Live concert meets rom-com -- that is the premise behind Canadian Bruce MacDonald's buzzed-about NXNE film. The conceit of 'This Movie is Broken' involves weaving a rom-com storyline into the songs and images from a Broken Social Scene concert. The loose script features several young Torontonians lost in love as they're trying to make it to the show. The motives and ambitions of the project have raised a collection of critical eyebrows, but just the idea of a BSS concert film has fans reeling with anticipation.

Bruce MacDonald's take on how to capture a live concert on film will certainly go down as an original concept, but will audiences respond positively? The Canadian director has experimented before with music movies, with projects like 'Roadkill', 'Robbie Robertson Road Songs', and the Canadian classic 'Hardcore Logo'.

Poised to shoot everyone's favorite interchangeable act on Toronto Island in the summer of 2009, everything about the project was uncertain. Funding, location changes, and concept concerns swirled in a hurricane of chance, and now that the storm has cleared, 'This Movie is Broken' is the documentary left to ponder.
Live concert meets rom-com -- that is the premise behind Canadian Bruce MacDonald's buzzed-about NXNE film. The conceit of 'This Movie is Broken' involves weaving a rom-com storyline into the songs and images from a Broken Social Scene concert. The loose script features several young Torontonians lost in love as they're trying to make it to the show. The motives and ambitions of the project have raised a collection of critical eyebrows, but just the idea of a BSS concert film has fans reeling with anticipation.

Bruce MacDonald's take on how to capture a live concert on film will certainly go down as an original concept, but will audiences respond positively? The Canadian director has experimented before with music movies, with projects like 'Roadkill', 'Robbie Robertson Road Songs', and the Canadian classic 'Hardcore Logo'.

Poised to shoot everyone's favorite interchangeable act on Toronto Island in the summer of 2009, everything about the project was uncertain. Funding, location changes, and concept concerns swirled in a hurricane of chance, and now that the storm has cleared, 'This Movie is Broken' is the documentary left to ponder.

"Bruce and I had a meeting when the show was going to be on the island," explains lead singer and guitarist Kevin Drew at a recent press day held at Toronto's trendy Drake Hotel. "There was no point at any time when we had the knowledge that the whole crew was going to come back, in terms of Social Scene."

That crew includes some of the biggest names in Canadian music. Metric, Feist, Stars and Jason Collett have all taken turns on the BSS roster during its approximate 10-year career, and fate would eventually land the deep talent pool on a single stage to be a part of the historic concert. "The Thursday before the Saturday of the show, Bruce called me to say 'No, it's not happening'."

But then... it did. A city services/garbage strike made the Toronto Island concert impossible, so the band reacted by moving the event to the mainland Harbourfront Centre, promoting it as a free show. Hours later, MacDonald found his much-needed production money.

"A guy walked into the office, laid down a cheque and said 'I'm in, call everybody else!" MacDonald joyfully recalls. "Suddenly we had just enough to rent the gear and shoot the show. We had Friday to prepare and Saturday we shot."

The film opens with a borrowed trick from the Scorsese school of rock-docs: Begin with the end. The legendary filmmaker directed The Band's 'The Last Waltz', and used the concert's encore as the movie's introduction, something that resonated with MacDonald. "'The Last Waltz'... yep! That's where we got it from. You go with Scorsese right? Some things work."

The camera pans across legions of bearded hipsters and sun-soaked girls of summer though the opening number. Watching Leslie Feist and Emily Haines trade vocals with the BSS regulars backing them up, it's obvious that Social Scene has been the soundtrack to the thousands of lives on display.

For Kevin Drew, the love was felt. "That was our favorite show, we were happier than we have ever been as a band. That was it. That was the moment. For me, I turned to the guys and said 'if we did this twice a year I'd be happy, that would be fine. I don't need to be out on the road and promote a record, let's just do this twice a year. Pick a city, I'm in!"

Written by Don McKellar, the narrative in 'This Movie is Broken' follows two major characters with one third-wheelish part to spice it up. Bruno and Caroline, played by Greg Calderone and Georgina Reilly, are in-love... sort of... OK, maybe not. They have had crushes on each other since they were kids, but whoops, one special night of sweet, sweet lovemaking throws a monkey wrench into the fragile relationship. Enter the boyish and peppy Kerr Hewitt as Blake, and you now have a best friend for Bruno. While the script sets him up as a wingman for his buddy's efforts to consummate the jagged affair, he has his own list of priorities including getting backstage passes to the BSS show, smoking lots of weed, and... well, you will just have to see the movie.

MacDonald understands Bruno's need to get the deal done with Caroline. "You want beauty and goodness as close to you as you can get it. It doesn't come around very often, when it's there it's like 'Aaahhh!' Maybe you get a little clingy, maybe a little acting funny. I think we all want that."

At its essence, the formula for 'This Movie is Broken' is broken down by MacDonald, "Growing up, my favorite things to do were to go and see laser Floyd or laser Zeppelin. Just trip out, watch a bunch of stuff going around and you listen to awesome music. I guess in a way I have always tried to get back to laser Floyd."

Aside from allowing their audience to space out to good tunes, what MacDonald and McKellar have done, with considerable skill and perhaps a little luck, is reconstruct the excitement a group of people feel when attending one of the quintessential concerts of their formative years. Going to a rock show is not always completely about the band. It's the buzz, the drugs, and most importantly, the people who were with you that often frame that moment in time. Add all of this to the fact that Broken Social Scene put on one of the best shows of their career, and you can't help but have a bit of gold on celluloid.

The finished product has not come without an internal struggle within the band. While the group knew MacDonald was shooting the concert, many of the members had no idea what the film team had in store for the footage.

"He put together a team so quickly and before we knew it, it was out of our hands," laments Drew. "In terms of the band, a lot of them were very upset with me, just because they didn't know. It wasn't the reason they were coming to do this show. It was a celebration of us all coming together for the first time in a long time. So it did clash, it did explode and there was fallout for a little while there."

Drew and company eventually mended the fences that keep them a band, just in time for the film's release and a summer concert schedule that has them once again on the road for a five-month tour. It is expected fans will flock to the film, regardless of the storyline laid overtop the politics that surround its release.

"This is a love letter to Toronto, this is a letter to the city that has not only supported us, but has supported so many. In the end, I am very happy with it, I think it's a lovely salute to a city that is now very much its own."

'This Movie Is Broken' opens in theatres on June 25, 2010.
CATEGORIES Made in Canada