Okay, Canada, here we are. So far, here are the Canadian, March release dates and cinemas playing Danishka Esterhazy's Canadian genre film, the dystopian thriller Level 16.
TORONTO - March 15 - Cineplex Yonge & Dundas (full week run)
CALGARY - March 15 - Globe Calgary (limited engagement)
OTTAWA - March 22 - Mayfair Ottawa (limited engagement)
WINNIPEG - March 28 - Winnipeg Cinematheque (limited engagement)
It is your patriotic duty to support Level 16. This Canadian genre film. This Canadian genre film directed by a woman. This visit to the cinema should come as natural to you as sitting down to watch the World Juniors every Christmas. As natural as putting authentic maple syrup on your pancakes. As natural as walking into a Tims and ordering a double double. Your citizenship does not depend on you going to support a Canadian genre film made by a female director. But, if we had our way, we would make it so.
The walled-in world of 16-year-old Vivien is and always has been the Vestalis boarding school, supposedly a refuge from an outside world rendered toxic. It’s a neglected, antiseptic institution where girls without families are monitored, their day scheduled practically to the minute, and “education” consists of a constantly repeated list of “feminine virtues” – obedience, cleanliness, patience and humility – preached by a matriarch and propagandized in moral-hygiene films.
And, as per her age, Vivien has reached “Level 16” in her education and is ostensibly ready to be adopted by an outside family. But her friend Sophia thinks something else is going on at Vestalis, something frightening.
With an atmosphere that evokes The Handmaid’s Tale and Orwell, Esterhazy’s Level 16 has attracted major attention at genre showcases throughout North America, and Europe. It is a dark tale of teens discovering that their world is something very different than what they thought.
Katie Douglas (Mary Kills People) plays Vivien, and Celina Martin (Public Schooled) plays Sophia. The matriarch Miss Brixil is played by Sara Canning (The Vampire Diaries), while Peter Outerbridge (The Expanse) is Vestalis’ doctor, whose brain child the clinic is.
A graduate of the Winnipeg Film Group, and the Canadian Film Centre’s Director’s Lab, Esterhazy (Black Field, H&G) is a fan of genre films, and conceived the plot of Level 16 a decade ago before bringing it to the screen.
“I love genre, so that’s what I wrote,” Esterhazy says. “And I found myself in rooms where people told me: ‘There’s no market for this film. Women don’t like genre.’ While I’m sitting right across from them, a lifelong genre fan!"
"I researched Victorian etiquette books that provided rules on how to be a good young lady. Which should have seemed dated but, often, seemed disturbingly similar to what we are still telling girls today. I also researched religious groups like the Obedient Wives Club, which promotes women's submission, and that’s completely contemporary.”