should be, you’ll be happy to know that the locally shot film is heading to cinemas across Canada, including a run at Cineplex Avalon Mall in St. John’s on Sept. 15 which just so happens to include a Q&A session with producer Paul Pope and members of the cast and crew.

Bonafide Success

For Martine Blue, the rising director/writer of the tale who now calls Epworth home, the idea that her debut feature film will be featured in over a dozen cinemas across the nation (as well as a very special engagement at C-Squat in New York City), is nothing short of a dream-come-true. Factor in critical adoration through early film festival junkets and you can say Blue’s foray into filmmaking has been a bonafide success.  

“It’s really gratifying,” Blue says. “You put so many years into a film. I was on that film for six years before it was out, actually seven if you include the months of editing, and you don’t know how it’s going to be received. You just put it out into the world and hope for the best at that point. You can’t really do any more, you’ve done it all. At first I wasn’t sure how it would be received and then to get recognition for it was really lovely.”

Texturally and tonally, Hunting Pignut is not your copy and pasted infomercial of pristine and scenic Newfoundland and Labrador. You’ll find island beauty, but you’ll also be forced into its dark and seedy underbelly.

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Underbelly Of St. John’s

“Our film really shows a different side of St. John’s,” Blue explains. “It’s really far from the Newfoundland and Labrador tourism commercials. You get to see the back alleys, graffiti and sort of the underbelly of St. John’s. It shows off that side you don’t really see so much. I don’t know if people really know how much graffiti there is in St. John’s but they can see a lot of it in our film.”

In leading-lady Taylor Hickson, Blue has found herself a star-in-the-making. Recent supporting roles in big budget fare Deadpool, Everything, Everything and tv series Aftermath, as well as the Leo Award for Best Lead Performance By A Female in a Motion Picture, all supplement the fact that Pignut’s unsung hero is certainly going places.

“She’s incredible,” Blue says. “I was so lucky to find her. She had done almost nothing. Actually, she had done Deadpool, just a little film. A small role but a speaking role and it wasn’t out (at the time). I had nothing to watch or no precedent to go by with her. I just went with my gut. I put her through three really grueling auditions on Skype. She’s just so incredible and blew me away, just the depth of her emotion and also her preparation. For a 17 year old girl she was so incredibly prepared and jumped right in and took on this whole new world. She came to Newfoundland from B.C. and she was our only cast member who’s not from Newfoundland, which I’m really proud of. She was phenomenal and has received a ton of praise. It’s being called her breakout performance and it was amazing to work with someone professional so young.” 

‘Felt Like A Misfit’

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As to what lies at the heart of the film which has so readily resonated with audiences? Blue has an answer to that.

“I think it’s about feeling like a misfit, which I think is something most people can relate to at some point in their lives. Also trying to make amends with your family, with your immediate family. Trying to work things out with your family but also finding an extended family and place that feels a fit to you, I think that’s what the universal aspect of the film is that connects with audiences. Certainly for me, I felt like a misfit who didn’t belong anywhere until I moved to C-Squat and then again I felt out of place when I left C-Squat and moved back to Canada, until I moved to Newfoundland, so these are the two places I felt home in. It’s that feeling of not belonging anywhere, but I believe there is a place for everyone, they just have to find it and sometimes it just takes a long, long time – decades – to find your place.”

For more information on screenings visit Hunting Pignut on Facebook.

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Dillon Collins is a writer based out of St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. Multi-time MusicNL nominee for Media Person of the Year. Lover of heavy metal, hoppy beverages and the loveable canine.

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