“Seventeen is so young. You’d never expect a kid to be getting a pilot’s license”.
Or so you would think.
Canadian documentary As The Crow Flies made its Australian debut at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival this July. This film follows eighteen of the top Royal Canadian Air Force Cadets as they take to the skies as part of a rigorous flight training program to get their pilots license. In a process that would ordinarily take six to eight months, these tenacious teens earn their wings in seven short weeks.
The audience shares in the trials and tribulations of these highly relatable teens as they are pushed to their limits during their training. However, what makes this film even more special is that it was directed by internationally recognized Canadian filmmaker Tess Girard, a graduate of the program herself.
For Girard, who joined the Air Cadets aged 12, it was important to show this side of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets and the persistence and strength of these young adults as they come of age.
“I always thought there was a bit of a parallel between flying an airplane and coming of age,” she told Canada Down Under.
“All the challenges that one faces while learning to propel themselves through the air, through all these kind of life-threatening situations, and then learning how to navigate the world at the same time. I really love that metaphor of taking off and merging the two storylines together.”
As graduates of this program, the sky is the limit for these teenagers. For Girard, she chose to pursue film at Toronto’s York University, and credits her time in the Air Force Cadets as part of her “big love of technology and perceiving the world from a new perspective”.
Many years later, Girard shared with Canada Down Uunder how excited she was to be heading down under for the first time as part of the Australian premiere of As The Crow Flies at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival alongside her filmmaking partner and husband Ryan Noth.
She said “I’m looking forward to just diving in and seeing all these different films they’ve programmed” as well as seeing more of the city she has heard so much about.
“I love coming to festivals where you get to immerse yourself not only in their culture and art but also you get to feel like you’re a guest in their house and treat their city as home for a while.”
While Melbourne is only a short stop for Girard as she criss-crosses Canada and the globe following new filmmaking projects, she says the best part about her job is that “stories are stories no matter where they are” and it is this determination to show new perspectives that continues to drive her to capture the world’s stories on film.
The participation of Tess Girard and Ryan Noth at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival was supported by the National Film Board of Canada and the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival