Issue: August 2015 - Family

Into the wilderness with Adam MacDonald, director of Backcountry

On his way to speak to me about his film, Backcountry, director Adam MacDonald was attacked by a dog, arriving with a bloody gash on his leg. MacDonald took it in stride. After all, this is a man whose first film brought him and his actors face-to-face with a real, live black bear, and features a violent attack. MacDonald isn’t afraid of taking risks. Backcountry, which MacDonald also wrote, is an ambitious film for any director. Not only did it require working with a dangerous animal, it was made with a cast of four. The film is spare, stylistically,...

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Apocalypse then: Munro Chambers and Laurence Leboeuf, stars of Turbo Kid

On what was certainly one of the hottest days Toronto had during the summer, Turbo Kid stars Munro Chambers and Laurence Leboeuf were keeping cool in the cafe at the TIFF Bell Lightbox when I arrived for our interview. It was appropriate weather, since the film is about a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland facing a water shortage —something that was starting to hit home once I stepped out into the afternoon sun. Turbo Kid features Chambers as the Kid: a young man who is simply trying to survive in the post-apocalyptic world of 1997. He soon meets Apple, played by the perpetually smiling Leboeuf,...

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The stuff dreams are made of: director Jeffrey St. Jules on Bang Bang Baby

For his debut feature, director Jeffrey St. Jules, much like his leading lady, Stephanie Holiday (Jane Levy), had a dream: “a dream of making a film that throws everything out the window — that has that dream logic.” Also like Stephy, the road to achieving this dream was not without its bumps. When you create a film with such an open concept, “you’re throwing away all your crutches of story and you’re relying on something else to keep people engaged.” For Bang Bang Baby,this method of engagement came from tapping into the emotional core of the central character and...

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Baa-Baa’s day out: a chat with Shaun the Sheep Movie filmmakers Mark Burton & Richard Starzak

For his first major big screen outing, the UK’s most beloved sheep decides that he’s fed up with the humdrum everyday life on his Mossy Bottom farm and opts for a day off. Shaun and the rest of his flock devise an elaborate scheme that goes awry, leading to a decidedly less than restful day of nothingness while they track down their beloved farmer and caretaker who has ended up in the big city with a case of amnesia. Don’t ask. It would take too long to explain. Just as Shaun’s big plans don’t amount to a day off,...

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Everybody dies: death in family films

It’s a bit of a joke to talk about Disney films and how they always seem to kill off one, or both of the protagonist’s parents. That’s just something that most of us have come to accept, but there’s a shocking revelation hiding behind our uncomfortable laughter, and that’s the fact that animated films are filled with death. A study done by The BMJ (originally the British Medical Journal) published in December of 2014 compared 45 animated films from Snow White (1937) to Frozen (2013) with 90 films categorized as Drama. It’s no surprise to learn that the animated films featured...

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No such thing as monsters: the fractured American family in A History of Violence

Few films made in the 21st Century have culminated with a scene of such power and clarity as David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence. The scene contains no dialogue but the tension, aided by composer Howard Shore’s score, is thick. In it, a mother, son and daughter sit around a dinner table at their country home and eat. When the father walks in to find an empty place setting, he hesitates to sit down. Heads hunched, the mother and son avoid eye contact with the father. Meanwhile, the daughter gets up from her place and sets a spot for...

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Finding your family: a visit to the set of The Space Between

The Space Between is an upcoming film from actress and director Amy Jo Johnson, probably best known for her work in television series such as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Felicity, and Flashpoint. The film tells the story of Mitch, played by Michael Cram, a new father who learns that he’s not actually the father of his new child. Upset at the news, Mitch heads off in search of the real father, learning what it means to be a father and making some new friends along the way. I set off on my own journey to Guelph, Ontario to visit the set...

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