Films Coming Soon

Trailer: ‘How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town’

Poster courtesy of Jeremy LaLonde

Watch the trailer for writer-director Jeremy LaLonde’s (“Sex After Kids,” “The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard”) new comedy “How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town.”

The film is screening at festivals across Canada from September through December!

It stars Jewel Staite, Ennis Esmer, Lauren Lee Smith, Katharine Isabelle, Mark O’Brien, Jonas Chernick, Tommie-Amber Pirie, Kristian Bruun, Gugun Deep Singh, Natalie Brown, Lauren Holly and James McGowan.

The world premiere of “How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town” takes place on September 19 at 4 p.m. at the Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax.

 

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Missed the world premiere? You can catch the film at upcoming festivals:

September 25, 2:30 p.m. at the Cinefest Sudbury International Film Festival,

September 30, 7 p.m. and October 2, 4:45 p.m. at the Calgary International Film Festival and

October 3, 7 p.m. at the Edmonton International Film Festival.

The movie will also screen at the Whistler Film Festival (December 2 – 6); watch for the dates and times on the festival site.

 

Interview: Andrew Cividino on his coming-of-age drama ‘Sleeping Giant’

“Sleeping Giant”Courtesy of Film Forge
Andrew Cividino’s “Sleeping Giant” has a strong sense of place: Lake Superior. During a boring summer vacation in rural Ontario, young Adam (Jackson Martin) starts hanging around with two local boys, Riley (Reece Moffett) and Nate (Nick Serino), while attempting evermore reckless stunts. As Adam and his new friends allow their emotions to run riot, their experiences become increasingly intense and unpredictable – and with disastrous consequences.
Andrew Cividino                   Courtesy of Film Forge

Andrew Cividino                   Courtesy of Film Forge

Canscreen talked to writer-director Andrew Cividino at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival where “Sleeping Giant” screened after earlier festival dates in Cannes and Munich.
The film’s North American premiere takes place at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

 

What is it about Ontario specifically that had you setting your story about troubled teens on Lake Superior?

The location and the struggles of the boys connect in a few ways. From a tone perspective, there’s the idea that this is a landscape that, beneath the surface of beauty, there’s a menace and danger to it. And if you don’t respect that threat, it will come bubbling up from below. So I liked the idea of that happening to my characters.

What was it precisely about young boys on summer holiday that fed your film’s subterranean premise?

We’re never closer to our primal instincts than at that age. I wanted to get a sense from that setting of just how thin that veneer of civilized behaviour is, and that beneath it is not so much immoral as amoral behaviour, a kind of chaos with not a lot of structure to it. I felt like putting these in a state of nature would allow me to play visually and symbolically with their lives.

You’re also playing with the sheer recklessness of youth, without in the natural outdoors a safety net as might be found in the big city to catch them?

Yes, there’s all the bravado and pride and adrenaline-seeking side of youth, there’s definitely the potential for negative things to happen. And I know people in the community in which we shot die every year from jumping off cliffs, and yet there’s a cliff-jumping culture that I and others grew up with. There was no cliff that I’d rather not jump off of, to avoid feeling the shame of not jumping after my friends had jumped. There’s this weird one-upmanship where your pride and the potential harm don’t seem to figure as a balanced equation. You just have no choice, and so you end up doing stupid things.

Tell us about the three young boy characters, each of whom is different and yet feed into your coming-of-age storyline.

A still from "Sleeping Giant"     Courtesy of Film Forge

A still from “Sleeping Giant” Courtesy of Film Forge

For me, these three characters I see as being on completely different trajectories, and there’s a point of intersection for them. Adam and Riley both want something from each other. Riley is drawn to the stability and the seeming normalcy of Adam’s middle-class existence. He’s got a father and mother figure in a complete family that Riley covets. And Adam has bubble-wrapped parents that are far too protective and don’t engage with or understand him. So Adam is drawn to the recklessness of the other two boys.

Nate is the third character and can come across as a jerk. But he’s the only character who shows true honesty. And even including the adults, he’s the only person in the film who knows exactly who he is and where he’s going in life and is comfortable with that. He’s already figured that out.

