The Canadian Film Fest is back, and they come bearing short films that depict the uniqueness of the Canadian experience. There’s a good mix of French and English content here, and I feel like some of these are going to scar me for life. Let’s begin.
The first is Woodpecker, where Fanny Beauregard (Valerie Blais) gives some bad advice to the people working at a lumberyard in French speaking Canada. She tells one of the men to forget about his girlfriend by going to a strip club, which is not the best advice to give to anyone while her adult son is around. That son is Emile (Will Murphy), the inadvertent workplace screw-up. Lot of interesting dynamics at play here that lead to a blow up that’s both predictable yet satisfying. Kevin T. Landry directs the short that the festival programs with The Noise of Engines, also in French.
Matthias Graham’s Bleach is next, Graham using his 15 minute running time to depict two real times and one imaginary one. The first shows a teenager, Damien (Jacob Whiteduck-Lavoie), bonding with his little brother who wants to follow his footsteps. The second timeline is a his tense swim meet, and the third is what he’s enduring psychologically. The third one doesn’t seem necessary, but the first explores sibling dynamics. It shows what it’s like for two brothers to communicate everything without saying a word, finding out what’s wrong without needing to actually know. Bleach is part of CFF’s first shorts program which also includes Defund, a short that I didn’t like.
Simplicity is key to a great short and Paula Ner Dormiendo’s On The Fence has that quality in spades. It shows projections of home movies in the background and in front of that projection are shadows of young adults that those children have turned into. This juxtaposition of images are equally haunting because these young adults are 1.5 generation immigrants. And these immigrants, like myself, have specific yet complex feelings about their identities. The best of the festival’s shorts, especially when it reveals the relationship between crew and subjects. The festival programs this with The Long Rider, a feature film about repatriations.
Rent Do is next, the festival pairing it up with The Last Mark, an action dramedy about a hitman. The short is hitman adjacent, as three recently unemployed millennials (Jonathan Dubsky, Daniel Rindress-Kay, Sarah Booth). They’re living in English Quebec and they spiral after assaulting people at a convenient store. That spiral does involve the end of the world, where they end up barricading themselves in their apartment. There’s a joke early on where one of them go to a job interview and calls themselves a minority because they have green eyes. This might be a joke on the character’s myopia, but jokes have to be funny.
The festival has a second shorts programme that begins with Colin Nixon’s In The Jam Jar. It beautifully uses 13 minutes to sum up the last days of a mother (France Castel) and the entire life of her 50 year old son (Alain Goulem). You know me, I always have notes, but I don’t even hate the circular frame that the short uses as much as a few people do. The actors’ narration also work so well here, adding a poetic touch to an already poetic film. Shorts like this can go in two ways. Any misstep in tone would have made this a melodrama in the pejorative way. Yeah, I’ll chalk it up to the narration work that matches the texture of the images that capture these lives.
Next on the programme is Alexa Jeanne-Dubet’s Joutel, which takes a simple premise and making it too complex for its own good. An old Quebecois couple (Marie Tifo, Pierre Curz) find a dead raccoon under a bunch of dry leaves. After that discovery, they decide to make a day trip out of burying them in their rural property. The short adds gimmicks on top of visual gimmicks, using split screens and CG to add magic realism to otherwise mundane events. But mundane was fine, it’s universal. And what’s the point of adding CG if it’s just little specks of it? Either go big or go small. The short’s in between approach makes me put in on the dislike pile.
See Ya Garbage is what happens when everyday people and politicians stop being polite and start being real. Specifically, three sanitation workers find out that they’re having Christmas dinner with a Quebecois Prime Minister and his wife (Caroline Dhavernas). After a few courses, the couple start asking the men about the kind of nicknames that the men use against them. This exchange points to the resentment that both sides have against each other. And it makes those resentments valid, making viewers rethink their opinions towards one class or another. Sometimes it feels like the short doesn’t know where it’s going but it sticks that landing.
Life is precious. That is probably one of the themes in Clara Milo’s Aska, about two young women (Rakel Ýr Stefánsdóttir and Lilja Rúriksdóttir) in Medieval Iceland. They travel to the ends of the earth. Actually, they’re walking to the edge of the island to get an ingredient for a potion that will stop a volcano from erupting. It’s beautiful in a way that black and white movies and shorts that use nature as its setting are beautiful. That should have been enough. Milo didn’t have to choreograph her actresses into doing copycat Malick choreography. And of course, the Medieval times was a time when people thought spells can stop volcanoes. But there’s something condescending about the approach to those beliefs here. That ends the second program that also has shorts like Nuisance Bear, a short I liked.
Festivals need a good way to end and the closing feature and short films at this fest might just be it. The feature is a Natasha McElhone vehicle about God – where has she been, McElhone I mean? The short accompanying it is [email protected], about a Quebecois lumber worker – see how the fest ties things around? – who gets an e-mail from a woman from Cote D’Ivoire promising a lot of money. But he only gets the money in exchange for using it to cure his cancer, build a school, and a few other things. The short weaves has enough time to weave an astrology joke here. It will break viewers’ hearts, surprise them, and make them laugh at the same time. There’s also some old man nudity here which, you know, adds realism to the short.
Super Channel is proud to present the Canadian Film Festival this year.
- Release Date: 3/23/2022