Tuesday, February 7, 2012

White Lies (1998)

Directed by Kari Scogland
Starring: Sarah Polley, Tanya Allen, Jonathon Scarfe, Lynn Redgrave

Who would have thought that the Canadians, our kinder, gentler cousins up north, the Stepford Wives of the Western world, would have the same problems with white power goons as we do? I guess wherever you put a bunch Caucasians together, crosses will eventually get burned, and bad punk rock will fill the air. And so it goes in White Lies. Originally a made for TV movie, it tells the strange and terrible tale of Catherine Chapman (Sarah Polley- the Canadian Uma Thurman), an idealistic high school student who begins to notice a disparity in the treatment of whites and minorities in Canadian society, particularly in hiring practices. She was looked over, you see, for a job at McDonald's because she didn't speak Korean. Never mind that there are half a million jobs a Korean born woman living in Canada would lose out to her- she wants to flip her goddamn burgers, and she's willing to join a neo-nazi group to do it. By the way,  Canadians call them "Nutzis".

This group is called the National Identity Movement, a shadowy activist group led by Lynn Redgrave (!). Catherine begins airing her vague grievances on their website. Eventually, they ask her to start writing for their newsletter, and she becomes a poster girl for white power, even going so far as to date the lead singer for one of those awful skinhead punk bands. It's interesting that she gets sexier as she gets more evil, going from cornsilk wallflower to red and black racist glam in one church torching. Eventually, though, saner heads prevail, and Catherine has a last minute change of heart, but not before much havoc is wreaked on the streets of Ontario as a result of her big mouth.

Belying it's TV origins, the language in White Lies is pretty subdued for a movie about nazis, but otherwise, it's a tightly wound ball of racial tension that speeds to it's climax with an escalating series of atrocities and rampant stupidity from the NIM camp and plenty of scenery chewing from Redgrave and smoldering sex appeal from Polley. The only problem with this film is the same as any movie about white power movements- it's never really explained just what 'white culture' these jackasses are trying to preserve. Country music and baseball? They can have it, man.

This DVD edition of White Lies also features a wordy but smart 'making of' featurette that, at the very least, will show you how to successfully film a giant cross burning in a rain storm. Who knows? It might come in handy someday.

- Ken 

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