Spoilers for Killjoys Season 4, Episode 3, “Bro’d Trip,” follow.
Last week on Killjoys, Johnny got greened, we discovered that somehow the Company has competition in the dystopian capitalism field, and Delle Seyah realized that (Hullen or not) trusting the person whose fiancée she murdered maybe wasn’t the best of ideas.
This week opens up with the Jacobis brothers on a road trip, and it is fantastic. Killjoys hasn’t really explored the relationship between the Jacobis since the end of the first season. We’ve seen flashes of both their good and bad sides – from their easy joking banter to Johnny’s dislike of being under his brother’s command – but it’s also been a pretty stable dynamic. At the end of the day, Johnny and D’av’s relationship with Dutch has been more important than their relationship with each other, and they aren’t together on missions that often either.
There’s something deeper to this as well. Johnny is the heart of the team, a foundation for those around him. Throughout the show he’s tended to help others above helping himself, and the only one who can really bring out his true feelings is Dutch. By contrast, Hullen Johnny gives us an unfiltered look into his darkest thoughts, and… hoo boy, the poor guy has some issues.
Everyone around Johnny has always regarded his ability to give a damn in an uncaring universe as his greatest strength. As Khlyen saw in episode one of this season, Johnny’s heart may be the key to stopping the Lady, but the problem is that Johnny appears to disagree with this assessment. This isn’t exactly new. Last season, we saw just how pissed he was that Dutch had been holding him back to prevent him from being “corrupted,” in her view. Johnny has clearly wanted to be something more than just the caring little sibling to Dutch and D’av, especially since Pawter’s death. The past two episodes have given him what he wanted, but at the expense of his heart – and it’s been fascinating.
It’s D’avin’s reaction to Johnny finally getting this power that really makes this episode tick. Throughout Killjoys, D’av hasn’t ever really reckoned with his brother’s insecurities. The primary tension between the two has always been D’av’s abandonment of their family, which has shifted over time into D’av’s anger at Johnny’s seeming inability to forgive him or fully recognize that he has changed. It was great to finally hear D’avin open up to Johnny about this anger as his little brother recovered from saving the two from the warden’s men. But the fact that D’av just walked back into Johnny’s life and was automatically better than him once again, the original sore point? That’s been more of a silent problem until now.
“Bro’d Trip” is where D’avin finally reckons with what Dutch realized last season – that maybe Johnny wants to be something else. Towards the middle of the episode, he recognizes that Johnny is now supernaturally strong while being even smarter, and realizes that maybe this Hullen version of his little brother won’t want to give it all up to go back to being “a hug wrapped in a puppy.” The fact that he thinks this is a “maybe” rather than a certainty until the end of the episode goes to show how blinded he is by the vision of who he wants his brother to be.
The final fight between the two at the pool of green serves as a fantastic capstone to the episode and a nice callback to their fight in the first episode of the series. Whereas at that point it was Johnny trying to bring his brother to his senses, now it’s D’av trying to force Johnny to go back to being someone he might not want to be. It’s also the first time we really see Johnny get the upper hand on his brother. And, if there’s a line that summarizes Hullen Johnny, “Now I have the charms, the smarts and the muscle – what do you have?” is it.
While this review has so far mostly focused on the Jacobis brothers, “Bro’d Trip” also deftly weaves Delle Seyah into their dynamic. Johnny treats the road trip as a sort of “babymoon,” a last ride for the two before D’av’s baby changes their relationship forever. He also addresses a problem I’ve had with the show since the last episode of season three.
The relationship between Delle Seyah and the brothers has been surprisingly cozy so far, considering how utterly vile of a person she’s been. As first this had worried me a little bit, as Killjoy’s treatment of Jellco last season had never sat right with me. However, this week we finally see Johnny vocalize what we’ve all been thinking, as he reminds D’avin that – surrogate mother of his child or not – this is the woman who kidnapped Dutch, killed Pawter, and whose girlfriend stole his genes for her alien baby. Even more importantly, we also see D’avin fully acknowledge the damage Delle Seyah has caused Johnny. With the episode ending on the impeding birth of D’av, Aneela’s and Sayah’s child, it’s exciting to see where Killjoys takes the relationship between the two.
By contrast to the brothers, Delle Seyah’s plotline is a pretty simple one this episode, if a little bit problematic. Much like in season three, she finds herself at the mercy of a truly vile character and manages to maneuver her way to safety (and get a little revenge while she’s at it). She also shows some flashes of kindness for once, giving one of the organ farmers a ticket off the planet as part of her deal with the authorities. If Delle Seyah was a fresh character introduced in season three as Anneela’s love interest, this turn at being a protagonist would likely work a lot better. The problem is that Killjoys is a show that has always had a strong emotional continuity throughout. Conversations between the main cast are interspersed with references to prior episodes (including last week’s hilarious tease for the potential need of D’avin to… “Sabine” Johnny). This strong continuity makes it incredibly difficult to watch Seyah in any other role than a pure villain.
