The Collective

Mammalian Diving Reflex probes what's really going on inside the mind of a teenager

A meditation on the roiling emotional depths beneath the surface of the teenage mind, from Mammalian Diving Reflex's teen collective, The Torontonians.

"It's about capturing a moment when you're lost in thought." (Video deals with mature themes)

This video is part of The Collective, a CBC Arts digital project that invites artists to tell their own stories. Learn more about the project, and watch more Collective videos.

Collective: Mammalian Diving Reflex
Film: Teen Thoughts
Synopsis: Teen Thoughts features five members of Mammalian Diving Reflex's teen collective — Virginia Antonipillai, Sharay Dennis, Sanjay Ratnan, Chozin Tenzin and Kathy Vuu — who quietly dish on what it is to be human.

Mammalian Diving Reflex is a Toronto-based collective that's attracted international acclaim for performances, theatre productions and participatory gallery events that probe social issues ranging from gentrification to aging to sex. For their Collective video, they turned to their "teen collective," The Torontonians, a group of young people whom they refer to as their training wing and succession plan. The result, Teen Thoughts, is a meditation on the roiling emotional depths beneath the surface of the teenage mind.

Here's what the video's director, Mammalian Diving Reflex member Nicole Bazuin, had to say about the project:

How did Mammalian Diving Reflex get its start?
Mammalian Diving Reflex was started in 1993. We're mostly known as a theatre company, but we focus on producing work that pushes boundaries. Really, it's about breaking away from traditional theatre. A lot of what we do has to do with bringing unexpected groups of people together, and allowing them to interact and forge connections through the work. Mammalian also does a lot of really interesting work with children and youth — so we have a teen collective called The Torontonians, members of which are featured in this film.

The film offers a really intimate glimpse into these teenagers' inner thoughts. What was it like for your members to share those personal moments on camera?
The film actually grew out of a series of interviews with each of the five members of the Torontonians that are featured. They were very brave and generous to put that on the table; to share themselves in the hope that it might be something another human being could relate to. The interviews allowed us to take things that were happening in their real lives and distill them. All of the script is their real words.

There's a striking contrast between the intense emotional content of the teens' monologues and the low-key, almost subdued delivery of their lines. Why did you portray the monologues in this way?
I think realistically, it's about capturing a moment when you're lost in thought — when you have a moment to yourself to reflect on your life. I didn't think it needed to be dramatized any further than that. The idea is to present a quiet moment that is, essentially, fairly mundane; but even by spending less than a minute with each of the youths, you get a window into their lives.

What do you hope people will take away from your video?
Art can serve as a way to transcend the loneliness of the human condition. Our hope is that the film could, perhaps, momentarily mimic what it would be like to have a window into someone else's mind.  We all have things that we are struggling with — or dealing with — in our lives. And there's something unifying about realizing that we're not alone in that.

More about Mammalian Diving Reflex

Mammalian Diving Reflex is a research-art atelier dedicated to investigating the social sphere, always on the lookout for contradictions to whip into aesthetically scintillating experiences including: site and social-specific performances, theatre productions, participatory gallery installations, videos, art objects and theoretical texts.

Follow Mammalian Diving Reflex on Facebook and Twitter, and see more of their work on YouTube. The Torontonians also have a blog.


Conceived and Directed by
Nicole Bazuin

Written by
Darren O'Donnell

Based on Interviews with, and Featuring
Virginia Antonipillai
Tenzin Chozin
Sharay Dennis
Sanjay Ratnan
Kathy Vuu

Executive Producer
Darren O'Donnell

Produced by
Eva Verity

Director of Photography
Sam Lebel-Wong

Edited by
Nicole Bazuin

Score by
Patrick Rainville

Sound Design by
Alec Emery

Assistant Director
Mohit Rai

Camera Assistant
Jon Altamirano

Matt Richardson
Chris Spatafora

Wardrobe Assistant
Theresa Poirier

Production Assistant
Nayara Benatti

Daniel Goodbaum and Daniel Lastres-Rodriguez

Location credits
The Drake Hotel, with assistance from Mia Nielsen
Public Butter, with assistance from Kendall Coontz
The Theatre Centre, with assistance from Justis Danto-Clancy and Ravi Jain

Thanks to
Gabriella Kelly
The Gladstone Hotel, with assistance from Lukus Toane and Britt Welter-Nolan


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