No Heart Feelings

Finally, a film about what it's like to be 29 and living near Dundas West

Later this month, No Heart Feelings will finally make its Toronto debut. The film, shot in Toronto two summers ago for a measly budget of $7,500 is self-described as a post-post coming of age story, a laugh-out-loud meditation on what it's like to be nearing the end of your twenties without kids, mortgage or direction in life.

For anyone who's lived around Trinity Bellwoods, had beers on the patio at the Press Club and brunched at Aunties and Uncles, the film might seem all too familiar. Save for some scenes along the Lake Shore, in cottage country, the Don Valley and outside 401 Richmond, No Heart Feelings is almost entirely set in and around Dundas West and Little Italy. There are cameos by I Deal Coffee, Loop Gallery and Ron Sexsmith. It feels like a quintessential Toronto story, albeit a much different one than recent efforts like Invisible City or Chloe.

When it premiered to favourable reviews at the Calgary International Film Festival this time last year the buzz was less about the story and more about its low budget, its untrained actors and highly improvised dialogue. This is the very definition of the mumblecore style and for the most part No Heart Feelings pulls it off.

Since its world premiere in Calgary, the film has gone on to screen in Kingston and Buenos Aires. It was rejected by TIFF for a slot at the 2010 festival thereby setting the stage for its theatrical release starting August 27th at the Royal Cinema (with free valet bike parking and tune-ups) where it's currently scheduled for a week run. Online distribution and an eventual DVD release are also in the works.

Last night I caught up with one of No Heart Feelings' three directors, Sarah Lazarovic, to find out more about the film.

When did you start working on No Heart Feelings?

We started tossing about the idea for the film over two years ago. Ryan (my co-director and the editor of this film) had edited a bunch of my shorts and we both had a mutual appreciation for a really charming little movie called Mutual Appreciation (made by a filmmaker named Andrew Bujalski). Another friend of ours, Geoff, seemed to have similar taste and a desire to make the same kind of movie. So we all went out for a breakfast date and started planning what snowballed into No Heart Feelings.

What has been the audience response like at the film festivals?

Response in Buenos Aires was amazing. It was our International premiere and we weren't sure how a mumbly, intimate, at times quasi-indecipherable film about a gang of Torontonians would translate, but the audiences were amazing. We sold out just about all of our screenings and people were cackling. It was especially fun to see how some of our slangy dialogue got translated in the subtitles. FYI - a gang bang is a violation collectivo!

In Calgary and Kingston we also had really fun crowds. They're both small, friendly fests, so we ended up meeting lots of great people and programmers.

What sort of response are you expecting from Toronto audiences?

It's tough to see your own environment reflected back at you, so we were curious as to what our friends would think of the film. We've shown in to colleagues and friends and most have been really positive. Though there's a wee bit of Toronto bashing, the film is very much about our love for Toronto - what a great place it is to live, how beautiful it can be when you find yourself biking up the right street at just the right moment.

I guess we initially thought that only Torontonians would understand the film, but Buenos Aires made us realize that the ideas we were trying to convey are more universal. Still, I'm not sure that many of the Argentinians knew who Ron Sexsmith was. They just thought he was funny. So it'll be nice to see if Toronto audiences pick up on the nuances that foreign audiences just wouldn't have any way of grasping.

Did you get any feedback why the film wasn't accepted to TIFF?

Apparently we were close. We recognize that No Heart Feelings is a small film and that we were up against a steep lot of contenders for the precious few Toronto slots.

But you must have been disappointed that TIFF wasn't able to support such a Toronto-centric film?

Yes, we were pretty bummed about not getting into TIFF. Mostly because there's so much chatter about films finally letting Toronto play itself. Yes, It's fantastic that Liam Neeson can eat tater tots at CafĂŠ Diplomatico in an Egoyan film! And it's nice that Toronto can look so beautiful. But most of us live in a Toronto that is intermittently beautiful and much more chaotic, neighbourhoody, colourful. And that's what our film is all about.

It'd be nice if TIFF had a place for films like ours, but since it didn't we found a route that will get it to the kind of people who we always wanted to see it anyway. We have a great distributor (Kinosmith), and The Royal is a perfect theatre for us to play, given that 90% of our movie was probably shot within twenty paces of it.

Who did you make the film for?

Just as a film like Mutual Appreciation gave us all a sense of what it's like to be a musician in your twenties trying to make it in Brooklyn, we wanted to create a film that would show the Toronto that we know and love. We hoped that it would resonate among Torontonians and Canadians, but more broadly, too. It's a young film in a lot of ways, but we wanted it to appeal to people in their late twenties and thirties too, and when we show it to parents they react as if we've told them a secret. It's as if they didn't quite get what it was like to be a twenty or thirtysomething, free of responsibility in a lot of ways, but also a bit un-moored and lost. So it's nice that older people are responding to it.

Anything else you'd like to tell me about the film?

Oh geez, too much pressure! I wish I had something awesome to say like if you squint your eyes in a certain scene you can just make out Margaret Atwood and Leonard Cohen engaged in a heated conversation in the back of the bar. Alas, I made that up. Just come see it! Please! Free bike tune ups on Friday and Saturday!

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