Stories about our roots on the big screen.
This past month, the annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) once again took place in Root & Seed's home city. Met with plenty of buzz, we took a look at this year's roster of incredible films and discovered an array of creators who have chosen to focus the camera on stories around culture and the shared roots that that tie families together. Take a look at our list to find an inspiring round up of films that you'll definitely want to add to your "to watch" list in 2022 and beyond.
RICEBOY SLEEPS - Directed by Anthony Shim
After losing her husband, So-young relocates to Canada in the 1990s with her young son, Dong-hyun. Dong-hyun is bullied by his classmates and he isn’t helped by the timid, distinctly Canadian racism of his teacher and principal, who consider the family “troublesome.” At work, So-young battles loneliness along with racist and sexist comments. The film expertly balances the very different perspectives of a boy and his mother, poignantly capturing his loneliness and frustration, her isolation and sacrifices.
CONCRETE VALLEY - Directed by Antoine Bourges
This film centres around Rashid, a former physician from Syria who has settled in the area of Thorncliffe Park along with his wife, a former actor, and their young son. Rashid struggles with his current position in life and is seemingly eager to escape his marriage while still guided by a sense of social solidarity for those around him. He proves himself a man capable of bitter derision and gaslighting as often as generosity and support. The film offers a complex character study within a larger and at times contradictory image of care.
ROSIE - Directed by Gail Maurice
Rosie is a visibly Indigenous, English-speaking, sweet and headstrong little girl whose mother has just died. She is taken to live with her only living relative, her Francophone aunt Frédèrique, the film brings the audience to the fringes of 1980s Montreal. ROSIE captures an uncomfortable reality understood through innocent eyes. Seeing things from the girl’s viewpoint explains why Fred’s gender-bending friends from the Cree perspective of being genderless, Flo and Mo appear in various forms of drag. Touching on the Sixties Scoop and disconnection from Indigenous identity, ROSIE is an ode to finding your chosen family when your blood relations have been removed from the picture.
LOVE AND MATHEMATICS - Directed by Claudia Sainte-Luce
Set in a middle-class suburban Mexican enclave near the US border, Love and Mathematics is a story of longing, reconnection, and disconnection. Billy is a former boy band quasi-pop star, who is now a dutiful stay at home dad, frustrated by the lack of fulfillment in his comfortable life. He’s someone who’s out of touch even with himself. His new neighbour Mónica is a former devoted fan who stops in her tracks when she recognizes her teen obsession living across the street. The film gives way to a playfully subtle and humorously poignant way of looking at modern Mexican couples. Sainte-Luce creates a nuanced comedy out of two people’s struggles to conform to or break away from social norms and expectations.
NANITIC - Directed by Carol Nguyen - Short film
"Nanitic" is a word used to describe first-generation worker ants that sacrifice the survival of the colony. With this in mind, Nguyen uses this concept as a symbol to capture a traditional Vietnamese immigrant family. The film immerses viewers in the intricate matrix that connects three generations of an immigrant family, highlights the different behaviours of one generation to the next and in itself a study into cultural fragility.
SAME OLD - Directed by Lloyd Lee Choi - Short film
The theft of an e-bike provokes both a desperate search and a discomforting acknowledgement of the vulnerabilities as an immigrant living on society’s margins for a food delivery driver in pandemic-era New York City. With both a wife and mother to provide for, the nocturnal quest along New York’s damp streets lets us into the unforgiving world of the forgotten people who pass us by daily.
Is there a film centered around family roots or culture that stands out to you? Give your recommendations in the comments below!