Tag Archives: short films

Shorts: Fantasia

Sleazy Pete: At less than 12 minutes long, Sleazy Pete still manages to go through 55 gallons of fake blood. That seems extraneous since Sleazy Pete is a priest who lives by the principle “Love thy neighbour” but the convenient loophole there is that the homeless aren’t neighbours to anyone so are therefore ripe for the killing. If you love B-movie gore, this one is wall-to-wall apocalyptic violence

Don’t Ever Change: Karen Hickman is newly paroled after spending her entire adulthood in DontEverChange-CyndiWilliamsprison for a crime she committed when she was 17. She’s in the midst of reconnecting with her biological daughter when a “fan” shows up with an inappropriate request. The productions values are great, the writing is fun; in less than 10 minutes director Don Swaynos gives us something truly satisfying…although I wouldn’t have minded even more!

The Story of 90 Coins: A man is much more serious about his relationship than his girlfriend is. As a compromise, she agrees to be wooed for 90 days. Every day he leaves her with a coin. At the end of 90 days, they’ll either have enough money for farewell drinks, or a marriage certificate. Sure it’s hella romantic but it also puts our poor heroine in the unfortunate position of having to choose between love and career. This short film is gorgeously shot, and if you’re in the mood to have your heart strings yanked upon fiercely, there are buckets of tears wept in the 9 minute running time.

The Madame In Black: A woman was burned for witchery, and centuries later, children still remember her with a game wherein the very brave call her name 3 times into a mirror. This short horror is perfectly edited for maximum tension.

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SXSW: Catherine (Short)

This short animated film requires a huge suspension of disbelief: that cats are anything but awful, awful creatures. That said, if you can stomach the premise, you might find Catherine to be quite endearing.

Catherine is a little girl well on her way to becoming a crazy cat lady. It would seem the only prerequisite to being a crazy cat lady is accidentally killing everything else (or driving CATH_A3_poster_v006them to suicide) and that seems about right to me. Even though Catherine’s a bit of a hazard, you can’t help but root for her, root for her happiness. I am completely drawn in by the animation by Creative Conspiracy studios – it looks very picture-book friendly, yet the humour within is surprisingly dark. The colours are like candy and used thoughtfully throughout. I always admire short films because to tell a story well they must be economical and equally strong visually and narratively. Catherine (the film) is all of these things wrapped up in a cutesy little package. Catherine (the character) is not so perfect, nor, it turns out, so cute: Catherine grows up. Into a woman who means well but can’t connect with humans. Wonder why? See the film!

Director Britt Raes was of course inspired by her own kitty, Kato. She’s assembled a terrific little film that you can’t help but be excited about. Special mention goes to Pieter Van Dessel (Marble Sounds) who composed this nifty little score that uplifts and contributes to the story. It’s a very admirable little film that I hope you’ll take the time to see as it makes its North American debut at the South By SouthWest Conference and Festival this Sunday March 12 at Zach Theatre (10:45am slot), and again on the 13th at 8:15pm, and on March 16 at 3pm at Alamo Lamar. Happy watching, cat lovers!

 

 

Oscar Spotlight: Live-Action Shorts

My favourite thing about sitting down to watch a short film is having no idea what to expect. I rarely watch a feature film without having seen a trailer or at least having read something about it. When I watch a collection of shorts, I am pretty much ready for anything.

 

mindenki_behindthecurtainMindenki (Sing). Everyone who wants to is welcome to sing in choir, promises the principal at Zsófi’s new school. The truth, she will soon discover, is more complicated. Zsófi is an enthusiastic student until her spirit is crushed when Miss Erika, who thinks they may have a real shot at the championship this year, takes her aside and asks her to stop singing out loud.

Mindenki has a lot going on in just 25 minutes. Watching a 10 or 11 year-old being told by her favourite teacher that she simply isn’t good enough and that she should just “mouth the words” while the others sing is pretty much as heartbreaking as it sounds. It says a lot about the ways some students can get left behind and the ways that a careless teacher can demoralize a child and stifle creativity.

silent-nightsLikeable actors, terrific editing, and a timely story go a long way in elevating the imperfect but nonetheless effective Silent Nights. Mostly a love story set against the backdrop of the immigration and refugee controversy in Western Europe, Silent Nights follows a brief affair between a Danish girl volunteering in a shelter and a homeless man from Ghana.

Silent Nights packs a lot of story into 30 minutes and it features a much clearer beginning, middle, and end than I’m used to seeing in short films. It’s actually structured like a min feature film complete with subplots that lead nowhere. The script is ocassionally a little too sentimental but it earns big points for introducing us to two complex characters that we can care about.

