Friday, April 5, 2019

Fighting for Toronto

It’s a good time for young Toronto filmmakers. They’re making interesting work and it’s getting nicely distributed within the city. At Yonge and Dundas – of all places! – you can go out and see Jasmin Mozaffari’s Firecrackers and Natty Zavitz’s Acquainted, both of which I highly recommend. This feels new and exciting. The award-winning Firecrackers has such an intense energy: It’s the story of two young women (the incredible Michaela Kurimsky and Karena Evans) trying to leave their dead-end, small town lives to find something better in the big city. Think The Florida Project in rural Ontario. It’s an impressive debut feature for the energy of its actresses as they stop at nothing to get out of there, having to fight off some pretty god-awful men. There’s an adrenaline to Firecrackers as it’s always on the go, always scrappy. It feels like a really raw film (in the best sense of the term): as if it’s always on the brink of sweat, blood and tears.
If you’re looking for a film that’s explicitly set in Toronto (instead of pathetically substituting it for somewhere else) you need to see Acquainted. I think it deserves the highest of praise as I don’t think the city has ever looked so good: Think of a Toronto Now feature but with the most beautiful actors and actresses. Its story is of two relationships in crisis as three young adults need to figure out how to live and who to love. It’s a real step-up for Zavitz after his micro-budget first-feature EdgingHe’s a real actor’s director as, along with having such an impressive cast – Giacomo Gianniotti, Laysla De Oliveira and Rachel Skarsten –, the performances are all amazing. They express a surprising amount of depth just by their expressions, gestures and non-verbal scenes alone. But I think one of Acquainted’s real stars is its cinematographer Ian Macmillan who pulls off some astounding cinematography, which also resonates thematically with its story: The exhilaration of a first date is matched by a fifteen-minute tracking shot through Trinity Bellwoods, a melancholy confession is filmed entirely in shadows, and a reserved sexual encounter is filmed trough a doorway. Its pretty incredible.
            These two films are just the most recent examples of what’s exciting about Canadian cinema that is going on in the city, which I think is now starting to pay more attention to emerging directors and Canadian culture in film and television more broadly. It’s easy to be dismissive or jaded, but I actually think that these are positive signs. There needs to be people to believe in Canadian cinema for it to exist: Mozaffari and Zavits can be seen to be leading the way.