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Rose's House

Year: 1977
Language: English
Format: 16mm Colour
Runtime: 58 min
Director: Clay Borris
Producer: Clay Borris, John Phillips
Executive Producer: Beryl Fox
Writer: Paulette Giles, Clay Borris
Cinematographer: John Phillips
Editor: Arla Saare, Clay Borris, John Phillips
Sound: Chris Lerry
Music: Willie Dunn
Cast: Rose Maltais-Borris, Albert Borris, Ronald Maltais, Magella Joseph, John Brown, Paulette Jiles, George Martell, Garry Borris
Production Company: National Film Board of Canada, Cabbageroll Productions

Rose (Rose Maltais-Borris) runs a boarding house in Toronto’s working-class Cabbagetown neighbourhood and works incessantly to care for her boarders, her husband (Albert Borris) and her family, particularly her youngest son, P’tit Jean (Ronald Maltais). After reminiscing with a new tenant (Paulette Jiles) about her courtship in Acadia and her decision to come with her husband to Toronto, Rose leaves to talk with P’tit Jean’s social worker after he is caught stealing a bike and spends the night in jail.

Upon discovering that another boarder, Madge (Magella Joseph) has stolen money from his employer, Rose kicks him out but keeps the money, which Madge owed for rent. Two other boarders, Albert (Garry Borris) and Tony (John Brown), have a lovers’ quarrel that ends with Tony stabbing Albert. Rose evicts them, but only after blackmailing them into giving her the back rent they owe as well as the stolen beer and wine they were selling. Family and friends (including a chastened P’tit Jean) come together at the end for a party to make good use of the beer and wine.

This exceptional docudrama (initially financed from grants, with completion money provided by the NFB’s Ontario production office) was based on re-enactments of the life of Clay Borris’s mother. The non-professional actors play themselves, relatives or close friends of the family. Several scenes (including Rose’s encounters with the new boarder and with the social worker) were improvised. None of the film’s technical rough edges destroys either the comedic or poignant moments. The affectionate and dignified result is a sensitive personal statement about working-class life.

By: Peter Morris

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