Film Reviews

Review: ‘Metamorphosis’

A beautiful meditative piece on the environment

Photo by Velcrow Ripper, courtesy the NFB


Metamorphosis
(Canada, 85 min.)
Dir. Nova Ami, Velcrow Ripper

Velcrow Ripper, ace sound designer and veteran documentary filmmaker has combined forces with his life partner Nova Ami on Metamorphosis, a beautiful meditative piece on the environment. Using the caterpillar and the monarch butterfly as a central metaphor, they suggest that, for the most part, humanity is still in a larva stage and will hopefully evolve into the equivalent of gorgeous flying creatures in the years to come. At the beginning of Metamorphosis, the filmmaking duo work with Sue Halpern, the author of Four Wings and a Prayer, to recount the transformation of caterpillars to monarchs and poetically visualize their inevitable flight to Mexico.

Throughout Metamorphosis, Ripper and Ami employ a unique narrative system. Eschewing the standard talking heads approach typical of documentaries, they use disembodied voices which contribute personal stories on how to deal with some of the world’s problems while the camera roams freely illustrating the situation being described. To show off the entirely sustainable solar powered home called Earthship, for example, its inventor Michael Reynolds talks about his house with its self-contained sewage system, internal food production capacity and water harvesting storage units, while Ripper’s camera glides and pirouettes around the space.

Ami and Ripper work with the voices and stories of a slew of extraordinary individuals throughout the film. Among them are: Jane Da Mosta, environmental scientist; Tyler Stallings, art curator’ Jason DeCaires Taylor, sculptor; Dennis McClung, creator of the “Garden Pool” environmental system; brilliant farmer and strategist Joe Del Bosque and anthropologist and artist Jean-Paul Bourdier. Each has an important tale to tell on how to make life more sustainable on this planet.

Having made such terrific environmental films as Occupy Love, Fierce Light and Scared Sacred, it’s a mark of Ripper’s dogged belief in humanity that he still maintains a feeling of hope throughout Metamorphosis. Both he and Nova Ami remain committed idealists whose work points to solutions to our environmental concerns while refusing to dwell on the negativity often associated with the green movement. Ami and Ripper have a baby, Phoenix; what can be a stronger testament to their commitment to the future of the world than that?

Metamorphosis opens in Toronto June 8 at the Carlton and is currently screening in Montreal at Cinema du Parc.