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Junk-collecting woman in small B.C. town reaches the silver screen at Cannes

Junk-collecting woman in small B.C. town reaches the silver screen at Cannes
28 May

She lives in a rural B.C. town along with her eight exotic birds, nine dogs, 40 or so cats — and several tonnes of junk that has been given to her because of her work at the local landfill.

While Jackie Cooke is well-known as a quirky character in the farming community of Westwold (between Kamloops and Vernon, B.C.), her junk-collecting ways and fondness for the F-word have now gone around the world thanks to the short film Jackieland, which recently aired in the Short Film Corner at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

'I'm not no frickin' angel ... It's more fun for them to think I'm crazy... What the hell is normal. Can you explain normal?'- Jackie Cooke

According to the synopsis on the film's IMDB page, Jackieland "is a character sketch based around the eccentricities, wisdom, and experience of Jackie Cooke."

"Everything in Jackie's life has at some point been cast aside — the rescued animals, the salvaged bike frames, even Jackie herself.

And yet, Jackieland has morphed into a highly curated collection of objects and stories that reveal a very honest and insightful perspective of humanity — and Jackie herself."

Warning: Some readers may find the language in this trailer offensive.

Cooke said in an interview with CBC's Daybreak Kamloops that she has so much junk in her backyard because many people come to her asking if she can take their things and pass them along to someone else.

"I've been helping all the single kids and parents in the neighbourhood since I moved here the last 25 years," she told host Shelley Joyce.

'I swear lots'

"My whole world is my backyard. If you're an artist, you can walk around here and every five or 10 feet it's a different picture, it's a different world."

'Jackieland' tells the real life story of Jackie Cooke, who lives in Westwold, a farming community on Highway 97 between Kamloops and Vernon B.C. (Vimeo)

She said that she met the filmmakers through their children — just some of the many kids who visit the dump and leave with a toy from Cooke, who makes sure to keep aside any good toys she comes across during her work.

Cooke isn't sure what she thinks of the film about her life.

"I swear lots. But that's me. I can behave a little bit when I'm around children, but everybody knows me for my cursing," she said.

"I thought I looked like a wicked old witch. I thought, 'Oh man I'm getting old.' To me it's not a big deal. I didn't expect it to be getting blown out of the water like this. I only did it just for the kids because they wanted to do something for me I guess, and I don't know if it's good for me or not."

Despite the film having screened at one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world, Cooke insists that she is "no big star."

"I'm a gay woman on a hill with a bunch of animals. I'm just somebody on the hill that's just trying to survive and make other people happy around me."

With files from CBC's Daybreak Kamloops

To hear the full story listen to the audio labelled: Westwold woman featured in film at Cannes