Chelsea McMullan‘s debut feature documentary, My Prairie Home, is a different sort of trip through the Canadian West. It’s a nonfiction portrait of a musician, singer/songwriter Rae Spoon, but it goes beyond the biographical details and the concert footage. Every documentary is a collaboration between filmmaker and subject to some degree, but in this case the combination of talents and ideas is even more obvious. Somewhere between biography and visual album, My Prairie Home fuses McMullan’s skill and Spoon’s musical style into a singularly beautiful journey through the occasionally unfriendly but often breathtaking air of Alberta.
The film is built primarily from a trip across the Prairie, following Spoon as they take Greyhound from gig to gig. There are a number of visual motifs that return time and again along the way, most notably the persistence of indecision in front of public washrooms. Spoon is transgender and uses the pronoun “they.” This is the jumping off point for the film’s narrative, a personal look at the musician’s childhood in Alberta, with devout evangelical parents in a province that is often considered one of the least progressive in Canada.