Murmur: Docu-fiction hybrid may get loud at TIFF


From award-winning filmmaker Heather Young, MURMUR captures the quiet, contemplative story of Donna who, grappling with alcohol dependence and loneliness, turns to a growing number of pets to ease her pain. Starring a cast of Nova Scotian non-professional actors, many of whom are playing themselves in the film, Heather Young and producer Martha Cooley skillfully craft a documentary-feature narrative hybrid that captures an enduring story of aging and the human-animal connection. MURMUR will have its World Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this September.

Following a DUI charge, sixty-something year-old Donna is scheduled to perform community service in an animal rescue shelter. Over time she begins to relate to the abandoned animals that surround her and she forms a particular bond with a senior dog who she brings home to prevent from being euthanized. She then begins rescuing other animals from the shelter and buying them online, until her small apartment is over-run — her unchecked compulsion for connection ultimately causing her home and life to fall into further disarray.

“It is important to me to tell the stories of older women and allow them to be complex, flawed and fully realized characters, the likes of which are rarely depicted in cinema,” says award-winning filmmaker Heather Young. “Donna is a difficult character, but hopefully one that will resonate. Her loneliness and addictive nature cause her to act in ways that are at times counter-intuitive and destructive but ultimately she is looking for connection — and that is something that we can all relate to. We are happy MURMUR will find a stage here at TIFF and that audiences will have a glimpse into Donna’s world.”

MURMUR was funded with the support of Telefilm Canada and the Talent Fund, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Nova Scotia Film & Television Production Incentive Fund and Arts Nova Scotia.

Heather Young is a filmmaker originally from New Brunswick now living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. After graduating from the University of New Brunswick and NSCAD University she made several short films. FISH (2016) played at festivals all over the world including Palm Springs Shortfest, the Vancouver International Film Festival, Vienna Independent Shorts and TIFF Canada’s Top Ten Festival. FISH was also a Vimeo Staff Pick and won Best Short Film in the NSI Online Short Film Festival. Her latest short MILK (2017) had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (where she also participated in the TIFF Talent Lab), won Best Short Film (Canada) at Festival du nouveau cinema, and played TIFF Canada’s Top Ten, Aspen Shortsfest, the Maryland Film Festival, Edinburgh International Film Festival, the London Short Film Festival, and many others. MURMUR is her first feature.

Martha Cooley is a filmmaker and cultural worker of settler ancestry based in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Mi’kma’ki). She is a recipient of the 2011 Canadian Progress Club Women of Excellence Award in the Arts and Culture Division for her work developing training and outreach programs in film-making. Martha is currently the Executive Director of the Atlantic Filmmakers Cooperative, where she manages the operations of a vibrant, nonprofit resource centre for independent filmmakers. MURMUR is her first feature as a producer.


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