Dialogues: Kevan Funk

A New Face in Contemporary Canadian Cinema

Kevan Funk is a Canada director renowned for his short films and now, for his feature debut Hello Destroyer, which has stirred something up in each and every one of the screens it’s played on, breaking the heart of its audience members, but leaving a grand message about human expression.

Taking the world of hockey as a reference to tell his story, Kevan creates a metaphor about the way institutions, in this case that of Canada’s national sport, use violence as a necessary means to building up these young men, causing dark inner damage. Kevan shows us through a perfectly chosen image how closed off his protagonist is while expressing himself to the world around him.

A film we’re not used to that reveals a Canadian culture and identity like it’s never been shown before.

INTERVIEW

How did you decide to create that metaphor about young people growing up in the violence world of hockey?

It actually goes beyond hockey. I think people in that world find authenticity in the movie, but this is for everyone. Even here in Mexico, where people are not so connected to that sport.

I like hockey, but I’m not a big fan. What I wanted to show was how violence operates through different cultural systems and dynamics in which justice falters and we don’t see what that implies. When we talk about violence and justice, we also think of a criminal, only that, but there is way more violence in other cultural conditions such as poverty and education. I was very interested in showing that, as well as tackling responsibility and how in institutions such as the military and the police, those above always throw those below under the bus, because someone has to be responsible, but there’s way more there.

When I was making the film, I knew I wanted to make something very Canadian and very faithful. I needed these big cultural institutions with a similar structure and hockey was one of them, but it can happen in any sport, football or soccer even. This was just a way to make a critique toward this institution.

Do you identify with your protagonist?

That’s a very good question. It’s interesting to write characters. I think those who know me will think we have nothing in common because I’m usually very extroverted and happy, and he’s more introverted, finds it hard to communicate and can’t stand up for himself. Those are some of the demons seen in the film. There’s a lot of him in me, not just little things, but in spirit. I think that when writing, your characters are always a part of you. I try to step away from that since I don’t want it to be too personal, but writing this film was important because I was always on his shoulders. He doesn’t talk much, but a lot happens in that silence.

Jared, the actor, is phenomenally good and I don’t doubt he’ll be very successful. When you write for a character, you know what elements are his strengths and it’s great to be able to model that character toward what you’re looking for.

How long did Hello Destroyer take from its idea to its completion?

The idea came to me a long time ago, about four or five years. It was just that I was interested in the idea, but then I finished University and did a few short films, so I knew I wanted this to be my first feature. Talk about social justice and those things show an authentic sense of Canada, since there’s not a lot of cinema of this kind right now. I didn’t want to make something for the American market, but something I grew up with, a part of Canada I know.

The most difficult thing was getting money, especially considering it’s a drama in which my protagonist goes through very difficult things and everything moves around him. He doesn’t talk and that makes the film very meditative and convincing people to give you money for that is difficult. We had support from Telefilm, fortunately, but we couldn’t start filming when we were supposed to due to financing.

I felt very strongly about doing something Canadian and I was very fortunate to have Ben, my cinematographer, with me, because we knew we could do it on a low budget and we did. The film feels like it was made on a larger budget than we had and I’m very proud of that.

How did you define the film’s aesthetic? What message did you want to show?

There’s a very established style and tone in our work, Ben’s and mine. We’ve been working together for about 10 years because we went to school together and grew up together as filmmakers. Our style is very close to us, not that it’s impenetrable or anything, but it’s an aesthetic we like and it’s in the movie.

We’re very cinematic, but we also work with what’s natural and I really like that. We use static shots because it gives the actors a lot of freedom. It’s about thinking long before in what you want and then play with it as you film. There’s a very important part of the narrative because even though the lead doesn’t express himself verbally, that gives us the strength to resolve it creatively; we shot him up close to show the audience that they’re there with him and he reacts more than they can tell.

It’s a very dark film, with dim lighting and many shadows around our protagonist, the environment almost claustrophobic. We wanted that to be a way of articulating his anxieties and the weight they have on him. We don’t see him in open spaces, there’s always this sensation that he’s locked up somewhere. It was important to show the audience through visuals and not dialogue what we wanted to say.

What will your next film be about?

I’m working on several projects; I don’t want to lock myself into only doing films in Canada. When someone’s successful they always go to the States and that makes sense, but I want to do something there and then come back to Canada and be back for good. There are many stories in Canada, it’s a country of opportunities and there are great films, but we can’t compare ourselves to contemporary cinema in other countries; there’s no identity, no idea of what it is yet and even though there are great films, we can’t identify it yet and I’d like to be there when we do.

Filmmakers like Sophie Goyette, Ashley McKenzie and Stephen Dunn are young Canadian filmmakers who also don’t want to box themselves into Hollywood, they want to find what else is in our country, make films that reflect Canada without clichés and without being digestible to the American market while leaving authenticity aside.

I’m doing a project in the United States and it will be the first time I adapt something, but there are many stories in Western Canada I still want to tell. I love my country.

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