It was thanks to a casual mention on the part of my brother who lives in Calgary that he recently attended an event at which David Bezmozgis spoke, that I found out about a lauded new film called Victoria Day. After the formal presentation and screening of the film, which Bezmozgis, best known for his book of short stories called Natasha and Other Stories, wrote and directed, he and my brother had a chance to chat. They seemed familiar to one another, but they couldn’t quite place where they knew each other from. It turned out that they were roughly the same age and had moved in some of the same circles while growing up in Toronto, causing the true story which inspired the fictional Victoria Day to be immediately recognizable to my brother.
Bezmozgis has become known as the voice of the children of Russian/Soviet Jewish immigrants to Canada, and his narratives – both on the page and on film – are essentially coming of age stories told from this point of view. Bezmozgis is adamant that his art, devoid of most everyday signs of Jewish practice, is just as Jewish as, say, my latest favorite Canadian TV show, Being Erica, which is exploding with Jewish vocabulary and ritual references. Here, he explains this point at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival last year:
Indeed, for many individuals who identify chiefly or exclusively as ethnic Jews, ethics and a sense of moral justice are at the core of their identities. Ethical dilemmas are definitely what the film’s main character, teenager Ben Spector, deals with after a bully who intimidates Ben into giving him some money to buy drugs at a rock concert goes missing. Things get even more complicated when Ben falls for the bully’s sister as the search for her brother is conducted by the police and members of the community. The film gets its name from the holiday weekend, Victoria Day, in spring 1988 when all this happens. “As his friends play Hacky Sack and set off fireworks, he’s entering that unfamiliar, liminal state between adolescence and adulthood, where consciousness of human vulnerability begins to surface. Bezmozgis’ ability to capture that disorientation, along with Ben’s awkwardly emerging sexual desire, in such a vivid, subtle, and moving way is the mark of a masterful storyteller, whether wielding pen or camera.” (from the Sundance Film Festival website).
You, like my brother, may be fortunate to have already seen this highly acclaimed debut film effort at a film festival or special screening. The rest of us will have to wait until it is released in theaters or on DVD. In the meantime, here is the trailer:
© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.
Tags: Being Erica, Canadian films, Canadian jewish films, Canadian TV, David Bezmozgis, Jewish filmmakers, Jewish films, Jewish writers, Natasha and Other Stories, Russian Jews, San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Victoria Day