So his (Nate’s) cruelty is armour. He and Riley come from a difficult family situation. Riley’s response is to seek comfort, to which there’s a vulnerability. Nate deals with it in the complete opposite way, through sarcasm and cruelty.

So Adam, drawn to reckless boys like Nate and Riley, becomes evermore reckless himself to deal with his own coming-of-age insecurities.

Jackson Martin as "Adam" in "Sleeping Giant"       Courtesy of Film Forge

Jackson Martin as “Adam” in “Sleeping Giant”       Courtesy of Film Forge

He (Adam) kind of lives in a space where things happen to him a lot, and he’s a fairly passive character. So it takes a lot of hurt and sense of helplessness to jump-start a sense of agency within him. And he starts to act out and take control of his situation, but hasn’t figured out how to control that and the sense of consequences that might ripple out. That’s where the title came from – an awakening for Adam, the idea of coming to terms with the fact that he does have power.

The film climaxes with a cliff-jumping scene where Nate leaps not with fear but curious nonchalance. Why did you choose that motivation for his character?

This cliff they’re up on is virtually impossible to jump. And Nate really doesn’t think Riley will ever jump. So we end up with both boys playing chicken with each other. And Nate banks on knowing Riley and knowing he won’t jump and being able to shame him. But when they get up, Riley is too hurt and frustrated. He means it and will jump. By then Nate can’t talk him down. So he jumps with Riley because that’s how loyal he is, at the end of the day.

So Nate, despite his villainous facade, has an inner honour code?

He absolutely does. When you see him becoming more cruel during the film, Nate knows who he is, and Riley is the closest person for him. They really only have one another in their lives. And Riley is trying to spend time with this other family. Riley wants to experience a different future than the one Nate sees for both of them. So he’s losing his closest companion. That’s where a lot of the aggression comes from, towards Adam in particular.

You screened your film in Cannes as part of International Critics’ Week, in Munich and in Karlovy Vary. How have European audiences received it?

The audiences have been so far really great. It’s fun to sit with an audience for your film and experience how they shift as they respond to your material. They’ve responded well to the humour in the film. There’s a lot of story and character to talk about that’s quite serious, and I’m glad that’s what they’ve talked about. But they’ve also recognized the humour in the film.

The “Sleeping Giant” North American premiere takes place at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 15 at 9 p.m. at the Winter Garden Theatre. The second screening is on September 17 at 9 p.m. at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

For more information, check out the TIFF web page and the “Sleeping Giant” website.

 

 

TIFF: Review: Mina Shum’s ‘Ninth Floor’

“Ninth Floor”Vero Boncompagni/Courtesy of NFB

With “Ninth Floor,” filmmaker Mina Shum (“Double Happiness”) jumps into feature documentary filmmaking with heavy subject matter and a new take on talking-head formats.

Shum’s film booms deeply; its focus is the controversies over the 1969 protests and riots at Montreal’s Sir George Williams University (now Concordia University). The events were sparked when a group of Caribbean students voiced concerns that a professor had directed racist comments and actions toward them. The university’s handling of the complaints caused students from across the city to band together and the situation evolved into a war with the administration.

The heated events took place over 40 years ago, but the outspoken individuals who are interviewed in “Ninth Floor” vividly recount every harrowing instant of the sit-ins, protests and occupation of the university, honouring the significance of this tumultuous and tainted moment in Canadian history. The audience can feel the film reverberate with passion throughout, and the feeling is astonishing.

That overpowering sensation that Shum builds so well with archival footage and courageous interviews plays more quietly in the latter half of the film, but the use of cinematographic styles and crisp editing keep “Ninth Floor’s” heart continuously beating like a steady drum.

“Ninth Floor” has its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) on Saturday, September 12 at 7:15 p.m. at the Scotiabank Theatre.

The second screening will be on Monday, September 14 at 2 p.m. at the TIFF Lightbox.

Missed the TIFF screenings? Keep an eye on the “Ninth Floor” web page on the National Film Board of Canada’s site.

Review: ‘The Amina Profile’

A still from Sophie Deraspe’s “The Amina Profile”Courtesy of GAT PR

“The Amina Profile” fittingly makes its way into the spotlight at a time when many Internet users indulge in “catfishing,” a term referring to the act of using a fictitious online persona to lure an individual into a relationship.

