This year’s TIFF is just around the corner and a while back, Short Film Fan listed 29 Canadian short films that will be screened at this year’s festival. For fans of the NFB, three of their animated shorts are also in the mix. This week, the good folks at the NFB provided SFF a chance to screen these shorts before the festival kicks off on September 7th. The following are the films’ teasers and synopses:
Charles, by Dominic Etienne Simard (2017)
Charles knows he’s not like other kids. Every day at school, he’s reminded that his life isn’t like that of his classmates. Every day at home, he sees that he doesn’t receive the same care as other children in his neighbourhood. To dodge the unfairness and taunts, Charles imagines a peaceful haven peopled by good-hearted little frogs.
The Tesla World Light, by Matthew Rankin (2017)
New York, 1905. Visionary inventor Nikola Tesla makes one last appeal to J.P. Morgan, his onetime benefactor. The Telsa World Lightis a tragic fantasy about the father of alternating current, inspired by real events such as the inventor’s run of bad luck as a businessman and his affection for a pet bird, which he loves “like a man loves a woman.” Tesla’s words to the banker form the backdrop of this moving film about the man who blended science and art in his attempts to create the utopia of unlimited energy for all.
Threads, by Torill Kove (2017)
In her latest animated short, Academy Award®-winning director Torill Kove explores the beauty and complexity of parental love, the bonds that we form over time, and the ways in which they stretch and shape us.
Short Film Fan Pick: The Tesla World Light. This was a fascinating documentary-style short about one of the world’s pioneers of electrical engineering. The story itself is enough to encourage others to want to learn more about Tesla’s career struggles and successes. The film was extremely fast-paced and contained a delightful, eye-catching and impressive mix of animation, photography and live action. Those who have seen Rankin’s previous animated short, Mynarski Death Plummet, will see many similarities in styles and pace between the two films. Without a doubt, The Tesla World Light will prove to be a hit with history buffs and lovers of avant-garde cinema alike.
If you’re an up and coming filmmaker from Saskatchewan who is looking for a chance to work with industry professionals to make his or her own short documentary, the National Film Board has a new program especially for you.
Driven by the NFB’s North West Studio and a Saskatchewan production and mentorship team, Doc Lab Saskatchewan will bring three emerging creators into a professional production environment to write, shoot, and edit their short documentary ideas.
Between September 4 and November 17, 2017, each filmmaker will complete a 5–7 minute documentary, working closely with an NFB production team and local director-mentors to take ideas from treatment through production and post-production.
One winner from Saskatoon, one from Regina, and one from rural Saskatchewan will be selected following the call for proposals, which runs until Friday, July 14, 2017. The three completed films will be launched in November 2017.
“I’m really excited about what this means for directors across the province. Doc Lab Saskatchewanis right in line with other NFB emerging creator programs which have kickstarted the careers of a lot of great filmmakers. So I’m looking forward to reading some terrific applications and seeing them come to life,” said Montes.
While previous non-fiction film experience isn’t necessary, participants are expected to have a working knowledge of film or media-making, with a maximum of three independent projects to their credit. Doc Lab Saskatchewan also includes travel to NFB headquarters in Montreal for final post-production.
Good luck to all the applicants! Short film fans from Canada and around the world will be waiting patiently for these short documentaries to premiere in November. Maybe one of them could be reviewed right here on Short Film Fan?
There once was a time in Canada when you could work at one or maybe two jobs until retirement, collect your pension and enjoy the golden years of your life. There was also a time when very few women worked outside of the home. If they did, it was most likely part-time work where the income was supplementary to her husband’s income. Today, Canadians can expect to work well beyond the traditional retirement age. Also, Canadian women have entered and succeed in all kinds of professions. They have even launched their own successful careers while juggling family responsibilities at the same time. Mabel Robinson, the energetic 90-year old star of Teresa MacInnes’ 20-minute short film Mabel (2016), is one of those pioneering Canadian women who did just that.
Using a mix of animated photos, archived footage and in-salon interviews, Mabel documents the life of Mabel Robinson as Hubbards, Nova Scotia’s first female entrepreneur and her 70-year career. Knowing at a young age that the wanted to be a hairdresser, she was determined to make it happen and made the sacrifices to do so. By attending hairdressing school in Boston, Mabel laid the foundations of her lifelong career. Moving back to Hubbards, not only did she get to pursue her dream career, she established her own hairstyling shop and raised a family while doing so. Despite her aging and the death of her husband, Mabel shows no signs of calling it quits. Watch the entire film below:
Teresa shared some of her thoughts and experiences surrounding the film, and revealed some interesting details about Mabel Robinson that didn’t make it into the documentary:
Short Film Fan: What motivated or influenced you to make Mabel?
Teresa MacInnes: I have always been attracted to the wisdom and charm of older people. I had a close relationship with my grandparents growing up and three of them lived out their final years in our family home. So, when I met the iconic beautician, Mabel Robinson, I immediately saw the potential for an engaging documentary about her and the elderly clients she continues to serve. Like my grandmother, Mabel made me laugh and inspired a deeper perspective on work, life and beauty. She also reminded me of the importance of having older women in my life and on the screen.
When I brought the idea to Annette Clarke at the NFB Atlantic Studio, she was also charmed by Mabel and felt it was an important story to tell – a story that highlighted not only women in their golden years, but also people living in rural Nova Scotia. Annette’s support and encouragement gave me the time to shape the story and to create the film.
SFF: What challenge or challenges did you face when you were making this film?
TM: I have been making feature length and television documentaries for 30 years, so I think the biggest challenge was keeping the film under 30 minutes. Mabel is an amazing woman and the story I tell is only one aspect of who she is. She is an accomplished knitter who sells her gorgeous hats, mittens and sweaters at the farmer’s market. She plays poker and bingo. She is a dedicated volunteer and has a rich circle of friends. But, doing a short portrait was the plan from the beginning and I am glad I took that challenge on. I love the short format and hope to do more in the future.
SFF: Do you have a memorable moment that occurred when you were producing Mabel?
TM: The entire experience was memorable and spending time with Mabel and her clients was exactly what I needed in my life at that time. I was grieving my father’s death and was feeling a bit weary from years of making some pretty intense films. Mabel gave me another perspective and I now look at my work and my life in a very different way. I will always be thankful to her for that.
SFF: What has the audience reception towards the film been like since its release?
TM: When Mabel premiered at the Atlantic Film Festival, CBC News did a story about the film and it went viral; generating millions of views and hundreds of heartfelt comments. Because of this, the demand to see Mabel was immediate. As a result, the NFB decided to release it online via the NFB.ca site and YouTube. The ability to send a link and have it so accessible has been great, but it also means I haven’t had the pleasure of watching it with an audience as much as I would have liked. But, I am happy it is out there for the world to see and the NFB has done a great job of promoting it online.
SFF: What message or messages did you want to get across to the audience with Mabel?
TM: For me, Mabel is a trailblazer; a woman who not only broke barriers when she was young, but is also breaking barriers as a senior. Rooted in community, she is a celebration of doing what you love, of the importance of friendships and of staying active as you age.
Short Film Fan Review: This was a gem of a short documentary. It was heartwarming to see and experience the life of an extraordinary woman that came from a quiet place such as Hubbards, NS. Her focus and determination to get that career going as a young woman should be an inspiration to other young women and men. Conversely, those who are already lucky to be working in a career that they enjoy would want to think twice before considering retirement – why stop doing something you like to do just because you reach a certain age? The use of animated photos gave the documentary a certain charm that brought her past to life. Mabel is a short film that all can enjoy and it is certainly destined to become one of the National Film Board’s classic documentaries.
Turn on the news in Canada, and you will see many negative stories surrounding the country’s First Nations population. From missing and murdered women to residential schools to extreme poverty on reservation lands, it gives a person the impression that things look bleak for this population. Fortunately, there are many positive stories about Canada’s Indigenous people that, unfortunately, Canadians don’t get to see or hear enough of. Stories of hope, economic well-being and change for the better do exist. One of these stories is best told in the 10:57 short documentary film Tshiuetin (2016) directed by First Nations filmmaker Caroline Monnet. Tshiuetin is the second short film that Caroline made under the label DESC Images; a company founded in 2014 by Caroline, along with Daniel Watchorn, Eric Cinq-Mars and Sébastien Aubin.
