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Seeing clarity in blindness

by Tiffany Lafleur October 25, 2016 0 comment
Seeing clarity in blindness

Borealis, which had its premiere in Montreal last year, returns for a limited screening

Things aren’t exactly peachy. Jonah (Jonas Chernick) owes Tubby (Kevin Pollak) close to $100,000 in gambling money. His house is in shambles. His daughter Aurora (Joey King) is slowly losing her vision to a rare illness and wants nothing to do with her father who just never seems to be able to keep a promise. Yet, despite his daughter’s resentment towards him, all Jonah wants is for Aurora to see the Northern Lights once before completely losing her sight.

Borealis, written by and starring Jonas Chernick, is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Chernick based his idea for Borealis on Blind, a short film by  Borealis’ director, Sean Garrity. The film has garnered recognition at a few festivals, with Joey King winning Best Actress at both the Vancouver International Film Festival and the Canadian Filmmakers Festival, where Garrity also won Best Director.

“For me, the genesis of the feature film came from when I started to imagine who the characters would be in my version of the story. I immediately saw a father and a daughter who each had a crutch or an addiction,” said Chernick. In the film, Jonah’s love of playing cards creates tension and resentment between him and Aurora, ultimately fraying an already fragile relationship.

Having written the script, produced the movie and played the main character, Chernick was intimately involved in nearly every aspect of the film—from conception to post-production. According to Chernick, writing the script made it easier to portray Jonah, as he understood the psychology of the character and the motivations behind the choices he was making since he had orchestrated them in the writing.

The strength of the film comes from the strength of the characters and the wide spectrum of emotion they display. However, there were also challenges associated with Chernick’s role, as he had to go to some dark places while portraying the lying, gambling-addicted father. According to Chernick, “playing a shitty dad” was one of the toughest challenges of portraying Jonah.

Chernick, who has two daughters himself, described Jonah as a reckless father who has no idea how to connect with his daughter. “He’s a mess. And he makes terrible choices for most of the movie. It was difficult to tap into that, as someone who takes great pride in the choices he makes as a father,” Chernick said.

The film is not only beautifully scripted and portrayed, but it is also visually strong, with well-composed and interesting shots throughout the film. A recurring visual cue is that of smudged or dirty glass or reflections. Since the movie deals with the issue of blindness, Garrity wanted to use this concept of skewed sight in the visual composition.

“Shawn really liked the idea of blindness as a metaphor,” Chernick explained. “Not just visual blindness, but blindness to yourself, to your emotions, to what is right in front of you.”

As the film progresses, we slowly begin to see the characters through dirty glass or reflections less, as these characters finally see each other more clearly than they have ever before, according to Chernick.

Borealis returns to theaters in Montreal for a week, starting Oct. 28. in English at the Cineplex Forum, and dubbed in French at the Quartier Latin Cineplex.

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