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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
Have you ever wondered what types of short films catch the eye of Canadian filmmakers? When they’re not busy making a short film, which ones are they watching? This week’s guest post by Katy Swailes should shed some light on these questions.Katy was recently invited to screen the short films to be shown at the Jayu Human Rights Film Festival, which runs from December 10th to the 13th in Toronto. One narrative short is screening at the festival, and Katy has kindly shared her exclusive review with Short Film Fan.
More than Two Hours – a short film with big impact
The short film form often lends itself to the funny, the satirical, and the downright absurd. But once in a while a narrative film comes along with a tough story to tell—and a big issue to tackle—and ventures to do it in fifteen minutes or less.
Bishtar az do saat (More than Two Hours) is one of those films. From Iranian director Ali Asgari, the Persian-language film follows a nameless young couple as they drive around Tehran at 3 a.m., looking for a hospital that will treat the young woman (Shahrzad Ghasemi). They’ve committed the crime of premarital sex—punishable in Iran by lashes, imprisonment, or worse—and the woman requires surgery to stop excessive bleeding. But without proof of marriage, no hospital will admit her; so they find themselves back in the car, desperate and alone.
Beautifully executed by Asgari, the film is a slice of Iranian life that paints a tragic picture of a complex issue. Pre-marital sex is on the rise in Iran, where more than half of the population is under the age of the 35, and young adults are increasingly choosing to delay marriage. In More than Two Hours, lead actors Ghasemi and Taha Mohammadi (who co-wrote the screenplay with Asgari) are entirely believable as the young couple caught in the tension between hardline policies, family pressure, and a new wave of youth rebellion. Strained exchanges and nuanced looks, combined with the careful subtleties of the dialogue, draw you into the characters’ shared ordeal, and offer insight into their individual conflicts.
The story moves primarily between two settings—from the quiet intimacy of the car, to the cold starkness of hospital rooms, where the woman is barred from a potentially life-saving operation because she is unwed. In one such scene, the young man argues with the hospital clerk about the woman’s lack of options, while the woman sits, slightly out of focus, silent in the background. She has lost her virginity and her parents must know, the female clerk insists, matter-of-factly. The message is clear—decisions about her body are not hers to make. She has no voice in this discussion.
The tension comes to a head in the final moments of the film. Confined to the car, the couple has exhausted all options and face the reality of having to tell her parents. In an especially emotional and powerful moment, the young woman says something most young girls have uttered, at least once or twice: “My father will kill me!”
“It’s better than dying like this,” her boyfriend fires back, underlining the literalness of her comment, and the grave consequences for women when female virginity is considered a measure of worth.
The ending is all the more heartbreaking—and affecting—in its utter lack of drama. It’s a reminder that this small story about two young Iranians represents thousands more, nameless, silently slipping away into the night.
More than Two Hours premiered at Cannes in 2013 where it competed for the Palm d’Or for Best Short Film. The film has gone on to receive more than 20 awards and has played at festivals around the world. Audiences in Toronto can see it this Saturday, December 12, as part of the Jayu Human Rights Film Festival at Bloor Cinema. The festival opens Thursday on International Human Rights Day. Schedule and tickets at Jayu.ca
Katy Swailes is an independent filmmaker and an associate producer with CBC Radio. Follow her on Twitter @katyswailes.
From time to time, we’re called on by our friends to help them out in some way. When we’re confident in our ability to help, we don’t give it a second thought. But, what happens if we’re asked to help with something where we don’t have much experience with or knowledge in? What if our lack of experience and knowledge is made worse by a challenging adversary? What do we do?
If you’re anything like Jaime in the 5-minute short Cheese, you give it your best shot and “fake it until you make it”. Cheese was written and directed by Hannah Cheesman with Mackenzie Donaldson producing. Natalie Lisinska plays the role of Jaime with Tony Nappo as Cosmo, the cheese expert. Jaime has the daunting task of buying a variety of cheeses for her friend’s party. As Jaime enters the store, she is overwhelmed with all of the different cheeses available and is unsure of what to buy. Cosmo picks up on Jaime’s lack of confidence and tries to take advantage of the situation.
