Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Watch December 6 on (and around) December 6

It is that time of year, again... With a mere two weeks until this year's National Day of Remembrance on Violence Against Women, I've made "December 6" public on YouTube. It is my intention to leave it there until the end of December. Feel free to share!

For anyone looking to rent or buy a version for a memorial screening, please contact V-Tape (http://www.vtape.org/rentals.htm). Community & not-for-profit groups will be offered a 50% discount.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Polytechnique, The Movie

With the anniversary of December 6 looming once again, and Denis Villeneuve's feature film, "Polytechnique," screening on TV tonight, I thought it was high time to post my thoughts on that film.

"Polytechnique" is well crafted, beautifully shot, and captures the essence of the events of December 6, 1989 but is, without question, hard to watch (something that probably comes as no surprise). I have read some reviews that claim "Polytechnqiue" fails to add anything to our understanding of events, some that claim that it is politically correct feminist propaganda, and some that even claim it is too male oriented.

To the first claim, I agree... with an important caveat. I do not think the film was mean to be a psychoanalysis of the shooter or the events, so the film does not pretend to provide answers to questions raised that day. Instead, it is a raw portrayal of emotion and devastation that possibly raises more questions than it answers.

Regarding the claim that it is only for politically correct feminists... I doubt it. But having been described that way myself on occasion, I may not be the best person to refute that argument. However, the fact that the final claim exists at all, suggests to me that "Polytechnique" does not lean towards the feminist extreme.

As for the male perspective of "Polytechnique," I can see it (and not just because the film was written and directed by men), but I don't think it's a bad thing. In fact, in the aftermath of the massacre in 1989, the story that hit me the hardest was told by one of the men who had been ordered out of the classroom, knowing that his female classmates were unlikely to survive. He struggled with his actions even though he was ordered out at gunpoint, even though he would probably be dead himself if he had refused. His survivor's guilt was overwhelming. And I could relate to that survivor's guilt in a way that I couldn't let myself relate to the women who were killed in that classroom. Such survivor's guilt was also the focus of Colleen Murphy's award-winning play about the massacre, "The December Man." It's a way into the tragedy that we can all access. A hard way, but an accessible one.

Evalyn Parry's spoken word, which provides the backbone for the short film "December 6," provides another way in to this tragedy. An approach that is both accessible and surprisingly hopeful. It's because of that hope that I first approached Evalyn about using her spoken word for my film. And it's because she fought to maintain that hope as we expanded the spoken word to include additional elements for the film, that the film itself became inspirational.

For the 20th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, I was at a screening of "Polytechnique" hosted by a university women's group. They preceded the feature with "December 6" and followed it with a discussion period. During that discussion, I was struck by the number of people quoting directly from "December 6" while discussing both the feature film and the events themselves. It felt as though Evalyn Parry had given viewers the language they had previously lacked for just such a discussion. I was also moved by the number of people who came up to me at the end of the evening and thanked me for showing "December 6" and telling me how inspired they were by it. It seems hard to believe that one could make an inspiring film based on the events of the Montreal Massacre but thanks in no small part to Evalyn Parry's words (and the incredible women who danced in the film), my short film was able to offer a glimmer of hope that the feature film couldn't (at least not if they were going to be faithful to true events). For that reason alone, I now highly recommend showing "December 6" alongside "Polytechnique."

So if you are organizing a screening of "Polytechnique," consider adding "December 6" to the evening to provide some balance and give your audience something hopeful to hold onto when the night ends. The film is available for distribution through V-Tape.