Arts·Here & Queer

Mark Clennon and M.H. Murray explore so much we rarely see in their haunting debut film

I Don’t Know Who You Are is a remarkable film that tackles sexual assault, social inequity and what it means to be a struggling artist in Toronto.

The creative duo stopped by Here & Queer to discuss their film I Don't Know Who You Are

M.H. Murray (left) and Mark Clennon on the set of Here & Queer.
M.H. Murray (left) and Mark Clennon on the set of Here & Queer. (CBC Arts)

Here & Queer is an interview series hosted by Peter Knegt that celebrates and amplifies the work of LGBTQ artists through unfiltered conversations.

The new film I Don't Know Who You Are takes on so much that we rarely,if ever, see on screen: the social inequities of the Canadian healthcare system; what it means to be a struggling artist right now in Toronto; and how it feels to survive a sexual assault as a queer person of colour. 

It's also the remarkable feature film debut of both M.H. Murray and Mark Clennon, who together wore as many hats as is humanly possible on the film. Murray directed, produced, edited and wrote the film, while Clennon stars in its lead role, in addition to being its producer, story editor, and the writer and performer of its original songs.

The film had its world premiere at TIFF last September, which is when we had the pleasure of having both Murray and Clennon stop by Here & Queer to talk about their experience making I Don't Know Who You Are. Watch the whole episode here:

 

"It's a few different stories all at once," Clennon says of the film. "It's a love story. It's a story about surviving a tragic event, but it's also a story about the social construct of our city."

The city he refers to is Toronto, a place that rarely gets honest depictions on screen. But I Don't Know Who You Are does not shy away from offering a glimpse into just how challenging the city can be today.

"I think that it's unfortunate that people have to go above and beyond just to survive," says Clennon —himself a Torontonian. "But I think that is the type of tenacity and the type of grit that artists have, because they're faced with so many challenges. An artist like myself: I'm an actor, but I also have other streams of income, and I think you just kind of have to rise to the occasion just to exist in the city. I don't know what the future is for us as artists, but I think that as long as we're able to fight for art and to work hard... Toronto will never not be a good place for artists."

Still frame from the film I Don't Know Who You Are. Mark Clennon sits on his bed looking off to the side, cast in dark shadows except for the glow of a salt lamp at his bedside.
Mark Clennon in I Don't Know Who You Are. (TIFF)

I Don't Know Who You Are also depicts the sexual assault of Clennon's character Benjamin, who spends a lot of the film trying to find the money for HIV-preventive treatment in the aftermath of that event. 

"I think it's really complex because I do think there's a lot of mixed messaging [when it comes to HIV], a lot of miscommunication," Murray says. "I think some people think that it's over and then other people are more informed … I think there's such a thin line between being too on the nose with explaining the elements of it, but I think we just wanted to show a human struggling against bureaucracy and just that stressful feeling of fearing for your health, not really knowing what could happen if you do get this diagnosis."

Murray says it was also important to him to show someone in the film who does live with HIV.

"Someone who is healthy, is living a positive life, is sexually desired, is able to love and things of that nature," he says. "We didn't set out with one specific mission. I think we just wanted to try to tell something that felt honest."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peter Knegt (he/him) is a writer, producer and host for CBC Arts. He writes the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada) and hosts and produces the talk series Here & Queer. He's also spearheaded the launch and production of series Canada's a Drag, variety special Queer Pride Inside, and interactive projects Superqueeroes and The 2010s: The Decade Canadian Artists Stopped Saying Sorry. Collectively, these projects have won Knegt four Canadian Screen Awards. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films, the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights and the host of the monthly film series Queer Cinema Club at Toronto's Paradise Theatre. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

Say hello to our newsletter: hand-picked links plus the best of CBC Arts, delivered weekly.

...

The next issue of Hi, art will soon be in your inbox.

Discover all CBC newsletters in the Subscription Centre.opens new window

now