Just as MTV’s Catfish” tracks its participants from initial skepticism all the way to a big reveal, Sophie Deraspe’s compelling documentary follows the same movements. However, “The Amina Profile” brings more depth, including touching upon the rushed truth behind online journalism and the power that the right words can have to manipulate.

It all starts with a friendship between a Montrealer, Sandra Bagaria, and a spirited Syrian-American, Amina Arraf. The women’s relationship gradually grows into a passionate online romance, leading Amina to propose a plan to publicly out herself as a lesbian and to lay out her anti-regime opinions during the Arab Spring in on-the-ground dispatches in her blog “A Gay Girl in Damascus.”

Arraf’s popular blog made national headlines. It was her writing that sparked conversation and controversy until she suddenly went missing. Then the discussions turned to her whereabouts, her safety and to locating her contacts. As more people came forward to confess they could not pinpoint specific information about Arraf, suspicions arose over the credibility of her writing and whether Amina Arraf was – in fact – a real person.

A still from Sophie Deraspe's "The Amina Profile" Courtesy of GAT PR

A still from “The Amina Profile”   Courtesy of GAT PR

Deraspe relays much of the story by displaying text messages and e-mail on the screen and the writing becomes increasingly unclear following Arraf’s purported arrest. Textual conversations are superimposed on blurred footage of an alluring woman, often walking down narrow streets or reclining in the nude and frequently filmed from the back. Deraspe is also very careful to maintain the sense of unknown identity, often filming the figure from the back. These ingenious decisions not only drive home the points about the indeterminacy of the blogger in question, but also paint a sensual picture of how Bagaria might have envisioned Arraf.

As the viewer travels down the rabbit hole and tries to solve the mystery behind Arraf’s identity, Deraspe never loses her grip on the politics that provide a substantial part of the groundwork for the film. The footage can be graphic, but the filmmaker uses her tricks wisely; she obscures the visual to maintain the seriousness of the film, while skipping over unnecessary gore.

Deraspe worked closely with Bagaria to make “The Amina Profile.” Their collaboration, and Bagaria’s willingness to relive her grief through her participation in the film – a process that has earned her closure on this phase of her life – has paid off in an outstanding piece of work.

“The Amina Profile” opens in Toronto today, August 21, at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (506 Bloor Street West).

Director Sophie Deraspe will participate in a Q&A at the August 22 screening.

 

 

 

 

Review: ‘Guidance’

Emily Piggford and Pat Mills in “Guidance”Courtesy of Search Engine Films

Most leap to the never-ending strand of “Bad Santa” copycats starring Billy Bob Thornton when they think of movies featuring a surly adult abusing his power and stature. However, for me, the strongest comparison with writer-director-star Pat Mills’ “Guidance” is Jason Reitman’s “Young Adult” – another movie in which a self-centred burnout living in the past proceeds to steamroll those who dare to criticize.

That said, “Guidance” improves and delights in places where “Young Adult” angered me. Reitman’s dark comedy didn’t work for me because too many bystanders enabled bratty princess Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) for no good reason. The people who enable “Guidance’s” main character David Gold (Mills) are inspired by his frank carelessness, and thus are persuaded through to give their head a shake.

Pat Mills as "David Gold in "Guidance" Courtesy of Search Engine Films

Pat Mills in “Guidance”     Courtesy of Search Engine Films

In reality, Gold (under the pseudonym “Roland Brown”) is “winging it” – as he does with most things in his life. He can’t hold a job, simmers on his former success as a onetime child actor, fibs his way around an irritated landlord, and cheats his way into a job for which he has zero experience. He’s also apathetic towards his family (showing no pain when he dramatically scribbles out faces on family portraits) and has developed an alcohol addiction that serves as his best friend.

A character like David Gold is a difficult creature to tame. But Pat Mills does so flawlessly, while also serving as the film’s director and screenwriter. He does a helluva great job showing how well he can spin multiple plates on a film production.

