By ALEXANDROS VAROUTAS
As filmmakers, Ian Daffern and Omar Majeed are always looking for a story that would translate well to the big screen. Some of the criteria might be a distinct visual element, a local main character, and perhaps some sort of spiritual dilemma tying it all together.
Naturally, then, when they came across Kirk Dunn, an East York resident who had spent 15 years knitting three 12-foot tall tapestries portraying Christian, Muslim, and Judaic iconology, they felt they might be on to something.
Daffern first discovered Dunn through a friend in the Toronto Knitters Guild who mentioned seeing Dunn’s work during a presentation at the University of Toronto.
“What got me was the idea of someone on this big long quest, and that it was a quest that had a purpose,” said Daffern. “He was doing this project to show three different faiths and was making a tapestry for each one. But then what made me really jump on it was when I saw the tapestries themselves.”
The film follows Dunn and his works as he performed his one man show, The Knitting Pilgrim, from the Aga Khan Museum to the Parliament of World Religions, an interfaith convention where church leaders from all religions meet and exchange ideas.
Throughout this time, the pair got to document the impact these knitted works of art had on those who came to see them in person, not unlike a pilgrimage itself.
For the next year, Daffern and Majeed would chip away at the film in what time they had between their day jobs and home lives. By the end of 2019, they had wrapped up shooting and were getting ready to begin post production. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the work flow had become stifled.
“It was hard to sit down and work on a labour of love after just having made it through a day of your kids at home and working the nine to five,” said Daffern.
At one point, the pair decided to bring in help editing the film, despite Majeeds extensive experience as a film editor, after finding themselves stuck half way through the project. Interestingly, Majeed couldn’t help but draw a comparison to Dunn’s experience, having gotten stuck himself multiple times knitting his murals.
“It’s very hard when you’re editing your own material. You can get kind of lost in it. We sort of understood Kirk’s process of getting lost in all the material,” said Majeed.
Dunn said the movie helped remind him how extraordinary his journey was.
“I tend to forget how the work lands on people because I’ve lived with this stuff for 15 years,” said Dunn. “It’s very strange to see your journey captured and followed and then reflected back to you.”
For those wondering where the tapestries are now, they are stored safely in two chest freezers in Dunn’s dining room, a measure taken after a scare with clothes moths last summer.
The film was selected to be screened at the Montréal International Festival of Films on Art which is taking place from March 16 to 28.
Daffern and Majeed are particularly excited to have a presence at a festival that focuses on the power of art.
“Celebrating the ability of art to really challenge our usual assumptions is really, to me, very important,” said Majeed.
For more information on Stiched Glass, please go to the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Stitched-Glass-101742312006290/
For more info on the Montreal International Festival of Films on Art and its presentation of Stitched Glass, please go to https://lefifa.com/en/catalog/stitched-glass