The Legend of Joan Dark

Istvan Kantor

2007, 53:30 minutes, colour, English


The Legend of Joan Dark explores the form of short-feature within the limits of very low budget video production. The project was born the moment when, in 2002, Kantor moved to one of Toronto’s most unique neighborhoods on west side dominated by still active factories, among them an animal rendering factory and a concrete plant. These two industrial premises were enough to inspire Kantor’s fantasy and start working on this piece with the use of a dv camera and a performer, Andrea Whyte. When Andrea dropped out because of school obligations, Kantor continued the work with another local artist, Caroline Ross. He also involved his daughter Nineveh for the same role of Joan Dark. This way the character became a multi-dimensional entity and the video grew into a longer piece.

Not being pressured to finish it Kantor kept working on it for several years. Location shots took place in the Wade avenue area where Kantor lived, next to the factories, the train tracks and close to an abandoned building. Kantor recorded all the rest in his studio while collecting film footage for the plunder parts and toy pianos for the sound track. Post-produced throughout 2006 on a PC using Avid Express, Kantor’s editing went through some changes, letting a somewhat slower narrative style to evolve instead of the hyper-cut machine-beat expressions. But Kantor’s characteristic loopmachine-method and noise action style still gets a few convulsive moments to counterpoint narration.

The Legend of Joan Dark tells the semi-fictional story of a young animal rights activist through plundered filmclips, toy piano music and narrative performance. While Kantor’s video reopens questions about the limits of individual struggle and pays tribute to activism, Kantor’s main purpose with this video wasn’t the simple creation of an animal rights activist statement. His visual manifesto is dedicated to the relentless struggle of youth in a highly controlled society.

The script is about a fictional character, Joan Dark, self-appointed leader of the Animal Liberation Army, who tells her story from a prison cell, being imprisoned for the murder of the Minister of Health and Nutrition. Joan Dark’s character is somewhere between a mental case and a potential martyr who pretends to be a murderer for the sake of animal rights. She is imprisoned without any real evidence of the actual crime, only based on her own claim and the mysterious disappearance of the Minister.

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