Tshiuetin (pronounced T- shee –way- tin and translates to ‘North Wind’ in the Innu language) explores the operations of Canada’s first First Nations-owned railway line. Established in 2005, Tshiuetin Railway Inc. runs between Sept-Iles and Schefferville and serves a number of communities along the way. As the train winds its way through lighted tunnels and snowy mountainsides, the conductor of the train explains how the ways in which the railway has been a benefit to him and to the community at large. Watch the entire film below:
Short Film Fan reached out to Caroline to learn more about Tshiuetin, including why the film was shot in black & white and what the audience reception has been like since its release.
Short Film Fan: What motivated or influenced you to make Tshiuetin?
Caroline Monnet: Tshiuetin is an inspiring story of triumph and determination for Aboriginal communities. For the first time in Canadian history, a railroad is owned by a group of First Nations. It is important for DESC to create stories that celebrate the resilience of indigenous people. We speak about success stories in a way that is very removed from what is portrayed in the media.
SFF: What particular challenge did you face when making this documentary?
CM: The best thing was travelling up north with a small team and meeting wonderful people along the way. We were truly part of this journey with a bunch of Innu families. And even though we were two Indigenous persons on the crew, we don’t speak the Innu language and we were like foreigners on the train. The Tshiuetin Rail Transportation staff was very helpful and giving. The film could not have developed the way it did without their kindness and support. Another challenging part was shooting outside the train in minus 40-degree weather.
SFF: Why did you decide to film Tshiuetin in black & white, rather than colour?
CM: The documentary is shot in black and white, using 16mm film. This speaks to the history of building the railways, but is also appropriate in capturing the beauty of the people that live along the Tshiuetin Railway. The 16mm film allows for an elegant cinematic and experimental feel to the documentary, staying away from conventional talking heads and video aesthetics. With using black and white film, it brings back the tradition of documentary filmmaking in Canada, inspiring myself from films like Pour lasuite du Monde or La bête Lumineuse from Pierre Perrault and Michel Brault.
SFF: What was it like to have Tshiuetin nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for Best Short Documentary this year?
CM: It’s a wonderful experience and recognition to be nominated for a Canadian Screen Award. There were a lot of great films nominated this year and it’s an honour to be nominated amongst them. We don’t make the films to win, but it’s always nice to be included at such prestigious awards.
SFF: What has the audience reception towards the film been like since its release?
CM: We’ve got really good responses since the film had its world premiere at TIFF this past September. It went on to play many festivals including Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, ImagineNATIVE, Uppsala, Tampere and Busan. Because the film was produced by CBC Docs, it rapidly became available online which allowed us to reach broader audiences. We reached over 60 000 people like that. The film is like a road movie and I think many people haven’t travelled that far North in Québec so it is quite exciting to see the film.
SFF: What message or messages did you want to get across to the audience with Tshiuetin?
CM: It’s imperative to showcase positive stories about Indigenous achievements. At this point in Canadian history, media coverage often tends to focus on the darker issues. We need to hear about both sides because our national understanding of Indigenous culture is warped by a bombardment of pessimism. Tshiuetin is about positive change.
Short Film Fan Review: Tshiuetin was definitely an incredible story of economic power and community strength for a First Nations community. Owning and operating a short line railway takes lots of work and dedication which is very evident among the employees in the film. The black & white images throughout the film were stunning; it really is a reminder of the older documentaries that were filmed in the 1950s and 1960s. Watching the trees go by so quickly makes you feel like you were right there with the other passengers on that ride. This is certainly a good news story that more Canadians should watch.
DESC’s goal is to continue to push boundaries and expand creatively working with film, sound composing and graphic design. We hope to see more short films from Caroline and DESC Images in the near future!
