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TIFF 2021: “Scarborough”


© Compy Films Inc.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Unfortunately, domestic violence has always been widespread and nothing can seemingly stop it. It’s like cancer that keeps spreading within society for different reasons: drugs, alcohol, parental neglect, psychological, financial and physical abuse. Some just live in poverty and have no choice but to bring their own fate to their children. That happens everywhere, even in well-established Western countries, and Canada’s “Scarborough” is part of the problem.

“Scarborough” follows three protagonists: Bing, a Filipino boy, who must face his father’s abuse and mental health; Sylvie, an indigenous girl in search of permanent housing with her parents; and Laura, who is a victim of her parents’ neglect. All three of them have one thing in common – they belong to a low-income family that must swim against heavy tides that are willing to sink them for good. Despite all the struggles the three children face on a daily basis, they form a strong friendship that helps them to keep a sane mind in an unjust world.

Screenplay written by the author of the novel with the same name, Catherine Hernandez, and directed by Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson, the film does not go far from the main objective Shasha Nakhai tried to present through her impressive documentary films. There is a directorial signature the two filmmakers develop, capturing the hardship of life of children, their families and the choices they must make along the way. The film captures disturbing themes such as racism and child abuse and neglect, that occurs in Scarborough alone.

The film shows that the system fails to help, not doing much to provide better support or give children a better shot at life. This is why “Scarborough” works. Because through the lens of filmmakers, you see the bleeding heart of children, yet their laughter and disappointment. And seeing that hurts not just because it occurs in the movie. Because it does happen off the screen too – we’re just not aware of them as much as we probably should.

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