A fitfully intriguing and sometimes frustrating mix of documentary elements.

Veteran Canadian experimentalist Philip Hoffman’s first feature-length effort, “All Fall Down,” is a fitfully intriguing, sometimes frustrating mix of documentary elements whose connections are left for the viewer to decide. Investigating a 19th-century native people’s rights activist on one hand while charting an acquaintance’s modern-day unraveling on the other, the pic raises some interesting questions but doesn’t provide the answers that might reward patience. Cinematheque and home-turf artscaster play is signaled.

Curious about who inhabited a Southern Ontario farmhouse before him, Hoffman researches the life of Nahneebahweequa, nee Catherine Sutton, who took her campaigning on behalf of tribal land rights as far as Queen Victoria’s court. Also dealing with property or the lack of it some 150 years later is George Lachlan Brown, whom we see in homemovies and hear in increasingly rattled phone messages. The British father of the filmmaker’s stepdaughter, Brown has returned to Canada to re-establish family ties but quickly spirals into homelessness, poverty and other woes. These and other strands are unevenly woven into a collage of some aesthetic and intellectual interest, though the pic’s information gaps will have many wishing for a less obtuse approach.

All Fall Down

Canada

Production

A Chimera Imaging production. Produced, directed, edited by Philip Hoffman. Written by Hoffman, Janine Marchessault.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, HD), Hoffman; music, Toni Edelman, Tucker Zimmerman. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Canada First), Sept. 14, 2009. Running time: 94 MIN.

With

Mike Hoolboom, George Lachlan Brown, Jessie Marchessault-Brown, Janine Marchessault, Bill Fitzgerald, Michael Schmidt, Stephanie McMullen.

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