Mills knows how to set up awkward conversations and run-ins, but he also knows that irresponsible people eventually have to take ownership of their missteps. When “Roland Brown” is caught in a lie, he doesn’t continue to spin his web. He denies, and is almost too lazy to bend the truth even further. The filmmaker has crafted David exceptionally well and provides enough conviction behind why he manipulates and how easily he can fool himself. One example: David records affirmation phrases during his fleeting day gigs, and these gradually help him gain confidence in all the wrong ways.

Around Mills’ stellar performance is a collection of funny, supporting characters. The students all hold their own, and their affection for David as their new off-kilter guidance councellor is very amusing. Meanwhile, the eccentric teachers don’t know whether to be impressed over his progress or scared that students actually like him.

”Guidance” is hilarious and earnestly clever. The third act has the appearance of a tangent-laced dream, as a new-found interest and concern between Gold and a troubled student spirals out of control. But Mills – always persistent in balancing tragedy with comedy – recognizes the repercussions, and isn’t afraid to allow the film’s maturing characters to face them head-on, leading “Guidance” towards a satisfying bittersweet conclusion.

Trailer: ‘Backcountry’

Jeff Roop in Adam MacDonald’s “Backcountry” Courtesy of backcountryfilm.com

Based on a true story, Adam MacDonald’s “Backcountry” is a survival thriller about a couple lost in the Canadian wilderness – and in the territory of a predatory black bear. The film stars Missy Peregrym (“Rookie Blue”), Jeff Roop (“Heartland”) and Eric Balfour (“Haven”), with Nicholas Campbell (“Republic of Doyle,” “Da Vinci’s Inquest”).

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The Toronto premiere of “Backcountry” takes place on August 12 at 7 PM at the Scotiabank Theatre (259 Richmond Street West).

Didn’t score tickets to the premiere? See it in Canadian theatres from August 28!

Special thanks to Touchwood PR.

Review: Toronto Youth Shorts 2015

“Blue Eyed Drunks” Courtesy of TYS

I’m always willing to throw support towards the Toronto Youth Shorts for good reason. The festival offers an accessible platform for aspiring filmmakers to screen their work, and to engage the audience through a stimulating Q&A.

Toronto Youth Shorts stands out as an exceptional film festival because it rarely hits rough patches. Then again, it’s to no surprise, considering that the selection process and the overall festival presentation are handled with coordinated grace, courtesy of festival director Henry Wong and his staff – all of whom are equally as passionate to screen inspired work and give hopeful voices a new opportunity to be heard.

In the past, I’ve offered pre-coverage and reflections on the festival, and I’ve often admitted that I’m inclined to remove my critic hat because I become so enwrapped in what I’m watching. The same case can be made for the selections I’ve watched this year out of the 30 titles from the Greater Toronto Area and Southern Ontario.

A New Reflection

“A New Reflection” Courtesy of TYS

Toronto Youth Shorts usually hosts some documentaries. It’s no different this time around. I was enlightened and exhilarated by Pauline Beal and Lindsay Fontaine’s “A New Reflection.” The delicate doc primarily focuses on Katie Atkinson – a student with multiple facial differences – and her recollection of how she learned to use her vibrant personality to overcome critical and nosy comments. Atkinson is an inspiration, but the scenes featuring her optimistic and curious mother – who also shares some of her daughter’s traits – are evenly enriching.

A Woman Departed copy

“A Woman Departed” Courtesy of TYS

Then there’s Steven Czikk’s “A Woman Departed,” which tugged at my heartstrings and caused a lump in my throat. Czikk showcases how love can both empower and exhaust, as a grippingly emotional interviewee explains. A forlorn man pours his heart out about his relationship to his wife which has now become similar to that between a caregiver and a patient. The documentarian respects his subject, and gives viewers a bittersweet intimate film.

Of the films that that I screened, Abdul Malik’s “Blue Eyed Drunks presented the strongest scripted narrative and an impressive style. Malik’s coming-of-age short is akin to Danny Boyle directing “Superbad – under all of the flash are concrete characters who we can empathize with. Two high-school students discuss the struggle to keep their original Pakistani grassroots alive in their new, western-civilization living conditions. It’s gripping, smart, and a very attractive film.

