Category Archives: National Film Board

Trailblazing ‘Mabel’ (2016) Breaks Barriers For Women And Seniors

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.

Thank You To All Of You! See You In 2017!

A year-end message from Short Film Fan creator, writer and publisher Mike Kulasza:

This year, 2016, was an incredible year for Short Film Fan. It was a year of further growth and relationship-building which, hopefully, will continue on into next year.

Readership of Short Film Fan increased over last year; the number of visits this year increased by 50% over last year’s visits. New subscribers via email and WordPress have come aboard, too. This must mean that people out there are truly interested in reading and learning about Canadian short films. Thank you to all the new and current subscribers of Short Film Fan. I appreciate your support!

Short Film Fan featured an amazing mix of Canadian filmmakers this year. I appreciate all of you for allowing me to interview you, and thank you for sharing your fantastic short films for us to watch. BJ Verot, Molly McGlynn and Margaret Lindsay Holton were our newest featured filmmakers, and we also heard from our old friends, Alan Powell and Maxime-Claude L’Ecuyer. And, who could forget Short Film Fan’s feature interview with actress/producer/writer, Katie Boland?

Short Film Fan promoted a variety of excellent film festivals, too. Female Eye Film Festival, Air Canada enRoute Film Festival, National Canadian Film Day and Toronto International Short Film Festival were all featured prominently throughout the year. It is good to know that so many film festivals in Canada screen a wide variety of Canadian shorts.

I also had the pleasure in publishing guest blog posts written by Ihor Cap, Angela Perez and Paul Krumholz. Thank you for your interest in being a guest blogger and for taking the time to write and submit your articles. I encourage more of you to send in your articles to be featured on the site. A set of blogger rules was developed and written back in the late summer especially for anyone interested in making his or her mark on Short Film Fan.

Some days, it is not enough just to sit at a desk and write blog posts. It is important for me to connect with people in-person. So, I hit the road this summer and spent a week in Toronto, where I connected with Katy Swailes, Lee-Anne Bigwood and Karen Tsang of the CBC, and James McNally of Shorts That Are Not Pants. Thanks so much for an awesome time and for your input that week!  I hope to see you all again soon.

I really enjoyed featuring weekly updates of CBC Short Film Face Off this year. It was an exciting contest this year. Thank you for all the cooperation and feedback, as well as the shout-outs online! Looking forward to working with you next season.

One of my goals this year was to expand Short Film Fan’s reach into Western Canada. This happened in the summer when the National Film Board’s Katja DeBock in Vancouver reached out and connected with me. Thank you, Katja! I’m looking forward to featuring more NFB shorts in the future.

Much thanks goes out to Alina Kelly and Maria Dasilva for communications and graphic design help. I will always be indebted to you. Thanks also to Iris Yudai for some article-writing advice this fall.

To close, I can’t thank all of you enough for your interest and support of Short Film Fan. All of you are making the site what it is. Without you, there would be no Short Film Fan. Please continue to come back as readers and please think of me again when you want to submit an article, a short to review, or a festival to feature. All of your Facebook shares, Tweets and website pingbacks mean a lot to me. Your participation shows that you value Short Film Fan for its content and worldwide reach, as well as the hard work that goes into each blog post.

It was a busy and dynamic year at Short Film Fan. I would like to wish you and your families a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, and all the best in 2017!

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‘This River’ (2016) Examines One Local Organization’s Drive For Answers And Change

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.

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Follow Atikamekw Man’s Road To Redemption In ‘Red Path’ (2015)

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.

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NFB Hothouse Challenges Animators With 3 Month Apprenticeship

Are you a new and upcoming filmmaker who is passionate about animation? Are you up to the challenge of making an animated short that is only one minute long? If so, then the National Film Board’s Hothouse program is for you. In its eleventh year, Hothouse is an intense 3-month paid apprenticeship program aimed at giving a select group of new and talented filmmakers the opportunity to work with and be mentored by a variety of NFB filmmaking experts. At the end of the program, each participant will emerge skilled and experienced in animation filmmaking.NFB Hothouse 11 logo

Although the apprenticeship normally takes place at the NFB Animation Studio in Montreal, this year’s six apprentices worked out of his or her local NFB studio. The theme for this year’s films was ‘Found Sound 2.0’ whereby the films were created based on unusual or unique sound clips. The filmmaker had the choice to use pre-selected clips found online by the NFB Hothouse team or an audio clip of the intern’s choosing.

