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CANADIAN FRONT 2008 At Museum of Modern Art

Ellen Page in THE TRACEY FRAGMENTSEllen Page in THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS 

 

Wednesday, March 19------In a bitter twist of irony, Americans know far more about the film culture of Europe and Asia than they do about their neighbor to the north. Canadian cinema, which has flourished for decades, makes an occasional dent in the United States in an unfair balance of trade that sees American films flooding the Canadian market (as they do everywhere else in the world).

 

Well, for the past week, the Museum of Modern Art has attempted to redress this imbalance with their lively program CANADIAN FRONT 2008. The series present eight new Canadian feature titles that have been making waves on the international film festival circuit and are now coming to New York with a good head of steam. The series includes a mix of films from established names such as Denys Arcand and Bruce McDonald, as a well as a host of exciting new talents.

 

The series kicked off last week with the New York Premiere of POOR BOY’S GAME,, an engrossing melodrama about boxing from Nova Scotia, with great star turns by Danny Glover and Rossif Sutherland (the son of Donald Sutherland and half-brother of Kiefer Sutherland). The film delves into the lives and communities of two families who have been affected in very different ways by a brutal incident that happened years before. The film is also being given a special run under the MoMA Presents banner, which features films that will be screened for a week, giving MoMA audiences an extended opportunity to catch these significant works.

 

The series of eight films is distinguished by some memorable and powerful performances. Tom Cavanagh (of the ABC series ED) is pitch-perfect in BREAKFAST WITH SCOT by director Laurie Lynd. In this comedic satire, Cavanagh plays a gay NHL sports announcer. The film, which has been officially sanctioned by the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs, subverts traditional notions of masculinity and marks the first time that a professional sports franchise has allowed its logo and uniforms to be used in a gay-themed story.

 

Veteran Quebec actor Marc Labrèche gives a stand-out performance as a Walter Mitty-like civil servant, who resorts to daydreams in a bureaucracy gone made, in Oscar-winning director Denys Arcand’s dark comedy DAYS OF DARKNESS, which closed the Cannes Film Festival this year. The film concludes the director’s Quebec Trilogy, which included the acclaimed THE DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE (1986) and THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS (2003).

 

Oscar nominee Ellen Page (JUNO) gives another warm and quirky performance in  iconoclastic director Bruce McDonald’s innovative THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS. Utilizing split-screen techniques and multiple images on screen, the director presents a   grim, fractured portrait of a misunderstood teenager shouldering the responsibility for a family tragedy.

 

Actress Guylaine Tremblay was nominated for a Jutra Award as Best Actress for her powerful performance in director Bernard Émond’s claustrophobic SUMMIT CIRCLE. In this taut drama, a relationship is put to test in the aftermath of a stroke.

 

Women filmmakers in this year’s series adopt documentary techniques to shape narratives about people—a young boy in Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette’s LE RING and an East African immigrant mother and her two daughters in Helene Klodawsky’s FAMILY MOTEL—coping with threatening environments.

 

Drawing on the native dry Canadian wit, Stephane Lafleur’s black comedy CONTINENTAL, A FILM WITHOUT GUNS presents a novel perspective on alienation and its absurdities. Four people are affected by one man's disappearance: his anxious wife who awaits his return; a young father whose relationship with his wife is going through confusing times; a hotel receptionist who dreams of sharing her life with someone else; and an ex-gambler confronted by the realities of aging. A sharp script and wonderful acting make this a special treat. And it is only one of many to be savored in this salute to Canucks…..our misunderstood (and exceedingly tolerant) neighbors to the north.

 

For more information on this series and upcoming MoMA film programs, log on to: www.moma.org

 

Sandy Mandelberger, Film New York Editor

     

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