TIFF 2016: Boundaries Review

Contemporary World Cinema

Boundaries introduces us to a country called “Besco” (population 170,000), an island strangely reminiscent of Newfoundland. You get there by a ferry, as the diplomats and politicians from “Ottawa” do in the film’s opening minutes. These individuals aren’t in Besco for the tourism, but rather to negotiate new terms with a mining company that is currently mining Besco’s natural resources without consideration of the livelihood of its citizens or its environmental welfare. 

Enter our heroines. Macha Grenon plays Besco’s leader, who is, for the most part, calm and serene. When she enters a room, all eyes (including yours) are on her. She seems as if she could be the cool and level-headed one to take on the mining company’s thugs and win. She’s unofficially assisted by the mediator of this negotiation – Emily Price (Emily VanCamp), who despite claiming to be a neutral party favours the good guys. Finally, there’s the idealistic and naive Canadian Félixe Nasser-Villeray (Nathalie Doummar), who within the first 5 minutes of the film gets called “pretty” three times and has politics mansplained to her. Each woman is confronted with a clear obstacle towards pursuing her goal at the negotiation and each employs different tactics. The originality of this film lies in the fact that – as a student once wisely told me – a good compromise is one in which no one is happy.

Boundaries is memorable as it encourages you to ask the question: what is truly important to you in life? Is it your family, political success, or environmental sustainability? What are the values we hold as Canadians and what does it mean to be part of a party which is not only misogynistic but also ignorant of the gifts the younger generation has to offer? What does it mean to be Canadian when the government is busy kowtowing to the latest corporation to exploit our vastly limited resources?


Boundaries is undoubtedly a metaphor. The mileage of the metaphor may vary with each audience member, depending on their interest and knowledge of Canadian politics and environmental issues. However, it asks questions that cannot be easily answered, like a worthy work of art should. 


Saturday Sept. 10, 7:15pm @ Scotiabank 2

Monday Sept. 12, 9:15am @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2


Michael McNeely is a deaf-blind film critic and advocate for greater accessibility in our cinemas. Read more about his story here.

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