Toronto is home to many film festivals, and the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is by far the city’s best known. Film buffs from around the world descend upon TIFF each year to watch and enjoy features and shorts from Canada and around the globe. If you’re lucky, you even get a chance to see some of Hollywood’s finest actors as they make their appearance to TIFF. Over the years, TIFF has become a huge cultural event that puts the film spotlight directly on Canada.
For film fans, and for short film fans in particular, you’ll be pleased to know that you can experience TIFF outside of its annual fall programming by way of TIFF Short Cuts. Shown at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in downtown Toronto, TIFF Short Cuts screens a variety of Canadian and world-wide short films. If you’re unable to visit Toronto for any reason and would like to experience TIFF Short Cuts, have no fear. TIFF’s outreach program, TIFF Film Circuit, makes its appearance in many Canadian communities each year.
Short Film Fan reached out to Laura Good, programmer of TIFF Short Cuts and TIFF Film Circuit, to get a better understanding of what Short Cuts is all about and what is planned for Short Cuts programming this year.
Short Film Fan: What is TIFF Short Cuts?
Laura Good: TIFF Short Cuts is a programming stream dedicated to showcasing short film. The year round Short Cuts series is named as an extension of the Short Cuts section at the Toronto International Film Festival. We host monthly screenings that feature the best of international short film, spanning all genres, sensibilities and styles with a focus on innovation, originality, representation and impact.
Short Cuts allows audiences to sample cinema from all over the globe, in one sitting, and in my opinion, it is some of the most important filmmaking in the world. Short film is a birthplace of innovation and is often the first place we see global trends emerge in terms of both content and form. Since the format is able to be nimble and reactive, it is often the most accurate reflection of our current zeitgeist, as well.
SFF: What is your role with Short Cuts?
LG: I program and host the series, so I get to assemble programs of some of the most incredible short filmmaking in the world and present them to Toronto audiences. There are, generally speaking, far less constraints on short filmmakers than on feature filmmakers, so they have more flexibility and creative freedom. I would argue that the same freedom is inherent to short film programming.
Our recent Misfits program celebrated stories about characters who live beyond the artistic, cultural and existential status quo. It’s a beautiful thing be able to explore something like nonconformity through a diverse pack of female skateboarders who resist the patriarchy (Jennifer Reeder’s Crystal Lake), a contemporary ghost story (Connor Jessup’s Boy), and a woman who transforms into a cloud as a defense mechanism (Mark Katz’ aptly named, People Are Becoming Clouds), all in one screening slot. I feel very lucky to get to showcase such boundary-pushing work from the filmmakers who will determine the future of cinema.
I also bring in short film packages of short format work from fellow festivals and organisations. Past collaborations have included the Sundance Shorts Tour, featuring award winners from their festival, curated by Sundance’s own Mike Plante, and The Prism Prize Top Ten, featuring nominees for the prestigious award, which recognizes excellence in Canadian music videos.
SFF: How long has TIFF Short Cuts been going on for?
LG: The year round Short Cuts series has only been taking place since the opening of TIFF Bell Lightbox in 2010, but it has an old soul. TIFF programmer Magali Simard programmed the series for many years and passed the baton on to me last year.
SFF: Where in Toronto can short film fans check out Short Cuts?
LG: You can check out the Short Cuts series at the aforementioned TIFF Bell Lightbox, year-round home of the Toronto International Film Festival and hub for film lovers from Toronto and around the world. Keep an eye on the schedule here: http://www.tiff.net/#short-cuts
SFF: What kind of short films do you typically screen at Short Cuts?
LG: We show the best of world cinema including favourites from the Toronto International Film Festival, such as the hypnotizing documentary montage on the resilience of indigenous peoples across time and space – Mobilize (dir. Caroline Monnet), and the recipient of the Best Short Film award at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, depicting a Senegalese family living in Paris, who find themselves at a crossroads – Maman(s) (dir. Maïmouna Doucouré). We also feature award winners from around the world, such as the Winner of the Horizons Award at the 2015 Venice Film Festival – Belladona (dir. Dubravka Turic), a remarkable Croatian film about perception and female to female empathy, and hidden gems such as the incredibly timely and impeccably cast look at the African American experience After TheStorm (dir. Jessica Oyelowo).
