Why I still heart you, Montreal.
(Film stills from Next of Kin courtesy of Kara Blake)
I’ve hung my allegorical hat in a slew of different places over the years but one of the cities that made the deepest impression was undoubtedly Montreal where I spent a good chunk of time attempting to further my art career and where I dreamt of being accosted by Leonard Cohen’s diamond-eyed gaze while treading my way down the ice-glazed sidewalks of Rue Marie-Anne. Sure, it wasn’t always that romantic but nevertheless, in the recesses of my memory, the city continues to emit a soft glow amid shadowy layers, like a glimmering winter globe wrapped in scented tissue tucked carefully away in a drawer.
Next of Kin, a beautiful short film about two sisters living in neighboring flats made by my great friend Kara Blake, is richly evocative of the gruff tenderness, the lovable inability-to-be-lovedness that one experiences at the onset of a long Montreal winter only to emerge unexpectedly enlightened upon the first signs of spring. The monotony of this vicious cycle can be a brutal thing to experience year after year (overpowered by an accumulation of personally profound understandings, I was eventually prompted to flee the city) but in retrospect, the whole tedious process also served as a consistent testament of my own personal growth as a young person who, like many others, had come to the city to ‘find myself’ – and did.
But rather than offering a perspective on Montreal’s transcendental qualities (as a city apparently adept at spurring on routine evolutions of the Self) which falls in danger of coming across as either predictably straight-forward or obliquely abstract, Next of Kin gives us a glimpse into something much more experiential, much more sensually direct; while the film pivots around Kara and her sister, Julie, the viewer is confronted by the human presence evoked through the space and contents of each apartment. The distant positioning of the camera stands in direct contrast with its personable subject, allowing one to take on the viewpoint of a voyeur who suddenly finds himself struck by the banal yet intimate conventions he is bearing witness to. In short, what I love most about Kara’s films is their ability to tap into an emotion that was previously deemed intangible. She makes the most out of every scene, whether one is referring to aesthetics, the emotional quality of the space or the characters who play out their lives within it.
The film was recently nominated as one of the top five finalists in the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Emerging Filmmakers competition in conjunction with RBC. You can watch Next of Kin here and vote for it to win the Fan Favorite Award. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did…