Through a somewhat intimidating manner, Cosmo offers up a couple of cheese suggestions which Jaime accepts. Picking up on his power trip, Jaime begins to boost her confidence level by demanding more random selections to be wrapped up for purchase. She wins the ongoing struggle by asking for a pound of Himalayan cheese. Stumped by Jaime’s tenacity, Cosmo walks away from the tug-of-war match beaten at his game. Watch the entire film here:
Cheese is a fun and relatable story. Everyone has been in a situation where real or feigned confidence helped to fend off a potential shark. The film shows us that it’s important to stand one’s ground and not cave in to your disadvantages. Showing tenacity and composure is sometimes respected by sharks. It was funny to watch this war of wits and it was rewarding to see Jaime walk away intact as the winner.
Comments and opinions about the articles posted at Short Film Fan are always appreciated. Similarly, anyone who would like to share his or her thoughts about Canadian short films is invited to submit an article to Short Film Fan as a guest. This week’s post is the first-ever written by a guest contributor. Katy Swailes manages social media for the CBC program, Short Film Face Off. In her article, Katy gives us a sneak peek into what viewers can expect to see in this season’s episodes.
Behind-the-scenes on Short Film Face Off
Earlier this year, nine filmmakers from across Canada gathered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to tape the eighth season of Short Film Face Off. The series showcases a selection of shorts and directors over four episodes, with the ultimate aim of winning a $45,000 production package. Each episode ends with one film—as determined by the judges—advancing to the final round. You the viewers will vote for the winner when the show airs this month on CBC Television.
I was at the heart of the action, monopod-mounted iPhone in hand, bringing a taste of production week to our fans on social media. And with host Steve Patterson (The Debaters) and an eclectic group of filmmakers hailing from six regions of Canada, there was no shortage of shenanigans to capture over four days. Check out some of the antics that went on when THE cameras weren’t rolling, but mine was.
These shoes were made for W-A-L-K-ing, and that’s just what Montreal’s Anna Sikorski did on day one of the Face Off, donning the actual heels worn by actor Madison McAleer in Anna’s endearing, coming-of-age film W-A-L-K. If Anna is nervous about facing the judges, we definitely can’t tell. Here she strikes a pose in the hair and makeup room right before hitting the set.
Catch the stompers in action when W-A-L-K airs alongside Emily (Joshua Demers) and The Toll (Scott Simpson) in the Short Film Face Off premiere this Saturday.
We get into show biz for the glory but we stay for the craft services, amirite? The green room is well stocked but not even Maynards can compete with James McLellan’s Period Piece, a clever homage to filmmaking with a twist that had us gasping and laughing in one breath.
From Manitoba, James shares the stage with Quebec’s Allison Coon-Come (Eddie) and Newfoundland’s Martine Blue (Me2) in episode two on September 19.
This year, Short Film Face Off production took place in the new CBC Halifax complex, a space that used to be a Hudson’s Bay store. Here, Steve pokes fun at some vintage-looking equipment found in the otherwise shiny new facility.
It’s all shorts and giggles until the gloves come off and the elbows go up. Amid the CBC Atlantic News teleprompters, Yukon’s Nina Reed (Nervous Poo), Toronto’s Patrick Hagarty (TheGolden Ticket) and Winnipeg’s BJ Verot (Loss of Contact) get duly acquainted before hitting the studio to tape episode three, airing September 26.
We promise no directors were harmed in the making of this show; but only three will advance to the final round. Tune in each week to find out who makes it—and then it’s YOUR turn to vote for the winner! You have 24 hours to cast your vote online or by phone after episode three airs on September 26. And with $45,000 in cash and services up for grabs, this just might be the most important ballot you cast all fall.
Someone once said “do what you love and the rest will follow”. Certainly good fortune has followed the love Lisa Rose Snow has shown for the arts and short film making.
