TIFF 2020: Beans, Trickster, Fauna

The early chapters of “Trickster”—of which two episodes were given for review—rush by in a blink due to Latimer’s enthralling meshing of supernatural conjuring with familiar teen tropes. For example, the series’ opening, which takes place 17 years in the past, finds a baby Jared kidnapped by a mythical man in the forest. Though his mother recovers him, when the creature returns in the present-day, we come to discover that he’s a shapeshifter. Amid a series of mystical events, Jared is also forced to deal with not only the travails of being a teenager, such as partying with his nerdy best friend, but dealing with a spirit who becomes his doppelgänger.  

Latimer mixes these elements with evocative Indigenous folklore, such as a raven who speaks to Jared, and magical conjurings, like the arcane ceremony his mother performs by a campfire. Latimer also injects an ‘80s video game-inspired score to further enliven the briskly paced episodes. While some cogs fit clumsily, I never found Jared particularly believable as a loner, the young teen’s journey to discover the secret behind the night he was kidnapped always makes emotional sense. Latimer’s “Trickster” is the rare story where Indigenous folklore isn’t twisted into a thin plot device, but reimagined into a fun teen mystery.   

Nicolás Pereda’s two-act film “Fauna” doesn’t concern itself with tweens or teens. Rather the deliberately paced, dry comedy by the Mexican-born Toronto transplant opens as a slice-of-life story about an awkward family reunion. Paco (Francisco Barreiro) and Luisa (Luisa Pardo), both actors, arrive in a small Mexican town, once occupied by a mine, to visit the latter’s parents. When the couple arrive, they befriend Luisa’s brother Gabino (Lázaro Gabino Rodríguez), only to discover the parents aren’t home. Pereda’s screenplay provides plenty of hints about the trio’s past. For instance, when Luisa asks Gabino about his girlfriend, he tells her that he’s been single for eleven months.  

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