This year’s participants were Rhayne Vermette from Winnipeg, Curtis Horsburgh from Victoria, Catherine Dubeau and Pascaline Lefebvre from Montreal, Lorna Kirk from Halifax, and Duncan Major from St. John’s. Their Hothouse films can be found on the NFB’s website at https://www.nfb.ca/playlist/hothouse/

Besides accessing them online, these shorts are making their rounds at festivals, including this weekend’s Gimli Film Festival. For some of his thoughts about NFB Hothouse, Short Film Fan reached Jon Montes, producer at the North West Studio in Winnipeg:

 

Short Film Fan: What is the main purpose or goal of the NFB’s Hothouse?

Jon MontesHothouse was started about eleven years ago at the NFB’s Animation Studio in Montreal as a way of giving emerging animators an opportunity to work in a professional production cycle, but with a compressed timeline and a pretty invigorating group dynamic. It’s an intense production environment. At the end of three months, you come out with a polished 1 minute animation where, instead of doing it all yourself, you’ve had a chance to work with an experienced production team, sound designers, editors, and of course lowly producers. But as Michael Fukushima, executive producer of the Animation Studio in Montreal likes to say, the most important film you make in Hothouse is your next one. Opening up doors to professional animation production is really the key here.

SFF: How many Hothouse apprentices do you take in per year?

JM: Usually Hothouse is a group of six animators, though we have done some partnerships with other countries before where we also hosted animators from Brazil (Hothouse 4, 2007) and Mexico (Hothouse 10, 2014). In each of those editions, we had 8 animators. We get a strong number of applications each year from across the country. In this last edition, we received over one hundred submissions, which means that we could only accept less than 6% of those.

SFF: Why are these shorts only one minute long?

JM: One minute might not seem like a lot, but it’s an incredible amount of work. Hothouse takes animators from concept through development into production and post-production. Doing all that in just three months is a tall order – especially considering that animators are pushing out films frame by frame! That’s 1440 frames (60 secs x 24 frames per second) for those of you keeping track. But the more interesting reason to limit films to one minute is that is really forces animators to hone their skills as storytellers. One minute is actually a fairly large canvas in terms of what can be done, but it requires that animators focus on story, paring it down to its most interesting essence. Developing those skills are a huge part of the Hothouse, and we spend a lot of time discussing pushing participants to stretch their limits in terms of what’s possible on a narrative level.

SFF: Have any previous Hothouse films gone on to be made into longer shorts or feature animated films for the NFB?

JM: Every Hothouse film is a stand-alone piece, a self-contained nugget of animation storytelling, so we don’t try to expand them into longer pieces. Still, Hothouse is an amazing way for the NFB to discover animation talent across the country. Just to mention a few, Hothouse alumni include: Howie Shia, whose last film with the NFB, BAM, premiered at TIFF; Dale Hayward and Sylvie Trouvé, who led the stop motion production for the feature film The Little Prince and are in production for their new animated short Bone Mother with the NFB; Malcolm Sutherland, who was part of the very first edition of Hothouse in 2004 and just served as the mentoring director for the last edition, and Patrick Doyon, who followed up his Hothouse film Square Roots, with the NFB-produced and Oscar-nominated Sunday/Dimanche. All to say, a huge number of Hothouse alumni (70 in total!) continue to direct and animate on a professional basis. It’s a beautiful way to come full circle.

 

Rhayne Vermette explains why she became a filmmaker and talked about her experiences as one of the NFB Hothouse apprentices. Her film, UFO, can be seen below:

 

Short Film Fan: Who or what inspired you to become a filmmaker?

Rhayne Vermette: I was studying architecture and my work was quite concerned with more psychological effects , so I started making short animations with paper models as a way to pursue my investigations more cinematically. Making film seemed to be more a natural method of working for me – rather than making building proposals, so I just stuck with it.

SFF: How did you hear about Hothouse and what made you apply?

RV: One of the local producers here in Winnipeg suggested I apply.

