Illusions of Control

by Shannon Walsh
Product Availability
Institutional, Home-Use, Community Screenings, Broadcast, Theatrical, Educational, Festivals, VOD
About the Film

Taking inspiration from the late cultural theorist Lauren Berlant’s influential scholarly work Cruel Optimism, Vancouver-based director Shannon Walsh delivers a philosophical portrait of five women’s stories of survival and transformation on a global scale.

A compelling meditation on resilience in the face of disaster, ILLUSIONS OF CONTROL unfolds in landscapes that are irrevocably shaped by human attempts to dominate them. Five women confront crises that seem unbearable. Silvia searches for her missing daughter in the deserts of northern Mexico. Yang attempts to hold back the expanding desert in China. Kaori mobilizes mothers as citizen-scientist to monitor radiation in Fukushima, Japan. Stacey builds on Indigenous knowledge to confront toxic industrial legacies in Yellowknife. Lauren stands at the crossroads of a terminal cancer diagnosis in Chicago.

What opportunities does ecological instability offer for imagining new ways of relating to each other, to the places we inhabit, and to our collective future? In this ambitious and reflective film, each story reveals surprising ways to live on, and re-imagine life in the ruins.

Distribution Availability: Canada (Institutional/Educational, Community Screenings, Theatrical); Worldwide (Internet Rights, Home Use. Broadcast, Non-Theatrical, Festival)

2019  ·  1h27m  ·  Canada
Chinese, English, Japanese, Spanish
English subs
Festivals and Awards
Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, Official Selection (World Premiere)
DOXA Documentary Film Festival, Official Selection
April 17, 2020
Cine-Vert, Ausgang Plaza (Montreal, QC)
March 18, 2020
Richmond Women's Resource Center (Richmond, BC)
March 7, 2020
The Metro Cinema (Edmonton, AB)
February 28, 2020
Sudbury Indie Cinema (Sudbury, ON)
February 7-19, 2020
Cinémathèque Quebecoise (Montreal, QC)
February 5, 2020
The Royal Cinema (Toronto, ON)
January 31 - February 7, 2020
Globe Cinema (Calgary, AB)
January 29, 2020
The Cinematheque (Vancouver, BC)
November 14, 2019
Kassel Dokfest (Cassel, Germany)
November 8 & 9, 2019
Zonta Film Festival (Waterloo, ON)
October 26 & 27, 2019
Forest City Festival (London, ON)
September 23 & 27, 2019
Calgary International Film Festival (Calgary, AB)
May 6 & 12, 2019
DOXA Documentary Film Festival (Vancouver, BC)
April 28, 30 & May 2, 2019
World Premiere, Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival (Toronto, ON)
Hart Snider
Pablo Alvarez-Mesa
Andréa Schmidt and Shannon Walsh
Sound Editor
Eugenio Battaglia
Executive Producer
Patrick Reed
Soundtrack Composer
Owen Pallett
Shannon Walsh

“This film questions why we are acting so complacent about protecting the only planet we have.”

“An educational and informative work, Illusions of Control is no illusion when it comes to any world problems.”

“With increasingly unnerving serenity, Vancouver director Shannon Walsh interweaves portraits of five women dealing with personal and systemic crises all over the world.”

“Complex, sad and strangely beautiful.”

“Illusions of Control unfolds as a remarkable collection of micro-narratives meditating on the human will to persevere.”

About the Director

Shannon Walsh

Shannon Walsh is a filmmaker, writer and Assistant Professor in the Department of Theatre and Film at the University of British Columbia. She is writer and director of the feature documentaries Jeppe on a Friday (2013), St-Henri, the 26th of August (2011), and H2Oil (2009). She finished her first short non-fiction 360 VR, Disappearance: Hong Kong Stories, in 2017. In 2018, her first fiction feature script, Unidentified Minor, was a top 10 finalist at the Cinequest Screenplay Competition. In 2017, the script also won Best Low-Budget Screenplay at the 15th Female Eye Film Festival, was shortlisted for the CBC-TIFF Diverse screenwriting award, a quarterfinalist in the Shore Scripts competition, as well as an official selection into competition at the 2017 Oaxaca Film Festival. It was also selected for the Women in the Director’s Chair “Story & Development” lab, the Stowe Story Lab, and the WIFTV mentorship as part of the Whistler Film Festival. Unidentified Minor was shortlisted for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab twice.

Walsh’s films have been theatrically released in Canada, the UK, and South Africa, and played in over 60 film festivals worldwide such as Hot Docs, Visions du Réel, Beijing, La Rochelle, Rome, Paris Cinéma, Durban, Bergen and others. Her documentaries have been broadcast nationally and internationally on Netflix, CBC, Discovery, Al Jazeera, Fox Africa, SABC, Télé-Quebéc, Global, and Canal-D, as well as in museum spaces, including the 56th Venice Biennale and the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Her work has been supported by the National Film Board of Canada, Telefilm, SODEC, Vision du SudEst, CALQ, the Gauteng Film Commission, and Canada Council for the Arts, amongst others.

Photo credit: La Presse

Other films by Shannon Walsh