Last night was the long awaited opening festivities of the 2018 Kamloops Film Festival. Along with the VIP reception and red carpet walk, was the screening of Shut Up And Say Something. There’s something just magical about being in a very full theatre of other excited film buffs and the mouthwatering aroma of buttery popcorn in the air. It’s an experience unlike any other, it truly is, because of the genuine heart that the festival chair, organizers, committee, and volunteers share with the community. But that is what makes Kamloops so special – and as Kamloopsians, we already know this.

I was really looking forward to seeing this documentary about the internationally known spoken word artist, Shayne Koyczan, as I have been following his work since the 2010 Winter Olympics and his past visit to Kamloops for the BC Living Arts’ Thrive Festival in 2011. My personal favourites of Koyczan’s work are Graffiti and Instructions For A Bad Day.

The 82-minute film, Shut Up And Say Something, is a candid and enthralling lens at the inside story of Koyczan and his emotional road trip to develop a relationship with his father. Through the stunning filmmaking of director, Melanie Wood, this film sliced open raw emotion to peer into a deep, vulnerable side of this well known, Canadian cultural figure.

It was fascinating to learn that Koyczan, an artist who is seen and heard by millions worldwide and who is often recognized on the street by his large following, actually had a difficult time sharing this private side of himself on camera. His work on stage is an experience to say the least, composed with his entrancing words accompanied by live musicians, lighting and staging needs. And yet, here is a man, who is not a superhuman, as we often idolize celebrities to be, but just a man with painful struggle to learn the truth.

For a man who appears to be larger than life, Shut Up is a look into his current, lonesome lifestyle with constant travelling for performances, returning home to his loving grandmother and her fickle cat who doesn’t show him any affection. Koyczan was born in Yellowknife, deserted by his birth parents who struggled with addiction, and raised by his grandmother. He is a survivor of intergenerational effects from Canada’s dark history of residential schools and the Sixties Scoop. As a child, he grew up being afraid of the daily torture of taking the bus to school and feeling absolutely lost in the world, only then to become a bully as a defence mechanism. Using words as way to combat his pain, Koyczan climbed the stairs to fame, and then as an adult at the age of 41, grew brave enough to learn of his own origin story.

Shut Up is not just a narrative documentary. From a cinematic perspective, the addition of animation and use of text to highlight the poignant depth behind Koyczan’s words evokes such incredible emotion from its audiences. It is an intimate reflection about seeking one’s truth. Finding acceptance and personal reconciliation.

I definitely recommend that you don’t miss another opportunity to view this film. Thanks to the film’s financial supporter, you can see it on B.C.’s Knowledge Network this spring. For more event listings and film times, check out www.kamloopsfilmfest.ca or follow along on social media platforms with #KFF2018.