November 19, 1997 (WEDNESDAY) at 7:00 p.m.
This is a special sneak preview screening of the soon to be released Canadian film. Seating will be limited to 350 attendees.
Russell Banks, on whose novel the film is based, will provide film commentary and answer questions immediately following the screening.
Through the course of seven feature films and numerous related projects, Aton Egoyan has created a distinct and highly praised body of work. Egoyan has been critically admired since his very first feature film, 1984's NEXT OF KIN, for which he was nominated for Canada's Genie Award for Best Director. His subsequent features, FAMILY VIEWING, SPEAKING PARTS, THE ADJUSTER, CALENDAR, and EXOTICA, have continued to win accolades and awards in Canada and abroad. EXOTICA was the first Canadian film in nearly a decade to be invited into competition at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the International Critics Prize for Best Film.
Russell Banks is the celebrated author of THE SWEET HEREAFTER (1991) and eleven other books of fiction include RULE OF THE BONE (1995), CONTINENTAL DRIFT, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1996, and AFFLICTION, which also is being adapted for the screen. He has received the O. Henry and Best American Short Story Awards, the John Dos Passos Prize, and the Literature Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
On a winter's day, in the small rural community of Sam Dent, British Columbia, a school bus inexplicably crashes into a frozen lake, taking the lives of fourteen children and injuring many others. Shortly thereafter, Mitchell Stephens (Ian Holm), a big city lawyer, comes to the community with promises to compensate its citizens for their loss.
With a view to mounting a class-action lawsuit on behalf of the accident victims, Stephens interviews the survivors of the crash and the families who are mourning the deaths of their children. Through a series of emotionally charged meetings, we are presented with a prismatic view of the accident and its impact on the town. At the same time, through the interviews and through a series of flashbacks, we discover disturbing secrets which reveal that, in some ways, the community was already on the road to losing its children. With his assured presence and promises of retribution, Stephens earns the trust of the community and becomes the conduit for its anger and pain. Ironically, as Stephens builds his lawsuit, we discover that he too is a man in emotional turmoil, dealing with the virtual "loss" of his own daughter Zoe (Caerthan Banks) to drugs. Ultimately, it becomes clear that by trying to help the town through its crisis, Stephens is trying to find a solution to his own. In so doing, the lawyer, like the townspeople, is looking for the answer to the question: "how do you cope and whom do you blame?"
The full story of the town unfolds like a jigsaw puzzle, moving back and forth through time, connected by the words and memories of the townspeople. Among the key figures are Dolores Driscoll (Gabrielle Rose), the middle-aged school bus driver, who shares vivid memories of the children; Wanda and Hartley Otto (Arsinée Khanjian and Earl Pastko), parents to an adopted child lost in the accident; and Billy Ansell (Bruce Greenwood), the widowed father of two children killed in the crash, and the secret lover of Risa Walker (Alberta Watson), the wife of Wendell Walker (Maury Chaykin), and the mother of another boy killed in the accident.
Finally, and most crucial to Stephens' case is the Burnell family: Sam and Mary (Tom McCamus and Brooke Johnson), and their teenage daughter Nicole (Sarah Polley), a beautiful young singer who survived the accident but will never walk again. As the prime witness, Nicole holds the key to the class-action suit, but as we learn more of her personal history and of the disturbing relationships within her own own family, we see that there is more than mystery and more than one sorrow below the thin veneer of what appears to be a tightly-woven community. As the community's secrets threaten to surface, Stephens finds his diligently woven case spiraling out of control. Finally, through an act of extraordinary bravery and moral clarity, Nicole puts a halt to the community's anguish, and her own.
Holm made his stage debut in "Othello" at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in 1954, and he has continued to perform in theater throughout his career. In 1961, he became a long-term contract artist with the Royal Shakespeare Company, appearing in numerous productions in London and Stratford. In 1965, he began a long and fruitful professional association with playwright Harold Pinter, earning the Evening Standard Actor of the Year Award for his work in Pinter's "The Homecoming" and in Shakespeare's "Henry V." In 1967, Holm won the Tony Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama, also for "The Homecoming," and in 1993 he again won the Evening Standard Actor of the Year Award, as well as the Critics Circle Award, for his performance in Pinter's "Moonlight." Performing in works by Shakespeare, Chekhov, O'Neill and Pinter, Holm has cemented his reputation as one of Britain's finest actors, and in 1989 he was awarded the prestigious CBE (Crown of the British Empire). Currently, he is appearing in "King Lear" at the National Theater in London.
