Canada’s Jonathan Bensimon loves to create films. He’s passionate about it and he very good at it. As a triple threat (producer, director, cinematographer) he is experienced and talented in a number of way to approach filmmaking, giving him the ability to cultivate his own unique style. Working in a variety of mediums, Bensimon has received accolades and awards (such as Canada’s prestigious Bessie Award) for his productions. From his very first films through to the most recent, it’s obvious that Jonathan has always been in the pursuit of creating something which has great sentimental tones and simultaneously captures something very individual to the people and characters being presented. It wouldn’t be unusual to hear others state that he prefers to be deeply involved in the projects he works on but it also wouldn’t be uncommon to hear those working with him to exclaim how remarkable the end results are. The works of most modern day filmmakers are easily accessible and a viewing of Bensimon’s reveals the refinement of an artist’s early promise evolving into celebrated greatness.
The Man and the Red Balloon, a film by a very young Jonathan, received acclaim as much for its message as it methodology. A fairly uncomplicated tale of a five-year-old boy who loses his favorite balloon and then cages it when it returns to him twenty years later, the message is applicable to anything held dear in one’s life. The story basis was purposely constructed to appeal to a wide assortment of audiences (the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival’s for kids – Sprockets”). While romantics were enchanted by the symbolism, film technicians had an affinity for the use of 35MM for this production. Bensimon’s decision to use film unearthed the same emotional response in filmmakers (and fond memories) as the characters in the story did for the “civilian” viewers. More than all of this, the film proved Jonathan’s expert ability as a filmmaker to simultaneously appeal to different generations and different types of filmgoers within the same production; an enviable trait for any film industry professional.
Bensimons latest film County Time (written by Josh Peace) could not be further in tone from The Man and the Red Balloon and yet mysteriously conveys the same heartfelt sincerity and warmth. The script and Jonathan’s body of work was key in convincing Bravo to fund this production, a decision later vetted by its premier at the prestigious Palm Springs International Film Festival. County Time is definitely a comedy but also possesses profound moments of drama that cause the emotional impact to flip in an instant. Bensimon describes it as a truly Canadian film because the characters and events are profound in displaying the characteristics of a certain small towns in rural Ontario. Jonathan’s role as producer/director/cinematographer assured him the control to materialize this vision for the film. The tool which Bensimon so adeptly welds from the very beginning of the film right up to the last scene is discretion. In not revealing the whole truth, whether by images onscreen or via dialogue, the filmmaker maneuvers the audience as he does the characters themselves; masterfully making our own presumptions part of the story until he validates or disproves them. The characters themselves are as familiar and flawed as our own friends and family members, maybe even ourselves. The story is raw and charismatic, harmonized to the imperfect people involved in it. County Time opens with Donnie, a long haired/rugged alpha-male (or so he thinks), holding court in a local bar & telling of his escapades with the law as he plays pool to an attentive group of regulars. Donnie has a big problem with a local female police officer, seemingly due to his “bad boy” persona. He seems to revel in pushing the limits with this officer in the parking lot of Randy’s (the bar). A brawl ensues between the two setting off a series of surprising twists which continually question the labels we place on these characters as well as their motivation. The most notable facet of this film is the way that it proves beyond any doubt that Jonathan Bensimon is a remarkable and gifted filmmaker because, more importantly than being a great technician, he possesses his own artistic fingerprint; that being an overgrown heart compressed into a film which can barely contain it.