Chrisann Hessing’s profound and complex documentary We Will Be Brave seeks to challenge commonly held views about masculinity through the collective viewpoints of racialized male identifying and non-binary persons struggling to make sense of their past and future through the healing power of art.
Hessing embeds amongst members of Toronto’s Good Guise collective, a group comprised of people of colour working together in a bid to encourage an open dialogue about the nature of healthy masculinity by way of a variety of different artistic disciplines, from photography, to gardening, to martial arts, to music, and beyond. The group’s goal is to break free from toxic, generational assumptions many men either subscribe to or unconsciously fall into, and offsetting the cycles of shame, guilt, and punishment that often go hand in hand with always acting like a manly man who doesn’t need help from anybody.
We Will Be Brave has a lot of ground to cover, almost too much of it to fit in a single film, but Hessing’s interview subjects do a wonderful job explaining what sets Good Guise apart from other male support groups that might not be making healthier or more mindful choices. Everyone in We Will Be Brave is willing to be vulnerable and sometimes uncomfortable honest about their past and present battles, something that grows more poignant as the collective struggles financially and some members go through more profound personal changes and issues.
We Will Be Brave invites people of all races and identities to engage in tough, honest conversations about the “single man against the odds” mythology that places men in a toxic headspace. Just like the people at the heart of the project, We Will Be Brave isn’t perfect, but then again, no starting point for bigger discussions is ever spot on right out of the gate. It wouldn’t be much of a conversation if it was. Think of this as the first part of a series that will continue to play out off screen, performed in real life by the people writing and shaping what it will ultimately become.
We Will Be Brave screens as part of the 2023 Reel Asian Film Festival on Saturday, November 11, 2023 at 12:00pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox.
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