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Bracingly good low-budget feature; intelligent drama; a beautifully shot, visually dynamic work...
Review from Pacific Cinematheque Archives: JOHNNY SHORTWAVE: Your worst nightmares about the triumph of transnational corporatism, globalization, market-driven social values, and blinkers-on-deficit obsession come true in Toronto director Michael Bockner's bracingly good low-budget feature JOHNNY SHORTWAVE, a futuristic film noir set in a big business-battered Canada of the late 1990s. "Inspired by Godard's ALPHAVILLE... Bockner imagines North America at the end of the 20th century: massive unemployment and engineered food shortages have created a huge, permanent underclass and brought about a police state to control it. An underground resistance is rumoured to exist, and is being exhorted to rise up by the voice of "Johnny Shortwave" -- a guerrilla radio operator who broadcasts the truth to a continent oppressed by an Orwellian authority called The Industrial Alliance. Hijacking shortwave frequencies and jamming government signals, he broadcasts messages of revolution and freedom from a secret location within the city. Fearing the effects of Johnny's subversive influence, the government dispatches a special agent" (Film Forum/New York). The cartoon-like title (suggestive of Johnny Canuck) and intentionally cheesy effects belie the film's serious intentions: JOHNNY SHORTWAVE succeeds because of the intelligence of its drama, the torment of its doubt-afflicted protagonist, the tautness of its script, and the trenchancy of its message. It is also a beautifully shot, visually dynamic work. "Particularly timely. Moody, noirish and shot in glorious black-and-white... the message is potent" (Newsday). Canada 1996. Director: Michael Bockner. Cast: Emmanuel Mark, John Tench, Mona Matteo, Dougie Richardson. B&W, 35mm, 92 mins.
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