The Canadian Film Institute’s ongoing guest artist series featuring Canada’s best contemporary filmmakers. On April 18 the CFI presents Werewolf, the extraordinary first feature from Ashley McKenzie.
The director, Ashley McKenzie, will be in attendance for a talk and Q&A following the screening.
The hardscrabble existence of two homeless addicts is portrayed with sensitivity and brutal honesty in acclaimed filmmaker Ashley McKenzie’s debut feature. Shot almost entirely in oblique close-ups to capture the disorientation and frustration of McKenzie’s characters, twentysomething junkies Blaise and Vanessa, Werewolfdoggedly and courageously refuses to romanticize its characters lives. (The style suggests an affinity for Toronto minimalists such as Kazik Radwanski, and Lodge Kerrigan’s Clean, Shaven.) Sleeping in tents, fighting with government bureaucrats, Blaise and Vanessa survive primarily through an underground economy. They harass people to let them cut their grass with a rusty old mower they haul over dirt roads and through rainstorms. Such scenes capture the futility, toil, and frustration in their lives with startling power, like some crack-addled version of the Stations of the Cross. It’s a testament to the skill of both McKenzie and the performers that they inspire empathy in us even as we find the characters’ actions perplexing and troubling. Werewolf confirms, boldly, the promise of McKenzie’s much-lauded earlier short films. – STEVE GRAVESTOCK (TIFF)
Ashley McKenzie is an emerging writer-director from Cape Breton Island, Canada. Her 2015 short 4 Quarters screened at TIFF, VIFF, Stockholm IFF, Festival du nouveau cinema, and won Best Short Film at the Atlantic Film Festival. With her previous work, Stray (’13), When You Sleep (’12), and Rhonda’s Party (10), Ashley has earned a spot on Canada’s Top Ten Shorts list by TIFF, been a three-time recipient of the Shaw Media Fearless Female Director Award from the National Screen Institute of Canada, and won CBC’s Short Film Faceoff. She is an alumnus of the TIFF Talent Lab and co-owner of grassfire films. Werewolf is her first feature film.