SFF: What was the experience like for you professionally?

RV: It was interesting. I already have a fairly secure practice and method of working so didn’t get much out of the NFB’s methods of group “workshopping” work.

SFF: What are your recommendations to anyone who is interested in participating at Hothouse?

RV: There is this bizarre group critique process surrounding the program, I think it can get pretty overwhelming and daunting. I would suggest to anyone that they have the courage to stick to their vision as see fit.

 

Short Film Fan Commentary: These short animation films were fun to watch. It is amazing to see and experience the kind of filmmaking creativity that is out there in Canada. No doubt, the task of producing a one minute short animated film from a sound clip can seem daunting for new filmmakers. But in the end, new animated short films are made for short film fans to enjoy and new Canadian filmmaking careers are born. Looking forward to seeing the talent that emerges from Hothouse 12 next year. Thanks, NFB!

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NFB “Across Cultures” Website Features Free Educational Resources About Canada’s Diverse Communities

Spring is here and schools all across Canada will be letting their students out for summer vacation very soon. In the dying days of the school year, some teachers may be disposed to showing movies to their students as a year-end treat and to relax after a long year of studies.

One of Short Film Fan’s subscribers, Ihor Cap, recently wrote and submitted this piece to share with the site’s readers. Ihor is an Education Specialist with the Province of Manitoba and is also a web author at his site, Ezreklama. Here he shares with us a National Film Board website that is loaded with a wide variety of educational short (and longer) films from which classroom teachers could give their students something to think about regarding Canadian multiculturalism before the long, lazy days of summer set in.

 

‘Across Cultures’ is a National Film Board (NFB) of Canada web site dedicated to celebrating the contributions that different cultural and ethnic communities have made to Canada. It also exposes the many challenges these communities faced as they populated the Canadian landscape. Finally, the site can assist teachers to meet the objectives of their educational programs and issues pertaining to Canadian multiculturalism, equality and human rights.

What is available on this site?

This site in cooperation with the NFB makes available 120 English and French language films and 164 English and French language film clips. Most films include an audio description for the visually impaired as well as closed-captioning. Best of all, the films, teaching strategies, sound recordings, and other material available on this site, include a pre-authorized copyright license.  Of course, copyright ownership and source of material acknowledgement must still be provided.

What themes does the website focus on?

These educational resources follow several basic themes that ask such introductory questions as: “How have we contributed to Canada?”, “Who are we?”, and “What can we become?”, “Why did we come to Canada?”, and “How do we reach out?” This site also recognizes the less praiseworthy moments in Canadian history by asking, “How does integration challenge us?” The 1978 short film Teach Me to Dance, directed by Anne Wheeler and written by Myrna Kostash, speaks to the latter question. In the film, two girls, Lesia and Sarah, attempt to perform a Ukrainian dance at their school’s Christmas concert amidst pervasive racial bigotry and prejudice among the adults in the community.

The subject matter of these free resources is not exhaustive of all NFB films and film-clips for the 65-year period.  In the end, educational institutions and teachers should visit the site and assess the worth of these media resources for the classroom on their own. The “Across Cultures” website is found at http://www3.nfb.ca/duneculturealautre/index.php.

 

So, not only can we be entertained by Canadian short films in our theatres and homes, we can be educated by them in our classrooms, as well. Thanks to Ihor for the article!

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Why Do You Like Canadian Short Films? Something To Think About During NCFD

National Canadian Film Day is coming up on April 20th. Schools, theatres and libraries will be screening Canadian films in honour of the nation’s rich filmmaking industry. Thanks to Reel Canada and the generous of support of a wide number of partners and sponsors, Canadians will have a chance to view a wealth of Canadian cinema titles that they may not otherwise have access to.

NCFD 2016 - with date Along with feature-length movies, Canadian short films will also have their chance to shine. Under the title Great Canadian Shorts, fans can go online to see if a short film screening will take place in their community on that day.

As you make your way to that theatre or library, ask yourself this question: why do you like Canadian short films? Specifically, what is it about Canadian short films that attracts and keeps your attention? What motivates you to go out of your way to search for and watch Canadian short films? What is in a Canadian short film that you like so much that you can’t find in any other movie or film?

