There’s an art project titled White Night. It’s a collaborative between five filmmakers (Sonny Atkins, P.H. Bergeron, Brian Hamilton, Matt Purdy, Dan Slater) and it chronicles six fictitious stories during Toronto’s Nuit Blanche – an all-nighter dedicated to art. One of the characters, a struggling artist named Emily, contributes a cumbersome piece made entirely out of stacked cardboard boxes. People pass by and heckle at it, while Emily fumes and eventually releases the tension through a rant.
The filmmakers, I imagine, will side with Emily. They’re dedicated, ambitious extroverts swinging for the fences. Though their intentions with this film have been kept at a whisper, White Night has all the signs of a passion project. The Indiegogo fundraiser that was created in 2015 refers to White Night as “the most interactive, audience participatory event that Nuit Blanche has ever seen” and it continues to describe the project as less of a filmmaker-driven vehicle and more of a groundbreaking experiment supported by its arts community.
But, there I am – siding with Emily’s hecklers. Trying to make sense out of the finished film, finding a reason to want to “hang out” with such smug characters.
White Night has its heart in the right place, but its turned into an alienating experience for anyone outside of its social circle. Its sense of humour, for instance, has the trademarks of jokes catered towards its makers. Jokes that the cast and crew found hilarious on-set (during the wee hours of the night perhaps), and found nostalgic during the family-and-friends screening. Adam Booth’s portrayal of a self-proclaimed Nuit Blanche “superhero” is random and confusing, and an entire guerrilla sequence featuring Darrell Faria’s photographer “tripping out” on magic mushrooms in crowds of people is obnoxious. It’s also a regular occurrence in White Night for indie musicians to bring the film to a standstill to perform full-length songs for the audience.
I appreciate the purpose of White Night. It’s a great idea to propel the arts on a mainstream platform to make viewers realize the courage and integrity it takes to create. But instead of channelling that message towards general audiences, the filmmakers have only made this messy movie for themselves.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie