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Big Smash! presents the premiere film in its new monthly documentary series Outsider Asylum:
Thursday Nov. 26 - 8:00pm
at the Ellice Theatre
587 Ellice Ave.

Admission $5

*SEE/PLAY the Columbine game, as well as other independent games discussed in the film before and after the film. Doors open at 7:30pm!*

It’s unlikely we’ll ever forget the fateful day, April 20, 1999, when two students at Columbine High School in Colorado committed the unthinkable. The tragic events sent shockwaves throughout the world, destroying the illusion that our private spaces might be secure. Given the resonant spot the shootings at Littleton, CO hold in our collective memory, numerous artists and thinkers have considered its impact on our society through a variety of media, from a tall stack of books on the topic to a Palme d’or-winning film. One particular interpretation, however, sparked ferocious controversy throughout America’s daily press. It wasn’t so much the content of the work as the medium chosen to deliver it, a medium largely overlooked in its potential for creativity—the video game.

In 2005 SUPER COLUMBINE MASSACRE RPG! appeared on the Web, an amateur production every bit as incendiary as its name suggests in its revisiting of the facts and acts of the two Littleton shooters. Dowloaded by millions of Web surfers, it took little time before the media zeroed in on the provocative game and its creator, who’d understandably maintained anonymity up to that point. Danny Ledonne never suspected that this novelty assembled in his spare time would attract so much attention. In addition to having to explain his intentions to scandal-hungry reporters, Ledonne saw his title yanked from the video-game competition at the Slamdance Festival. The game resurfaced in the news when it was revealed that Kimveer Gill, the gunman who attacked Dawson College here in Montreal, was an avid player. After two years of having cameras shoved in his face, Ledonne decided to pick one up himself to share his side of this resolutely modern story.

Like the game SUPER COLUMBINE MASSACRE RPG!, PLAYING COLUMBINE promises to provoke heated debate. Though he primarily addresses his personal experiences, Ledonne’s film branches out to touch on far more than might seem apparent at first blush. Avoiding easy sensationalism, the director ponders the possibilities of video games, be they as a platform for murderous propaganda or as a tool for tackling societal problems. His exploration of counterculture, illustrated by examples of amateur video games both shocking and fascinating, reveals much of our ambiguous feelings towards new media. A gripping documentary on freedom of expression and its limits, PLAYING COLUMBINE is an important work about the crazy times in which we live.

—Simon Laperrière (translated by Rupert Bottenberg)

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