Spring 2013 Features series
Sunday, May 12, 2013 at 8:00pm
Directed by Jason Buxton
Screenplay by Jason Buxton
Starring Connor Jessup, Alexia Fast, and Michael Buie
Rated 14A ·
Recipient of the Best Atlantic Feature award (Atlantic Film Festival 2012), winner Best Canadian First Feature Film (Toronto International Film Festival 2012), Best Canadian Feature Film (Vancouver International Film Festival 2012) and the Claude Jutra Award, Jason Buxton’s debut feature packs a heavy punch. In an era of heightened anxiety over cyber-bullying and school violence, Blackbird offers a disturbing and perceptive look at the culture of fear that has arisen in the wake of Columbine and other horrific school shootings—a pervasive paranoia that reads typical teen angst and alienation as the stirrings of murderous intent.
Newly arrived to live with the father he barely knows in the small town of Eastport, brooding Sean Randall (Connor Jessup) is the solitary Goth at his school. He has nothing in common with his rifle-collecting dad Ricky (Michael Buie, Cedar Rapids), and has little interest in the hunting outings Ricky sees as opportunities for bonding. When Sean forms an unlikely friendship with pretty, popular Deanna (Alexia Fast), it leads to a menacing confrontation with her hockey-player boyfriend Cory (Craig Arnold). Fearing for his safety, Sean makes an offhand, posturing threat against Cory online. From that moment on, everything changes.
Igniting a firestorm of fears, Sean’s message leads to a raid on his home, where the police not only discover Sean’s supposed “hit list” but Ricky’s stockpile of hunting rifles, knives, and ammunition. Accused of planning a school massacre, Sean is remanded into custody at a tough youth prison to await trial. Though innocent, he is pressured by his lawyer to plead guilty in order to shorten his time in detention and to avoid a lengthy trial. He does so and is released, only to endure an even tougher sentence: to carry on living in the same community that has labelled him a psychopath.
With nightmarish logic, Buxton’s gripping drama shows how a sequence of poor choices, aggravated by a climate of fear, overreaction and overzealousness, can lead to incalculable repercussions. Bolstered by an outstanding group of up-and-coming young actors, Blackbird captures the exacerbated confusion of adolescence in an era of mediafuelled frenzy.
“Relying mostly on his performers and the story, Blackbird (Jason Buxton’s surprisingly adept feature film debut) tackles the hot button issue of crime prevention versus overreacting, blending the topic with the inherent human dread of difference. It’s something that could easily become pedagogical or sanctimonious in the wrong hands, but Buxton handles his story with restraint, letting it unfold with even plausibility.” (Robert Bell, Exclaim!)
“Blackbird is another great entry into the roster of troubled teen tales. The genre is already pretty crowded but Canadians tend to bring a unique voice to the mix, one that often feels more realistic than the Hollywood offerings and such is the case with Blackbird which presents a surprisingly complex tale of individuality and coming of age while exploring ideas of preconception and small town mentality. Not only is Blackbird a great achievement for Buxton but for Jessup whose performance stands out in a movie full of solid performances.” (Marina Antunes, Quiet Earth)