Q&A With Cody Campanale, director and writer of Jackie Boy

Edward Charette, left, as Kal and Alino Giraldi, right, as Jack in Jackie Boy

Jackie Boy is a recently-released Canadian drama written and directed by Cody Campanale, starring Alino Giraldi and Shannon Coulter. It tells the story of Jack (Giraldi), a self-destructive womanizer in a working-class Canadian town, who tries to change his life when he meets and falls for Jasmine (Coulter). Unknown to Jack, however, Jasmine has a hidden agenda.

Cody Campanale is an Ottawa-based director, writer, producer, and filmmaker. Jackie Boy is his first feature film.

Adina: There seems to be an implication that Kal is attracted to Jack, but it is never confirmed or fully articulated. Was Kal trying to keep Jack from changing, or trying to keep Jack for himself? Or is that implication simply not true?

Cody Campanale: I think Kal’s in love with Jack, but he’s too confused and frustrated by his own distorted notions of masculinity to comprehend that his admiration of Jack’s ‘manliness’ is actually a closeted love he feels for his best friend. With this in mind, many of Kal’s actions in the later part of the film can be seen as those of a jealous lover. A lover completely rejected by someone they never saw themselves living without.

A: Throughout the film, I noticed that the men tend to deny the severity of the violence the women face. Jack and Kal excuse Jack posting photos of Sasha without her consent, Jack tries to dismiss Jasmine’s fear after Kal chases her, and so on. Was there a deliberate point you were trying to make about this?

C: I would define the characters in this film as emotionally disconnected youth living in an emotionally disconnected landscape. This emotional disconnect allows all the characters to act in ways that are insensitive, violently destructive and just plain nasty. I chose to focus our lens on the men because I wanted to further explore the dangers that living in this emotionally disconnected landscape can have on ‘conditioned’ male notions of masculinity when left unaddressed.
Also, one could probably argue that throughout human history, great destruction and harm has come from the actions of men. This is a pretty scary thought and something I think influences my work as a filmmaker to some degree.

A: Were you afraid that the brutality and explicit nature of the ending would turn any viewers off? If so, why keep it in the movie?

C: We always knew the ending would be polarizing. And to be honest, I rather enjoy films that tend to have polarizing endings. It’s important to note, as difficult as the ending was for people to watch, it was just as difficult for us to shoot. The actors were emotionally drained and destroyed after each take (and there were very few takes). The crew members who were on set when the cameras rolled, left the set in tears. It was one of the most difficult things I ever had to create. While writing it, I kept asking myself if the scene in question was needed to articulate the film’s ideas and I kept concluding that it was. I could have written another ending, one that was less violent perhaps, or possibly more optimistic, but it wouldn’t have captured the ideas I wanted to get across with this story. I believe the destructive nature of these characters is a big concern, and by witnessing the full extent of their behaviour and the lack of awareness they have, an audience can understand how dangerous this emotional disconnect really is.

A: Would you consider the movie a feminist piece, or at least a film with a “message” of some kind? Are you okay with others making those assertions? What might that “message” be?

C: I wouldn’t consider the film a feminist piece, and I don’t suspect a lot of people will. However, I do consider it a critical view of conditioned masculinity in modern times. I think the film examines the conflicting and destructive ways that men cope with insecurities surrounding their own male identity. Beyond this examination, I think the film explores many other thematic ideas, such as: man’s inability to change, the removal of personal agency, and the using of others for pleasure or personal gain.
A well-made film should ask lots of questions and demand that the audience draw their own conclusions to those questions. I’m very happy if audiences see different things or ‘messages’ in my film. It means I’ve made you work, and good art should make you work a bit.

Shannon Coulter as Jasmine in Jackie Boy

A: In the film, Liz and Tony are the only ones who seem to have even a semi-healthy relationship, however this also breaks apart. Are the problems of these characters individual issues, or was this a commentary on the state of modern relationships in general?

