In 1999, a high school in Dieppe, a community in Moncton, New Brunswick suffered multiple suicides months apart. The debilitating loss of friends and classmates at Mathieu-Martin High School bore heavily on the community, and former student Samara Grace Chadwick took on the task of revisiting those who survived the tragedy in her debut film, 1999.

Chadwick fashions her film in a dream-like and poetic state, reading from journals written by students who attended the school and who knew the deceased in one way or another. Buried feelings and memories are tapped as the adults they became sift through pictures and watch video, filmed by one of their friends Melanie Chiasson, from their school years; smiling with melancholy at the children they once were. Children that had to deal with the reality of death and loss in a community that seemed close-knit, proud of their Acadian heritage and almost idyllic. Teacher Janelle Arsenault gives insight from the other side, as a caring adult trying to make sense of the suicides and support her students as well. Accounts culminate to show just how much suffering, rebellion and healing went on then and almost 20 years after.

1999 is a painful visit to a traumatic time in a school once coarsely called “Suicide High”. Chadwick focuses not on the details of the suicides, but rather how the survivors coped after the terrible events. Even though there is a hint of some underlying resentment towards her for leaving after the tragedies, Chadwick approached each of her former school mates with sensitivity only a survivor could emulate. She also punctuates the film with moments of heart-wrenching clarity amidst her surrealist visuals, scored with bittersweet vocals sung in the Chiac dialect that the community speaks. You’ll experience a cleansing of Memory Lane that although difficult to witness, is a necessary exercise for those affected.

Screens:
Saturday, April 28, 3:15 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Sunday, April 29, 8:30 PM, Scotiabank
Friday, May 4, 4 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox

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