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On Killjoys, the stork needs an assist from the dork to get a baby delivered

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Killjoys airs Fridays at 10 p.m. E.T. on Space. Photo courtesy Bell Media
Killjoys airs Fridays at 10 p.m. E.T. on Space. Photo courtesy Bell Media

Spoilers for Killjoys Season 4, Episode 4 – “What to Expect When You’re Expecting… an Alien Parasite,” follow.

If last week’s episode was about the Jacobis brothers and their relationship, this week is about the line between Hullen and human. Killjoys has always had a pretty nuanced approach to the Hullen, with a common theme being that most humans who became Hullen were already pretty much Hullen to begin with. Though this seems a bit circular, consider people like Delle Seyah or Fancy, who showed little change between their original and transformed selves. The main arc of Killjoys seasons one and two was, in part, discovering that the R.A.C. primarily existed to find those broken enough to survive the transformation, something that also defined Dutch and Khlyen’s relationship. The birth of Delle Seyah’s child, and the need to cure Johnny, bring this line sharply into focus, examining the Hullen who showed the least and most changes following their transformation.

Dutch’s storyline this week on Killjoys is a two-parter, comprising her past struggle with the Lady in the green and the desperate need to cure Johnny in the present. Her war with the Lady primarily takes place within her own memories, and it’s an ugly one. As Khlyen said in episode one, whether or not the Lady would break Dutch was a question of when, not if. And, as she admits at the end of the episode, she broke, telling the Lady everything. As always, Killjoys’ willingness to give Dutch flaws and failings remains a shining spot of the show, especially compared to similar characters like Dark Matter’s nearly perfect Two.

The final flashbacks in this episode to the war in the green also gives a really interesting dynamic to Aneela and Dutch’s relationship. Since the last episodes of season three, Dutch has been defined by her willingness to die to stop the Hullen, with her only desire being to be recognized as someone who mattered. This bleeds over into her internal conflict over essentially being a clone of Aneela. The fact that Aneela told her that she didn’t give her life only to see Dutch throw it away is more than just a statement of a maternal bond, it’s a re-affirmation of Dutch’s personhood by the person who was previously trying to erase it. That the episode ends with Aneela placing herself in danger as the Lady’s captor in the green also shows a different side to Aneela and begs the question of who she would have been had Khlyen not erased her memories. She was clearly mentally damaged before, but maybe Dutch could have made her into something better. It’s sad to think that Alvis and others were collateral damage in the fight to keep the Lady imprisoned.

As for the Lady, she is decidedly… whelming? The Lady has been foreshadowed for nearly a year now as the big bad looming large over Hullen. While it was interesting to find out that she’s older than the Hullen, and consider them her tools, her actual personality and motives are fairly generic. The arrogant evil spirit looking to break out into the real world has been done before. The main problem is that the Lady just feels too human, too evil-arrogant-wizard, for an alien queen ruling a vast hive mind. As always, this is subject to change and development, and it’s not bad, but it’s also less creative than would be expected from a show as inventive as Killjoys.

It was important to cover the scenes in the green first, because Dutch’s tone in this episode really comes together towards the end. From the second she awakes, there’s a sense of impeding doom about her, a desperate need to get the answers to her stories out of Johnny. It’s very un-Dutch-like, but it finally clicks when she reveals that the Lady gave her a glimpse of the future, and it is not pretty. In essence, everyone dies, with a Hullenized Johnny being the primary instrument of their demise. The fact that it’s Johnny who is the instrument of doom is an interesting note, with now both Dutch and the Lady seeing him as the key to their struggle.

This also gives D’avin a chance to really shine in a fantastic confrontation with Dutch in an early scene. Until this season, D’avin’s relationship with Johnny always took a backseat to Dutch and Johnny’s own sibling relationship. But when Dutch berates him for turning Johnny Hullen, D’avin finally gets a chance to remind Dutch that she’s not the only one who loves Johnny, and that she doesn’t get to possess him (something Johnny himself stated last season). It continues the trend of D’avin taking responsibility for leadership within his adoptive family, and it’s a welcome addition to D’avin and Dutch’s dynamic. If it’s going to work, she needs to respect his decisions, even when it comes to mutual loved ones like Johnny. It’s a conversation rich with the unspoken memories of prior episodes, a further sign of Killjoys’ incredible emotional continuity.

This brings us to Johnny, poor, poor, conflicted Johnny. As noted above, this episode is about what it means to turn Hullen, and Hullen Johnny is terrifying evidence for what that does to such a loving person. The pain of constantly regaining and losing human emotions for him is so horrible that he attempts to commit suicide. If anything is evidence of how strong Johnny’s emotional core is, that’s it. While the episode gives a nice reunion moment between Johnny (back to his normal self after being cured by Zeph) and Dutch, it would have been nice to see him talk a bit with D’avin as well, considering how much they went through last episode.

All of these storylines lead to the main core of the episode, the birth of Aneela, D’avin and Delle Seyah’s child. While Zeph has definitely been growing over the course of the show, she really comes into her own here. She’s the one who not only saves Johnny’s life after his attempted suicide attempt, but cures him along the way. She also shows some interesting maturity when she allows D’avin and Dutch to make the final call as to going forward with her proposed treatment. In the past Zeph has had a lot of trouble respecting other people’s wishes, so the fact that she respects their decision is a nice touch. Plus, like D’avin, she also manages to establish herself by pushing back against Dutch, with her fantastic line of “I don’t tell you how to shoot, don’t tell me how to science.”

