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Year: 2000
Language: English
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 87 min
Director: Gary Burns
Producer: Shirley Vercruysse, Gary Burns
Writer: James Martin, Gary Burns
Cinematographer: Patrick McLaughlin
Editor: Mark Lemmon
Sound: Amanda Aronczyk
Music: John Abram
Cast: Gordon Currie, Marya Delver, Fabrizio Filippo, Don McKellar
Production Company: Odeon Films (Canada), Burns Film Ltd. (Calgary)

A group of twenty-something corporate drones bet a month’s salary on who can last the longest without going outside the soulless office building and shopping mall complex where they work. This is the premise of Gary Burns’ third feature, waydowntown, a quirky comedy that continues the filmmaker’s exploration of our materialistic and conformist society.

Tom (Filippo) is a bored young trainee just starting to climb his way up the corporate ladder. He comes up with the idea of the wager in hopes of making life a little more interesting. Tom occupies himself with errands, sighting superheroes and questioning his conscience over his treatment of Brad (McKellar), the 20-year veteran of the company who sits at the next cubicle and contemplates jumping out the window. Curt (Currie) is on the prowl for some “action” and targets a vulnerable co-worker. Sandra (Delver) is given the task of tailing her retiring boss, who is a kleptomaniac, and Randy (Godson) hangs out with a security guard friend, spying on his colleagues. But after a few weeks of being trapped like ants, the contenders begin to doubt their fortitude as they struggle to keep hold of their sanity.

The film is set in the maze of interconnecting glass towers, malls, walkways and underground food courts that make up downtown Calgary. Shot on digital video and transferred to 35mm, waydowntown exudes a sense of the acute realism in this suffocating world of offices, parking garages and ceaseless hum of air ventilators.

Burns crafts an immensely smart and pleasurably fast-paced film that features clever, wry dialogue, a natural visual style and a fluid structure. The script is original and the performances uniformly engaging, including Don McKellar as a masochistic employee who attempts to escape by smashing a pop bottle full of marbles against a pane of unbreakable glass.

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