For seven years, Polley starred in the highly successful television series "Road to Avonlea," becoming one of Canada’s most recognized and best-loved personalities. She also won a Gemini Award for the television film "Lantem Hill" and she currently plays a continuing role on the series "Straight Up." Among her other television credits are the Spoken Art/Bravo! production "Taking Liberties," Lifetime's "Hidden Room," PBS' "Ramona," and the BBC's "Heaven on Earth." She recently starred as Alice in the Stratford Festival's stage production of "Alice Through the Looking Glass" and will soon be seen in Thom . Fitzgerald's feature film The Hanging Garden.
On television, Greenwood starred in the recent cult hit series "Nowhere Man" and is well known for his work on the long-running series "St. Elsewhere" and "Knots Landing," as well as countless made-for-television features.
McCamus is a long-standing member of the acting ensembles of the Shaw Festival and the Stratford Festival. During his eight years at the Shaw Festival, he has played leading roles in productions of "Peter Pan," "Once in a Lifetime," "Holiday," and "Man of Destiny." Over the past four seasons he has appeared in the Stratford Festival's productions of "Sweet Bird of Youth," "Waiting for Godot," "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "Hamlet" and "Long Day's Journey into Night." At this season's Stratford Festival, he is playing King Arthur in "Camelot" and the title role in "Coriolanus." McCamus received the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Best Actor for his performance in Theatre Plus' production of "Abundance."
Rose's extensive television credits include the mini-series "The Sleeproom," "Dieppe" and "Love and Hate;" the movies-of-the-week "My Mother's Ghost," "Other Women's Children" and "When Justice Sleeps." She has guest-starred in such series as "The X Files," "Poltergeist" and "Jake and the Kid." She has acted in stage productions at many of Canada’s leading theaters, including the Shaw Festival, London's Grand, Edmonton's Citadel, Vancouver's Playhouse & Arts Club and Halifax's Neptune.
Khanjian has also recently appeared in the French hit Irma Vep, directed by Olivier Assayas, and in Marliu Mallet's Rue de le Memorie. Other film credits include the lead in Jean-Pierre Lefebvre's La Boite a Soleil. On television, Khanjian has starred as a series regular on CBC's "Side Effects" and the drama "Dinner Along the Amazon." On stage, she recently starred in the NAC/Passe Muraille production of "Wedding at the Cromagnons" and the Crows Theatre production of "Brother Andre's Heart."
On television, Watson stars in a recurring role in the series "La Femme Nikita" and has appeared in the movies-of-the-week "Frame Up," "Mood Indigo," "Red Earth, White Earth," "Kane and Abel," and "Women of Valour." She has also appeared in the series "The Outer Limits," "Law and Order," "Shannon's Deal," "The Equalizer," and "Hill Street Blues."
Over the years, Chaykin has created memorable characters that range from an unlikely mayoral candidate in Carl Franklin’s Devil in a Blue Dress to a psychotic U. S - cavalry major in Kevin Costner's Dances With Wolves. Among his other film credits are Unstrung Heroes, Harriet the Spy, Cutthroat Island, Camilla, My Cousin Vinny, Beethoven's Second, Hero, Where the Heart Is, Leaving Normal, Money for Nothing, Twins, Breaking In, Cold Comfort, Buried on Sunday and Georges Island. Chaykin's first starring role in Donald Brittain's Canada's Sweetheart: The Saga of Hal Banks won him his first Genie Awards for Best Actor; he most recently won the award in 1996 for his portrayal of a drug-addled former rock superstar in Richard Lewis' Whale Music. The Sweet Hereafter is Chaykirf s third film with director Egoyan, following their previous collaborations in The Adjuster and Montreal Vu Par. His television resume include roles in the HBO film "Sugar Time" and the mini-series "Conspiracy of Silence," and "Race for the Bomb."
The son of a Canadian mother and American father, Chaykin was born in Brooklyn, New York. He divides his time between Canada and the United States.