Short Film Fan recently put the question “Why do you like Canadian short films?” out to a few of the participating community partners of National Canadian Film Day. Here is  what they had to say:

Susan Baues, Innisfil Library & ideaLAB: “Canadian short film is the perfect vehicle for succinctly encapsulating the essence of what makes us Canadian.  The stories range from an expression of the national obsession with hockey, as in the classic The Sweater,  to First Nations interpretation of an extraterrestrial encounter in Lisa Jackson’s The Visit, to an examination of class relations  in Runaway by animator Cordell Barker.  The common element in these diverse themes is the Canadian perspective and humour we bring to them.  Canadian short film tells the Canadian story through our own lens.  One of my favourite Canadian shorts is A Sea Turtle Story which beautifully illustrates the sea turtle life cycle, as well as the variety of hazards faced by these endangered creatures.  Innisfil Public Library is pleased to participate in Canadian National Film Day and to have the opportunity to bring these films to a wider audience.”

Chantale Boileau, Barrie Public Library: I am always surprised by the quality of short films both locally (BFF Shorts) and from the NFB, but I shouldn’t be! As consumers, we are exposed to a lot of feature length films and film trailers while we have to actively seek out short films to watch. The NFB Film Club provides our library the opportunity to screen NFB shorts for teens, children and adults, exposing our community to short films. Short films are perfect for screening in open spaces in the library, allowing customers to sit and watch one without having to stay to watch them all. We use our Xbox and TV in our teen area, as well as our Smartboard in the public spaces for this purpose. The films we are screening for National Canadian Film Day are all National Film Board short silent films. My favourite short in our series is The Railrodder (1965). Buster Keaton’s humour mixed with an almost non-stop cross-Canada adventure makes for a captivating cinematic experience. From his unbelievable arrival in Canada to his accelerated and civilized tour by ‘speeder’, a railway maintenance vehicle, you are guaranteed to be belly laughing. I want one of those endless red boxes, he has everything he needs for this trip.”

Jack Blum, executive director of Reel Canada, also contributed his thoughts about the draw of Canadian shorts:

NCFD-circle-logo-EN“Short films have played an incredibly important role in Canada’s cinema history, particularly in the field of animation where the National Film Board was a consistent innovator in the field and garnered so many Oscar wins and nominations for its work over the years.  Pioneers like Norman McLaren, Ryan Larkin and more recently Cordell Barker, Chris Landreth, Wendy Tilby & Amanda Forbis, have burnished Canada’s reputation around the world with their brilliant work.  On another level – and this is true in any country – short films provide a critical entry point for young filmmakers trying to learn their craft and establish their creative voice, and as such it will always be important to help these films reach an audience that can provide the artist with that all-important dialogue about their work.”

There are definitely a lot of reasons why Canadian short films are so appealing to many of us. They reflect our diversity and our humour. They have a certain quality about them and their short length can be enjoyed at one’s convenience. They have trailblazed Canadian cinema and helped launch careers of many Canadian filmmakers past and present.

What are your reasons for liking Canadian shorts? Think about them as you sit back and enjoy them on April 20th. Tweet out your thoughts or leave a comment below.

Happy National Canadian Film Day!

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National Film Board Launches ‘5 Shorts Project’ On Website

Whenever we’re in a mood to learn something new or want to briefly step away from the entertainment side of films, chances are we will tune in to some sort of documentary. In terms of time, most documentaries can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. But, did you know that documentaries can also last the length of an average short film?

Logo courtesy of NFB

The National Film Board recently launched on its website a short documentary film project called 5 Shorts Project. This initiative is a film production partnership between the NFB and various Quebec artist-run production centres.

The first five short documentaries currently available through 5 Shorts Project were made in conjunction with Spira, an independent film co-op. The shorts deal with a range of interesting issues. Here’s a list of what you’ll see. Click on each title to be directed to the film:

The combination of the documentary and short film formats worked really well with these films. The production quality made it feel as if you were actually in the films with the other participants. Just like a short film, the length of these documentaries was enough so that the stories could be told concisely while stirring up the viewer’s imagination.

Short Film Fan Pick: Interview With a Free Man.

The next set of short documentary films for 5 Shorts Project will be made in partnership with La Bande Sonimage.

