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‘Humane’: Caitlin Cronenberg’s debut movie breaks the family mould

Click to play video: 'Caitlin Cronenberg on family legacy and debut film ‘Humane’'
Caitlin Cronenberg on family legacy and debut film ‘Humane’
'Humane' director Caitlin Cronenberg touches on the horror thriller’s themes of climate collapse and the use of satire against a backdrop of modern American politics. She also reflects on the pressures of a directorial debut, having come from an artistic family with Canadian director David Cronenberg, known for horror films such as ‘The Fly.’ – Apr 26, 2024

Caitlin Cronenberg, daughter of famed Toronto director and progenitor of the body-horror genre David Cronenberg, is joining the family business with the premiere of her feature-length directorial debut, Humane.

Her family’s name may precede her, but Caitlin told Global News that she isn’t worried about trying to fill the big shoes left by her dad, or even her brother, film director Brandon Cronenberg.

Rather, she felt pressure to “work on a project that felt like me, and not to have any external pressure about the kinds of things that I wanted to work on.”

And in Humane, her individualism shines through. This film is a far cry from the aesthetics that filmgoers have come to expect from a Cronenberg film.

“I don’t think it’s a necessarily conscious decision. I think it’s just really who we all are as, as individual artists,” Caitlin said.

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Humane is set in a near-future, apocalyptic scenario in which the climate crisis has reached a fever pitch. The U.N. mandates that each country must cull a portion of its citizenry to combat overpopulation, but how do countries choose who lives and who dies?

Click to play video: 'UN climate chief says we have ‘2 years to save the world’'
UN climate chief says we have ‘2 years to save the world’

Despite the dystopian premise, the world of Humane ticks on much like ours — there is no civil war or underground resistance that appears on-screen. This is perhaps owing to the fact that the main characters of this film are all members of a wealthy family; why would their lives ever intersect with misfortune?

That is until the patriarch of the family, played by Peter Gallagher, gathers his children, including Jay Baruchel and Emily Hampshire of Schitt’s Creek, for a fateful dinner. One terrible decision pushes his children out of their comfy lifestyle with lethal consequences.

Jay Baruchel and Emily Hampshire appear in ‘Humane,’ the feature-length directorial debut of Caitlin Cronenberg. Elevation Pictures

Humane leans into the questions on current affairs, obviously climate change, but also the discourse around medical assistance in dying (MAiD) in Canada.

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Despite all of these hot-button issues, Caitlin isn’t trying to send a specific message with her film. Instead, she aims to showcase “a satirical version of what could happen in the world.”

“I’m happy that people will be watching it and think to themselves, ‘Yeah, this is a little bit too close to home,'” she said.

Caitlin also revealed that Baruchel and Hampshire were her number one choices to play their roles in the film. Baruchel plays a slimy anthropologist who toes the government line and preaches the necessity of culling the population in televised interviews. Hampshire plays a pharmaceutical CEO in the midst of a high-profile trial over her company’s drugs.

Caitlin says Baruchel and Hampshire have “boundless talent” and she couldn’t have asked for a better on-set experience.

“As soon as you say, ‘Oh, we’re all Canadian,’ it gives people the idea that you have to cast out of a smaller pocket of talent. But truly, we have all the talent in the world right here.”

(Watch the interview in the video, top.)

‘Humane’ is now playing in theatres across Canada.

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