C: I think the tragedy in Liz and Tony’s relationship comes from Tony’s self-defeatist attitude. He’s incredibly self-loathing and blames all his own problems on his surroundings, rather than attempting to change his environment or his attitude. Instead, he lives in that feeling of being ‘wronged’. In his mind, he did nothing to deserve what he got from life. It makes me sad, actually. Of all the male characters, Tony probably had the greatest chance of escaping his personal hell. He was so loved and supported by Liz, but didn’t know how to reciprocate that love. It truly is tragic.
I’m not sure I would consider this relationship a commentary on the state of modern relationships. It’s definitely a commentary on a particular type of relationship.

A: Jack undergoes a serious change in the film, at least from the audience perspective. However, he never makes an effort to make amends to Sasha or any of the other women he has presumably also hurt over the years. Does this mean that his general attitude toward women hasn’t really changed at all?

C: Interesting point you bring up here. If the film didn’t take the nasty turn it does in the last act, perhaps Jack would have shown more growth and decided to right his wrongs. Or, perhaps, he would not have had the courage to…that’s really for the audience to decided. Having said this, in the film I presented, I don’t think enough time passes for Jack to grow to the point that he would want to correct those wrongs.

A: Was any part of the film based on your own life or experiences?

C: Not exactly. I mean, I knew people with similar attitudes and patterns of behaviours, but not to the same extent or to the level of meanness portrayed in my film. Also, while writing the film, I was close to the age of these characters so I was living in a similar landscape, or in a ‘hookup culture’ if you’d prefer to call it that. I think a lot of the film came from my interest in exploring masculinity or the challenges with understanding your own masculinity.

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Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival at TIFF

 

A man and his son track down a band of outlaws who has kidnapped his wife and daughter across the Arctic in Zacharias Kunuk’s Maliglutit (Searchers). Its plot takes inspiration from John Ford’s seminal 1956 western, The Searchers, but the similarities soon fizzle away to the aesthetics and elements of the genre. Kunuk’s long shots of the Arctic — the film was shot in Nunavut — are certainly reminiscent in their magnificence of Ford’s famed landscapes of Arizona; and the environment is itself a character, a violent and all encompassing force that shapes the story. However, the searchers of the original are by no means precursors of Kuanana (Benjamin Kunuk) and his son who share none of John Wayne’s Ethan Edward’s violence and racism.

Kunuk transposes the western to the Arctic landscape and gives it meaningful twists; Animals and their spirits — the loon’s in particular — replace Christianity; the chase is pointedly outside the colonial narrative; and, perhaps most importantly, violence is at best a questionable means to an end. With sometimes frustratingly claustrophobic close ups to the action, Kunuk refuses to give the satisfaction of watching simple — and frankly often entertaining — displays of violence on screen. At others, as in the shooting of a caribou or the rape of Kuanana’s wife and daughter, the violence occurs off screen. What we do see leave us thinking about lives led parallel to the continual presence of violence and its many faces.; the moral implications of abduction, rape, and retribution.

There are many beautiful pauses in the movie to help you mediate on them.

Maliglutit (Searchers) is now playing at TIFF Bell Lightbox as a part of the 16th annual Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival. The festival presents feature films, shorts, and student films to celebrate Canada’s diverse cinema. As Adam Cook has noted in the New York Times, the festival this year features a more independent and fresh roster of filmmakers. Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s Angry Inuka documentary on seal-hunting, Johnny Ma’s Old Stone, a drama about a cabdriver in the middle of a bureaucratic nightmare, and Kevan Funk’s Hello Destroyer (debut), about a minor-league hockey player, are among the A-list. Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World, starring Léa Seydoux, Marion Cotillard, and Vicent Cassel, is also on the list if you’re looking for more familiar names.

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ICYMI: Fall/Winter 2016 Fashion Films Round Up

Edited By Hoon Ji

Of all the ways to experience fashion — from the runway to the pages of a magazine and the street — fashion films are one of the more interdisciplinary mediums. They transpose fashion into a visual world with characters, narratives, and music. As such, they convey not just the beauty and details of the season’s pieces, but also the creative sentiment behind the brand and its designer. We rounded up some of the standouts from this year’s Fall/Winter season — whether they are funny, sentimental, or surreal, they all speak to a larger vision contained within the collections.

