Screening as part of Short Cuts Canada Programme 3, Father is the heartbreaking story of a young boy dealing with the death of his father. His father takes him out with him as he’s illegally stripping copper. When the father is electrocuted, and dies, it’s up to the son to try to remove his father’s body from the warehouse. Toronto Film Scene had a chance to speak with director Jordan Tannahill about his film, and the idea of children being exposed to crime through their parents.
Describe your film in 10 words or less.
A father is electrocuted, a son deals with the fallout.
What inspired you to make this film?
Daddy issues. Ha. I’m fascinated by father and son narratives. I see the film as a meditation on the ways in which power and responsibility inevitably shift from parent to child. It was a scenario that I initially dreamt up six years ago while I was in my second year of film school. Initially it was very much inspired by De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves and other simple, neo-realist parables. By the time I shot the film, last summer, I had become inspired by more contemporary works of observational realism by filmmakers like Kazik Radwanski (Tower) and Kevan Funk (Yellowhead).
What was the best thing about production? Most frustrating?
The best thing about the production was finding such simpatico with my cinematographer Sam Lebel-Wong. We made the choice to shoot the film almost entirely handheld in these unrelenting close-ups, punctuated by three steady, ultra-wide shots spaced throughout the piece. I think Sam effectively worked within the visual palette we set for ourselves and powerfully conveyed the psychological journey of the young boy. The most frustrating aspect was probably the stench of that old meat packing plant! Man was that place ever smelly. Not to mention huge, dark, and a bit damp.
What’s the one thing you want people to know about your film?
I would love for audiences to walk away remembering Leo Pady MacEachern, the young actor who turns in an incredible performance as the son.
One would assume that someone who raises a child in a world of crime isn’t doing a very good job, but the son immediately steps up when faced with such a tremendous problem. Do you believe it’s possible to raise a child with strong morals, and a sense of responsibility, in an environment of crime such as this?
Great question. I think there is something quietly tragic and profoundly human about a parent exposing their vulnerabilities to their children, and it is through that exposure that kids mature. I think the son rises to the occasion because he is forced to, and because he has been prematurely primed for adulthood by being exposed to his father’s weaknesses from a young age. I’m always amazed by a child’s ability to cope and adapt to the most harrowing situations. As a child I also think it would be more difficult to distinguish a crime from ‘just another thing that I do with my dad’. I think it’s quite possible that the son in this film doesn’t see his father as a criminal at all but rather as a pretty cool, resourceful guy. Maybe, like all dads at that age, a bit of an idol. Though, in the end, a fallen one.
Your film is screening as part of TIFF — what are you most excited about seeing or doing at this year’s festival?
I’m already very inspired by what I know of the other filmmakers in Short Cuts Canada, so I’d say the thing I’m most excited to do is watch their work. The breadth and diversity of short filmmaking in this country astounds me. I found the trailers for a lot of the shorts on the TIFF website packed incredible aesthetic and emotional wallops.
Father screens as part of Short Cuts Canada Programme 3 at TIFF 2014. Check their website for more information.