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"Welcome to the zoo," Samira (Clark Backo) is advised as she’s admitted to an in-patient care facility in the wake of a suicide attempt. As she slowly familiarizes herself with her fellow residents and their idiosyncratic traits – be it foul-mouthed Mildred (Mary Walsh), hyper-competitive Joyce (Sheila McCarthy) or highly vulnerable Nina (Liisa Repo-Martell) - a makeshift community takes shape. But if a sense of solace is ever to be achieved, Samira must face the demons that have left her with PTSD.

After scores of impressive credits directing television, Helen Shaver helms her first narrative feature with tremendous assurance and empathy. Working from a script from Pamela Mala Sinha (adapting her own stage play and appearing in a supporting role), Shaver harnesses the considerable abilities of her impressive ensemble to craft a heavy-hitting but deeply humane drama. Shaver and her committed cast evidently know these characters inside and out. Their circumstances are specific but their struggles are universal, leaving us all the more invested in their collective refusal to be defined by the traumas they’ve experienced.


Includes an interview with Director: Helen Shaver, Actor: Clark Backo

Director Icon Director
Helen Shaver

Clark Backo, Mary Walsh, Sheila McCarthy, Marie-Ève Perron, Liisa Repo-Martell, Tara Rosling, Pamela Mala Sinha
Executive Producer Helen Shaver, Mark Slone
Producer Elise Cousineau, Andrew Nicholas, McCann Smith, Jennifer Kawaja, Julia Sereny
Screenwriter Pamela Mala Sinha
Cinematographer Jackson Parrell
Editor Simone Smith, Tad Seaborn
Production Design Marion Pon
Music Justin Small, Ohad Benchetrit
Production Company Sienna Films
Source Pacific Northwest Pictures
Canada 2020 90 min. English
Media Partners


Please note that VIFF 2020 online films can be viewed in British Columbia only.

Shaver, Helen headshot


Helen Shaver comes with a legacy of countless hours both behind and in front of the camera including directing credits on such popular series as Westworld, Snowpiercer, Orphan Black, 13 Reasons Why, Vikings, Anne With an E, and Sneaky Pete. Helen has received multiple nominations and awards for both directing and acting. In 2000, Helen’s television movie Summer’s End garnered multiple Emmy nominations including Best Director, Writer and Actor – both James Earl Jones and the film took home statues. 

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