Did you know that your version of Internet Explorer is out of date?
To get the best possible experience using our website we recommend downloading one of the browsers below.

Internet Explorer 10, Firefox, Chrome, or Safari.

Jul 25, 2023

« Back to News




The all-access project follows ballet legend Karen Kain and a group of dancers as they mount Kain’s farewell production of Swan Lake, and examines the impacts of the culture of ballet on those who live and work inside it

Developed in partnership with CBC, the feature length documentary will be expanded to a four-part series airing on CBC Gem and CBC TV in November


TORONTO, ON, July 25, 2023 - SWAN SONG, a feature documentary that immerses viewers inside The National Ballet of Canada as it mounts a legacy-defining new production of Swan Lake, directed by ballet icon Karen Kain on the eve of her retirement, will make its world premiere at TIFF. Executive producer Neve Campbell is expected to attend the Festival in support of the film, which will screen as part of the Special Presentations program. SWAN SONG is directed by Chelsea McMullan (Ever Deadly, My Prairie Home), who wrote the film with producer Sean O’Neill (Crystal Pite: Angels’ Atlas, LIDO TV). Distributed in Canada by Blue Ice Docs, with international sales handled by Dogwoof, the feature documentary will be released theatrically in Canada on September 22, 2023. The project was developed with CBC and it will air as a four-part limited series on CBC Gem and CBC TV, premiering November 22, 2023.

This project is deeply personal to me given my longtime admiration for Karen Kain and The National Ballet of Canada, starting with my time as a student at Canada’s National Ballet School,” said Neve Campbell, who joined the project as it entered production and this year celebrates the twentieth anniversary of The Company, the Robert Altman-directed ballet film she conceived of, produced and starred in. “Ballet was my first love, and SWAN SONG beautifully captures the incredible devotion, artistry and sacrifices that dancers make in their pursuit of creating something beautiful and meaningful. I’m so proud of our team and I can’t wait to celebrate the film.”

With full access granted to the filmmakers, the verité-driven SWAN SONG closely follows Kain and a group of young dancers drawn from across The National Ballet of Canada’s ranks, weaving Swan Lake’s dramatic creation process with intimate scenes from the subjects’ personal lives as they push toward one of the most significant nights in their company’s history. The film’s intimate, character-driven approach chronicles creative conflicts, devastating injuries and personal sacrifices amongst its subjects who, in various ways, confront ideals of race, class and body standards as they navigate a tradition that has historically valued uniformity and compliance.

“I’m so pleased that Swan Song will premiere at TIFF, and that the wonderful Neve Campbell is a part of the film’s team. Agreeing to open up the creative process of a brand new production of Swan Lake to a crew of filmmakers was a vulnerable act, to say the least,” says Kain, who stepped into the role of Director for the first time in her nearly 50-year career as a dancer and Artistic Director with her production of Swan Lake. “However, the film’s extraordinary crew made the process far more intuitive than I expected and by the end, it felt as if we were all in it together. I look forward to celebrating the film and everyone involved this fall, most especially the extraordinary artists and staff at The National Ballet of Canada who brought Swan Lake to life.”

“Making Swan Song has been an epic, three-year journey and I’m thrilled to finally be sharing the film with audiences, at TIFF and beyond,” says McMullan. “Collaborating with such a talented, dedicated team to realize a project so ambitious has changed me as a filmmaker, and Neve’s sensitivity and deep understanding of the life of a ballet dancer has enriched our process immeasurably. I want to thank our subjects and The National Ballet of Canada for trusting us with their awe-inspiring work and moving stories.”

SWAN SONG is a Visitor Media production in association with Mercury Films Inc. and Quiet Ghost. It is presented by Blue Ice Docs and Dogwoof. O’Neill produces along with Christina Carvalho. McMullan, O’Neill, Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier, Anna Godas and Oli Harbottle are executive producers alongside Campbell. SWAN SONG was produced in association with CBC, Telefilm Canada, the Canada Media Fund, Ontario Creates, and the Rogers Cable Network Fund. For CBC, Sally Catto is General Manager, Entertainment, Factual, & Sports; Jennifer Dettman is Executive Director, Unscripted Content; Sandra Kleinfeld is Senior Director, Documentary; and Grazyna Krupa is Executive in Charge of Programming, Unscripted Content.