________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 22 . . . . June 27, 2008


The Point.

Joshua Dorsey (Director). Melissa Malkin & Joshua Dorsey (Silo Productions Producers). Germaine Ying Gee (NFB Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2007.
85 min., 26 sec., VHS or DVD, $99.95.
Order Number: 153C 9106 258.

Subject Headings:
Neighbourhood - Economic aspecs. Montreal (Quebec).
Montreal (Quebec).

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Thom Knutson.

**** /4

Once the core of Canada's rail industry, Point St Charles is now home to one of the country's most ethnically diverse communities. Against a backdrop of aging urban infrastructure, drug abuse, graffiti and poverty, film director Joshua Dorsey set out to explore the lives of the teens who call the area home. The result is the NFB production, The Point. On the surface, The Point is a collection of loosely interconnected story threads, such as the lead-up to a weekend party that attracts invited and uninvited guests, the mystery surrounding the disappearance and fate of a young woman graffiti artist, and the bullying of one girl by another. On a deeper level, these mini-plots provide not only the structure through which the film reveals individual characters, but also the opportunity to examine their relationships with one another and their community. Like Point St Charles, itself, one must venture beyond the shell to learn what drives the community and its residents. Some of the teens see the neighbourhood as a place from which to escape; others find a sense of belonging amongst the familiarity of crumbling streets and abandoned buildings. Underscoring the setting are the endless, faceless freight trains whose presence physically and metaphorically surround the community, cutting it off from the world beyond.

     What makes the film remarkable is the role young adults played in its development. From character creation to acting, Dorsey invited youth from schools, community centres and other organizations to participate, with the understanding that anyone who showed up would be included in the production. By giving such a direct voice to teens, Dorsey has assured the authenticity of character, dialogue and tone, making The Point a film that will resonate with many teen viewers, particularly with its central coming-of-age theme. Characters wrestle with some quintessential youth issues, such as self-determination, sexual relationships, peer pressure, bullying, violence, and split families. Yet beyond the harsh exterior, the viewer perceives the deeper feelings of hope, respect, loyalty and vulnerability. Some of the dialogue is refreshingly unpolished, rendering it far more plausible and indicative of the awkwardness teens experience in the process of growing up.

Dorsey uses a number of techniques to establish the tone of the film. For example, although Kyra has disappeared, her character moves spectre-like through a number of scenes, a reflection of her ghostly presence among the teens. Conflict and tension drive much of the drama, illustrating relationships some of the teens have with their friends, their parents, drug dealers and the police. The many night scenes reflect the often ominous feeling of the streets and danger of the empty warehouses. As Dorsey discusses on the film's website, the film crew encountered real life challenges, the nature of which emerges in the narrative. There were drunks on the streets angry at the film crew's presence. One night the cast and crew heard gunshots. People threw rocks at them. Gangs of kids started fights because they were there.

     Gritty, urban, authentic, The Point is a must for any public or secondary school library collection. Teens will find the film, itself, compelling, but they will also be intrigued by the process leading to its creation. Teachers, in particular, should not be dissuaded from using the film in the classroom (a separate teachers guide is available), despite the coarse language and drug-related scenes. These are situations encountered by the majority of youth on a regular basis, whether through the media, the internet or in person. Indeed, removing these elements would lose the fundamental point of the production: a story by teens, about teens, for teens, all in their own words.

Highly Recommended.

Thom Knutson is the Youth Services Coordinator at Saskatoon Public Library in Saskatoon, SK.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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