There are more than a few good reasons to come out for this week’s presentation of the Cape Breton Island Film Series. Many of us are still shimmying in our seats from Wim Wenders’ Pina, the 3-D dance documentary that reached out and reminded us of life’s simplest pleasures, of movement and good company, of caring and carrying on.
This week, we have the opportunity to welcome two films at the series: Susanne Bier’s In A Better World, and New Waterford filmmaker Ashley McKenzie’s short, When You Sleep.
McKenzie’s film, making its Cape Breton debut, has played the Toronto International Film Festival and was selected for Telefilm Canada’s Not Short on Talent showcase at Cannes this year. The director, who was just named Best Atlantic Emerging Director at the Atlantic Film Festival, is also the first recipient of the All Access Pass Award from Women in Film and Television-Atlantic, which will allow her to travel to all seven regional film festivals in the coming year to showcase her work.
Her 12-minute piece portrays the struggles of a teen couple living together. When their slummy apartment becomes overrun with rodents, their thoughts too become infested, with unspoken pain and uncertain outcomes.
In her Director’s Statement on the National Screen Institute website, McKenzie says:
“With When You Sleep I wanted to capture the raw energy of a young couple who are trapped in a life with narrow options. The way they deal with a rodent infestation seemed to say things about their codependent relationship that they couldn’t communicate themselves.
The film is designed to be quite abrasive and troublesome but in the end it was the quiet desperation of these misfit characters that inspired me the most. I felt there was a lot of sadness and strength in seeing them struggle with adult responsibilities, while just being kids themselves.”
We are thrilled to have When You Sleep at the Cape Breton Island Film Series, and this may be your only chance to catch the show on the big screen here at home. So pull yourselves out of your slummy apartments and come check this out!
While you’re at it, and since you’re sitting down, we’ve got yet another beautiful, thought-provoking, award-winning film for you to see. How did you get so lucky?
This week’s feature presentation, Bier’s Oscar-winning In A Better World, offers another perspective on life’s pesky problems and how we choose to deal with them. The film parallels the stories of Anton and his son Elias, who both grapple with personal ethics in the face of bullying and intimidation.
Swedish-born Anton moves between his home in Denmark and an unnamed East African nation riven by civil war, where he works for Doctors Without Borders. At home, the conflict becomes more personal. Anton must confront his estranged marriage and try to council his son, who faces middle school bullying.
Elias has been taught to turn the other cheek, but this difficult lesson is continually challenged by the aggression he faces at school, and the boy finds himself resigned to passive acceptance of his undeserving fate. Anton, too, is exposed to brutalization and hardship, treating victims of violence in a country overrun by warlords, in a village subjected to the furious whims of someone named Big Man.
Anton tries to teach his son the values of forgiveness and non-violent resolution, but he finds himself and his principles put to the test. Meanwhile, Elias befriends a boy named Christian, who shows him a thing or two about standing up to injustice, using whatever means necessary.
The film’s Swedish title, Haevnen, translates directly to mean “The Revenge”—a title, perhaps, found too harsh for its fragile Western audience. But here, truly, is the question at hand: when is facing the enemy a necessary evil, and what can be done in the name of justice?
There should be lots to think about after this week’s screenings, and surely plenty to celebrate. Hope to see you there.
Ashley McKenzie’s When You Sleep and Susanne Bier’s Haevnen play this Thursday at 7pm at Empire Theatres Studio 10.