Sitting in Limbo

Director: John N. Smith

Institute History

  • 1987 Sundance Film Festival


The National Film Board has developed an enviable reputation over the years with improvisational dramas, often loosely scripted and relying on many elements of the documentary to give the films their sense of veracity. More recently, Giles Walker and John N. Smith revived these concepts with The Masculine Mystique, a film that led directly to 90 Days and Sitting in Limbo.

Smith has absorbed the lessons of this new genre well. He uses a number of non-actors whose easy, unselfconscious manner give the film a rare feeling of authenticity. Focusing on the plight of black teenagers in Montreal, we are effortlessly transported into the lives of a subculture that hitherto has been ignored by Canadian filmmakers.

Living on the margins of society, Pat is poor and possibly pregnant, and her boyfriend, the dreamy Fabian, seems incapable of supporting a future family. Their struggles to get by as he finds and loses a job, and as they find and lose an apartment and their furniture, are overlaid with a whimsical humor that only partially conceals the brooding fatalism that undercuts the film. Grim in its implications, the film never succumbs to the dreariness it is depicting the richly alive performances of Pat Dillon and Fabian Gibbs are as humane as the characters they have created.

— Piers Handling

Screening Details

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