Lisa Rose Snow is a young film maker originally from Nova Scotia who now resides in Toronto. Since childhood, she has involved herself in a variety of artistic pursuits, including acting. Her onscreen credits include appearances on the CBC comedy program, ‘This Hour Has 22 Minutes’, and the 2002 mini-series, ‘Trudeau’. Her experience in acting then led her to learn more about film making.
As a result, Snow won the Best Canadian Short Award at the Silver Wave Film Festival with her short film ‘Two Penny Road Kill’. As well, she picked up the Audience Best of the Fest Award at the San Jose International Short Film Festival and the National Screen Institute Drama Prize for her short, ‘When Fish Fly’. In 2013, Snow established Organic Water Productions Inc. with her friend and producer, Lora Campbell. The production company focuses on female-driven stories with realistic and complex characters.
Short Film Fan recently caught up with Snow to learn more about her background, her career path and her insights into the Canadian short film industry.
Short Film Fan: At what point in your life did you decide that you wanted to become a film maker?
Lisa Rose Snow: I’ve been involved in the arts since I was a child, taking piano, dance, and acting lessons since an early age. My first time on a film set was when I was in high school on the CBC mini-series, ‘Trudeau’. I continued to act and about five years ago, began learning and experimenting and mentoring under some wonderful people behind the camera. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
SFF: What specific challenges do you face as a film maker when producing a short film?
LRS: There are many challenges short film makers encounter when producing a short, and a lot of them are similar to the challenges of producing a feature! Even though the projects are shorter, there is still much paperwork, prep and factors that arise out of your control. And funding – there’s always the challenge of funding.
SFF: Last year, you were one of the competing film makers on CBC’s ‘Short Film Face Off‘ with your film, ‘Two Penny Road Kill’. What was it like being on the program and what did you take away from that experience?
LRS: It was a real honour to be a part of ‘Short Film Face Off’. It’s an incredible program and it really highlights the talented shorter form work coming out of Canada. It was a great chance to meet film makers whom I admire, and have a chance to share my story with a larger audience. I am always intrigued by audience reaction and love having an opportunity to have dialogues with people who may not have seen the film otherwise.
SFF: Your film short film, ‘When Fish Fly’, premiered at The One Film Festival in Ottawa on May 23rd. In your opinion as a film maker, how important is it that film festivals such as this feature short films as part of their programming?
LRS: ‘When Fish Fly’ had its Ottawa Premiere at The One, and we were so happy to have a chance to play at this new festival. I think it’s extremely important to program shorts. It’s always so interesting to condense a story down to its essence, and with a short you really get to focus on what it is you’re trying to say. Also, there are so many great short film makers in the world; a shorts program is a perfect way to see a variety of artists’ work.
SFF: Can you tell us more about, ‘When Fish Fly’? Where can we watch it if we can’t attend The One?
LRS: ‘When Fish Fly’ is a dialogue-less exploration of grief told through the eyes of a 9-year-old girl. It’s about courage and letting go. It’s currently making the festival rounds and we have some exciting news to share, but I’m not allowed to say anything yet!! Check us out on Twitter for all the updates as we are allowed to share them: @WhenFishFlyFilm
SFF: Do you have any new short film projects on the horizon?
LRS: I always have a number of projects on the horizon; that’s the way it seems to work; various projects in various forms of development/completion. I tend to focus on women-driven character pieces, and have an action adventure short in pre-production that takes place in the 1920s and a family comedy about an 8-year-old girl’s first crush.
SFF: In your opinion, why do you think people like to watch short films?
LRS: People these days can have shorter attention spans, and because everyone’s time is so precious, a short gives them an opportunity to have a mini-escape, feel some feelings, but still be able to get all their own stuff done.
SFF: What are your hopes and predictions for the short film industry in Canada?
LRS: My hopes are that it continues to flourish and continues to be funded. There are a few really great programs that offer some financing and opportunities for broadcast, so my hopes are these programs continue to be active and supportive of sharing Canadian content.
SFF: Do you have any advice for any up-and-coming short film makers in Canada?
