Fail to Appear, screening at VIFF, showcases a Fresh wave of Toronto talent

It’s a fool’s game to crown any movie a surefire buzz generator entering an event as big as the Vancouver International Film Festival, but here goes anyhow.

Don’t Look, the debut feature from Canadian director Antoine Bourges, is a quiet gem which draws the viewer in from its opening frame — a long, continuous shot of office equipment in an aesthetically challenged basement. It’s experimental filmmaking that’s at exactly the exact same time entirely accessible and utterly watchable. And it is the best showcase for the : a community of young cinephiles, frequently working under the radar and with microbudgets — and collaborating like crazy.

Screening in VIFF’s Future//Current series, don’t Look is a shoestring-budget Canadian movie about a social worker that viewers will find hard to shake.

It begins focusing on Isolde and then becomes about Eric. Isolde is a literature graduate and a social-work trainee; she’s the case worker for Eric, that has been charged with theft and has an upcoming court appearance.

Part of the movie’s success stems from Bourges’s casting of a mixture of professional actors and non-actors. Isolde is performed with Deragh Campbell, a 2015 TIFF rising star who starred in Never Eat Alone, which won filmmaker last year’s Emerging Canadian Director award at VIFF. Eric is performed by Nathan Holder, who’s not a professional performer — one of many in the movie, a lot of whom have real-life expertise on earth Bourges portrays.

“There is a whole tradition of fiction movie that involves non-actors since there’s this unexpected quality to their functionality, something somewhat more pure, something that you can not really write or put down which gets revealed as you work together,” states Bourges, who employed a similar strategy in his previous mid-length movie, East Hastings Pharmacy.

“I think what’s fascinating about working with non-professional celebrities is I feel that we both elevate each other,” Campbell says in a different interview. “Since it requires a particular quantity of attention that you need to pay to one another in order to you make each other feel comfortable, react naturally; and as you are working with a man who somehow is a lot more natural than you are by virtue of not having obtained a certain number of customs in front of the camera{}”

The performances from the non-actors, including Holder, are persuasive — subtle yet ensured. But it’s Campbell who’s a pragmatic revelation as the rookie case worker searching for her feet in a world where too many individuals fall through the cracks.

Campbell’s theater pedigree is gold; her father is actor Benedict Campbell; her mother, Jackie Maxwell, resigned last year as artistic director of the Shaw Festival. Her grandfather was the legendary stage actor Douglas Campbell.

Campbell, who studied creative writing at Concordia and wished to be a novelist, herself had no formal acting training when Matthew Porterfield throw her into his characteristic I Used to Be Darker after meeting her at the party after the premiere of his 2010 movie Putty Hill.

“It is not a story I usually tell to other celebrities; they do not usually enjoy it,” Campbell, 28, says. “I have never gotten a part from an audition, literally, I believe, 15 films in.”

Over the telephone during a Greyhound bus journey between Toronto, where she resides, and Stratford, to see family, Campbell talked about how Bourges’s use of improvisation differs from other filmmakers’ methods.

“It is about learning how that individual talks and then Antoine [lays out] what the scene is all about and what our attitudes are. But I think the most important difference between what he does and what many different directors do this work with improvisation is that he then wishes to, over a number of takes, hone a certain stillness and a certain calm to it, which I think has a slightly elevated, slightly hyper-real feeling or tension,” Campbell says. “It’s almost like there is a script and then there is the script that you build through the spectacle{}”

Bourges, 33, was born in Paris and moved to Montreal when he was 14 to pursue a career in baseball. He played for years, but his aim — an NHL career — eluded him. He moved to Vancouver to study film at UBC. He’s presently completing his MFA at York University in Toronto.

Along with Bourges and Campbell, the movie’s executive producer (an associate producer on East Hastings Pharmacy) and cinematographer Nikolay Michaylov will also be a part of Toronto’s filmmaking new wave.

Michaylov, who was born in Bulgaria and moved to Canada with his family as a young child, is hugely in demand on Toronto’s indie scene; he shot two films that screened at TIFF this year and four which are coming to VIFF. The other three VIFF movies are shorts: Cherry Cola, Radwanski’s Scaffold (which also screened at TIFF; Michaylov was a manufacturer) and Let Your Heart Be Light, that was co-written and co-directed by Campbell, who also stars (Sophy Romvari is her co-writer, co-director and co-star).

“She is just so naturally talented at what she does,” says Michaylov, of Campbell — who calls him her frequent collaborator. “We’re so knowledgeable about each other when we are on set, it does not feel like work any more simply because we understand each other’s process so much. Shooting a film is not simple and when things get tense we understand how to read each other and we understand how to deal with those situations so.”

Michaylov also shoots commercials, music videos, documentaries and this week has been working on the CBC’s Baroness von Sketch Show — the commercial material is the way he pays the bills. He says there are challenges for a cinematographer when working with non-professional celebrities — and very significant stakes.

“These people are real and they are telling us their actual stories and it is just so true for them, also,” he says.

“The movie lights, the camera, the team — if there’s any — could be a bit intimidating; individuals get camera shy or become very aware of the camera. So lots of my job in that regard means I have to be somewhat more sensitive,” Michaylov, 27, proceeds. “We all have a common goal, to make this piece of art, and I truly feel when everyone’s in line and shares the same passion, the consequence is an wonderful film. And I think that happened on Antoine’s film.”

Don’t Look plays VIFF Sept. 29 (The Cinematheque) and Oct. 2 (International Village). VIFF runs Sept. 28 to Oct. 13 ()

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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