Tanabata

“Tanabata” Courtesy of TYS

Animation fans will be whisked away by Annie Amaya’s lovely “Tanabata.” A parental epiphany is explained in Alicia Harris’ “Fatherhood.” And confident women steal the show in Dan Laera’s exciting wrestling doc “Pretty Dangerous” and in Joy Webster’s poignant “In the Weeds.”

If these selections represent the quality of this year’s Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival, then we have a hit on our hands. Moviegoers have a bright future ahead of them if these featured filmmakers decide to further carry out their craft.

The seventh annual Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival takes place on August 8, 2015 at Innis Town Hall. For tickets and more information, hop on over to the Toronto Youth Shorts’ website.

Sonia Bonspille Boileau’s ‘Le Dep’: A Quebec director gets real about the biggest problem in Aboriginal Canada

Eve Ringuette in Sonia Bonspille Boileau’s “Le Dep”Courtesy of Silversalt PR

Genre films are often driven by polarities between the lead characters: good versus evil, strong versus weak, new versus old. This offers instant conflict and resolves dramatic tension by answering key questions for audiences. And if an auteur director can get viewers to see more than simple human discord, they can also be left with a message of hope and renewal.

That’s a lesson that director Sonia Bonspille Boileau learned with her first feature, “Le Dep,” a character-driven crime thriller set in a rural Quebec community riven in two by the collateral damage of Canada’s residential-school era. By the climax of this heist pic, hero and anti-hero alike are allowed to heal and move on with their lives.

“The characters are based on people in my life. I won’t say who. But I wrote them with people in my life and my circle, and the storylines are based on situations that I know of, and everything has to do with how the store runs is based on (Eve Ringuette’s) experience, who worked as a store clerk,” Bonspille Boileau told CanScreen at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, where “Le Dep” had its world premiere.

In this moody, theatrical drama, Quebec actress Ringuette plays a young Innu woman named Lydia who works the cashier at her father’s convenience store. One night, just as Lydia is about to close up shop, a masked robber (played by Charles Buckell-Robertson), holds her up at gunpoint. The danger is compounded when she discovers the identity of her attacker, forcing her to decide the fate of those closest to her.

But the intense interplay between characters in “Le Dep” occurs amid community polarities of parent against child, criminal against police and outsider against establishment. The result is no simple crime thriller. Bonspille Boileau has instead created a multi-layered drama in an aboriginal context about a community in turmoil, and yet a film in which the characters convey universal themes of family bonds, failure and retribution.

“There’s family dynamics that go way beyond whether you’re aboriginal or not. I didn’t want it to be this very narrow, only aboriginal film. It could be about anyone,” the director explained.

In this French-language movie, what at first seems a simple corner-store robbery-gone-wrong becomes a far more complex hostage situation. As Lydia attempts to keep her gun-toting kidnapper at bay through a cat-and-mouse storyline, “Le Dep,” with pace and precision, deals with questions of family betrayal and revenge.

Bonspille Boileau’s decision to depict in her film some of the tragic polarities in Canada’s First Nations communities even involved whether the robber, a drug addict desperate to pay off a debt, should eventually be killed off.

“I was still in the (film) treatment phase and I had the robber die. He was shot by the police officer that came back. But my script editor said, ‘If you do that, your main character has no hope whatsoever because her boyfriend kills him. You’re leaving her in despair,” Bonspille Boileau recalled.

The director was being told not to leave her audience without hope.

“He put doubt in my mind. I’m the first aboriginal female filmmaker out of Quebec to make this type of film. This is what I’d be setting,” Bonspille Boileau explained.

The solution to the scene was instead to hand agency back to Lydia.

“I wanted to make sure she remained the person in control of the situation, right to the very end. It’s a power shift. (The robber) has control at the beginning. But as the story goes on, (Lydia) slowly takes control, loses it at one point, and then regains control and has the power in the end,” Bonspille Boileau said.

The director explained that putting Lydia in the driver’s seat was no easy task.

“I don’t want to sound like a feminist, but I had mainly men giving me feedback, and it was really hard to tell them, ‘No, (Lydia’s) the lead, he’s not.’ They would have control shift to him. After all, he’s holding the gun,” Bonspille Boileau said.