This is the woman who (beyond murdering Pawter in cold blood), tried to turn Westerly into a world of eugenic death camps. Yet the showrunners have been increasingly portraying her as an anti-hero since season three, despite the fact that she’s still the same murderous, power hungry, amoral snake she’s always been. The villain/ally turn worked in shows like Farscape because the villains were often sympathetic from the start, and usually showed some kind of remorse or evolution. Delle Seyah has shown neither, and it results in her statement in last week’s episode that “oh God, we are a family” feeling hollow and unearned. As entertaining as she is, and as slimy her opponents are, the feeling still remains that it’s probably better that she loses, especially since (as Johnny noted in season three) her child may be the harbinger of the death of all non-Hullen life.
To catch up with the rest of the crew, we see Pip (the bribe taker) and Pree (the side taker) experience their first mission as newly deputized, neutral and non-corrupt Killjoys by helping Zeph take back control of Lucy before the ship kills them. Pree continues to shine as one of the most joyful characters on television, with his idea of a funeral (singing, booze and burly men) sounding like one hell of a time. However, it’s Pip and Zeph who see the most development here. While they were entertaining last season, they were also pretty one-note – Pip was the goofy mercenary hacker and Zeph was your classic awkward geek. Here, the show continues to flesh the two out, with Pip serving as a conscience for the somewhat colder Zeph as they muck about with a Hullen’s brain. It’s also nice to see that Zeph has retained her tendency to overlook Johnny, with Pree having to remind her that (after, or even before, Dutch) the most likely person Lucy would listen to would be Johnny, not D’avin.
However, where Zeph and Pip really come into their own is when they are discussing what their relationship means now that they are safe again. Their first conversation clearly expressing desires and setting boundaries was incredibly refreshing to see. Zeph’s fusion of copious sex into her thinking process is a fantastic addition to her character, while Pip showed a lot of maturity in the way he expressed his wish for something more while also respecting Zeph’s emotional boundaries. As always, Michelle Lovretta remains one of the best portrayers of sex and relationships in television.
In short, “Bro’d Trip” serves as an excellent emotional foundation for the rest of the season. Even if took an alien parasite, D’avin finally knows what his brother is going through and how his relationship with his child will impact the crew. Meanwhile, the Killjoy family continues to grow as Pip and Pree join the team full-time. The best part is that all of this lies under the shadow of the struggle for Johnny’s soul, a struggle that may be the key to stopping The Lady. With the episode ending with a wounded Dutch stumbling out of the green, and Delle Seyah about to give birth, things are really picking up in the J.
Honey Bee is a revealing look at human trafficking in Canada
Honey Bee director Rama Rau may be known to Canadian audiences mostly due to her acclaimed work in documentary, including League of Exotique Dancers (2015) and No Place to Hide (2015) – the former profiling aging burlesque dancers and the latter taking a focus on the world of cyberbullying.
But though Honey Bee marks Rau’s narrative feature debut, her instincts honed in documentary filmmaking remain essential, as much of the film is shot as though it were a documentary feature.
“I think that was key in telling the story, for me,” Rau said. “The actors were never acting – they were always in that state.”
Much of the film’s dramatic power is supplied by lead actress Julia Sarah Stone, who plays Natalie, an underage truck stop sex-worker on a journey of survival.
“She was literally the crux of the film. She was everything,” Rau said. “When I saw her audition, and I looked at a lot of auditions, I really wanted her to be in my film.”
Rau spoke with The Mutt about Stone, transitioning from documentary filmmaking and the too-infrequently discussed prevalence of human trafficking in Canada. This interview has been edited and condensed for length.
THE MUTT: So tell me about Honey Bee.
RAMA RAU: It’s about a girl groomed from the foster home system and put into a human trafficking ring. She thinks the person grooming her is her boyfriend. That’s how they get young girls from the foster care system in Canada. Then, she’s caught in a police raid and sent to a farm and the movie really begins there, her coming to terms with what has happened. A lot of it is her finding herself.
TM: What were your first thoughts when you initially read the script?
RR: I was a bit shocked, to be honest. I was stunned that these things happen in Canada. I wondered if I wanted this to be my debut feature. But it’s never frightened me to go into the underbelly of society. But films have the power to open up areas that we don’t normally talk about. I also said as a woman director I can bring a certain perspective to it. And I found my way into the story, and said, “This is how I’m going to do it, and if you’re OK with it, I’m happy to work on this film.”
