Sarah Race, Photographer and Filmmaker

Sarah Race is a photographer originally from a small-town in Oregon. She has been in Vancouver since 2004. Sarah completed the Documentary Film Program at InFocus Film School (formerly Pull Focus Film School) in 2015.

Her documentary Barbarian Press will have its world premiere at the Toronto Hoc Docs Festival 2016 on May 4, 5 and 8. Hot Docs is a renowned Canadian International Documentary Festival, held April 28-May 8 2016.

The film will also be screening at DOXA Documentary Film Festival in Vancouver on May 7 and 12.



About Barbarian Press, and Jan and Crispin Elsted

Jan and Crispin Elsted produce awe-inspiring books of beauty using techniques and traditions dating back to the 15th century and to Johannes Gutenberg. Gutenberg is credited with introducing the printing press and movable type to Europe, thrusting Europe into a literary revolution for the masses.

Told as legend by the Elsteds, Barbarian Press was founded on the morning of January 1, 1977 while in England. It began with a poem Crispin wrote and wanted to have printed. Print maker Graham Williams introduced them to the tools of the trade – Jan and Crispin have not looked back since, and have dedicated their lives to making objects of beauty.

We recently caught up with Sarah to find out about her experience making Barbarian Press.

Why did you decide to make this documentary?

I worked with Brian Howell and he told me about the Press, since he photographed them for GEIST.  In some ways I wanted to explore questions I personally had in regards to living an authentic life. This film is not making any judgements. The Elsteds offer a glimpse into another world.

Were the Elsteds receptive to you making a short documentary about them?

The agreement was that if I made an indiegogo campaign for them I could film them.

How long have the Elsteds created hand-made books?

Crispin and Jan Elsted moved to Mission, B.C. in the summer of 1978 and have been publishing books ever since. So for about 35 years. In 1988, Jan and Crispin converted the barn into a proper workshop with a press room for their growing collection of presses and a composing room. In 1996 they added a small hand-bindery where they offer workshops.

How did you gain their trust and access to their life as bookmakers?

They are lovely people. They let me into their lives by being there. I slept on the couch and some evenings we would talk and drink scotch. Spending time in their house and studio was like going to a candy shop. Everything in their studio is beautiful, it would be challenging to mess up making a documentary about them.

What was your approach when it came to depicting this couple’s life?

This film is not about judgement, and it’s not about one or the other. But choosing how you want to live an authentic life. Spending 80 percent of your day on a screen (iphone,computer), who can say whether that is good or bad. They live the life they want to live and there is a cost to it, but they are producing something that will last hundreds of years.

They could have had quite a more secure and comfortable life at UBC as professors. Instead they chose a life that is not so easy, physically or economically. Why did the Elsteds decide to pursue this ancient or old fashioned art form?

It’s not old fashioned for them. For them it has to be done by letterpress, and that can’t be recreated digitally. Their craft is about creating beauty, something physically beautiful. The words or what they decide to print is secondary to how it looks and feels.

How do they divide the work?

Jan is one of the world best printers and Crispin does the typesetting. They are now among the most senior and respected members of a very small group of people worldwide (the Fine Press Book Association’s website lists just 118 member presses).


Jan and Crispin Elsted

What surprised you about the Elsteds? What do people misunderstand about them?

People thought they were quirky people who live in the woods. That’s not the story. It’s the way they base their lives, to create beauty; if you live in a consumer world there is no reason to do it and it doesn’t make sense. But for them it is their joy and life’s work. They are married in life and work.

Was this a personal journey for you as well?

This story is about value systems and seeing and living in 3D instead of 2D like most of us do nowadays, working in front of a computer screen. That is not their value system. Their value system is based on bringing joy and creating a world for people to go into. It’s not how much money they can make, they are not operating in our value structure. They are operating very consciously.

I was questioning my own value system and why do I accept all these things. You get something different in letterpress form. What have we lost? To have information come so fast on a phone. Being with the Elsteds made me conscious that what I see is 2D. For most of the day many of us only use our one sense and we don’t use our sense of touch, smell etc…. They use all the senses when they are making books. The feel and smell of the ink, leather and paper. We live in a world where we use one. This was kind of a revelation for me. I was like “huh, I didn’t know I was doing that!” Seeing them work with their hands and every sense simultaneously had me think about the bigger questions in life, like how to live an authentic life?

What was your experience with InFocus Film?

I took the Documentary Film Making program last year. I am a photographer and I wanted to add to my skill-set. It was great program and I had an amazing mentor Julia Ivanova, an award-winning Vancouver documentary filmmaker. Without her this would have never happened, she went far beyond just being an instructor.

What was the most challenging aspect of making a short documentary?

