Five Favorite Films with Sarah Polley

The director of Stories We Tell also chats about her new movie, and the mysteries of storytelling.

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Until recently, multi-talented Canadian filmmaker Sarah Polley was probably best known for her early work on the TV series Road to Avonlea and later for roles in films like The Sweet Hereafter, Go, and Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake. More recently, however, Polley has earned widespread acclaim for her two directorial efforts, 2007's Away from Her and last year's Take This Waltz.

Polley continues her impressive work behind the camera in Stories We Tell, a new film that, while similar in theme to her two fiction narratives, is set apart by a couple of distinctions: it's her first feature documentary, and it's a decidedly more personal project, exploring the nature of storytelling by revealing a few secrets from her own family's past. In a recent conversation with RT, Polley shared how difficult the making of the film was for her, why documentaries can never be objective, and what she learned about her family. But first, she gave us her Five Favorite Films, and here they are:

The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick, 1998; 78% Tomatometer)

The Thin Red Line is my favorite film, and that's probably the film that had the most impact on me as a human being. I feel like it really rescued me from a depression and gave me a lot of faith in people. I just thought it was beautiful. I saw it when I was nineteen or twenty. I'm a huge fan of Terrence Malick's work.

The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966; 99% Tomatometer)

The Battle of Algiers is a film I just think is the most extraordinary accomplishment and such an effective political piece, and so beautiful. It completely bewilders me every time I see it, how it was accomplished.

RT: Don't you also have a little bit of a political spirit in you?

I'm interested in politics and I have, at times, been engaged as an activist, so I feel like films that successfully deal with political issues in a way that isn't too didactic are always really impressive to me.

There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007; 91% Tomatometer)

There Will Be Blood is one that I adore. I think I saw it about four or five times in the theater. I just think Paul Thomas Anderson is a genius. I've never seen performances like that, and I've never seen something so thoughtfully and beautifully shot.

Love and Death (Woody Allen, 1975; 100% Tomatometer)

I love Love and Death by Woody Allen. It's a movie that, if I'm ever sick or depressed, makes me feel better instantly.

Three Colors: Red (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1994; 100% Tomatometer)

Red by Kieslowski. I love that whole trilogy, but Red, for me, was the most full film. I think it made me think about the world from new angles that I hadn't before. I think I was about seventeen when I saw it.

Next, Polley talks about the trickiness of crafting a personal documentary, and why she chose to tell the story in such an inventive way.