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Enjoy A Nostalgic, Stress-Free Christmas With NFB’s ‘Christmas Cracker’

Each December, Christmas is celebrated by many people in their own way. For the most part, these celebrations include attending parties, buying gifts, visiting friends and family, or participating in a church service. For those adults who are nostalgic, they will think back to Christmases from their childhoods. Pleasant memories surface of receiving unique gifts or partaking in family dinner traditions. When it comes to the present, however, the desire to experience a ‘perfect’ Christmas tends to cause stress and frustration in many adults.

The 1963 NFB animated short Christmas Cracker is a fascinating look at Christmas from childhood and adult perspectives. Directed by Jeff Hale, Norman McLaren, Grant Munro and Gerald Potterton, this nine minute animated  film is made up of three smaller shorts: two paper cut-out dolls dance to “Jingle Bells”,  a group of wind-up toys clown around with each other, and a man attempts to find the best star to adorn the top of his Christmas tree. Watch the short below:

 

Christmas Cracker was fun and relaxing to watch. The dancing cut-outs had a child-like creativity and innocence to it. The wind-up toys were reminders of Christmas toys from simpler times, especially the days before electronic toys came on the scene. The man’s quest for a Christmas tree star could be viewed as a commentary on how hard we try to make our Christmas celebrations flawless and that it’s OK if things don’t turn out exactly how we want them to.

The title is perhaps a nod to Christmas crackers that are a traditional game in Canadian and other Commonwealth countries. Christmas crackers look like large wrapped candies and are constructed with cardboard paper tubes covered with coloured paper. Two people pull at the cracker until it snaps open, revealing the contents inside such as candies or small toys. In a way, watching the short was like opening a Christmas cracker with these three charming animated stories appearing on the screen for everyone to delight in.

Christmas Cracker has a warm feeling to it with messages that still resonate since it was made over 50 years ago. Through its animation, pace and humour, it has the ability to lower stress levels and bring you back to Christmases of days gone by.  If it isn’t already a classic Canadian Christmas cartoon short, it should be. Enjoy!

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‘Eddie’ Drives Ahead To Reach The Final Round On ‘Short Film Face Off’

The second round of CBC’s Short Film Face Off aired on September 19th with a new group of fascinating filmmakers. Just like last week’s contestants, each of them had an opportunity to advance to the show’s final round for a chance to win a coveted $45,000 film production prize from Telefilm Canada, SIM Digital and PS Production Services.

SFFO_2015_Poster2The second group of filmmakers to grace the stage were James McLellan (Period Piece), Allison Coon-Come (Eddie) and Martine Blue (Me2). These three films were creative, memorable and reflective all at the same time. A filmmaker attempts to produce a love story during adverse situations in Period Piece; a lost toy car in Eddie drives itself in an attempt to find its owner; a novelist clones herself in order to spend more time with her family in Me2.

At the end of the episode, Allison Coon-Come’s Eddie advanced to the final round of Face Off with 11.5 points. Period Piece came in a close second with 11.0 points, while Me2 finished in third place with 10.5 points.

These films had an educational appeal. Period Piece taught us to never give up in the face of adversity. It was also an entertaining salute to the different film genres of romance, horror and action. Similarly with Eddie, the toy car symbolized the human need and desire to keep going until one finds what he or she is looking for. It was touching to see how the toy car eventually got back together with its original owner.  Me2 was a funny lesson in the old adage ‘be careful what you wish for’, as the novelist clearly got more than what she bargained for. The film also had a great roster of familiar Canadian actors such as Cathy Jones, Susan Kent and Jonny Harris.

During the panel’s scoring of Eddie, Eli made a reference and comparison to the 1966 classic NFB film Paddle to the Sea by Bill Mason. In this short film, a miniature wood carving of a canoe sets sail on a journey to the sea. For those who have never seen the film before, you can watch it on the NFB website: https://www.nfb.ca/film/paddle_to_the_sea/

Congratulations to James, Allison and Martine for appearing on Short Film Face Off . Good luck to Allison as she moves on to the final round. You can watch this latest episode and the films at http://www.cbc.ca/player/tv/Short%20Film%20Face%20Off

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