A Fat Free Glass of Sweet Lemonade

It’s awfully hard not to get caught up in the energy and joy found in Justin Friesen’s short documentary Let’s Make Lemonade.

Let’s Make Lemonade isn’t so much formally about Toronto’s only Balkan-Klezmer-Gypsy-Punk Super Party Band titled the Lemon Bucket Orkestra, but rather follows them around from venue to venue. Every so often, we get interview segments with members from the band as they talk about their eclectic music and how it effects their wide audience.

The concert footage and the scenes of the band busking and playing at house gigs are infectious. It’s hard to convey in text just how much fun audiences are having while listening to the arrangement of brass and string instruments – but it makes people react in different, positive ways. Some people playfully grind up on each other, others dance and jump around. Whatever the audience is doing, they’re constantly swept up in the uplifting, fast tempo the Lemon Bucket Orkestra conjures up.

The documentary has an up-close and personal feel during these concerts. Cameras are amidst the crowd and sometimes up on stage beside the performer. It makes moviegoers feel like we’re attending many Lemon Bucket Orkestra gigs, but I wish the film’s structure was more calm.

Besides some seamless edits (sometimes utilizing frames of black to cut to a different angle. Nicely done!), the doc constantly cuts bits and pieces from different gigs to provide some sort of unity among the appearances. Maybe it’s supposed to represent just how many different venues these guys have played. From stages to busking in the street. Or, maybe Friesen was aiming for stylistic points by trying to thread everything together and to match the rambunctious calamity that the band emits when performing.

The concert cutting isn’t something that particularly hampers the documentary, but, I remember other concert flicks and how keeping the focus on one performance benefited the movie and didn’t allow for the audience to reset every time we were taken to another location. Dave Chappelle’s Block Party and Young @ Heart instantly jump to mind. If the film allowed each performance to play itself out before cutting, that abundance of restlessness would’ve simmered down.

The cinematography that takes place in the doc suggests that a set plan was in motion but Friesen allowed improvisation; which is fine. However, I found there to be too many shots where the camera would adjust positions or refocus on a different point of action. That’s not the fault of the camera operators though. That’s the editor needing to stay away from those types of shots.

Artistically, the interview segments stand out. The interviews are shot in an interesting manner. If I wanted to make up words, I could say the interviews felt very Soderbergh-ian.

Most of the interviews take place in a kitchen and the subject is asked to talk while band members and friends interact with each other non-chalantly around them. It was a neat, creative touch that adds an element of intimacy; almost looking like one of Steven Soderbergh’s lower-budget dramas. I’m not too much of a fan of the shots from behind the person talking, but luckily, there aren’t many of those.

Let’s Make Lemonade doesn’t cut too deep into details but it still makes for a solid watch clocking in at twelve minutes. The music will surely get your feet tapping and the positive attitude the film has going for it will garner a humongous grin on your face.

But notably, if Justin Friesen has made this documentary to shed more light on this obscure band, he’s done the Lemon Bucket Orkestra justice.

Let’s Make Lemonade has deservedly won two awards at the enRoute Air Canada Film Festival – achievement in documentary as well as the people’s choice award. This means that you will be able to catch Friesen’s doc on Air Canada flights in the entertainment circulation in January and February of next year.

SIDE NOTE: I’ve never heard of a residential cameo before, which means Friesen’s doc may be the first to claim this credit. I could’ve sworn one of the houses where one of the gigs is held at is the house that was used during the filming of Kenny Vs. Spenny (season 3 onwards).

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Why wait for a flight? Watch Let’s Make Lemonade on Air Canada’s enRoute website!

Next stop for Let’s Make Lemonade will be at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival in France in February.

“Like” Let’s Make Lemonade on Facebook!

Visit Justin Friesen’s official website here!

Do You Tweet? Follow These Tweeple:

Justin Friesen: @JustinBFriesen
Lemon Bucket Orkestra: @LemonBucket
Film Army: @FilmArmy
Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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