Published Apr 22, 2016For Director X, a revered music video director who grew up in Brampton, ON, the story of his first feature film Across the Line parallels some realities of his hometown, but is still a far cry from the film's setting of North Preston, NS, and its "typical Canadian hockey" storyline.
"You have an idea of how things work and you get a larger view of racism, I think you can say," Director X says of Toronto. "I've been in North Preston when there's a dirt road to get out there. It just got paved not long ago," he says by comparison.
Historically a final destination for American slaves seeking refuge via the Underground Railroad, North Preston quickly became one of Canada's largest predominately black communities — and subsequently, one that's been embroiled in race riots and socio-economic struggles ever since. Across the Line highlights these struggles through the story of teen hockey star Mattie Slaughter (Race's Stephan James) and the 1989 race riots at Cole Harbour District High School.
"I liked what it said about everything," Director X says, "and I liked that we were actually doing something about North Preston and the history out there, showing the different side of Canada on a bunch of different levels that a lot of people didn't know existed. That was really interesting to me. Did you register that the church said 1856? The church is established in 1856, where it said 'Canada's Largest Black Community: We've Come This Way By Faith.' There's lot of history in this place," he continues.
With a film driven by race, identity and no clear solution, X states, "Our climax was purposefully written." Based on his own experiences, he concludes, "Seeing people get along and realizing what separates us and what causes the conflict [is] lack of information and lack of interaction [that] kicks off the ignorance of each other, and then when you fill in the ignorance with assumptions, these things lead to bigger conflicts."