Actor Aaron Poole Shares First Details of Feature Directing Debut, the Arthouse Road Movie 'Dada'

Canadian actor and filmmaker Aaron Poole shared the first details of his arthouse father-daughter road movie “Dada” with Variety this week, shortly after wrapping principal photography of the film on Manitoulin Island, located north of Toronto in Lake Huron.

Working steadily in North American TV (“Most Dangerous Game”) and film (“Stardust,” “The Empty Man”) since the late 1990s, Poole, a classically trained actor, stepped behind the camera for his Toronto-premiering “Oracle” (2020), which was nominated for best narrative short at Slamdance and won the top prize at Montreal’s Festival Du Nouveau Cinéma.

In “Dada,” Poole’s feature directorial debut, James Gilbert (“Saw VI,” “The Conspiracy”) and newcomer Ciara Alexys play a divorced father and teenage daughter who drive around the perimeter of a nuclear facility on the eve of the girl’s 16th birthday, playing nonsense games and reading things.

“The story is a love letter and a suicide note,” Poole told Variety. “It was written in response to being a single father and scraping out a living in entertainment while living in a country with a history of violence and resource extraction.

James Gilbert in “Dada”
Courtesy of Obvious Allegory Inc. and Still Moving Pictures Inc.

“It’s an impossible attempt to take accountability for the chaos. Absurdity felt like a reasonable offshoot of naturalism in this case.”

Poole previously worked with Gilbert, a regular presence on Canadian TV series for the past two decades, and knew he had the capacity for the demands of the film’s dark, absurdist story. “He’s an excellent actor—compassionate, reflective. I wanted someone who would trust the project, as odd as it is.”

In casting the role of the daughter, Poole took his time. “I had to wait for the right person. I learned I couldn’t force it,” he revealed. “I got to work with many great actors during the auditions, but I still had to wait for Ciara.”

“Dada” was shot over 23 days on Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater lake island in the world, which has a unique cultural history and distinctive geographical features. Many local residents and communities supported the production.

Ciara Alexys in “Dada”
Courtesy of Obvious Allegory Inc. and Still Moving Pictures Inc.

“We scouted Manitoulin when I saw that the old limestone beaches and cliffs from further south in Lake Huron continued up onto the island’s western shore,” Poole recalls. “Limestone is a visual and thematic link throughout the story.

“Manitoulin is a special place with a strong history of creativity and resilience,” he adds. “It fit perfectly into the fiction.”

“Dada” is written and directed by Poole and produced by Maddy Falle of Toronto-based Obvious Allegory Inc. and Breann Smordin. Matt Bendo (“A Dog Cried Wolf”) served as director of photography, Sonja Rainey (“This Wild Heart”) as production designer.

The executive producers are Sungate Films’ Nicole St. Pierre and Clint Eland, Babe Nation’s Katie Bird Nolan and Lindsay Tapscott, as well as Borga Dorter and Jordan Barker of Gearshift Films, with Peter Harvey and Jessica Gelbard.

The film was developed with the participation of Telefilm Canada, NOHFC (Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation) and Sungate Films, and is produced by Obvious Allegory Inc. and Still Moving Pictures.

The producers confirmed that post-production on “Dada” began this week; they expect to launch the film on the festival circuit in the later half of 2023. Game Theory Films, the film’s Canadian distributor, is attending AFM.

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