LRS: Just do it! Nike really said it best. Don’t just talk about making shorts; actually make them. And don’t be afraid to ask questions; people will help you! I owe a lot to the people who let me pick their brains and ask a million questions, and patiently shared their knowledge and skills. Also, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Do you have a story you need to share? Then share it! Don’t do it for glory. Don’t do it for money. Just do it for the love of it.
We wish Lisa Rose Snow a very successful film making career and we hope to see more of her short films in the future! Follow her on Twitter: @lisarosesnow
Check your local independent cinema or festival listing for a showing of ‘When Fish Fly’. You can also follow the film on Twitter: @WhenFishFlyFilm
Valentine’s Day is coming. It’s that special day when you show your significant other how much they mean to you. But what about those people who don’t have anyone? Or, what about those who were in a relationship, but now find themselves all of a sudden single and lost? For those people, shopping therapy is what they feel they need in order to fill the void.
In the 9-minute short ‘Bagged’ by director Lisa Baylin, we are introduced to Emma, played by Kristin Booth. Emma is an attractive woman who has recently broken her relationship with her boyfriend and immediately found solace in purchasing a nice-looking handbag. As time progresses, she slowly becomes attracted to the handbag and develops an unhealthy ‘relationship’ with it. The handbag has temporarily become the new ‘boyfriend’ in a ‘rebound relationship’.
Of course, the film was hilarious throughout. Here is a poor, lonely young woman slowly getting into a handbag. The handbag’s sort-of human face added to the humour in the film, and also added to Emma’s attraction. I liked how there was no spoken word throughout the film; each scene had enough in it that no dialogue was needed.
‘Bagged’ does a great job at looking at the issue of materialism and how quick we are to handling stressful and unhappy moments by filling our lives with things. While it can act as a pleasant release at first, how many people go into serious financial debt as a result of multiple impulsive purchases? The film did an excellent job at waking Emma up to her shopping compulsion using a humorous ‘falling in love’ scene.
‘Bagged’ is a must-see Canadian short film for couples and singles of all ages. Enjoy it and have a Happy Valentine’s Day!
One of the goals at Short Film Fan is to feature people who make Canadian short films happen. This week, it’s a pleasure to post SFF’s recent interview with Toronto-based film director and producer Jennifer Liao. Jennifer runs her own production company called Believerville Productions, and is currently working on her latest film feature, ‘The End Of Days At Godfrey Global Inventory’. She graciously took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions and to share some of her thoughts:
Short Film Fan: At what university or college did you receive your film training in?
Jennifer Liao: I didn’t go to film school. I have a degree in business and theatre from McGill. I’ve learned about film making and continue to learn about film making by working on productions in different capacities, and by reading and watching and listening to as much as I can.
SFF: At what point in your life did you decide you wanted to become a film maker? Any family or cultural influences in making this decision?
JL: I knew pretty early on in my youth that I wanted to work in film and television, but the pursuit of an artistic career was adamantly discouraged in my household, so I was afraid of giving much voice to it. Ironically, though, my parents first enrolled my sister and I in speech and acting training when we were really young; they saw it as a way for us to develop our language and public speaking skills. It was a constant while I was growing up, and when I hit university, I snuck a theatre minor onto my business degree. I intended to pursue both acting and production work professionally after graduation, and a few years in, I had an idea for a short film I wanted to direct. I knew I’d really enjoy directing, but it was a total surprise to me how hard I was struck with the revelation that this was exactly the job I wanted to be doing while I was in the midst of shooting this film.
SFF: Who or what were some of your film career influences?
JL: The NFB’s animated short films and the Canadian movies the CBC used to air in the middle of night. I’m currently inspired by the films of the last few years from fledgling British directors Richard Ayoade, Peter Strickland, Andrea Arnold, Ben Wheatley, and Joe Cornish. I’ve long admired Nicole Holofcener, Ondi Timoner, Ted Hope, Mike Judge, Mike White, Karen Walton, Mynette Louie, Christine Vachon, Nira Park, and countless others. And I aspire one day to put together a collective like that of Borderline Films, with like-minded partners trading off roles.
