.The Island Between Tides Opens Cinequest

The Film is Set in Prince Rupert

Last week, Cinequest kicked off with ghostly vibes, successfully merging landscape, time and character in the festival’s opening film, “The Island Between Tides.”

The film was a deeply layered ghost story and featured a young woman following a mysterious melody onto a remote tribal island in Northern British Columbia, where the shadowy forested landscape created a sense of cold eerie immediacy. 

At the next low tide, she returned back to the mainland, only to realize many years had passed, although she herself hadn’t evolved in the meantime. She remained the same age while everyone else in her family had grown much older. 

As she searched for her lost family in a quaint ferry town on the Pacific Ocean, I began to recognize the landscape in more ways than one. This made the whole experience even more eerie and mysterious.

The backstory behind the film was equally peculiar. In a good way.

“The Island Between Tides” is perhaps the first major film adaptation of an old Scottish ghost story, Mary Rose, originally a play by J.M. Barrie, the writer who invented Peter Pan. Mary Rose first came to the stage in 1920, after which Alfred Hitchcock fell hard for the production. He spent years trying and failing to secure a major film version. The folks in Hollywood simply wouldn’t go for a major ghost story at that time. Near the end of his life, Hitchcock told his biographer that one of his biggest regrets was that he never found a way to get Mary Rose on the big screen. At least this is the version told by “The Island Between Tides” directors and producers on stage at the California Theatre following the screening.

Now, earlier I mentioned the landscape. There was a reason for this.

“The Island Between Tides” was filmed in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, a small town about 40 miles from Alaska, and, insanely enough, a place I visited in 2011. I have never met any other American journalist who has been to Prince Rupert. Director Andrew Holmes told me at the Glass House after-party that he’d never met anyone else who’d been there. Throughout our five-minute conversation, while trying to hear each other over the thumping DJ, we spoke with almost nostalgic reverence about Prince Rupert. We both loved the town in all its eerie mystery.

When I went there in 2011, Prince Rupert looked and felt like a place 50 years earlier. Time had simply passed right by it. 

It wasn’t easy to get there. If you didn’t want to take a 19-hour ferry all the way up the coast from Vancouver, you took an Air Canada Jazz puddle-jumper filled with provincial government employees to the Prince Rupert Airport on Digby Island. Then everyone and their bags were placed into a school bus that drove onto a local ferry—the same ferry used in the film—which then dumped you at the town dock in front of an old concrete Brutalist hotel. It was wild. The whole scene looked like 1962.

And that wasn’t all. The North Pacific Cannery, which appeared on this very Metro page following that trip, was an amazing historical renovation story. After becoming abandoned decades earlier and nearly slipping off into the ocean, the cannery was turned into a museum. 

While watching “The Island Between the Tides,” I instantly recognized the North Pacific Cannery in a few segments. Moonlight and moss in the trees, as the song went. Just eerie.

A few other moments featured the quaint streets of Prince Rupert, views of the seaplane dock, various local businesses and the same throwback vibe I felt in 2011. I was no longer in San Jose. I was transported to the misty green shadows of some First Nations landscape. I fell in love with the North BC coast all over again.

As a result, J.M. Barrie, Mary Rose and Hitchcock weaved their spells, framing the way I experienced the rest of the festival, in terms of how time and landscape affected the characters—wherever it was Zorro, Southern Georgia in the ’60s, grave robbers at a funeral parlor or even a rocking Mumbai film production office. 

Thanks to Cinequest, I felt like an international man of mystery all over again. All hail the power of film.

Gary Singh
Gary Singhhttps://www.garysingh.info/
Gary Singh’s byline has appeared over 1500 times, including newspaper columns, travel essays, art and music criticism, profiles, business journalism, lifestyle articles, poetry and short fiction. He is the author of The San Jose Earthquakes: A Seismic Soccer Legacy (2015, The History Press) and was recently a Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing at San Jose State University. An anthology of his Metro columns, Silicon Alleys, was published in 2020.

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