SFF: Do you screen only Canadian shorts at Short Cuts, or do you also feature shorts from other countries?
LG: We screen short films from around the globe. Countries represented in the past year include: Iraq, Germany, Argentina, Australia, Chile, Croatia, France, The United Kingdom, Hungary, Norway, Sweden, U.S.A., Israel and Jordan, to name a few.
It is also a priority to support the incredible filmmaking happening here at home. Every program has Canadian representation. A few Canadian films that we have recently featured include: The GrandfatherDrum (dir. Michelle Derosier), Mobilize (dir. Caroline Monnet), Bacon and God’s Wrath (dir. Sol Friedman), Boy (dir. Connor Jessup), Dredger (dir. Phillip Barker), Her Friend Adam (dir. Ben Petrie), Benjamin (dir. Sherren Lee), and World Famous Gopher Hole Museum (dir. by Chelsea Mcmullan and Douglas Nayler).
SFF: Have any filmmakers come to any of your Short Cuts screenings as guest speakers?
LG: Yes! We aim to have a filmmaker or special guest in attendance at each screening.
Director Phillip Barker and lead actress Alex Paxton-Beasley (known for Dirty Singles and TV’s MurdochMysteries) attended the screening of his visually arresting, fourth wall breaking short, Dredger, which was a part of our Summer Fever program, to talk about experimental filmmaking, sexuality and character. They also spoke about their last collaboration, Malody, and hinted at another to come.
Ben Petrie, who directed the glorious and unforgettable meltdown that is Sundance Award winner and Canada’s Top Ten selection, Her Friend Adam, also joined us to talk about his process and working with TIFF Rising Star Grace Glowicki, for our screening of the Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour.
Connor Jessup, director of the Ozu-inspired and poetically supernatural Boy attended the Misfits program. You may know him as an alumnus of the TIFF Rising Stars program which recognizes talent in front of the camera, such as his performances in Closet Monster and TV’s American Crime. The producer of Boy Ashley Shields-Muir (who also collaborated with Jessup on Little Coffins) joined us as well. They told us all about their influence and gave us a sneak peek into their next short, Lira’s Forest, which they described as having the sensibility of a live action studio Ghibli film!
Sherren Lee, director of Benjamin (a film that tackles LGBTQ adoption and surrogacy), was in attendance for an Intro and Q&A following the screening along with her lead actor Jean-Michel Le Gal to talk about feminism in film and representation in all its forms.
SFF: Many short film fans don’t live in Toronto, and therefore aren’t able to attend Short Cuts easily. Are there ways that they can experience a Short Cuts screening in their own hometown?
LG: TIFF’s national film outreach program, TIFF Film Circuit, brings the best of both short and long format filmmaking to film series’ and film festivals across Canada. Film Circuit works with 170 locations in over 150 communities spanning from Prince Rupert, B.C. to Charlottetown, P.E.I.
I program many of the Canadian shorts that we play at the Short Cuts series at TIFF Film Circuit locations across the country. Some locations show short film packages and others pair short films with features. TIFF’s Canada’s Top Ten program travels to many of our locations and the Oscar-nominated Canadian short film Blind Vaysha (which was also an official selection of the Toronto International Film Festival and Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival), is currently prefacing many feature film screenings. Find out if there is a Film Circuit location near you, here: www.tiff.net/filmcircuit/locations
SFF: How has the audience reception been to Short Cuts?
LG: The audiences have been really engaged. One of our highest attended recent screenings was the Emerging Female Voices Spotlight – a collection of short films from some of the world’s most promising emerging female filmmakers. We used the screening as an opportunity to vocalize our commitment to gender parity and intersectional feminism. The gender gap grows dramatically in the space that typically exists between short and feature filmmaking so it’s a vital place to have that conversation. We also used the program as an entry point to a much larger conversation about inclusion, representation and empathic intelligence, and the Toronto short film community rallied!
SFF: Can we get a sneak peek into what you have planned for Short Cuts in 2017?
