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The Suburbanators

Year: 1995
Language: English
Format: 16mm Colour
Runtime: 87 min
Director: Gary Burns
Producer: Gary Burns, John Hazlett
Writer: Gary Burns
Cinematographer: Patrick McLaughlin
Editor: Mark Lemmon
Sound: Per Asplund, Kevin Sands
Cast: Joel McNichol, Stephen Spender, Stewart Burdett, Jacob Banigan, Jihad Traya, Ahmad Taha, Rogy Masri

The Suburbanators follows the occasionally crossed paths and constant, rambling conversations of three groups of disaffected young men who shuttle between the malls of suburban Calgary. Al (Joel McNichol) and Bob (Stephen Spender), both white and clean-cut, drive around talking mostly about women and procuring weed, until they decide to go for a haircut. Neither looks like he needs one, but it’s a sure way to kill a Saturday afternoon. Carl (Stewart Burdett) and Eric (Jacob Banigan), similarly white and bored, look as if they could use haircuts. But they are more intent on acquiring something to smoke, even if it takes all day on foot to get it. Salah (Jihad Traya), Kaleem (Ahmad Taha) and Rodger (Rogy Masri), meanwhile, are three Lebanese musicians with a gig that night who are crossing town by bus in a desperate attempt to get their instruments, which have been locked away by Salah’s girlfriend.

Director Gary Burns’s gloriously deadpan debut feature, made for a minuscule $25,000, is a triumph of low-budget, independent filmmaking. His keen ear for comedy, impeccable sense of timing, slyly assured direction and insight into the inconsequential lives of his protagonists lies at the heart of the film’s success. Like a cross between Richard Linklater’s Slacker (1991) and a Krystof Kiezlowski film, it is free of artifice or pretense and achieves a wonderfully droll tone.

The Suburbanators screened at the Toronto International Film Festival® and the Sundance Film Festival and was greeted with great enthusiasm by critics upon its limited release in English Canada. Toronto Star critic Geoff Pevere raved that the film demonstrates "an uncanny knack for precisely (and hilariously) delineating the muted, irony-steeped rhythms of contemporary post-boomer discontent." Gemma Files, decrying the film’s lacklustre distribution platform in Eye magazine, declared it "the best Canadian movie never released last year."

Music by The Primrods, Field Day, Forbidden Dimension, Maud, et al.

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