Reel Toronto: Victoria Day
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Reel Toronto: Victoria Day

Toronto’s extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.
Victoria Day is a lovely change of pace for Reel Toronto for oh-so-many reasons. First, it’s set in Toronto and while it’s not a Hollywood film, it’s not one of those weird, obtuse Canadian flicks we’re sometimes known for. It was even good enough to play at Sundance! Second, not only is it set here, but it’s also something of a period piece, taking place in the late ’80s. Moreover, it’s not set amongst downtown landmarks or some sort of particularly exotic neighbourhood but, rather, North York. That’s right, North York.

Writer-director David Bezmozgis was a literary darling when his short-story collection Natasha came out in 2004. But the York Mills CI grad was already a film student at USC who had done a couple of shorts. Like his short stories, Victoria Day is a fictional story built around significant elements of Bezmozgis’s own life as a Russian immigrant in the ‘burbs. The use of actual locations really strengthens this.
Above, for example, is Newtonbrook Secondary School pretending to be….Newtonbrook Secondary School!
The backdrop to the entire story story is the drug-related death of a high school student at an Ontario Place Bob Dylan concert. It’s based on the death of Benji Hayward who went into the lake after a Pink Floyd show in 1988, and Bezmozgis shot the outside-the-concert and search scenes at the park, which was kind of cool back in the ’80s. Alas, there was nothing in the budget for a CGI recreation of the Forum and its revolving stage. But we do get scenes outside the gates…
…and inside, along the marina.
The author’s doppelganger, Ben, goes on a date to catch a screening of Rain Man at Mount Pleasant Road’s Regent Theatre.
But aside from those two jaunts, the film almost entirely takes place along the Bathurst Street corridor.
Hanging out in parks is one things teens do, eh? Well Bezmozgis used to attend bush parties and play with Roman candles at G. Ross Lord Park
…and Earl Bales Park, so they shot there too.
The Bathurst Manor neighbourhood isn’t one you see often in film, but here is Ben, getting off the bus at Overbrook and Wilmington….
…then walking on Elder Road past Pannahill Road.
Here, he and his buddies are cruising on a winding street with apartment buildings that appears to be Antibes Drive.
Ben’s hockey team plays out of Centennial Arena (now named after Herb Carnegie), and we see the interior…
…and exterior.
Don’t worry, faithful readers. Reel Toronto will find some terribly mediocre American movies to write about soon enough. But for now, if you don’t mind, we will take a little time to savour some local cinema.