“Action films always have a man with a gun and we’re going to follow him. I wanted (“Le Dep”) to be from her perspective,” she added.

As it happens, Ringuette plays Lydia stoically for most of the film. But her coolness shouldn’t be interpreted as a lack of anger. In the movie’s final scene, Lydia erupts emotionally, as she finally takes command of events.

“I wanted to build up for this scene,” Ringuette said. “I knew I would find it hard to play the last scene, where I pop out. I just wanted her to look like she was still calm, and that she wanted to have control.”

Bonspille Boileau added that Lydia is not so much passive as not willing to show her fright or stress, as “Le Dep” slowly reveals a surprising bond between robber and captive. The film diverts Lydia’s anger away from aggression and towards constructive engagement and healing.

“When we were rehearsing, it was important that the characters have balance. (The robber’s) over the top. He’s yelling and bouncing around. So (Lydia’s) thoughts and emotions are more interior, so it didn’t turn into a shouting match,” she explained.

“And I wanted her to not show the robber that she was afraid. You can feel her stress, but also she’s trying to remain calm. And at the end, I said, let it all out,” Bonspille Boileau added.

“Le Dep” producer Jason Brennan of Nish Media explained that Lydia’s stoic nature for most of the film reflects the reality of many aboriginal women.

“They’ve seen so much crap, so they’ve built this stoic character. Having dealt with so many emotions, it takes a lot to push them over the edge. So the last scene is (Lydia’s) breaking point,” he said.

The final scene also ties into the ravages of substance abuse and violence faced by the residential-school generations.

“These people grew up not knowing how to parent their own kids. They have all this anger built up, and turn to alcohol and drugs to relieve their pain,” Bonspille Boileau said of the backdrop to “Le Dep.”

But despite being held at gunpoint by a desperate robber, Lydia wants to be the glue that holds a family and a community together.

“At the end, even when I was writing, I knew the final scene would work if she became the child that saw the dad beat the mom. That’s what we discussed – (Lydia) going into that little girl zone, going back to being the innocent kid,” the director explained.

The end of “Le Dep” holds a surprise for those Canadians who have long assumed that this country’s First Nations can never overcome the ravages of poverty, violence and substance abuse to reach a place where all is reversed and the damned can be saved.

The return from Karlovy Vary to Canada of “Le Dep,” which also stars Yan England and Robert-Pierre Cote, is timely as it comes during a political thaw. The residential-school era, where cultural genocide was disguised as Christian charity, is at long last being talked about by Canadians.

“Suddenly there’s more of an openness. So our film arrives at a good time,” Brennan said.

But as much as the film was well received in Karlovy Vary, Bonspille Boileau is wary about how Canadians will respond to “Le Dep.”

“We don’t really want to see it (the impact of residential schools) because it’s our backyard. The relationship between First Nations and Canada is still fragile,” the director said.

“Le Dep” has its Canadian theatrical release on August 7 and is distributed by K-Films Amerique in Quebec. For more information, check out the “Le Dep” website.

 

Francois Peloquin on minimal dialogue and maximum movement in ‘The Sound of Trees’

Roy Dupuis and Antoine L’Ecuyer in “The Sound of Trees”Christian Mouzard/Courtesy of Silversalt PR

In “The Sound of Trees” (“Le bruit des arbres”), writer-director Francois Peloquin portrays rural Quebec’s dramatic shift to unbridled economic and ecological change via a coming-of-age story about a 17-year-old teenager seeking more out of life than taking over his father’s sawmill.

“The way I think about Quebec’s culture is it’s in an adolescent state because it’s turning its back on its regions. If you don’t like where you’re from, you turn your back,” Peloquin told CanScreen, as his debut feature had its world premiere at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival.

The atmospheric drama, now on release in Quebec and headed to the festival circuit elsewhere in Canada, challenges our understanding not only of the forest’s place in the Quebecois imagination, but also of the environmental and economic dilemmas confronting the French-speaking province.

Peloquin’s script, co-written with Sarah Levesque, unleashes two forces struggling for the hearts and minds of the Gaspesie region – big timber conglomerates looking to buy up smaller sawmills, and local farmers and foresters who are keen to retain their traditional ways.

