Aaron Poole's 'Dada' evokes both 'awe and dread' in road trip film set near nuclear power facility

The Canadian filmmaker's feature directorial debut subverts expectations of a father-daughter story

Aaron Poole (Most Dangerous Game, Stardust, The Empty Man) has made his feature directorial debut with the movie Dada, filmed on Manitoulin Island. Raised in Craighurst, Ont., and having worked with esteemed talents including Atom Egoyan and Christoph Waltz, Poole crafted Dada in a way that really pushes against the expectations that most people have about the story centred around a father-daughter road trip.

In Dada Kai (Ciara Alexys) and her divorced father Adam (James Gilbert) set off on a trip to a cabin in the woods, located right next to a nuclear power facility. Adam and Kai's mom were just teens when they had her.

Throughout this journey Kai and Adam start playing games, evolving into this interesting exploration of this relationship and codependency.

"Initially it was inspired by the appearance of nuclear facility on a landscape that I expected to be empty," Poole explained to Yahoo Canada. "Right next to Lake Huron there's a rocky limestone outcrop and I found myself staring at this large facility with a hum, and it got me thinking about the sort of parallel expectations that I have for other things in my life, my relationships. Not only what I expect from land, but from people as well."

"So I thought that there was something in there that only a film might be able to capture, without it being didactic. I thought a movie would be a helpful exploration of that oddity."

Ciara Alexys in Dada (Richelle Charkot)
Ciara Alexys in Dada (Richelle Charkot)

Dada has this particularly thumping rhythm that's particularly effective in amplifying your curiosity in the story.

"Sound is something I've sort of newly discovered," Poole shared. "We spent four months designing things that could disrupt what people would expect with their eyes."

"So things that would sort of gently undulate with the natural surroundings are sort of slowly augmented into things that might be a little bit more peculiar. And I think, because I like working with a sense of both awe and dread, sound is really effective to sort of transport us into those states. So in shortlisting I'm also always considerate of what might be happening with my sound design."

In Dada Poole plays with classic horror elements and tropes, and other styles to create a unique film structure, but the landscape was particularly instrumental in crafting this story.

"The limestone and the lake and the skies are very particular in [Manitoulin Island], it really does add a lot," Poole said.

Aaron Poole
Aaron Poole

As someone who has worked on a number of sets as an actor, now stepping into the role of director for Dada, Poole wanted to "protect a very careful and gentle environment for the actors to make something that is a peculiar story."

"I like meeting everyone, across the crew, before we hire them, and I endeavoured to do that as much as possible," he said. "I knew too that we had budgeted for more days than people are used to, I mean nowadays people try to make features in like a week and a half."

"Mostly young crews whom I knew I would be collaborating had been mentored on Christmas movies of the week, and so I knew the material will be challenging. So really getting a sense of what they cared about creatively, what they might be able to sustain in terms of their attention and stamina were important elements for me."

A film that will leave the audience with a particularly thought-provoking ending, Poole has a clear vision and voice for his first feature.

Dada will have its world premiere at Future of Film Showcase on June 23