LG: Absolutely! Our next program – Canada, Animated – focuses on home-grown talent. It takes place on Sunday, March 5th at 1pm and explores what makes the Canadian viewpoint so unique through the work of some of our most exciting new animators. It will include Alisi Telengut’s Nutag – Homeland, a poignant, hand-painted ode to the pain of the displaced Kalmyk people of the Soviet Union, following WWII. Also feature filmmaker Robin Joseph’s Fox and the Whale, an atmospheric tale of curiosity about a fox who is drawn to the sea. Joseph will be in attendance to introduce the film and will be present for a Q&A with the audience, following the program. Take a look at the full program details for Canada, Animated here: http://www.tiff.net/events/canadian-animation
Also upcoming is Spotlight: Clermont Ferrand, a selection of recent favourites from the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival curated by Laurent Guerrier, screening Thursday, April 6th at 9pm. Highlights include Shio Chen Quesck’s Guang, an affecting Malaysian film about a young man who struggles with social interaction but finds comfort in a secret passion and Emma de Swaef and Marc Roels’ fabric based stop motion animation Oh Willy, an absurdist Nordic film about a nudist in mourning, who ventures into the woods to find solace. Take a look at the full program details for Spotlight: Clermont Ferrand here: http://www.tiff.net/events/spotlight-clermont-ferrand
Stay tuned for more programs, to be announced on a seasonal basis, throughout 2017!
Sounds like it’s going to be an excellent year of shorts programming this year at Short Cuts. A big ‘thanks’ goes to Laura and everyone at TIFF for making Canadian shorts accessible via Short Cuts, Film Circuit and TIFF itself. If you happen to catch any of the Canadian shorts at these screenings, be sure to let them know via Twitter @TIFFShortCuts @FilmCircuitTIFF and @TIFF_Net. Don’t forget to include Short Film Fan @shortfilmfan or leave a comment below. Follow TIFF on Facebook, too: https://www.facebook.com/TIFF
In a few weeks, 2016 will come to a close. Soon, we will all have the opportunity to look back and assess the kind of year that 2016 was. For some, it was a year of joy and happiness. For others, 2016 was a year marked by sorrow and suffering. It was also a year that perhaps marked a turning point for Canada’s Indigenous people. Through media reports in 2016, Canadians learned more about the harsh and distressing reality that faces Canada’s Indigenous community as they grapple with the issue of their missing and murdered women. We learned that this problem has been plaguing the Indigenous community for decades and that an inquiry into the matter was long overdue. In August, the federal government finally announced the establishment of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls with five commissioners leading the inquiry. While this commission painstakingly looks for answers to this disturbing problem, one organization in Winnipeg, MB has taken upon itself to find some of their own answers.
In the 19-minute short NFB documentary, This River (2016), we are introduced to the volunteer-run group ‘Drag the Red’; its purpose is to search the Red River for traces of missing Indigenous women and men. Written and directed by Katherena Vermette and Erika MacPherson, we follow two volunteers of ‘Drag the Red’ during one of their searches of the river. We listen as one of the volunteers, Kyle Kematch, explains his own personal reason why he takes part in these searches. Katherena narrates during parts of the film, but also reveals a personal tragedy of her own. Watch the full documentary below:
This River is an impactful and moving short documentary. Through the revelations made by Kyle and Katherena, the audience got a deeper understanding of this problem that has overwhelmed Canada’s Indigenous community. It must have been very difficult for Kyle and Katherena to share such recollections on film. But, by doing so, it showed their courage and strength. You can also hear from both of them a mixture of determination and hope. The scenes at river level were stunning, yet haunting. This River teaches us that the need and drive for change is out there and that ‘Drag the Red’ is a perfect example of this. This River is a must-see film and is available at the NFB website for downloading.