 

With just 15 minutes, Timecode is the shortest of the five nominated shorts. It’s also potentially the most confusing. Luna is a parking lot attendant who discovers that her colleague Diego has left a surpritimecodese for her. He has danced his heart out in front of the security cameras for her amusement. I have to admit though that it took me awhile to recognize it as dancing. I thought at first that he was fighting off an invisible assailant. So begins their unusual shift exchange ritual.

Timecode has already picked up several awards including the Palmes d’Or at Cannes and more importantly Best International Shortfilm at the Whistler Film Festival so its got a serious shot at the Oscar. It’s cute, well-made (even if not always well-danced but hey we forgave La La Land), and is probably the least pretentious of the five nominees. I just simply didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the others.

 


Ennemis Interieurs (Enemies Within)
is the more disciplined of the two Europeans Can Be Racist shorts (see Silent Nights above). Enemies Within is mostly just two people in a room talking but holy shit is itennemis-interieurs3 tense. A citizenship interview slowly morphs into a full-on national security interrogation.

Ennemis Interieurs can sort of feel like just a really good scene from the glory days of Homeland but the acting and directing are superb and it says a lot in a short time about institutional racism and self-fulfilling prophecies.

 


La Femme et le TGV
is my favourite of the five. And not just because it has trains. An aging woman discovers that her daily ritual of waving at passing trains hasn’t gotten unnoticed or unappreciated. The train’s conductor decides to write her a thank you note and their pen palling reignites her passion for litgvfe.

I’ve read one reviewer accuse La Femme et le TGV of stealing its tone from Amelie. While I agree that Amelie would give you a pretty good idea of what you can expect, I would argue that my favourite live-action short of 2016 takes some of what worked best from Amelie to deliver something funny, touching, and lovely.

Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts, 2017

Borrowed Time: a sheriff returns to the site of a crash, the source of his guilt, the symbol BORROWED-TIME-2.gifof his grief. The animation is twelve steps above incredible, from the flecks of gray in his beard to his slightly crooked teeth and the just-noticeable ripple of his mustache in a gentle breeze, the animators clearly know what they’re doing. Directors Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj tell the story precisely and economically, every frame adding a tragic detail. Builds to an impressive emotional valve in just under 7 minutes.

Pearl: told from a hatchback car that has traveled the country with a dream and a song, 3060252-inline-1g-dont-be-surprised-if-googles-animated-short-pearl-wins-an-oscar-this-yearPearl is the story of a girl, her father, and their music, clearly a family gift. We got to see this short in the Oscar package at the fabulous Bytowne theatre, which means we saw it on the big screen, which is actually not how it was intended to be shown. Pearl is the first virtual reality movie to be nominated for an Oscar. Director Patrick Osborne chooses a blocky animation style paired with endearing music that makes me wish that I too had enjoyed the VR experience, because it’s a whirlwind of pride, sacrifice, and in virtual reality, you’re the one with camera: every viewing would literally be a slightly different movie.

Piper: this is the one most of you will already be familiar with, having screened in advance of Disney-Pixar’s Finding Dory. It’s about a baby sandpiper being taught to forage for her tumblr_og1b37dVCN1qd79gyo5_540.gifown food. The beach is not always as serene as it looks and an unexpected wave leads to some PTSD for one cute little birdie. But she learns confidence and resilience, and the joy of helping others, all in less than 6 minutes. The animation is stunning. The ocean’s foam impressed me, the movement of each individual grain of sand. In great Pixar tradition, writer-director Alan Barillaro offers us something truly beautiful.

Blind Vaysha: pictograph-style animation (Sean called it “deliberately ugly”, I would blind-vayshadescribe it more like wood-cuttings, if I was feeling generous) tells a parable of a little girl born effectively blind – her left eye seeing only the past, her right only the future, which means the present is one big blind spot. And guess what? There isn’t any happiness in the past or in the future, it’s all happening right now and if you can’t see that, you can’t really see anything. Director Theodore Ushev has a great theme and plays on it with swirling visuals, challenging the audience to experimentation.

Pear Cider & Cigarettes: after several warnings to remove children from the audience, this “graphic” offering by writer-director Robert Valley is narrated in the first-person about pearcider_a.gifRob’s charismatic but troubled friend, Techno. Techno’s near god-like status comes crashing down as he slowly poisons himself to death with alcohol. It’s definitely the only animated short with full-frontal nudity. It was originally a graphic novel, or novels, comprising several volumes, which is why this short film clocks in at a hefty 35 minutes, every single frame of which is hand-drawn by Valley himself, over the course of half a decade or so.

