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Breaking Away From The Boys’ Club

October 2015

Jackie Boy begins as a character drama about “bro culture” and today’s technology-fuelled “hook-up” scene – one that often puts sex ahead of intimacy – but it takes a sharp turn into horror (Ottawa Citizen).

Witten, directed and produced by Cody Campanale ___________________________________________________________________

With his first feature film, Cody Campanale has switched directions in how he deals with issues in his work. Photo by Mike Levin.

With his first feature film, Cody Campanale has switched directions in how he deals with issues in his work. Photo by Mike Levin.

Jackie Boy is Cody Campanale puking: his past, his attempt at being a member of the Canadian film industry’s “boys’ club” and his years within Toronto’s competitive conformity. In his first feature film, the Ottawa native set out to create something that resonated with Canadians.

He now knows it didn’t work out.

Campanale has translated his characters’ destructive ennui into taking responsibility for one’s choices, which he says is the movie’s theme. This might be a leap of faith for some, but isn’t that what creative catharsis is all about?

The resulting 87 minutes of film opened him up to claims of misogyny, gratuitous sex and unnecessary violence. “Yeah, a lot of people have a hard time with it, too much machismo or something. It’s a story typical of hook-up culture, exciting, confusing. I just want to discus these issues in a way that isn’t about blaming,” the 27-year-old says. “My generation doesn’t want to take responsibility for its own actions. I just get to tell it in a Machiavellian way.”

Jackie Boy is dark with minimal dialogue that allows viewers to form their own conclusions about ambiguous actions and simmering anger. He says that’s how you find answers; you work them out for yourself.

One of the places it came from was Campanale’s desire to put to rest parts of his youth. “I’m washing away teen angst. Observer or participant; everyone is.”

We don’t dig deeper into that statement; there’s no need, it’s on the screen, which was enough for judges at the Ottawa Independent Video Awards to select it as best narrative earlier this year.

Yet it didn’t get an invitation from the Toronto International Film Festival, which has become the symbol of acceptance in Canada’s movie industry – the boys’ club. “When I was making shorts, it was all about getting me to the next stage, getting me into the club. Until it didn’t anymore,” he says.

Last year Campanale stopped catering his ideas and style to the club’s criteria. He realized that the quality of movies “has nothing to do with external gratification.” If he gave in to the need for Canadian politeness by turning up the political correctness and turning down the use of sex or drugs, it would be a waste of time. He wasn’t going to find dramatic legitimacy inside himself that way. Self-censure becomes self-replicating to the point that showing drug use or genitals paralyzes discussion like a Stephen Harper press conference.

It helped that producer Jeff Hanes and co-producer Jason Tan also saw the need to be out there in narrative and content. “If you want to be in the boy’s club, you can’t be polarizing. And Jackie Boy is definitely polarizing,” Campanale adds.

This is why he had to return to Ottawa, a place he says is calming and therefore better for his creativity. Sounds contrary to the city’s reputation, but Campanale calls that unfair. “This has always been a community that responds.” It may not have the heft of Toronto’s influence, but neither does if have the same constricting entry fees.

He’s back in Ottawa selling real estate by day and sifting through material for a story where misogyny, sex and drugs are the norm – in Canadian politics.

Jackie Boy has its Canadian premiere at the Ottawa International Film Festival October 18 at 4pm.

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