A bemused and slightly anxious film, Daniel Cockburn’s first feature You Are Here(2010) is a perfectly concocted expression of everything we don’t understand about our new century.
Fitting for a movie that features the viewer in its starring role – the “you” of the title – a central character in Daniel Cockburn’s You Are Here (2010) is the aggregate entity ‘Alan’. The film creates Alan by layering in quick succession, shots of different men and women performing – or failing to perform – a series of small actions. Cockburn uses this device to displace the viewer identification that typically drives a film’s narrative. Meanwhile, a voice muses about the fragile nature of identity. “Are you the same person before and after putting something down and picking it up again?“
The 2010 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) seemed particularly hysterical. Toronto crowds have proved reliable predictors of future box office success – Slumdog Millionaire (2008) was rescued from straight-to-DVD obscurity at TIFF, and Precious (2009) was an audience favourite here before becoming an Oscar contender. It’s a track record that contributes to the sense that TIFF has arrived, it now being considered second in importance only to Cannes in terms of industry weight. Burnishing this image is the glamorous new TIFF Bell Lightbox, home to the festival and the branding of its corporate sponsor Bell, the hated pretty much by everyone Canadian telephone conglomerate. Not that we live in an age where anyone cares about this kind of thing. One of the main venues for TIFF screenings was a big commercial movie complex that is mystifyingly (to me at least) branded with the name of a bank. Regardless, the Lightbox is a glorious addition to the city’s art ecosystem, a reassuring sign that, better late than never, Toronto has caught on to the prestige and economic power that culture can bring to a city.