Published Apr 29, 2016For over a decade, Director X has taken Toronto's adopted West Indian culture and injected it into some of the most popular and talked-about music videos in recent hip-hop history: Drake's "Hotline Bling," Rihanna's "Work" and of course, Sean Paul's "Gimme the Light" to name a few.
So how did that experience inform Director X's first feature film, Across the Line, which examines hockey culture in rural Nova Scotia? For starters, the film takes place in the predominately black community of North Preston, NS. "It was the film that came my way," Director X tells Exclaim! "I didn't write this, this is what was brought to me and I liked it," he says. "I liked what it said about everything, and I liked that we were actually doing something about North Preston and the history out there, and showing the different side of Canada on a bunch of different levels that a lot of people didn't know existed was really interesting to me."
North Preston is a tight-knit community with a history that ties back to American slaves who sought refuge in Canada via the Underground Railroad; it's also been at the center of racial conflict for much of its existence. In the same breath, Across The Line reveals a story based on the 1989 race riots at Cole Harbour District High School, and similar incidents have continued since. "I was focused on telling this story and getting the authenticity right — making something that spoke to that community and was true to that community.
"These are black Americans — they know where they came from, their roots come from the South. So there's a connection to the United States that's in their blood," he says when asked about his choice to highlight a portrait of Barack Obama in the Canadian-based film. "It's not like 'Cool, there's a black president' — no, it's like, this is where they came from. That's what they do in North Preston. I mean, we joked about it as we were shooting the scene. Normally the Barack Obama picture is sitting on the coffee table!" he laughs.
For the Brampton, ON-raised director, his personal experience with racism differs from that of a town with 4,000 residents. "Seeing people get along and realizing what separates us and what causes the conflict [is] lack of information, lack of interaction [which] kicks off the ignorance of each other and then when you fill in the ignorance with assumptions, these things lead to bigger conflicts," he says. "Our climax was purposefully written. It wasn't white people bad, black people good, but it was more like, shit happens and that really fucked up everything, and that fucked up thing lead to that fucked up thing that lead to this fucked up thing. We all know from high school that sometimes there's a perfect storm of fucking shit that hits the fan and splashes everywhere."
Whether this will be the first of many features for X, his desire remains simply to create. "The things I made that people reacted to, I never walked into like 'Okay, how do I make a big hit? Let's get out my hit tricks!' he declares. "You just make something, and then people connect with it. Art needs to be made purely in order for it to really work."