Across The Line

Across The Line

Movie locations and times

When I think of Nova Scotia, images of white cottages nestled along sleepy maritime seaside towns come to mind. Quaint villages filled with pleasant fish-eating, fiddle-playing folk.

Apparently, I don’t know Jack! 

The Nova Scotia portrayed in the film Across The Line is grey, bleak, and fraught with racial tension. If the goal of the film makers was to shock Canada out of our national identity of smug inter-racial superiority, it succeeds in spades. 

Across The Line wasn’t just filmed in Canada, it is based on a true story of racial tensions that occurred at Cole Harbour High School in Preston, Nova Scotia, in 1989. 

Written and produced by Toronto-based filmmaker Floyd Kane (who, coincidentally, attended the high school in question) and directed by the cryptically named Director X (aka Julien Christian Lutz – a music video director in his first feature), the film is an ambitious one.

Not having the budget for a period piece or a docudrama, the movie is set in present day, and follows high school hockey star Mattie Slaughter (beautifully played by Stefan James – look for him to star as Jesse Owens in Race later this year) on the verge of signing a prized NHL contract. 

As a talented, smart, and handsome young black man, you would think that he has the world by the tail, but think again. 

Although Mattie comes from a good home with hard working parents, his older brother Carter (perfectly cast Shamier Anderson) is embracing the seedy underbelly side of the sex trade, working as a lackey for a pimp. His brother’s life choices taint Mattie by association. The deck is stacked against him in hockey as well, as all of the white jocks, and even his own coach, are jealous of his talent, and eager to see him fail.

The high school Mattie attends is filled with racial tensions, both in the classrooms and in the school yard, as blacks stick with blacks and whites stick with whites. 

Enter the love interest: Mattie is tutoring a girl in math - Goth girl, Jayme (played by the very lovely and interesting Sarah Jeffrey), whose father is a black cop and whose white mother has abandoned the family. 

Jayme is smart, sassy, and ambitious to leave this backwards town and go to school in Toronto (if she can pass math). Her white boyfriend once shared her desire to leave, but is now waffling as graduation approaches.

Mattie has the talent and desire to better his life. Despite his every attempt to keep his nose clean, trouble seems to follow him and his future is in jeopardy. The movie certainly drives home the point that life is not fair for some people, purely because of the colour of their skin.

It is unfortunate that ALL of the white characters in the movie are hate-filled racists, and that the script is overly simplistic. At times, it felt as though the teens were speaking dialogue written by a 40 year-old, and were it not for the considerable talent of the cast, several moments might have been laughable. 

It is also unfortunate that the high school is portrayed as a black and white stereotype. Words like “ape”, “monkey”, “half-breed” and “nigger” are commonly hurled against the blacks by angry, ignorant whites, while black girls try to steal a white girl’s coat in the bathroom simply because they want to exert their power. 

Despite this being a movie about hockey, not once do we ever get to see Mattie play hockey in a game setting. It would have greatly enriched the film to see how his fellow teammates interacted with him, and to see how he was treated by his coach. 

Given the budget restrictions this film apparently faced, it is understandable that a scene like this was left out, but if you’re going to do a Canadian film about HOCKEY - well - we expect to see some HOCKEY.

The movie gets better as it moves forward, and there is some good cinematography, particularly in the fight scenes where the use of slow motion is very effective in giving us the intended sense of chaos.

It was obvious that this was a first film for both the writer and director, and I applaud their effort. While the script had its flaws, the characters were engaging and the subject matter certainly opens an important conversation for us as Canadians. 

Across The Line asks us to question where our own lines are drawn, and any film that provokes that kind of thought and discussion succeeds, in my opinion.

I give this movie two hearts.


Have you seen this movie? Vote with your heart ~

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About the Author

Kim Foreman-Rhindress is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City and London Western Conservatory of music for piano and voice. 

Kim has been performing in theatre and film for over 30 years in Canada, NYC, Palm Beach, Los Angeles, and the Netherlands. She has written several plays which have been produced in Canada and the U.S., and is the founder of Kelowna Voice Lab - helping people find their voice, be it singing or acting. 

A working musician, she performs regularly in Kelowna with her husband, Jim Rhindress, in an acoustic duo Smitten, and with her vintage trio Kitsch 'n Sync.  

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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