A film by Shawney Cohen
a Strip-Bar Mitzvah
July 5 – Montreal – Cinema du Parc
Daily screenings at 6:30 PM until July 11
June 7 – Kitchener/Waterloo – Princess Waterloo
June 7 – London – Hyland Theatre
May 31 – Guelph – Bookshelf
May 10 – Toronto – Bloor Cinema
other Canadian cities to follow
The screening in Toronto on May 10 will include director Shawney Cohen and Family for a Q+A
“There’s more than a faint echo of ‘Grey Gardens’ in this Canadian-gothic portrait of an unusual family business.”
– John Anderson, Variety
On the heels of opening the 20th edition of Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival to major fanfare, first time feature filmmaker Shawney Cohen prepares to unleash his intimate family story to Canadians across the country. The Manor opens Friday May 10 at Bloor Cinema, then makes its way to Guelph May 31 and on to Kitchener/Waterloo and London on June 7. Other Canadian cities to follow.
When Shawney Cohen was six his father bought The Manor, a small-town strip club/motel. Thirty years later, his father has ballooned to 400 pounds, while his mother, at 85 pounds, ironically struggles with anorexia. And Shawney? He’s been a strip club manager for longer than he’s been a filmmaker.
The two career paths dovetail in The Manor, a soul-searching feature debut, where he turns the camera on his father Roger, mother Brenda, brother Sammy, and also on himself, creating an intimate portrait of four people struggling to call themselves a family.
Add in Roger’s right hand man Bobby – a French Canadian criminal with over 50 convictions on his rap sheet – along with a motley crew of patrons, staff, drug-addled tenants, strippers and extended family members, and you have the full cast of The Manor.
Cohen seeks to pinpoint the effect this pile of bricks called The Manor has had on the dynamic of their “nice” Jewish family. In an attempt to gain deeper insight, Cohen spends years filming in a shadowy world of sex, drugs and family feuds. Yet through all the dysfunction Cohen also discovers an enduring desire to maintain the bonds that define a family.
“I don’t consider this a film about a strip club; it’s a film about my family,” says Cohen. “What I originally intended as a summer part-time job at my family’s strip club would end up becoming a full-time job spanning years. The upside is that those years gave me a new understanding of my family, and now a documentary. The Manor aims to be an examination of human nature and addiction,” he adds. “And as a film I believe it will open a lot of eyes and hearts by making the viewer see a little piece of themselves in all the dysfunction.”
The Manor joins an impressive line of documentaries in which the family soul is laid bare, whether by the filmmaker themselves (as in Sarah Polley’s acclaimed Stories We Tell), or from the outside (Capturing The Friedmans, Gates of Heaven, Crumb). For the filmmaker and the viewer it’s a path to understanding the complicated familial pull that can be at once a comfort and a trap.
A talented animator and director of documentary shorts, Cohen spent over two years capturing the kind of private moments only afforded to long-term process documentaries like The Manor. His access is extraordinary and draws you into a film deeply personal, heartbreaking and thought provoking.
Produced by Six Island Productions in association with TVO, with the assistance of the Shaw Media-Hot Docs Fund and the Tribeca Film Institute.
What The Critics Are Saying:
“rife with gritty stories and marvellously oddball characters”
– Linda Barnard, Toronto Star
“[in] the ranks of some of the best family portrait documentaries.”
– Peter Knegt, indiewire
“rich with character, incident, friction, deadpan humour and voyeuristic thrills.”
– James Adams, The Globe and Mail
“mixing humour and pathos, [director Cohen has] found backhanded redemption by turning his strip-club hell into a compelling piece of filmmaking.”
– Brian Johnson, Maclean’s
“in the vein of Capturing the Friedmans and Crazy Love”
– Lauren Wissot, Filmmaker Magazine
“beyond the boobs and bombast, this is a family drama caught on film.”
– Jason Gorber, Twitch
“This is homegrown crazy. We have to own this one.”
– Trista Devries, Toronto Film Scene
“Recommend: Yes, yes, a million times yes.”
– Phil Brown, Dork Shelf
KINOSMITH INC. is an independent Canadian film distribution & marketing company founded in February 2007 by distribution veteran Robin Smith. With a mandate to bring critically-acclaimed Canadian and international films to audiences across the country, the company has distributed over 200 feature films in the last six years as well as providing marketing advice to completed films and productions in development. KINOSMITH is also home to the Hot Docs Collection on DVD that releases award winning documentaries curated by the Hot Docs festival in Canada. Current KINOSMITH releases include: Italy: Love it or Leave it; Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet; Meet the Fokkens; The Fruit Hunters; Greenwich Village: Music That Changed A Generation; The World Before Her; 5 Broken Cameras; Shadows Of Liberty; Place At The Table; The House I Live In; 56 UP; Greedy Lying Bastards and The Last White Knight. Upcoming releases A Place At The Table; Mussels In Love; The Punk Syndrome; Venus & Serena; 15 Reasons to Live; Charles Bradley: Soul In America; Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me; A People Uncounted; Brother Number One,Triumph Of The Wall, Blackfish, After Tiller, and These Birds Walk.