A million dollar-budget feature film, shot entirely in Nova Scotia, is about to hit Cineplex Theatres. But this cause for celebration is also cause for concern. Opening almost exactly a year after the Stephen McNeil Liberals announced the end of the provincial film tax credit, Across the Line is a bittersweet anniversary marker—a film that may be one of the last of its kind.
ATL chronicles the story of Matti Slaughter (played by Stephan James), an African Nova Scotian student at Cole Harbour High School. He faces a racist tyrant at school named Todd (Denis Theriault), and is secretly crushing on the girl he’s tutoring (Sarah Jeffery). Matti hopes to play in the NHL some day, but racial tensions threaten to stand in the way of his goal.
The history of events like the Cole Harbour race riot in 1989 inspired the film. Screenwriter and producer Floyd Kane is an East Preston native, and knows the impact of these events on the community he grew up in. Across the Line is also the first feature film by Toronto-based music video guru Director X—you might recognize his work from Drake’s viral video for “Hotline Bling” and Rihanna’s “Work.”
The film, under the original title Undone, won Best Atlantic Feature last year at the Atlantic Film Festival, and has premiered at festivals in Canada and the US. Friday, it’s coming to theatres nationally.
Kane says he carried the idea for the film in his back pocket for 10 years before making it. Across the Line was a personal achievement for Kane as a producer.
“A big part of why I wanted to write this movie is that there are never really black Nova Scotians portrayed in Canadian film and television,” he says.
ATL was filmed in late 2014. This was before the provincial Liberal government cut the film industry’s tax credit, a financial incentive and source of income for many in business. Now, filmmakers and industry workers are leaving the province in search of work elsewhere.
“It’s tough,” says Kane. “I always kind of thought of Across the Line as being part of the first of many stories to tell about things in Nova Scotia that we don’t usually see on screen.” Now he worries that these stories won’t be told.
Kane relocated to Toronto years ago, so he didn’t leave the province in wake of the tax credit change. But the industry turmoil could halt Kane’s ability to make more movies here—he’s just not sure it’s financially viable right now.
“To say [the Liberals’ decision] was not well thought out is a huge understatement,” says Kane. “What they did is they just said, ‘well, we’re going to cancel this for everybody, and that’s the end of that.’”
Kane recognizes what’s at stake. He knows the people who want to stay here: the producers, the directors, the industry veterans…he spent most of his early career learning from them. And despite Kane’s concern about the province’s current exodus, he’s optimistic.
“I can’t see how this can stand,” he says. “At some point, someone has to come to their senses and say, ‘let’s figure this out.’
“Hopefully it won’t be too late. I mean, that’s kind of the real fear.”
Kane will be in town on Saturday, April 23 for a “curated discussion” about Across the Line. It’s a free event called The Emerging Lens, at the Black Cultural Centre in Cherry Brook at 7pm.
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