'This is a shitty town to be young in'

Bjorn Simonsen's The Kids: making it real in Iqaluit


Dressed in a black shirt, white sports jacket and matching white tie, budding Iqaluit filmmaker Bjorn Simonsen, 19, uses nine blunt words to put it all together: "This is a shitty town to be young in."

That's how Simonsen introduced his gritty little film, The Kids, to an Iqaluit audience who piled into the Astro Theatre last week to watch it.

"The idea was a movie about kids. And the basic idea was that two kids meet up at the movie theatre. One is going one way and the other is going another way. Then they smoke some drugs and the story kind of takes off from there," Simonsen said.

With no government grants or subsidies, Simonsen used about $700 from his personal chequing account, a high-definition video camera borrowed from Piksuk Media and a team of unpaid volunteer actors to put together a story based on life in Iqaluit as it's lived every day by the young.

That means a story that turns on drugs, violence, self-destruction, and wry humour.

The film opens when two buddies, Rodney, played by Daniel Verreault, and Paul, played by Colin McLean, cross paths inside the lobby of Iqaluit's Astro theatre.

They talk about girls and drugs, then smoke a joint outside the back door of the high rise complex.

Shy, giggling and little befuddled, Rodney meets his date, Dominique, played by Andrea Omilgoituk. They sit down inside the theatre to watch a movie.

Meanwhile, Paul and his girlfriend Leslie, played by Lucy Aqpik, head out for a traditional Iqaluit drug party inside a white rowhouse unit occupied by a dope dealer named Eduardo, played by Elie Boulos.

There they smoke more dope and get even higher on crystal meth. At this point the main action of the story gets started when Leslie suffers a drug-infused emotional meltdown and goes missing.

Then there's more violence, a near rape, and a resolution in which "the kids" stand up for each other, finding protection and support only among themselves.

"I believe in [the film] because it's very real. There's nothing really exaggerated about it or out of the ordinary. All the circumstances and all the consequences of everything they do is pretty commonplace and I think a lot of people can definitely see that when they watch the movie," Simonsen said.

Though there's a lot of drug use in the film, there's no pro- or anti-drug message. And though there's a fair amount of violence, there's no pro- or anti-violence message.

"I didn't want to preach about anything. That's one thing I was pretty adamant about."

Instead, Simonsen said his only goal was to tell an interesting story as true-to-life as possible from a young person's perspective.

"I mean, kids do drugs and it has terrible consequences. That's life. Sometimes kids need to be beat over the head with a hammer in order to learn their lessons. This shows that life's like that. I didn't feel the need to hold back – just to make it real."

He points out that his young characters aren't from Iqaluit's underclass. They are well-fed, articulate middle and upper-middle class kids "with enough money to buy drugs," which is the perspective that Simonsen knows well.

Simonsen wrote the script for The Kids while on a two-month visit to Denmark last year, with the aim of turning it into a feature film.

But after meeting up with some friends in Iqaluit who helped him make it, The Kids ended up as 40-minute short.

Simonsen plans to enter it at some film festivals, and to organize another showing in Iqaluit, probably over a weekend.

"In the middle of doing it all it got quite exhausting and frustrating, but it was certainly a fun group of people to work with because they all added something to the equation. It's a great experience."

Simonsen wrote and directed The Kids, with help from Tiffany Omboli, who served as co-producer and assistant director.

This fall, Simonsen will head to Concordia University in Montreal to take courses in French, philosophy, and – you guessed it – film studies.

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