Homegrown Short Films at CFF 2023

Posted in Festival Coverage, Movies by - April 01, 2023
Homegrown Short Films at CFF 2023

March 28 is when this year’s Canadian Film Fest begins and like most festivals, they have a shorts programme or two. There was some international content this year, which may go against a festival touting themselves as ‘Canadian’. But I like the international flavour that these shorts promise. I of all people know that identity is more tangential than essentialist.

I’ll return to what I wrote about in this piece’s intro because it’s kind of a subject that the first short in Homegrown Shorts 1 touches on. But first, endings. Viewers hope for a good ending when watching an animation film with low stakes. One of the animation shorts here is Sean McCaron’s Corvine, about a boy (Robert James McCaron) without a name. He imagines himself as a crow and because of that, has a hard time fitting into Catholic school. There’s expressionistic elements here that it distills into a simple final product. Great use of pencil work that shows that there is a place for old school animation.

Alliah Fafin’s Amani delves on the porousness of this world. That what happens in one place also happens in another, that the earth and its people feel these shockwaves. This Canadian production tells the story of the titular boy (Ema-Yoh Mahamat Saleh). Amani lives in a Chadian village who visits a off-screen entity who serves as the shorts’ narrator.

Amani has a passion for dance, a passion transfiguring as he experiences the extrajudicial killings in the village across the mountains. Fafin shoots the scenery well, and Mahmat Saleh is a double threat. Through acting and dancing, he evokes his character’s evolution from a bright eyed kid to a sorrowful teen. Can’t wait to see more from both Fafin and Mahmat Saleh. And I have feeling that this is the best short of this programme.

Debra McGrath is a co-star and writer of Junior’s Giant. Here she plays a daughter of one of the titular characters, an actor with dementia (Eric Peterson), and a mother to a transwoman. Paula Brancati takes the directors chair here. She gives a warm touch to a family who has their share of good days and bad days. Dementia is probably not the bets thing to see a silver lining on, but this short does it. Maybe getting dementia means getting an imaginary friend to check on us to see if we’re treating our family right, especially the members who need the most love.

It’s always good to hang out with one’s best friend but sometimes those hangouts come during the worst circumstances. In Lulu Wei’s Soap, two best friends drink cheap beers at a hotel balcony, talking about the girlfriends who broke up with them at the same time. This feels kitchen sink-y and simple at times but there’s an intimacy here that makes me feel jealous of women.

I’m not 100% on board with all of the things I see in Everything Will Be All Right. It shows its protagonist Leila (Nahema Ricci) using a treadmill at her apartment instead of jogging at the gym or outside. But then again she’s probably doing that for two reasons. First is that she’s avoiding her stalker-y ex, bearing a secret from him that, in fairness, is none of his business.

The second is because this story takes place during the early days of COVID, a disease affecting, among many, Leila’s father back in the Middle East. Does she leave her Montreal apartment to risk her health in more ways than one? Is it worth it to let her father spend what may be his last days with her? The short, despite some nitpicks, effectively presents a moral quandary that many are still facing. Ricci isn’t as good here as she was in Antigone but her star potential is till present.

Old ideas sometimes need new perspectives to make it refreshing. Karen Chapman’s Quiet Minds Silent Streets turns a black and white world into colour. Here, she interviews Black teens from Malton who are mourning their classmate Jonathan Davis. That transition reflects internal change from anger to peace, a change coming into their lives through meditation. Yes, this feels like an ad but Chapman’s interviews show genuine growth within her interviewees.

Quiet is a good way to end the first programme, although sadly, the second programme doesn’t start well. Amanda de Souza’s Call Me Daddy shows what happens when a young gay Hispanic man, Pedro (Frankie Rodriguez) discovers his father on Grindr. There’s a lot of glare in this suburban hellscape and there’s also a lot of yelling as an attempt to oversell the concept, which has a twist that leaves a sour taste in viewers mouths even if de Souza means well with it. The festival’s worst short.

Just like Call Me Daddy, Kashif Pasta’s Desi Standard Time Travel has a man of colour returning to his father’s house but the execution here is miles better. The return is also more ambitious. Imran (Adolyn H. Dar) mourns his father Faisal’s passing, and he discovers that the latter drew out a time travel insurance for him. A new father himself, he wants tips from Faisal before his son is born, but he instead goes back to 1993, when he and Faisal (Ali Kazmi) are the same age. The subtle sepia tone in the photography really sells the concept, as well as Dar’s acting as. He puts sincerity into Imran doing things like compliment his young mother’s cooking. It was great to see Imran hang out with his father who has no idea who he is. The best short in the festival.

The next short, No Bedroom. A woman uses her phone to look up prospective tenants for her apartment. This woman talks to them about being the worst plant mom, etc. She says she’s renting the place out while going to Berlin, or taking a midnight train going anywhere, but she’s not gonna go. She’s also very selective on who she lets into her apartment, entertaining two white hipsters while hiding when one of the prospective renters is a fat bald old man. I normally tell myself that all films have a story. Maybe this has one but it doesn’t make its plot interesting enough.

There’s a meatier plot in the programme last short, Le Temple, Alain Fournier’s animation adaptation of an HP Lovecraft story. Here, a German submarine slinks around Halifax to target British ships, but seeing a dead British combatant slowly drives the German sailors to their mental brink. The animation here is lifelike, borrowing from videogame aesthetics, which doesn’t bother me as much as its other decision to have the characters switch from speaking French to German and back. Not the best way to end these programmes. Oh well.

  • Release Date: 3/28/2023
This post was written by
While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
Comments are closed.
(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-61364310-1', 'auto'); ga('send', 'pageview');