Before it even premiered in Canada, The Trotsky had earned its writer/director a Writers Guild of Canada award along with accolades from various film festivals. Jacob Tierney, whose previous film Twist was a gay update on Oliver Twist, this time focuses on a Montreal high school student (played by Jay Baruchel) who thinks he’s a reincarnation of Leon Trotsky.
The First Weekend Club had a screening of the film in Vancouver on Tuesday, with a funny and charming Tierney introducing the film via Skype video chat to an audience who chose one of Canadian film’s best efforts over the Vancouver Canucks’ last gasp. Before some good-natured rivalry (“I understand you have a professional sports team out there”), the Habs fan compared his two features.
“I think they’re not that different, which I know on the surface is ridiculous,” he said. “I think they both come from adolescent impulses. Twist is a film in which everything that can go wrong does go wrong. The Trotsky is a movie in which everything that can go right does go right. Not to ruin the ending. I consider those both to be adolescent ideas, that the world is either black or white, one or the other.”
Now 30, Tierney wrote The Trotsky years before it was filmed. “I really struggled to stay true to the impulse when I wrote it, when I was young, that I really wanted this kid to win. I wanted to give him absolutely everything he wanted. I felt the movie owed it to him.”
His unconventional upbringing factored into the subject matter, which is both a comedic and poignant take on class struggles and youth disaffection. “My parents were Maoist travelling hippies and I grew up in China and India and all over the place,” he explained, looking to his Vancouver-based sister Brigid for confirmation … and expressing amused shock that she wasn’t in the audience as expected (a hockey fan, perhaps?)
“We came back to Canada and now my father’s this big capitalist producer. So I think I was acutely aware of class because I watched my own family march from the working class into the upper middle class – which is generous – let’s say above that now – my whole life. So I’ve always been aware of that. I don’t think you make a movie about a guy who thinks he’s Trotsky unless you think of things like that.”
The Trotsky opens Friday across Canada.