On television, Pastko has appeared in Bravo's "Spoken Art: The Cohen in Cowan," and the series "Lonesome Dove," "Kung Fu," "Forever Knight," "Highlander," and "Goosebumps." On stage, he recently starred with Arsinée Khanjian in the NAC's "Wedding at the Cromagnons" and he has acted in numerous productions of contemporary plays throughout Canada. A frequent collaborator with such cutting-edge companies as Buddies in Bad Times, Crows Theatre, Platform 9, and Theatre Passe Muraille, Pastko has been nominated for a Jessie Award and for a Dora Mavor Moore Award.
Hemblen has acted in many television films, among them Robert Altman's "The Room," "We The Jury," "Tekwar," "First Circle," and for the CBC, "Where the Spirit Lives," "Scales ' of Justice," and "Firing Squad." He has had guest starring roles on such television series as "Outer Limits," "Goosebumps," "Forever Knight," "Road to Avonlea," "Lonesome Dove," and "The Twilight Zone."
Hemblen has starred in numerous stage productions with the renowned Shaw Festival and he received a Dora Mavor Moore nomination for his work in "Uncle Vanya" at the Tarragon Theatre.
Morgenstern is currently researching and writing a feature-length historical drama, The Woman Clothed With The Sun.
Egoyan has been critically admired since his very first feature film, 1984's Next of Kin, for which he was nominated for Canada's Genie Award for Best Director. Egoyan’s subsequent features, Family Viewing, Speaking Parts, The Adjuster, Calendar and Exotica have continued to win accolades and awards in Canada and abroad. Three of his films have been nominated for Best Picture Genie Awards; and Egoyan himself has been nominated five times as Best Director and four times for Best Original Screenplay, winning both awards, as well as Best Picture, for Exotica. His work has been honored at many international film festivals, including Cannes, Locarno, Moscow and Berlin.
Exotica is Egoyan's greatest popular success to date. It was the first Canadian filth in nearly a decade to be invited into Competition at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the International Critics Prize for Best Film. Exotica was released theatrically in over 50 territories worldwide, and in addition to winning eight Genie Awards, it was nominated for the 1995 Independent Spirit Award for Best Film and for Best Screenplay for the Chicago Critics Awards, and was named the Best Foreign Film title by both the French Critic's Association and the Belgium Critic's Association.
Egoyan has been the sub . subject of retrospectives in Paris, New York, Taipei, Budapest, Greece, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and the U.K. Among the honors he earned during his career are the French Government "Chevalier des Arts et Lettres" and he was named by Time magazine in their "Global I 00," who cited him as "one of the most important film artists working today." His screenplays of Speaking Parts and Exotica were published by the Canadian Coach House Press.
Egoyan has written and/or directed many short films and programs for television, including the highly praised "Gross Misconduct" which won the Golden Gate Award at the 1993 San Francisco International Film Festival and was also nominated for four Canadian Gemini Awards, including Best Television Film; the short film En Passant which was part of the anthology feature Montreal Vu Par; and A Portrait of Arshile which was part of a BBC collection of short films. Most recently, Egoyan has completed a film drama, Sarabande with the cellist Yo Yo Ma; it has been selected for this year's Venice Film Festival.
Having written and directed for the theater earlier in his career, Egoyan recently returned to the stage, directing a highly acclaimed production of "Salome" and writing the libretto for a new opera "Elsewhereless" to be presented in 1998. Also in 1998, Egoyan will direct the world premiere of Gavin Bryars’ new opera "Dr. Ox's Experiment" for English National Opera. Egoyan’s latest installation piece, "America, America" was presented at the Venice Biennale this summer. A previous installation was presented at the Irish Museum of Modem Art.
Egoyan is married to actress and frequent collaborator Arsinée Khanjian. Together they have a four-year-old son, Arshile.
Among the many prizes and awards Banks has received are the Guggenheim Fellowship, the National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships, the 0. Henry and Best American Short Story Awards, the John Dos Passos Prize, and the Literature Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Continental Drift was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1986, and Affliction was short-listed for both the PEN/Faulkner Fiction Prize and the Irish International Prize.
