Fall Back Down may very well be Canada’s first punk rock love story.
It may not be, though. Filmmaker S.B. Edwards is wary to describe her directorial debut as such.
“I would love if it is the first punk rock love story,” says the Vancouver-based writer and director. “I don’t know how to mine Canada and the internet to know for sure. But it is different from anything else.”
And the fact remains that narrative films that reflect the Canadian punk scene are few and far between (Hard Core Logo was fantastic and basically a love story between friends, concedes Edwards), and neither Edwards nor the Whistler Film Festival (who will present the world premiere of Fall Back Down next week) nor yours truly could find any other examples of homegrown punk rock rom-coms.
So — unless proven otherwise — Fall Back Down stands very much alone.
Fall Back Down stars Andrew Dunbar as Nick, a black bloc anarchist who ends up taking a shitty job in a sweatshop after his heart is broken by a fellow activist. On his first day, he meets Reena (Aadila Dosani), who is sarcastic and headstrong and immediately clashes with Nick in all things — until they find evidence of a murder and have to try to get along in order to stay alive.
Fall Back Down is steamy. It’s funny. It touches on depression, trauma, fear and the exploitation of people who have limited employment options for reasons outside of their control. It subverts expectations about punks and rom-coms. It features Joe Keithley, front man of the Canadian punk band DOA, and slam poet and playwright Omari Newton, in supporting roles. It’s messy. It’s indie.
In other words, Fall Back Down is legit punk rock cinema.
“I come from punk roots and I’ve been an activist and political since my teens, and I wasn’t seeing that on any screens,” says Edwards. “It’s a little trendier now to be an activist, but many people have made really hard choices and given things up [for this life]. I’ve pulled out a little bit because I wanted to work in this business, but I have so much admiration for people who are doing all this work. They’re getting arrested, and that affects their ability to be hired. They go above and beyond, and they’re so brave, and then they’re not respected at all.”
Edwards sought out funding for Fall Back Down for nearly a decade. “The stats have been accurately reflected for women,” says Edwards. “I definitely found it harder to get anywhere with anything.” The film was ultimately produced through Telefilm’s Talent to Watch micro-budget program, with ample support from Cineworks, the Vancouver based, artist-run production and exhibition centre that support independent storytellers like Edwards.
Despite the production support, Edwards acknowledges the budget wasn’t what she’d initially hoped for 10 years ago.
“I work in film and television, and I was working on a sci-fi show where a hallway was going to have a higher budget than my whole movie,” says Edwards. “It’s hard, but I’m really proud of how it turned out because so many things were stacked against it.”
Edwards laughs as she describes the experience of filming Fall Back Down as “total hell. I say that jokingly now, but it was really full on.”
The hell began shortly before filming, when Edwards decided she wanted to fill at least half of the crew positions with women and was bombarded with accusations of discrimination when she posted the crew call to a film production board. Then there was the experience of shooting a complicated, multi-location film in only 14 days.
“We were just living minute to minute, which is punk rock ethos, and we paid everyone, which was really important to me,” says Edwards. “It was what I wanted to do, and when we got that opportunity, I felt like I had arrived at what my DNA and my heart and my brain all want, and they all work together and play.”
Fall Back Down also stars Kira Clavell, Paula Shaw, Jacky Lai, Raj Lal, Kalvin Olafson, Donia Kash, Rob Hakesley, Seth Ranaweera and Nixon James.
Fall Back Down is one of 86 films screening at the 19th annual Whistler Film Festival (Dec. 4 to 8). For tickets and schedule information, visit whistlerfilmfestival.com.