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Directed by Geoff Snell
Hamilton (Ont.): Pariah Productions, 1990. VHS cassette, 20:20 min., $125.00 or $30.00 rental
Distributed by Cana­dian Filmmakers Distribution Centre, 67A Portland St., Toronto, Ontario M5V 2M9

Grades 9 and up/Ages 14 and up
Reviewed by Virginia Davis.

Volume 19 Number 3
1991 May

Hands punch a time clock. A voice-over, male, comments, "I am careful. I am safe. I choose to fight battles in a tiny world. Life at the balance. Time on a budget." As the camera pans a workshop, the voice observes, "I got looked at for the reason that I looked too normal." Identified in scene, finally, the possessor of the voice suddenly topples from a ladder, boxes falling all around - and no one even looks up!

A co-worker in a wheelchair tackles small-assembly work, and the supervi­sor, told that one employee has been sent out, responds in irritation, "He's deaf... dumb. My six-year-old has more brains than he has - and you send him on your errands."

At day's end, the motley crew walk home. The deaf-and-dumb young man, hyperactive, tosses pebbles, skitters on side trips; the bearded one is in his wheelchair; and the narrator, pushing the wheelchair, comments, "I knew I didn't have to push Silas- but I did it. I wanted to test my muscles." Home, it turns out, is a house they share.

The pieces start to fit: each young man is in some way physically chal­lenged; the employer is a half-way house ("didn't pay much, but didn't demand much"); and the men share housing perhaps, because, as the scenes show, their collective skills make everything possible.

Then comes the "intruder," a young woman hired in spite of her lack of acquired skills. The established crew resist. Told by Silas "not to bother" as she attempts the assembly work, she replies, "You want me to do... noth­ing?" She can't be comfortable with that, and she can't be comfortable not being friends. Rebuffs are firm, but she persists. Soon, the narrator is saying, "She became a simple part of every­thing, just by remaining. That's how we all met Laurel - a forced accident." She's there, then, when Silas and the deaf one are attacked by street thugs. The deaf boy is beaten. Silas' anger at his impotence to help is profound - and real. A bridge to both the beating and the film's ending comes with the narrator's "When things go right, you don't think about things going wrong. You know you should, but you don't." The "wrong" of the ending is that Laurel will leave to attend college.

That this brief piece offers much to stimulate thought is evident. That it is afflicted with first-effort weakness is not so evident, but it is. Pacing is erratic; acting varies from briefly arresting to totally amateurish; dialogue is too much the "improv" kind: The very weak­nesses, however, and the scope of the attempt (portray the physically chal­lenged in daily existence; show the emotional crippling that may accom­pany the physical; capture the effect of young female insinuating self into the group; don't stint on the void when she leaves) can be stimuli to perhaps more active audience engagement than a slickly polished piece might induce. And there are extraordinary moments, in particular, a long shot through snowy surround of the young men in their erratic home-bound caravan.

Recommended, then, for media literacy instruction, for film production programs where the first-time jitters should be most instructive, and for any program in which discussion of what it means to be challenged will occur.

Virginia Davis, Maclean Hunter Library Services, Mississauga, Ont.
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