Invisible City is the latest film by the Oscar-nominated Canadian documentary filmmaker Hubert Davis about a few residents of Toronto’s Regent Park.
“I had an interest in doing a documentary about young black men in at-risk areas in Toronto,” Davis told Metro.
“The idea was to explore what’s going on with these young men and the problems that they are facing. Plus, the Regent Park redevelopment was starting at that time, which seemed like an interesting backdrop. The neighborhood was in transition at the same time that the boys we were following were in transition.”
The film (which starts a run at The Royal Theatre this week before appearing on TVO later in the month) was a three-year odyssey for the director, who followed two young boys through their last few years of high school.
“Originally the plan was to follow them for a year, but then I realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t going to be enough time,” revealed the director.
The reason for the extended shoot was for Davis to spend enough time with his subjects to get them to open up honestly on camera.
“I think boys of that age are particularly closed up emotionally,” said Davis. “If you’re a 16-year-old boy it’s not the coolest thing to have a camera crew rolling around with you. So, it was very challenging and they often weren’t interested in talking. But we just took our time and waited for them to come around and open up.”
Davis’ documentary focuses on the experiences of two teens named Mikey and Kendell. Their story is highly personal, but one that allowed Davis to explore some fairly broad themes.
“I think the movie really evolved as we were shooting,” revealed the director. “When I started it was about of a lot of bigger things. Racial profiling was a hot topic in the news and there were elements of police interaction that I was interested in. Then there were also a lot of issues surrounding the school system that I wanted to explore.
“All of these different threads were compelling to me, but the project got too big. So I decided to just focus on the personal experience of our two kids and through their experience we were able to touch on everything else.”
The final result is an illuminating examination of an area of Toronto life that is too often ignored.