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TIFF 2013 Review: The Animal Project


The Animal Project
Contemporary World Cinema

Leo (Aaron Poole), a frustrated single dad and theatre director decides to take a chance and create a performance art project based on a weird dream that he had. The animals are the actors in his acting class wearing grungy looking rented animal mascot costumes. The project involves the animals wandering around Toronto dispensing free hugs or red balloons. Unfortunately despite the many subplots the film really is as simple as the title implies. According to the official synopsis the characters wear these animal costumes to “obliterate their comfort zones,” however, one could argue that like a mask at a Venetian carnival the costumes only serve to add an additional layer of comfort by way of total anonymity. This is especially true when Leo dispenses free hugs at the gates of the high school only so that he might give his own son a hug. Such is the dysfunction of their relationship that he feels he can only do this while wearing a costume that hides his identity.

It seems like this film needed to be about just the father and son conflict. The teenage son, Sam (Jacob Switzer) is a fascinating character and played with great skill and understatement. Ingrid Veninger obviously put a lot of thought and time into writing and directing this, however, The Animal Project, seemed on the whole rather formulaic. The story and characters all seemed so familiar and predictable despite the fact that this film was partially improvised. Independent films should be anything but predictable.

Wednesday September 11 – Isabel Bader Theatre – 7:30PM
Thursday September 12 – Scotiabank 13 – 5:00PM
Saturday September 14 – TIFF Bell Lightbox 4 – 7:45PM

[star v=2]