In the middle of rural Quebec’s cultural rupture and transition is Jeremie, a teenager played by newcomer Antoine L’Ecuyer. Over one summer, he finds himself caught between the forest that sustains a small sawmill run by his father, Regis, (Roy Dupuis) and the road, which promises a better life in Quebec City.

Rather than be content to work in the forest, Jeremie is drawn to fast cars, women and hip-hop culture, a lifestyle his frustrated father blames on a local drug dealer.

Jeremie and Regis represent a dual personality, two conflicting halves of a seemingly doomed Quebecois regional culture that strain in opposite directions. Regis wants to stay, while Jeremie wants to leave.

To develop his coming-of-age storyline, Peloquin selected lead actors with the exceptional skills and talent necessary to animate their characters through body language and movement.

“I didn’t have to cast Roy (Dupuis). He was the best choice for the role,” Peloquin explained.

“I knew I had a lot to say through action and movement, without dialogue. And when I cast Antoine (L’Ecuyer), I was also looking for that, a really intense body that can tell a lot,” he added.

Dupuis said he relished playing an intense and rough character through movement, while also sensitively conveying emotions using sparse dialogue.

“As an actor, and also someone who watches movies as an audience, I tend to feel if you can show it, rather than say it, it’s a plus. Cinema for me is imagery first, and photography,” he explained.

The “Sound of Trees” has ample dialogue, but it’s peripheral to the dramatic action. The audience is encouraged to follow the body movements and facial expressions of the main characters: stir-crazy Jeremie and his father, Regis, who sees his family sawmill business under threat from an encroaching multinational.

In one sawmill scene, Regis repeatedly cuts planks of wood while a representative of a giant timber company promises him a quiet desk job if he agrees to sell his family business.

“I like that Regis is playing with the noisy saw to shock the salesman,” Peloquin explained.

Dupuis added that the scene suggests key information about the implied confrontation and the tension in the film between the big sawmills and the smaller players that they are buying up and taking over.

“The important thing is (Regis is) making wood, in the right way, for my character,” Dupuis said. “He’s using what he does best, and what he believes is the way to do things, to shut the other guy down.”

“I won’t have anything to do (without the sawmill business). I’ll be with people who don’t know the difference between wood types,” he added. “I love the wood. So you you’ll never buy me.”

Dupuis’ character conveys all that in silence.

For Regis, it’s also about keeping faith as a free-spirited father with a traditional way of life in the Gaspesie.

“Regis has the responsibility of taking care of a kid, but he, like most of those men in the region,” Dupuis explained, “has some freedom because they don’t have to wear suits and ties. More than most people in the cities, or that work in offices, and that’s probably why I wanted him to be more free in his movement.”

Peloquin also uses long takes in “The Sound of Trees” for dramatic and narrative effect.

“We were often shooting long scenes,” he said. “I had to rely on what the actors feel through all of the scene, and what we are all listening to in terms of chunks of information that inform feelings and movements and a direction.”

In one extended take, Jeremie gets out of his car, takes a beer from a friend, walks away and joins another friend amid well-choreographed chaos.

Then there’s a close-up of kids, followed by a medium shot, a long shot down a bridge to establish the wider summer night setting, and finally a close-up of Jeremie before he leaps off the bridge and into the water, to whoops and cheers.

As his friends become increasingly impressed with Jeremie’s energy and aggressiveness, so does the viewer.

Francois Peloquin

 

Fabrice Gaetan/Courtesy of Silversalt PR

 

“I always think of the shot in a way that it provides its own editing. So sometimes I have to start wide, then come closer and closer. Sometimes I come closer, I pan away, give other information, and then come back. And other times the actors move around to give me close-ups one at a time,” Peloquin said.

For the Quebec director, screening his debut feature in Karlovy Vary is a dream come true.

“It’s unexpected. It’s a chance and I feel honoured. I didn’t dream of doing cinema when I was a kid. This thing came up later when I was more mature, and felt confident I could do it. Now I’m very pleased with the result,” Peloquin said.

“The Sound of Trees” is released by K-Films Amerique in Quebec.

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