Zeph’s discovery becomes the crucial tool to solving Delle Seyah’s problems. The show does a fantastic job of increasing the tension in each of the scenes where she tries to give birth, from comedy to all the way to terror. The humour is well-grounded as always in the show’s established universe. Delle Seyah’s hilarious naiveté as to how hard childbirth was going to be (as Zeph points out, “it’s called labour for a reason) is a callback to the fact that the nine families never give natural birth themselves.

Killjoys Season 4 Episode 4 - What to Expect When You’re Expecting… an Alien Parasite. Photo courtesy Bell Media

Killjoys Season 4 Episode 4 – What to Expect When You’re Expecting… an Alien Parasite. Photo courtesy Bell Media

With an ever-growing baby, the only solution available is a C-section. The only problem is, Delle Seyah’s Hullen healing factor is being turned up to 11 with the baby, preventing an incision from being made. This causes a return to this episode’s theme of what it means to be turned Hullen. After an attempt to weaken her Hullen response fails, the only option is to cleanse her. But Delle Seyah clearly doesn’t want to be cleansed. Compared to Johnny, she was already Hullen to begin with. The parasite has only served as a straight up upgrade with no cost to her already dead conscience (as last week’s review noted: eugenic death camps).

This is nicely highlighted by a confrontation with Pree late into the episode. As noted in last week’s review, the show has taken an uncomfortable direction with Delle Seyah at times, almost forgetting her horrific past actions (at the risk of being a broken record: eugenic death camps). It was nice to finally see Pree remind her (and the audience) that she murdered a dear friend of his in his own bar, and that he was happy to return the favour. Delle Seyah at first takes this in her usual amoral way (in a later scene she knocks him out and calls him an arrogant waiter), but also seems to finally be on a path to some remorse.

When Zeph severs her spinal column, we don’t see her give birth. Instead, the scene focuses on her memories flashing before her eyes. Murdering Pawter, the bloody disaster at Prodigy, Johnny killing her, her relationship with Aneela. Between her facial expression and her memories, this might be a first step in her coming to terms with the monster she became.

Delle Seyah also gives D’avin a final opportunity to remind the audience where he stands. As noted last week, the fact that she was carrying D’avin’s child seemed to cause him to forget a lot of what Delle Seyah had done to those he loved. The fact that he was willing to shoot Delle Seyah (and risk his child) when she tried to kill Dutch (she believed that Dutch had abandoned Aneela to die in the green) is a powerful statement of the relationships he values most. It’s also fitting that it’s D’avin who comforts the child when the baby begins crying. He’s also been at his best when serving as a father/big brother figure to others, and he clearly is ready to be a dad.

In short, this week’s cleansing of both Delle Seyah and Johnny was an excellent opportunity to explore what humanity means to those characters. For Delle Seyah, it means building something she might have never had, for Johnny it’s about reclaiming who he was. But it’s about more than just that. Through Delle Seyah and Johnny’s struggles, we see D’avin solidify his role in the Killjoy family and firmly express where his loyalties are, despite the awkward position this child places him. For Dutch, it’s about coming to terms with the terror she faced in the green, and perhaps fully recognizing that Johnny, as crucial as he is to her and the galaxy, doesn’t belong to her. For Zeph, it’s about maturing into a full-blown member of the family, standing up for herself while still respecting others. In short, the fact that Killjoys is still evolving its characters four seasons in is just one of the reasons why it’s must-watch TV on Friday nights.

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Honey Bee is a revealing look at human trafficking in Canada

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Honey Bee, directed by Rama Rau, stars Julia Sarah Stone as an underage truck stop sex-worker on a journey of survival.
Honey Bee, directed by Rama Rau, stars Julia Sarah Stone as an underage truck stop sex-worker on a journey of survival. Photo courtesy A71 Entertainment

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.

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Director Rob Grant on the tension (and dark comedy) of HARPOON

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From director Rob Grant (Mon Ami, Fake Blood), Harpoon will make its Canadian premiere at the Calgary Underground Film Festival. Photo courtesy CUFF
From director Rob Grant (Mon Ami, Fake Blood), Harpoon will make its Canadian premiere at the Calgary Underground Film Festival April 28. Photo courtesy CUFF

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.

Harpoon director Rob Grant said premiering the film at International Film Festival Rotterdam 2019 was a very validating experience. Photo courtesy CUFF

Harpoon director Rob Grant said premiering the film at International Film Festival Rotterdam 2019 was a very validating experience. Photo courtesy CUFF

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.

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There Are No Fakes is a shocking journey into the world of art fraud

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Directed by Jamie Kastner, There Are No Fakes is a shocking feature-length documentary that centres on the work of Norval Morrisseau. Photo courtesy Cave 7 Productions
Directed by Jamie Kastner, There Are No Fakes is a shocking feature-length documentary that centres on the work of Norval Morrisseau. Photo courtesy Cave 7 Productions

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.”

Norval Morrisseau of the Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek First Nation was sometimes referred to as the "Picasso of the North". Photo courtesy Cave 7 Productions

Norval Morrisseau of the Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek First Nation was sometimes referred to as the “Picasso of the North”. Photo courtesy Cave 7 Productions

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.

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