Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 90 min
Primitive Features Inc.
This ambitious and skilfully realized documentary sets out to capture the awesome beauty of Niagara Falls, the crass industries that have risen up around the Falls, and the odd obsessions of the people drawn to them. Director Kevin McMahon, a Niagara Falls native and former journalist at the nearby St. Catharines Standard, investigates the high eccentricity and profound tragedy that inhabit this border town and tourist trap which is often referred to as the Canadian capital of kitsch. One man casually recalls the fools he has seen tumble over the Falls to their deaths, including his own brother. A Love Canal mother speaks with cold rage about the birth defects visited upon the children born near that chemical cesspool, while ecology experts show us birds and fish that surpass in their mutated hideousness anything in the town’s Freaks of Nature Museum.
McMahon – with the help of his principal collaborators, cinematographer Douglas Koch and composer Kurt Swinghammer (also a Niagara Falls native) – keeps The Falls appropriately humorous and effectively delineates the absurd; throughout,the sublime force of the Falls serves as a counterpoint. A complex, elegiac and visually beautiful film, The Falls was very well received upon its release. NOW Magazine’s Cameron Bailey described it as "stunning, unsettling, provocative and sometimes just plain weird," while film critic Jay Scott, writing in The Globe and Mail, noted McMahon’s exceptional use of "languid tracking shots of the sort directors Peter Greenaway and Jean Pierre Lefebvre have spent their careers perfecting." The film earned a Genie Award nomination for Feature Length Documentary.