Planet in Focus Opens with the Stunning 'Monsoon'

(Canada/France, 108 min.)
Dir. Sturla Gunnarsson
Planet in Focus gets a thunderous start with Sturla Gunnarsson’s arresting Monsoon. This visually stunning and philosophically stirring documentary is a wonder. Fans of Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky’s Watermark will want to see this film. Gunnarsson, director of the Edward Suzuki doc Force of Nature, travels to Kerala, India to study the many facets of the annual Monsoon that washes through India with near-Biblical fury, yet Monsoon fascinatingly shows the waters as a life force whereas other films might show the flood as a threat. Monsoon opens Planet in Focus with one of the most stimulating alternative—or perhaps most fully formed—takes on climate you’ll see this year.

“I have no idea what it means,” narrates Gunnarsson in voiceover as he interviews citizens throughout Kerala, “some kind of elemental communion that binds people together in a chaotic universe.” Monsoon finds this “elemental communion” by capturing both the beauty and the chaos of the rapid monsoons as Gunnarsson interviews various villagers whose lives are directly affected by the rains. Farmers speak of the necessity of the heavy rain—and the necessity of its timing—to sustain their crops, while a family sees its home destroyed by the rushing waters, yet finds strength from the community. A highlight of Monsoon is Gunnarsson’s interaction with a bookie who gambles on the rains by prophesizing forecasts: his natural gift outsmarts even the most advances technologies and it somehow encompasses the beautiful paradox of the monsoon.

Monsoon, shot beautifully by DP Van Royko (in 4K, no less), shows the inability of humans to control the natural wonders of the world. One can learn from them, or one may grow with them, but Gunnarsson’s ruminations on the rains draw out a spiritual element of the Earth that defies containment. Monsoon swells with force and beauty.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of ★★★★★)

Monsoon opens the Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival on Thursday, Nov. 6 at 7:00 pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox.

(Check back for expanded coverage of Monsoon when the film opens in theatres in 2015!)