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Sarah Polley and the Stories She Tells

05/13/2013 11:13 am ET | Updated Jul 13, 2013

"It was fascinating and illuminating and exhausting," Sarah Polley says, sipping iced tea in a Manhattan restaurant. "I wanted to focus on all these voices telling the story in different ways. To me, what was interesting was not the story, but the way you tell it."

She's talking about Stories We Tell, the personal (and yet universal) tale of Polley's family, which opened in limited release May 10. The film -- Polley's third as a director -- looks at Polley's family history, focusing on the story of her mother, Diane, who died when Polley was 11.

But, instead of merely remembering her mother's dynamic life as a vivid, vivacious woman with a love of show business, Polley uses the film to explore the central mystery of her own life: her real parentage. Constructed almost as a detective story at times, the film first paints a loving portrait of Diane Polley's too-short life, then gets into family secrets.

Specifically: In her teens, Polley became the focus of a running family joke that she looked nothing like her father, Michael, and that, perhaps, he wasn't her biological father. As she got older, she learned more about her mother's life -- specifically, a six-week stint as an actress working in Montreal (the Polleys lived in Toronto) that preceded her pregnancy with Sarah. Though Michael visited Diane in Montreal and rekindled their marriage, Sarah's paternity remained a subject of jokey speculation.

To look more deeply into the issue, Polley decided to make a film about it, sitting each of her four siblings and half-siblings down to tell the family's story.

This interview continues on my website.