Kenzo

Nobody does a fashion video quite like Kenzo. Having tapped into the creative worlds of directors like Greg Araki, Sean Baker, and Spike Jonze for previous projects, they’ve set the bar high. Their latest was written and directed by Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein, who explores the ridiculousness of social media by turning it literal.

The film follows actress Laura Harrier on a bizarre adventure that begins in the shady ‘Institute of the Real and Really Real.’ We first see Harrier greeted at the establishment by a group of her ‘followers’ and an authoritarian Rowan Blanchard. As two of Harrier’s followers walk away, Blanchard explains the rules of the institute and social media.

Since Harrier once called Natasha Lyonne the social media jargon, “mom,” on Instagram, the institute makes Lyonne Harrier’s actual mom. It spirals into a hot mess and Lyonne gets into a fight with Harrier’s birth mom. The short also has cameos from Kim Gordon and Mahershala Ali.

McQueen

Alexander McQueen’s creative director Sarah Burton and photographer Jamie Hawkesworth look to the brand’s original vision of dialectical oppositions for its fall/winter 2016 video campaign: shots taken in both back and white and color, the night theme of the clothing vs. the bright sunny day, the quick rolling shots of road juxtaposed with long shots of calm nature, and the delicateness of the garments paired against the rugged backdrop of the Shetland Islands. The film stars Mica Arganaraz, who is joined by three Scottish sisters, Daisy, Emily, and Lily Brodie.

The girls playing in the remains of a house and car bring us to focus. One of the sister’s voice floats over the video, talking about school and meeting Mica, “I just go into a dwam, and like block out all sound, basically. So, someone will say my name in maths and be like, ‘What’s the answer to this,’ and I’ll be like, ‘I didn’t listen to any of that.'” Their voices compete when they talk about Mica, “She’s got brown curly hair with a fringe, and she’s got an amazing tan, amazing eyebrows. I thought she wouldn’t talk to us, but she did actually talk to us.” The film ends with the sisters and Mica walking to who knows where in beautiful,gothic dresses, as a folk song sung by them drifts in the background.

Marc Jacobs

Anyone remember Marc Jacob’s iconic spring 1993 grunge collection at Perry Ellis, featured in the Sonic Youth’s video, Sugar Kane? It pissed off just about everyone and got him fired (shout out to Chloe Sevigny and Kim Gordon). From his earliest years designing, Marc Jacobs has pushed buttons with panache and has had a very special relationship with music. His fall campaign video, Beautiful Freaks, is a testament to that.

Set to Man Friday’s thumping “Love Honey, Love Heartache” and directed by legendary music video director, Hype Williams, Beautiful Freaks is a glorious showcase of Marc Jacobs gothic fall collection. Jacobs has the best cast and has brought in Missy Elliot, Susan Sarandon, Sissy Spacek, Anna Clevland, and Marilyn Manson (just to name a few). He even sneaks a cameo in there.

Gucci

Gucci’s fall/winter 2016 film campaign feels like Lost in Translation. Creative director Alessandro Michele continues the work with Glen Luchford on visuals. The video stars Petra Collins and a gaggle of models, driving around Tokyo in a Japanese light truck until they get to a pachinko, which is surreal AF. “The ongoing dialogue between the traditional and the modern – between calm and chaos – that characterizes this vibrant place creates a psychedelic assault on the senses that is echoed beautifully in the vivacity of creative director Alessandro Michele’s creations,” states the house.

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Top 10 Instagram Moments: Upcoming Toronto Urban Photographers

We picked out 10 upcoming Toronto urban photographers who capture the city in various heights and angles bringing our views of the city to a whole new perspective. To our fellow Torontonians, these people are a must follow! (No particular order)

1. @tgaweco

Surrounded by tall buildings, the Gooderham Building really knows how to stand out.

tgaweco

2. @macklesome

What’s better than capturing the beautiful bluffs during sunrise?

mac

3. @brxndonbrandoff

A good mix of old and new in one.