Getting a career off the ground can be daunting for some, especially if you are young and new to your chosen path. For young up-and-coming filmmakers, getting noticed by the public and the filmmaking community can seem especially challenging. But there is one film festival in Toronto that hopes to remedy that. On the eve of the 2016 edition of the Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival, Paul Krumholz, one of the festival’s programmers, shared in this guest post some of this thoughts about the purpose of the festival, as well as some detail as to where they source the young filmmakers that they feature:
What were your favourite filmmakers doing before they became famous? If they’re anything like the ones whose work we feature in Toronto Youth Shorts, they were hustling – to squeeze writing sessions in between classes and day jobs, to hunt for funding sources, and to convince friends to donate their time and labour. Even once a film is finished, getting it in front of eyeballs can be a whole new challenge.
Since 2009, the Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival has tried to help with that last part, providing a forum for the best up-and-coming, under-30 filmmakers in the GTA to share their work. While there’s no road map for young filmmakers trying to develop their careers, we hope that our festival can be one of the stops along the way, where good work can reach a wider audience of colleagues, industry professionals, and cinema fans.
As a not-for-profit, volunteer-run organization, our staff puts this festival together every year because we believe in the importance of investing in the next generation of Canadian film talent. And as someone who grew up outside Canada, I’m especially proud to live in a place that supports its artists as much as Torontonians do, which is why I’ve contributed to the festival as a programmer over the last two years.
The process by which we put together our lineup is more active than most festivals. In addition to soliciting films through the normal avenues, we take advantage of the fact that Toronto is home to some of the best film schools in North America. Each spring, our programmers trek around the GTA to attend screenings at high schools, colleges and universities, in search of work we think deserves a bigger audience. This year’s lineup features 44 films, chosen from over 200 submissions (and the hundreds more our programmers watched in the community). One of the upsides of this method is that it gives us a sense of what themes and issues are important to young Torontonians in a given year. In addition to the aesthetic criteria by which we evaluate our submissions, we value cultural relevance in the work we choose to program.
We also hope that our lineup represents the diversity of the cinematic work produced by young people in our city. Of the 44 films in this year’s lineup, more than half are directed by women, and a quarter feature non-white actors or subjects in the lead role. In particular, I’m excited to share some of this year’s documentaries and animated films, which I think break new ground for the quality of work we’ve shown.
We invite you to join us in celebrating the next generation of Toronto filmmakers this Saturday, August 6 at Innis College at University of Toronto. For more information and to order tickets, visit torontoyouthshorts.ca
It is well-known that Canadian society is made up of a variety of ethnic cultures. Canada’s long-standing policy of multiculturalism allows each individual Canadian the opportunity to explore and promote his or her ethnic background in a variety of ways, from attending language courses to participating in cultural festivals. For many Canadians, connecting with one’s ethnic background is a source of pride and identity. It can also help someone figure out where they have come from, make sense of the present, and chart a new course for his or her future.
Atikamekw First Nation filmmaker Thérèse Ottawa’s documentary short Red Path(Le chemin rouge), released in 2015, is an emotional look at a young Atikamekw man’s life journey of redemption, forgiveness and farsightedness. In this 15-minute film produced by the NFB’s Johanne Bergeron, Tony Chachai recalls his, as well as his mother’s, substance abuse during his formative years. Forgiving his mother and filled with a strong desire for change, Tony recounts his mother’s final request: that he would become a dancer. Tony’s cousin, Ronny Chachai, is instrumental in helping him learn to dance, thereby connecting Tony to his Atikamekw roots. Watch the film below:
From start to finish, there was a sense of peace, hope and optimism emanating from Tony in the film. It was fascinating to see Ronny conduct the ceremonial prayer with Tony. It was also heartwarming to see Tony visit his mother’s grave in his dancers clothing, conversing with her and revealing to her that his partner will be giving birth to her grandchild. Finally, seeing Tony dance with his cousin Ronny showed his ultimate connection with his culture, enabling him to move forward to become, in his own words, a role model for others.
Red Path premiered at Présence Autochtone in 2015, where it received special mentions in the Best Short Film and Télé-Québec Best Choice Award categories. Since then, it has been featured at the Rendez-vous du cinéma québécois, the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, San Francisco’s American Indian Film Festival, Vancouver’s DOXA Documentary Film Festival as well as the Yorkton Film Festival, where it received the Golden Sheaf Award in the Multicultural category.
