Now Streaming: ‘1999’

Courtesy of the NFB

By Pat Mullen

Catch a hidden gem from the festival circuit as Samara Chadwick’s 1999 is now available for free from the NFB. The film is a personal and philosophical reflection from Chadwick as she returns to the scene of her high school years and revisits the ghosts of her past. Through a deft interplay on language, imagery, and memory, the film explores how silence refracts and shapes memories over time. Read more about 1999 in this interview with Chadwick from Hot Docs.

Synopsis: When death haunts a high school in a small town in the late 1990s, everyone is forever transformed. In this gentle, prismatic film, Samara returns to the town she fled as a teen to re-immerse herself in the memories still lurking there, in its spaces and within the dusty boxes of diaries, photos and VHS tapes. 1999 is not a ghost story, but the ghosts are palpable at every turn. The snow-covered streets, the school’s hallways and lockers are preserved as in a dream. The absences left by the relentless teenage suicides still shimmer with questions, trauma and regret. Samara encounters people who are as breathtaking as they are heartbroken, and, finally, 16 years later, the community strengthens itself by sharing the long-silenced memories. Ultimately the film weaves together multiple voices in a collective essay on how grief is internalized—and how, as children, we so painfully learn to articulate our desire to stay alive.

1999, Samara Grace Chadwick, provided by the National Film Board of Canada