concrete valley tiff

A movie about immigrating to Thorncliffe Park is getting its world premiere in Toronto

A new movie by filmmaker Antoine Bourges tells the story of a family from Syria that struggles to adjust to life in Canada after five years in Toronto's Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood, and it's getting its world premiere at TIFF next week. 

Bourges told blogTO his fascination with Thorncliffe Park — which he calls "the densely populated modernist apartment complex in East Toronto" — inspired him to create the film, called Concrete Valley.

"The area is sometimes described as an 'arrival city,' a first landing spot for many new immigrants in Canada," Bourges said. 

"I was inspired by the architecture of the place and its residents who I met regularly when co-writing with filmmaker Teyama Alkamli. I was interested in their stories and I wanted to collaborate with them, to create a fiction together."

While the film is fictional, it is based on the real experiences of immigrants in the neighbourhood as well as some of his own.

Bourges hasn't had the experience fleeing a war-torn country, but as an immigrant himself, he said he does know the the experience of being in a place while feeling like you're not fully there, of having another life that stays with you and perhaps keeps you from being truly present.

The filmmaker said both the setting and the actors are what make the film feel authentically Torontonian.

"The film is really anchored in the geography of this neighbourhood, Thorncliffe Park," he said. 

"I was fascinated by the dichotomy between this cluster of high-rise buildings and the Don Valley surrounding it. There is something a bit magical about moving from one to the other, and I feel like it's pretty specific to Toronto."

And the people in the film are a combination of non-actors from the neighbourhood, trained actors who are also newcomers and second-generation Canadians, a mix Bourges calls "a bit eclectic and unpredicable," which he said reflects the Toronto he knows and loves.

"It's a film about people who refuse to settle for what they have and try to find a deeper meaning in their lives," he said. "Even if they sometimes act on this in misguided ways, I think there's always something beautiful about that impulse."

The film is set to have three in-person screenings at TIFF on Sept. 12, 13 and 16, as well as a digital screening on Sept. 16.

Lead photo by

Antoine Bourges

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