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4. @cha.siu

Pedestrians crossing the “yellow brick road”

matt

5. @sashadeart

Just look up and you’ll find yourself in an urban forest.

sashadeart

6. @jxkson 

Whether it’s from day to night or from rain to shine, this skyline really shows progression.

jxkson

7. @typicalmitul

This is Toronto, a.k.a the glass jungle.

typicalmitul

8. @aroyamotos

Everyone can take a pic of the skyline, but it’s all about how you choose to take your shot.

aroyamotos

9. @mattmotayne 

The gradual transition from brick buildings to glass as we enter downtown core.

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10. @to.capture

That golden hour hitting the CN Tower really did it in this pic.

to-capture

Film Review: The Lovers and the Despot

Kim Jong-il (centre) with Shin Sang-ok (right) and Choi Eun-hee (left). Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
Kim Jong-il (centre) with Shin Sang-ok (right) and Choi Eun-hee (left). Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

This week, The Lovers and the Despot comes to Toronto, a documentary of the stranger-than-fiction category about tyranny, art, and the magic of cinema at its darkest and most bizarre.

In 1978, a South Korean leading lady named Choi Eun-hee went to a meeting in Hong Kong to discuss a film project. But there was no project — at least, not the sort she had in mind. Promptly, Choi was snatched by goons, chloroformed and taken by boat to North Korea. There, she would be held prisoner for the better part of a decade by Kim Jong-il, the squat dictator of the North. Weeks later, Choi’s ex-husband, the director Shin Sang-ok, disappeared under similar circumstances, and he too became Kim’s prisoner. “Bring them to me,” the tubby tyrant had demanded.

Why? Because Kim was something of an artiste himself. An inveterate film buff and aspiring producer, the Dear Leader wanted to collaborate with the forcibly reunited Seoullywood power couple. The plan was to combine their expertise with his immaculate genius for all things, making films that would celebrate the glory of the most oppressive state in modern history.

For three years, Shin and Choi were hugely prolific under Kim’s supervision, releasing film after film before their escape in 1986. It is an incredible story. one so strange the world might have trouble believing it had Shin not surreptitiously taped his conversations with Kim.

With such an extraordinary and surreal tale to tell, the filmmakers can do no real ill. Interviews with experts, former spies, family members and Choi herself, now 89, are intercut with archival footage, Shin’s films and his secret audio tapes, making for a fast paced, perfectly conventional telling of a naturally thrilling story.

Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

While Choi is the one interviewed for the film, Shin having died in 2006, her involvement in the narrative seems secondary. More or less, the story of The Lovers and the Despot is about two men: Shin and Kim, slave and master, artist and patron, director and executive producer. This is where the real perversity of the thing lies, in their bond of mutual manipulation and mutual dependency.

Before his capture, Shin was washed up, despairing for his career after the South Korean government officially blocked him from working in film. Now, Kim Jong-il heaped huge budgets onto every project, giving him and Choi anything they asked for to help them spread the good news of Kim-style totalitarianism. In return, the couple brought to the work a level of sophistication and humanity that had never been seen before in the films of the communist prison-state. In a strange way, Kim was a dream executive producer. So when the possibility of escape first presented itself, Shin was ambivalent: “There’s no way I can betray him,” muttered the director into his recorder.

Probably the most captivating part of the film is its portrait of Kim Jong-il, the revolutionary’s chubby son, awkwardly trying to establish himself as a despot in his own right. This is a man who runs an Orwellian dystopia with an iron grip, and then complains that North Koreans are too narrow-minded to make decent movies.

The Lovers and the Despot is an illuminating and exciting movie about movies: their wonder, their insanity, their ability to drive the real world into the strangest places imaginable. It opens September 30th at the Ted Rogers Hot Docs Cinema. For details and showtimes, go to the movie’s website here.