SFF: How would you describe your film making style?
JL: I’ll say that in terms of the actual process of making a film, I’m a believer in “Best Idea Wins” and no false hierarchies. So, it’s important to me to establish an environment where everyone on a project feels they have the support they need to do their best work and collaborate with each other, and can speak up if they have a suggestion or a concern. I’m obviously not unique in that way. But, I think it’s a much easier thing to give lip service to than to do and I genuinely work at trying to achieve this as best I can.
SFF: You’ve made a number of short films, including ‘What You Eat’ and ‘CEO’. Where do you get your ideas to make such films as these?
JL: WHAT YOU EAT was based on a short story by a writer named Ben Ehrenreich, so credit for that idea is entirely his. CEO was inspired by the financial meltdown that resulted from the subprime mortgage crisis stateside, and was basically a reaction to reading about bankers complicit in the system that saw themselves as the victims. Inspiration can come from anywhere, and if I happen upon a general concept I’m excited about, I’ll work on distilling it down to what I hope is an interesting story that can be done justice in the short film form.
SFF: What challenges do you face as a film maker when producing a short film?
JL: I think the grand challenge for every filmmaker is to get the best possible version of what they are trying to achieve in the can, making all the decisions that have to be made and bringing everyone together around the same goal, while dealing with the very practical limitations of the filmmaking process: time, money, scheduling, weather, you name it.
SFF: In your opinion, what draws people to watch short films?
JL: A cool concept, an intriguing story, a performer or filmmaker that they like, a recommendation from a friend or trusted curator, an arresting still photo, the promise of any other element of the film that will be worth their time.
SFF: Do you think short film viewership in Canada will grow in the future?
JL: Yes. Even with the explosion of short-form content on the internet, I think there are still more opportunities to showcase and promote short films in ways that are compelling to audience. I’m in favour of the trend of festivals showcasing some of their programmed shorts online, for one. The growth of websites and blogs that cover and curate short films also seem to me to be an important part of building a more engaged short film audience.
SFF: Do you have any advice for any up-and-coming short film makers in Canada?
JL: Work hard, have fun, and respect the craft and your craftspeople. We’re fortunate in Canada to have a number of institutions that provide funding for short films, but they are of course extremely competitive. So if you’re pursuing this type of funding, read the guidelines carefully and use your application as an opportunity to really articulate (for them and for yourself) why you want to make this movie and how you’re going to do it. It could be helpful in keeping yourself personally excited and focused on what you need to accomplish, and convincing the decision-makers to put you on that shortlist.
We wish Jennifer all the best of luck in her current and future projects. Plans are in the works to screen ‘The End Of Days At Godfrey Global Inventory’ next year at film festivals before its formal release. For more information, please go to and ‘Like’ the film’s Facebook page and check out the webpage at:
‘Rhonda’s Party’ (2010) was directed by Ashley McKenzie, written by Christine Comeau and produced by Nelson MacDonald. Rhonda is an elderly retirement home resident who has organized a 100th birthday party for her friend, Margaret. Unfortunately, Margaret passes away in her sleep the night before her birthday and the party. The ward nurse, Amy, is faced with the unpleasant task of informing Rhonda of Margaret’s death. The party’s guests have arrived, as well as a birthday cake and a band. But does the party go on?
Amy (as played by Karine Vanasse) in ‘Rhonda’s Party’. Photo courtesy of Ashley McKenzie.
In my opinion, the film dealt with the topic of death very well. Everyone handles death differently, and so did our two main characters. I admired Rhonda’s strength in handling her friend’s passing and her decision to attend the birthday party in the end. Amy handled the death with professionalism, yet showing personal compassion for Rhonda. It seemed like Amy needed to see that party happen for everyone. The party presented some brightness and healing to an otherwise dark and sad situation. Amy’s smile on her face showed that the party truly had a positive effect on the residents.
Her short film, Out of Reach, is distributed by the WFG’s Distribution Department and is in competition for a total production prize of $45,000. Taping of Short Film Face Off begins next week with broadcasts this fall on CBC Television.