A Vancouver artist turns police posters into controversial art.
DIRECTED BY DAMON VIGNALE (Canada, Next)
Saturday, April 27, 9:30 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)
Monday, April 29, 1 p.m.
Scotiabank Theatre (259 Richmond Street West)
Longtime television writer-director Damon Vignale has a corker of a story in The Exhibition, which simultaneously focuses on a massive police search for 69 missing Vancouver women and the large-scale paintings of Pamela Masik, who recreates investigators’ posters of the women’s faces for an upcoming show at the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology. Alternating between a multi-year procedural account of the botched investigation and Masik’s preparation for her show, Vignale tries to give a multi-faceted perspective on how these women disappeared and how they can be re-integrated into the public consciousness. At least that’s the goal.
Late in the film, we get a better sense of how some activist groups in Vancouver see Masik’s work as a careerist exploitation of her subjects. The experts interviewed to support her project don’t do much to help her case, making vague assertions about how her paintings “focus on the problems that led to these killings.” The film’s emphasis on these ethical and economic aspects of socially conscious art like Masik’s—including canvas costs and going rates for paintings—is well-observed, and the families’ stories are sobering, but the horror-movie aesthetic does both a disservice. Moreover, the two halves never quite fit together despite Vignale’s smooth cross-cutting between the police exposé and Masik’s frantic work.