TM: What were those specific elements you wanted to bring to the film?
RR: I knew I wanted it to be totally told from the perspective of Natalie, from her POV. I knew I wanted it to be a very personal film. In documentary, we use handheld cameras a lot. We literally run behind our characters. I wanted that sense of urgency in this film. We kind of blurred the lines between fiction and fact. I wanted to go so deep into the story, so the audience never knows, “Is this a real story, or is this a person acting? Does this really happen in Canada?” [There was a scene where] and we ran behind [Natalie] like we were a camera crew.
TM: This film is obviously so based on character and Natalie’s experience. Do you think approaching things with that documentary mentality, did that help you capture small character moments?
RR: Yes, absolutely. I think that was key in telling the story. For me, the actors were never acting, they were always in that state. I encouraged them to be that way for as long as we were filming. I think they really took that to heart. They really lived their characters, and that was so rewarding for the camera because the camera picked up every little twitch of the cheek and movement of the eyebrow. I think that really lent to the authenticity. I even told Ryan (Steven Love), I want you to not talk too much to the women and I want them to hate you by the end of the film. So it’s really beyond method acting, it’s really living and being that character for that period of time.
TM: Having someone capable in the lead is obviously very important, because you need someone who is able to deliver that authenticity. How important was it having Stone in that role?
RR: Oh my god, she was literally the crux of the film. She was everything. I know she did so much research. I think she really carries the film on her shoulders. That’s why I had to choose such a strong actor like Martha to offset Julia’s stunning performance. I got so lucky in getting such great actors. God knows what I would have done if Julia wouldn’t have been able to deliver, because the film is totally based on every nuance of her face.
TM: Why would you recommend people check out the film?
RR: I think human trafficking in Ontario is not talked about enough. I think people watching this film will find a way into thinking about it. It’s not a news item. It’s more of a story of a girl who has been through the sex trade and has been bartered like a piece of furniture. I think we need to give these girls a voice. Since documentaries on these subjects can’t be made because it brings a lot of danger to their lives, these sort of films based on social issues is what opens up peoples’ minds to these sorts of issues. That’s why I think this film is crucial for people to watch if we have to tackle things like human trafficking in Ontario.
Honey Bee opened in select theatres on Sept. 20 and will be available on Video on Demand on Dec. 10.
Director Rob Grant on the tension (and dark comedy) of HARPOON
Adrift on the seas on a luxury yacht, three friends find themselves stranded without food or supplies and quickly realize their survival is less than assured. An official selection at International Film Festival Rotterdam 2019, Harpoon made its Canadian premiere at the Calgary Underground Film Festival (CUFF) April 28. The film will release on VOD in Canada on October 15.
The Mutt spoke with director Rob Grant prior to the film’s screening at CUFF 2019. This interview has been edited and condensed for length.
THE MUTT: Can you tell me a bit about the genesis of Harpoon?
ROB GRANT: I had a great relationship with my producers (Knuckleball director Michael Peterson and Kurtis Harder) from a film called Fake Blood. I pitched Mr. Peterson on this idea that was a mix between Polanski’s Knife on the Water but by way of Seinfeld characters on the boat. I grew up in Vancouver, and the original idea was, “Well, I spent a lot of time on a boat, we could go take a boat out to the ocean and try to isolate ourselves out there.” Once a budget came into play and the idea grew, suddenly we were shooting the interiors of the boat in a set in the middle of freezing winter in Calgary, and shooting the exteriors on a boat in tropical Belize down south.
TM: Was it difficult for you to balance those comedic elements and still find a way to ratchet up the tension?
RG: It was very difficult, and there were a lot of discussions about that. When you have to give the elevator pitch, you have to say: “This is the genre and this is what it means.” But I subscribe to the logic that in life you can feel in one moment that you’re in a love story and the next minute in a horror movie, and that’s the way real life actually works. But it seems a little more rigid in movies. We were aware of potentially disrupting viewers’ experiences of watching the movie. (We thought) a movie could, or should, be multiple things at once. We’re willing to accept that there’s going to be some audience members that are going to reject that as a movie experience, but we wanted to try it.
TM: Can you tell me more about those influences you mentioned? I’m curious about how you mixed something like Seinfeld with more traditional thriller elements.