There was a lot going on. Some things are similar with still photography, like putting people at ease, setting up a shot etc.. (and) I did everything myself, lighting, script writing, sound and editing. With the exception of Julia helping.

What was it like getting into the Hot Docs Festival in Toronto?

I am very happy and excited! Financially it’s tough though, especially entering film festivals it can get expensive with the fees and film formatting. Funding is always a problem for filmmakers and that can be restrictive. If my project was team driven it might have been easier, but I chose to do this on my own.

What did you learn about filmmaking during this process?

It’s like putting together a puzzle. I started making this movie because “these are interesting people” but you learn something about yourself through the relationship with the people you are documenting. With documentary filmmaking you have to be a good listener. I concentrated on the story as opposed to some filmmakers (who) focus on technical aspects. As a photographer when I see a bad image I throw it out. In filmmaking it’s not like that. The imperfections, it added to the story…mistakes can benefit the story.

Jan and Crispin Elsted are Barbarian Press. They have produced stationery and cards, and fine press work, including forty books. They’ve published classic authors—William Shakespeare, Edm­und Spenser, John Keats—and contemporary ones, such as Theresa Kishkan and Tim Bowling. The newest project by Barbarian Press is called: Bordering on the Sublime: Ornamental Typography at the Curwen Press. Find out more here

Despite the Hollywood franchise hold on worldwide audiences, and $100 million dollar plus budgets, low budget and independent films are making their mark and drawing bigger audiences and financial windfalls. The years 2014-2015 saw a boon of financial and festival success for low budget independent films and filmmakers mostly outside of Hollywood.

According to renowned New York Times film critic David Edelstein, “none of the great material came from Hollywood studios.” Studios are directing their financial resources into sequels and comic-book movies, which leaves little room for “creative expression, and for doing something weird and potentially boundary-moving.”

Due to audience demand, changes in distribution and access to online viewing, low budget movies are once again making headway into the mainstream market. Audiences are becoming more sophisticated and demanding quality stories and characters over CGI and big explosions.

Here are ten low budget movies (under $20 million) that did spectacularly at the box office and in the eyes of award givers and worldwide audiences.


“Ex Machina” (2015)

Director and Writer: Alex Garland

Budget: $15,000,000

Alex Garland makes his directorial debut with a film that is both visually stunning as well as cerebral. Following in the footsteps of Blade Runner, Ex-Machina has the audience questioning the nature of human consciousness and where Artificial Intelligence fits into our world. A coder at an internet-search giant wins a contest to spend a week in a mountain retreat belonging to a reclusive CEO of the company. He soon realizes he has been chosen to take part in a strange but enticing Artificial Intelligence experiment. Ava is a highly sophisticated AI and he must evaluate her consciousness through a series of tests. Ava is beautiful – and her emotional intelligence, and deceptiveness proves beyond what both men could ever imagine.

Watch The Trailer 


Heart of a Dog (2015)

Director and Writer: Laurie Anderson

Budget: $500

No, I didn’t have that stuff [a budget]. I just started shooting with my Canon 5D, and I shot about 80% of the film in the end.” Laurie Anderson

Akin to a personal essay, Laurie Anderson, partner of the late musician Lou Reed, directs a tearjerker of a film. An homage and remembrance of her dog Lolabelle, the film is a mix of animation, realistic footage from the animal’s life and imagined scenes reflecting on life and death. Heart of a Dog reminds us that these creature companions are as intertwined in our emotional lives as we are our in theirs. We find out that Lolabelle was a spirited canine with creative ambitions like piano playing and painting.

Heart of a Dog was selected to screen in the main competition section of the 72nd Venice International Film Festival after premiering at Telluride Film Festival on September 4, 2015. The film was nominated for Best Documentary at the 31st Independent Spirit Awards and was shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature on December 1, 2015.

Reed also makes an appearance in this film as a doctor in a memory re-enactment sequence, and contributes a song to the closing credits

Watch The Trailer


Timbuktu (2014)

Director: Abderrahmane Sissako

Writers: Abderrahmane Sissako, Kessen Tall

Budget: $2.5 million

2timbuktuTimbuktu, is a film that draws us into a world and a place that has been both romanticized and vilified by the West. An Oscar nominee this year for best foreign language film, director Abderrahmane Sissako, sets his film in the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu that in 2012 was seized by an al-Qaida group whose regime of terror outlawed music, dancing, laughter and soccer. Central to this story is a cattle herder and his family who live peacefully in the dunes outside of the city despite the chaos brought by the regime. However their lives are soon abruptly changed.