Red Path is compelling and encouraging; it is highly recommended to anyone who is seeking to let go of the past, reconnect with one’s self in the present, and go forward with a renewed sense of purpose for the future. It is also an educational glimpse into life on Atikamekw First Nation. Good luck to Thérèse in her future filmmaking career.
The last trio of Canadian filmmakers appeared on the third episode of CBC’s Short Film Face Off on July 2nd. They all had their spotlights beaming on the $45,000 film production prize to be won on next week’s finals courtesy of Telefilm Canada and William F. White.
This time, it was Hector Herrera (The Ballad of Immortal Joe), Daniel Boos (Bound) and Rachelle Casseus (The Buckley Brothers) who were featured on the program and made their pitches to the panel. These three short films were brimming with romance, drama and comedy. In the animated The Battle of Immortal Joe, a cowboy monster recounts his tale of love and sadness; a shopkeeper in Bound is torn when he discovers his brother employs foreign workers; two brothers born of different fathers are convinced they are identical twins in The Buckley Brothers.
In the end, The Buckley Brothers finished in third place with 12.0 points, with Bound coming in second place with 13.5 points. The Ballad of Immortal Joe clinched first place with 14.0 points and was the highest-scoring film on the program this season.
Tonight’s shorts had certain characteristics to them that should make them audience favorites at future film festivals. The Ballad of Immortal Joe was an entertaining and unique tribute to the old cowboy stories of The Old West. We also learn the lesson that despite our sorrows, there are others who are worse-off in life. The shopkeeper faced a difficult situation in Bound – how to deal with the fact that his generous brother is also using foreign (read: illegal) workers at his sawmill. The appearance of the small paper note signified the seriousness of the plight of these workers, while the mystery of the unknown message written in the note has the ability to raise curiosity levels in any viewer. The two brothers in The Buckley Brothers symbolized that one can be happy and accept others despite overt differences. The two young girls’ memories of their dates with the brothers were funny and the children who played the brothers as young kids bore an almost uncanny resemblance to the grown actors.
Hats off to Hector, Daniel and Rachelle for competing on Short Film Face Off. All the best goes to Hector as he approaches possible immortality on next week’s season finale. Viewers have the chance to vote for their favourite film from the past three weeks at cbc.ca/shortfilmfaceoff or by phoning 1-877-876-3636 until Sunday night.
You can watch tonight’s episode and each of these three films again online at CBC Player.
Short film fans can agree that the medium of short film gives the filmmaker the opportunity to bring important social and cultural issues to light. These films have the power to deliver a wealth of information and insight to a viewing public that can rival the reporting made by traditional media. In Canada, social issues concerning women or the plight of Aboriginal and Indigenous people have been featured in news reports numerous times in the past. But filmmakers, in particular female filmmakers, have an opportunity to examine and present these topics by using their own voice and experiences.
One festival that you can visit right now and see some examples of shorts made by Canadian female filmmakers is the Female Eye Film Festival. Running from June 14th to June 19th, the festival is taking place at The Theatre Centre located at 1115 Queen Street West in Toronto. A majority of their short films will be screened on Saturday and Sunday of the festival run. From 12 noon until 2 pm on Saturday, you can watch shorts produced by female First Nations filmmakers during the Aboriginal & Indigenous Film Program. On Sunday, the Canadian Shorts & Documentaries program will feature shorts made by a number of Canadian female directors.
Leslie-Ann Coles, the founder and director of Female Eye Film Festival provided this comment: “The Female Eye makes a strong commitment to our National directors and we are delighted to present a series of short films directed by Canadian women directors.”
Short Film Fan wishes everyone involved in organizing and producing Female Eye all the best for a successful festival!
ATTENTION TORONTO READERS OF SHORT FILM FAN: If you are interested and able to attend the festival this weekend, Female Eye has four pairs of tickets to give away to see the shorts at the festival. Two pairs are available for the Aboriginal & Indigenous Film Program and another two for the Canadian Shorts & Documentaries program. All you have to do is send an email to Sasha at email@example.com with the name of program you would like to attend and she will make arrangements for you to pick them up.
Happy watching, short film fans, and enjoy the festival!