Director’s Cut, Torontoist’s series of TIFF filmmaker profiles, gives you the skinny on some of the legendary directors and more freshly-minted masters at this year’s festival.
Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew with director Bruce McDonald on the set of This Movie Is Broken. Photo by Caitlin Cronenberg.
Name: Bruce McDonald
Programme: Special Presentations
Born: May 28, 1959 in Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Selected Filmography: Roadkill (1989), Hard Core Logo (1996), The Tracey Fragments (2007), Pontypool (2008), This Movie is Broken (2010), Trigger (2010/11), Hard Core Logo 2 (forthcoming)
Don’t let the chubby cheeks and signature Stetson fool you. The bad boy of Canadian cinema, Bruce McDonald, is far more likely to be found in Toronto’s dingiest indie rock bar, or the alley behind it, than at the farm. With most of his career spent directing for the small screen, he only has about ten features to his name. Nevertheless, his fearless portrayals of the alienated, the outcast, the punk, and the drug-addled have established him as one of the country’s most notorious, and rebellious, filmmakers.
Sometimes noted as Canada’s equivalent to Quentin Tarantino, he’s earned a cult following since his breakout rock-on-the-road trilogy of Roadkill (1989), Highway 61 (1991), and Hard Core Logo (1995), the latter considered one of the best movies ever to come out of this country. It’s an early demonstration of McDonald’s trademark themes of rock-and-roll, drugs, and the breakdown of human relationships. Though a little bleak for ticket-buyers, film festivals lapped it up. Hard Core Logo and Roadkill both won Best Canadian Feature at their respective TIFFs, but there’s still no word on that “big chunk of hash” McDonald planned to buy with the prize money.
As McDonald ascended from the underground into mainstream popularity, his subject matter lightened somewhat—but still stays heavy on the CanCon. Trigger is McDonald’s latest showing at TIFF, a(nother) story of a fictionalized rock band consisting of two childhood friends, Kat and Vic, falls apart at the seams then tries to make amends ten years later. Set in Toronto’s west side, it features a who’s-who of Canadian notables⎯written by Daniel MacIvor, starring Don McKellar, Sarah Polley, and Molly Parker, and the late Tracy Wright who delivers a wrenching farewell performance. Aware that he would never work with her again, now’s the chance to see McDonald, a creature of habit, treat Wright with profound tenderness, love, and heart.