Watch The Trailer


Anomalisa (2015)

Directors: Duke Johnson, Charlie Kaufman

Writers: Charlie Kaufman

Budget: $8 million (crowd funded by Kickstarter)

Director Charlie Kaufmann (Adaptation) once again delves into a topic he comes back to again and again; the mundanity of life and how to somehow make it extraordinary. Kaufmann’s ability to return to this theme without seeming redundant is a unique talent to have, and turning to animation works well. A motivational speaker who is not very motivated himself is stuck in a hotel room while in Cincinnati waiting to give a talk at a conference. He is crippled by thoughts of his repetitive life. He imagines the people he has met at the conferences, his wife, and his child are starting to look like one big mass of the same person. In order to disrupt this mind melding train of thought he hopes to meet up with an old flame who lives in the city, in hopes he can make it up to her about the way they broke up. The meeting doesn’t go the way he has planned. Now alone and depressed he meets a stranger who is different and slowly becomes a cure for his bleak view of life and could possibly change his life forever.

Watch The Trailer


Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)

Director and Writer : Olivier Assayas

Budget: $ 6.6 million

Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, and Chloë Grace Moretz are a tour de-force in this scenic masterpiece of existential quandary, aging and forgone youth. Set in the Swiss Alps, Maria Enders, a middle-aged actress at the height of her career is face-to-face with an uncomfortable reflection of herself while starring in a revival of the play that launched her career twenty years ago.

Originally playing the role of an alluring young woman who drives her boss to suicide, Enders is now in the role of the older boss. Sigrid a young, volatile Hollywood actress is to take on the role Enders once played. Now Enders finds herself on the other side, face to face with a younger woman who is an unsettling reflection of herself. She and her assistant retreat to the Swiss Alps to prepare for the role and come to terms with being a middle-aged actress in a youth obsessed world.

Watch The Trailer


Tangerine (2015)

Director: Sean Baker

Writers: Sean Baker, Chris Bergoch

Budget: $100,000

Tangerine delves head first into the gritty world of transgendered sex work in Hollywood, Los Angeles. Shot entirely on the iPhone 5s, director Sean Baker is granted access into a world of characters based on real-life working girls and the culture surrounding them. The characters deal with discrimination and hateful actions from many, yet find acceptance in the least expected of people: an Armenian taxi driver. Beneath all of this is a heartbreaking and hilarious story of Sin-Dee a sex worker recently released from jail who goes on a rampage searching the streets for the pimp who broke her heart.

Watch The Trailer


Girlhood (2014)

Director and Writer: Céline Sciamma

Budget: Under $100,000

GirlhoodBanner-m35a9xhl2g9hhy13woc954ksxkvn4tj2s82u8rlfuwInspired by the real life world of teenage girls she would see hanging out in Paris shopping malls and train stations, director Celine Sciamma was compelled to dig deeper and find out more about their lives. Girlhood is an authentic, lyrical and gritty coming of age story of a young black girl growing up in the rough suburbs of Paris. With a dynamite soundtrack that uses the Rihanna song “Shines like a Diamond” as a thread throughout the movie, Girlhood is full of life with an almost exclusively female cast, giving this film an honest agency.

Watch The Trailer


Room (2015)

Director: Lenny Abrahamson

Writers: Emma Donoghue, (screenplay) Emma Donoghue (based on the novel by)

Budget: $6 million

Room is the surprising Canadian-Irish 2015 smash hit directed by Lenny Abrahamson and written by Emma Donoghue, based on her novel. This chilling and claustrophobic film starring, Brie Larson as Joy Newsome, takes place in an enclosed space, where Joy has been kept captive for seven years. She and her 5-year-old son finally gain their freedom, allowing the child to experience the outside world for the first time.

Room was written well before the 2014 revelation that three women had been held captive for ten years in a house in Cleveland. This real life nightmare makes Room even more gut wrenching and terrifying, yet surprisingly hopeful.

Watch The Trailer


The Lobster (2015)

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Writers: Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou

Budget: $4 million

the_lobster_cadreYorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, 2009) directs his English language feature film debut. The Lobster is a strange and jarring film with many layers to peel off. Part science fiction part dystopian nightmare, the film tells the story of a place where people who are single are given forty-five days to find a romantic partner or they are turned into an animal of their choosing. The film stars Colin Farrell who chooses to be a Lobster if he fails to find someone. It was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and won the Jury Prize. It was shown in the Special Presentations section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.

Watch The Trailer


Force Majeure (2014)

Director and Writer: Ruben Östlund

Budget: $5 million

Force Majeure (Swedish: Tourist) is a 2014 Swedish drama that exposes a society’s (and a family’s) entrenched expectation of the patriarchal role men should play, even in the modern world. Marital tension rises after an avalanche during a ski holiday, during which the husband Tomas is believed by his wife to have prioritized his own escape over the safety of his family. The script and cinematography are praiseworthy, with hints of playfulness and dark humour. The title force majeure, is also the name for a contractual clause freeing both parties from liability in the event of unexpected disasters.

Watch The Trailer