By Thomas Johnson, September 7 2018 —
What better time to relive the soul-crushing awkwardness of middle school than in the midst of the soul-crushing awkwardness of university?
The latest animated feature by Canadian director Hart Snider transports viewers back to the ‘80s — specifically to the dingy, woodchip- and cigarette-butt laden corners of Hart’s junior high industrial-arts classroom. Snider is an Edmonton-born, Vancouver-based filmmaker whos resumé includes the animated short The Basketball Game (2011), which was recognized by the Alberta government for “informing audiences on how hate and discrimination impact children,” as well as the National Geographic series Facing… (2016), where he worked as an editor and story-editor.
Shop Class, written and directed by Hart and narrated by Fred Ewanuick, is a touching, at times disturbing and often surrealist coming-of-age narrative wherein romance, obnoxiously surly teachers, economical arts, torture and so much angst is manageably condensed into the film’s nine-minute runtime.
Based on Hart’s experiences in junior high, Shop Class acts as a spiritual successor to The Basketball Game and explores the universal experience of bearing the weight of the world on your slim shoulders for the first times. Ideas of masculinity and what young men are expected to be interested in are challenged and confronted with a levity that belies the intimidating conflict of finding baking preferable to jamming your finger in a buzzsaw — near the beginning, the grating, dismissive principal explains to our protagonist, “Girls do home-ec. Boys do shop.”
Shop Class is one of three films representing the National Film Board at Calgary Film later this month. It will show at the Eau Claire Theatre on Sept. 23 and 29, preceding the feature film Giant Little Ones.