RG: Hitchcock’s Lifeboat was definitely in there, as well as Polanski’s Knife in the Water. But I had to still find the dark humour in it, and Seinfeld came up specifically because as much as we all find the Seinfeld characters enduring, they’re very much in it for themselves. They’re worried about their own outcomes. So I tried to use a lot of that. As much as these people like to say they’re looking out for each other, the second it becomes a survival story they’re all kind of in it for themselves. Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia was another one, not only for mixing drama and humour, but definitely because the narration was less focused. It sets up what’s going to happen without speaking to much on the nose about what you’re about to see.
TM: I understand there’s some great gore and effects in Harpoon. What was your approach to that, and what effect do you think that has?
RG: I’ve explored the effects of violence in cinema with Fake Blood, and this was an extension of that. The entire movie, these people speak very casually and aloof about the things that potentially will need to be done without actually considering what that entails until suddenly when it happens. I felt like it would be a good idea to make sure that was extremely violent and horrible, not only because we’ve been teasing up to this moment, but I do believe there’s a certain element that people do not consider the actual realities of having to do something like that. So it’s very shocking, very brutal, it’s like, “ha ha ha this was all funny to discuss” and now that it’s happened it sucks the wind out of you. That was a very intentional decision.
TM: What do you think Harpoon does in a unique way when compared to other similar films? What do you hope the audience walks away with?
RG: I hope when people leave the cinema that it wasn’t the movie they were expecting, that it was a little bit of a different take. I do think it’ll challenge them depending what their expectations are. I just hope they’re expecting something interesting in the genre, and that they’re along for the ride.
Harpoon will be released on VOD in Canada on October 15.
There Are No Fakes is a shocking journey into the world of art fraud
Some of the best documentaries of the past two decades involve hard left turns – films that begin in one direction but end in another due to events that unfolded during production. There Are No Fakes, directed by Jamie Kastner, joins that select company of documentary as its comedic opening slowly morphs into something much darker.
There Are No Fakes centers on the work of Norval Morrisseau, the Indigenous Canadian artist of the Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek First Nation, sometimes referred to as the “Picasso of the North”. Morrisseau, who died in 2007, sought to remove forgeries of his art from the marketplace, establishing the Norval Morrisseau Heritage Society in 2005.
After Kevin Hearn (of Barenaked Ladies fame) buys one of Morrisseau’s paintings, he starts to doubt its authenticity and discovers a bizarre feud consolidated around Morrisseau. It’s this conflict, and the dark secrets hidden beneath it, that form the backdrop of There Are No Fakes.
Kastner (The Secret Disco Revolution, Free Trade Is Killing My Mother), who was friends with Hearn in high school, learned through conversation about Hearn’s ongoing lawsuit surrounding the Morrisseau paintings. It became clear to Kastner that such a story would be perfect for his next project.
“It was almost unbelievable. There was so much crazy stuff in this story, I couldn’t quite believe it,” Kastner said. “I told him if I was going to proceed with it, though we were friends he would have no editorial control. As a journalist, I would be talking to both sides, and he agreed.
“I went off on my own doing my own kind of digging and research. Lo and behold, everything he told me and then some turned out to be the case.”
As the story unfolded and as Kastner continued to meet a succession of larger-than-life characters, he found himself shocked at what he uncovered. Bringing footage back to his editor provoked a similar reaction.
“He’d say, ‘Holy f***!’ Then I’d do another one, and he’s quite an even-keeled guy, and he’d say ‘holy f***,’” Kastner said. “So it was a series of ‘holy f***’ moments. I tried to recreate that experience for the audience.”
Documentaries can often unfold much as expected, with a known story dictating the outcome of the production. But given the fluid situation surrounding the events of There Are No Fakes, Kastner followed the story as it led him, knowing he had been handed an incredible gift.
“It’s definitely a privilege and a responsibility (to tell this story). You’re dealing with the legacy of one of our most important artists,” he said. “You wind up dealing with very serious issues of abuse of different kinds, so I felt a real responsibility.
“You have to handle it very carefully as a documentary filmmaker. It really is so unique and unusual and special and horrific and inspiring and a whole range of things that you don’t usually get in one film.”
There Are No Fakes made its world premiere at Hot Docs 2019, receiving highly positive reviews. Kastner said the film provided fascinating insight into the legacy of Morrisseau, touching on multiple problems still at play in Canada.
“It’s a very dramatic story. People can’t believe that they’re real people. They seem like characters out of some HBO series or something,” Kastner said. “I think it’s a very entertaining, edge of your seat, jaw-dropping type of story that happens to be a documentary.”
There Are No Fakes will screen at multiple locations throughout Canada in July 2019. For more information, click here.
Next to read on The Mutt: Tantoo Cardinal propels Falls Around Her in first leading role