I don’t know whether or not I should start this movie review with a disclaimer but I’ll do it anyway. Anyway, I have direct or indirect connections with the highly intelligent actors and filmmakers behind Spice It Up. Such things happen within a city with sizable yet still incestuous film scene. Hurting feelings is not enjoyable for me, a humble filmmaker and a good Christian. That said, filmmakers Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas’ output bring mixed results. Their first, Amy George, is an entry into the Canadian coming of age sub genre, is very white and awful. They do get better with their second feature, The Oxbow Cure, which subverts the typical Canadian cabin horror. For their third, their cinematographer Lev Lewis joins them as a co-director to show a ‘meta’ film.
The film within a film also has Spice It Up as the enigmatic title. It shows the misadventures of seven teenage girls. The narrative drive within this film is the steps these girls take to join the Canadian Armed Forces. This, by the way, is the nicest depiction of the same application, speaking as someone related to military personnel. These girls come from different ethnic backgrounds, which is a good start except that they have no distinct personalities. Then there’s Rene (Jennifer Hardy CK), a film studies senior work shopping this quasi autobiographical film with her professors. Those professors, including Adam Nayman and Albert Shin, give her criticism about her footage and what the film is. Most of the baffling positive criticisms about this film is how unhelpful their criticism is but they’re actually valid.
These other criticisms also discuss the gender dynamic within the film but let us be real about something here. These are three male filmmakers’ interpretation of characters of diverse gender and racial backgrounds, although the characters and mostly female. Spice It Up seems to proposes the idea that female stories are inherently indecipherable to the male gaze. The three writer-directors also somehow add a subplot about CSIS agent (Calum Marsh) spying on one of the girls. This is probably a mockery of how young filmmakers use those kind of subplots and genre intrigue as crutches. But every scene and revelation makes it seem like it’s passing off incoherence as expressionist, which is its biggest failure. Which is sad because every single person behind this film is capable of doing much better work than this.
MDFF presents Spice It Up on Thursday, August 15th.
- Release Date: 8/15/2019