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film review

In the film MS Slavic 7, a young woman, played by Deragh Campbell, discovers letters in a Harvard archive that her great-grandmother wrote to a fellow Polish poet.Courtesy of Lisa Pictures

MS Slavic 7

Written and directed by Sofia Bohdanowicz and Deragh Campbell

Starring Deragh Campbell

Classification N/A; 64 minutes

Rating:

3.5 out of 4 stars

The rest of Hollywood can have all the Marvel Cinematic Universes, DC Extended Universes and other major-franchise continuities it wants – all I desire is the Sofia Bohdanowicz Cinematic Universe. The Canadian director, who specializes in slender and deeply affecting narratives that blend documentary and fiction, is steadily building her own delightful meta-canon, and Canadian cinema is all the richer for it.

Her new film, MS Slavic 7, returns to the character of Audrey Benac, an amateur family historian who appeared in Bohdanowicz’s earlier work Veslemoy’s Song and Never Eat Alone, and is a sort of stand-in for the director herself.

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Played once again by Deragh Campbell (who co-directs here), Audrey is now researching her great-grandmother’s letters in the 1950s and 60s to the famed Polish poet Jozef Wittlin, with “MS Slavic 7” being the reference code to the real-life correspondence housed in Harvard’s Houghton Library. That Audrey’s great-grandmother, Zofia Bohdanowiczowa, is actually Bohdanowicz’s real-life great-grandmother is just one of the ways in which the filmmakers play with the notion of authenticity and who is allowed to tell which kinds of stories.

Campbell is tasked with carrying much of the film’s action and dialogue – including two seemingly rambling but actually profound monologues delivered to unseen audiences in a non-descript bar – and easily commands the screen.

Combined with her recent starring role in last month’s Toronto International Film Festival selection Anne at 13,000 ft., the actor might be the best kept secret of Canadian film. Hopefully MS Slavic 7 will expand both Campbell’s talent, and the general wonders of the SBCU, to as many new audiences as possible.

MS Slavic 7 opens Oct. 10 at the TIFF Lightbox in Toronto