From the mouths of babes

Writer/director Don McKellar uncovers the seamy side of young actors in ‘Childstar.’

You likely already know Don McKellar’s work. You just haven’t met him, until now.

The writer of such notable films as “The Red Violin” and “Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould” will be appearing in person Friday at the Historic State Theatre for the gala opening night event of the 23rd annual Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival.

The festival opens with a showing of his quirky Hollywood satire “Childstar,” in which McKellar himself stars as one of the main characters.

“It’s so self-referential, it’s sort of dishonest to not play the part myself,” McKellar said, starring as a director who opens the film by presenting another film-within-the-film, about a fledgling independent director/limousine driver (also played by McKellar).

It is a complicated concept, but then again, “Childstar” is a complicated film, jumping between genres and tones at whim.

“Whenever I felt it was settling into expected territory, I wanted to push it,” McKellar said. “Whenever I was writing it and I felt people are going to think it’s nice, or becoming pure satire, or falling into one area, I pushed it.

“I just wanted to be honest to the characters.”

McKellar has proven to be an extremely popular filmmaker in his native Canada. “Childstar” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Its debut in Minneapolis will mark its second U.S. festival appearance. McKellar said his connection to Minneapolis through other films and the enthusiasm of Jamie Hook, Minnesota Film Arts executive director, encouraged him to accept the invitation to headline the festival.

“Things have really changed over the last couple of years,” McKellar said. “Now, every town practically has a festival. It’s fantastic, and I love the environment. It’s how filmmakers meet the public.

“I like presenting my movie to people – that direct contact that festivals allow.”

“Childstar” comments on the callous personalities in the movie industry, the tedious process of Hollywood productions and the desperation of people responsible for multimillion-dollar projects. The film is, if nothing else, a scathing commentary on the superficiality of Hollywood culture.

As such, McKellar’s film is sure to be an energetic start to a festival that embraces the works Hollywood typically avoids.

“One of the main objectives was to make it unpredictable and a film about movies,” McKellar said. “Really, it’s about people who are surrounded by movies and act as if they’re in the movies.

“My biggest dissatisfaction with movies is that they’re predictable. Ever since those ‘how-to-write-a-script’ books, that’s the way you’re supposed to set it up. It’s a formula.”