Raised in New Hampshire and eastern Massachusetts, Banks is the eldest of four children. He grew up in a working class environment and was the first member of his family to go to college. This background has played a major role in Banks’ writing, which strongly reflects his tough and often brutal roots. His books are often populated by working class heroes and anti-heroes, and recount tales of poverty, violence, unemployment, hard living and domestic abuse. Yet while his subject matter is often dark, Banks has been praised for his empathy and compassion towards his characters, his acute sensitivity, and his attempts to grapple with the moral ambiguities of contemporary life. He has also repeatedly been recognized for his restrained craftsmanship and his ability to evoke the texture of ordinary American lives.
Banks has contributed poems, stories and essays to The New York Times Book Review, Vanity Fair, Esquire, Harper’s, The Boston Globe Magazine, and many other publications. He has taught writing programs at Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence College, the University of Alabama, New England College, New York University and Princeton University (where he is currently teaching creative writing as the Howard G.B. Clark Professor in the Humanities).
Married to the poet Chase Twitchell, Banks is the father of four grown daughters. In addition to The Sweet Hereafter, two of his other novels are currently being adapted for the screen. Affliction is currently in post-production with Paul Schrader directing and Rule of the Bone is in active development.
In addition to her work with Egoyan, Frieberg also produced the first features by directors Jeremy Podeswa and Srinivas Krishna. Podeswa’s Eclipse was presented at the 1994 Berlin Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival and the New Directors/New Films at New York's Museum of Modem Art. Krishna's Masala has played at numerous international film festivals and was critically praised upon its release.
In 1988, Frieberg produced and directed a half-hour documentary, Crossing the River, inspired by the testimony of a political refugee from El Salvador. As associate producer, production manager, first assistant director and location manager, Frieberg has worked with many of Canada’s leading young talents, including Peter Mettler, Patricia Rozema, Bruce McDonald and Adrienne Mitchell. She also was an assistant director on Charles Bumett's My Brother's Wedding. Frieberg is currently developing two feature films with Jeremy Podeswa, The Five Senses and Minus Time.
In 1972, he founded Vivafilm (with Victor Loewy), a Canadian motion picture distribution company. In 1975, he added RSL Entertainment, a production company through which he produced his first movie in 1976, L'Ange et la Femme (winner of Critics Prize Avioriaz Fantasy Film Festival), starring Carole Laure. His subsequent RSL productions included In Praise of Older Women, starring Tom Berenger, Agency, starring Robert Mitchum and Joshua Then and Now (officially represented Canada at Cannes in 1985), starring Alan Arkin and James Woods.
After producing fifteen films under the RSL umbrella, in 1985 Mr. Lantos co-founded Alliance Communications Corporation. Both Vivafilm and RSL Entertainment were absorbed by Alliance Communications Corporation.
In addition to Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter, recent Alliance motion pictures include Crash, written and directed by David Cronenberg (winner of a Special Jury Prize at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival), starring James Spader, Holly Hunter, Elias Koteas and Rosanna Arquette; Never Talk To Strangers, starring Rebecca De Mornay and Antonio Banderas; Johnny Mnemonic (winner of the Golden Reel Award for highest grossing film in Canada), starring Keanu Reeves; When Night Is Falling, directed by Patricia Rozema; Exotica, directed by Atom Egoyan (winner of the International Critics' Prize at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival and winner of eight Genie Awards including Best Motion Picture); Leolo, directed by Jean Claude Lauzon (selected for Official Competition at Cannes in 1992); and Black Robe, directed by Bruce Beresford.
Mr. Lantos is the recipient of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television's 1991 Air Canada Award for "Outstanding Contribution to the Business of Filmmaking in Canada," and of the CFTPA Chetwynd Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence. He is also the recipient of the Ontario Region's 1995 Entrepreneur of the Year Award. He is a past Chairman of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.
Sarossy has also worked on several television dramas with such directors as Norman Jewison, Peter Bogdonavich and Nancy Savoca. He has worked on numerous Canadian television programs, and was nominated for an American Society of Cinematographer's Award for "Soir Bleu," Norman Jewison's segment of the anthology "Picture Windows."
Sarossy received Gemini Award nominations for "Grand Larceny" and "Suzanne and Satie."