The verdict: Piper’s going to win. Borrowed Time is probably its only real competition, and I feel they’re both deserving. I’m not sure how many Academy voters will have seen Pearl in VR but even the theatrical cut is immersive and interesting. Can the animation team from Google really win an Oscar? While Blind Vaysha certainly has an eye-catching style, the story didn’t draw me in, and it ended too abruptly and without much resolution. Pear Cider and Cigarettes down right turned me off. If you’re going to bother animating a 30 minute sequence, you should also go to the trouble of writing, then editing your story- the narrative style just didn’t work for me. I feel unpatriotic down-voting both Canadian efforts, but them’s the breaks; Pixar’s still at the top of the heap. Take aim, animators.

 

Star Trek Fandom

Fans of Community might have been delighted to see Danny Pudi in Star Trek Beyond; they may also be forgiven if they missed him. Pudi was playing an alien and was unrecognizable. The role was the fulfillment of a childhood dream, and just 3-4 hours in a makeup chair transformed him into a creature only a mother could love.

fija-transformation

 

He learned fight choreography and studied the alien language alongside Kim Kold and Sofia Boutella. Despite the fact that sweat pooled under his prosthetics and his character gets beaten by Boutella, Pudi sounds ecstatic.

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There are lots of famous Trekkies: Mila Kunis, Daniel Craig, Angelina Jolie and Ben Stiller are all confessed die- hards. Whoopi Goldberg of course. Tom Hanks was such a fan that he went snooping on the Paramount lot where he was shooting Bosom Buddies at the time – it just so happened that The Wrath of Khan was shot there also, and he seized the opportunity to board the Starship Enterprise. He sadly turned down a role in First Contact due to his first directing job, That Thing You Do! Eddie Murphy nearly snagged a role in The Voyage Home and is probably a little heartbroken that it was re-written. I totally avoided the show growing up, relegating The Next Generation to ‘Boring Dad Stuff’ and not giving it a second thought until JJ Abrams decided to make my life a little more complicated by rebooting the franchise and obligating all the men in my life to insist that I watch. I have. I’ve even had my own Star Trek transformation. But only recently did I experience a Star Trek fan film – a story that exists within the Star Trek framework\universe, lovingly created by talented film making fans.

Paul Laight, a gentleman kind enough to have been visiting us here for some time, just so happens to be a writer and producer on the film, and he and director Gary O’ Brien generously granted us answers to some of our most burning questions. But first, please watch the film, Chance Encounter.

This is a bit rude, but I was frankly surprised by how good it is. We are sent all kinds of movies to review, and lots of them are amateur jobs that make us cringe with their bad writing or terrible acting. This little piece, however, is well polished. It isn’t just made with good intentions, but with talent and professionalism. Thematically it’s an excellent fit for the Star Trek family, but the story could and would hold up without it.

Without further ado, an interview with the filmmakers.

ASSHOLES: What came first, did you decide to make a Star Trek movie, or did the story just seem like a natural fit in the ST universe?

PAUL: The latter. Myself and Gary have made some very dramatic war and horror short films, plus comedies, in the past as Fix Films so when he came to me with the idea of something more gentle and romantic I thought that would make a great change of pace and genre. Gary suggested a short involving an older man and a younger woman. Now, usually this idea can lend itself to something more sleazy but we did not want that. We wanted something emotional which would resonate rather than titillate. So, I had a think about it and eventually came up with the idea you kind of see in Chance Encounter. Originally it was set on a rooftop and it was just two people meeting and having an impact on each other’s lives despite only meeting briefly. Then Gary suggested we could make it as a Star Trek fan film and I agreed it would a fascinating project to attempt.

GARY: Yes exactly, once Paul introduced a Sci-fi element to one of his story outlines it suddenly opened up a new area to us that I could see was very much Star Trek shaped!

ASSHOLES: What level of fandom do you have to achieve before attempting fan fiction? Do you worry about upsetting other fans?

PAUL: I guess Gary may be able to answer this question better than me as he is a proper Star Trek fan. My feeling was that as a writer I wanted to do my utmost to tell a compelling story with intriguing characters which connects with everyone. I wrote the screenplay not just for Star Trek fans but for those who enjoy good stories. I was very confident no one would be upset by the story as the characters are intrinsically positive and at no time are we parodying Star Trek or the franchise in general. What was always great about Star Trek is that the characters and concepts were always compelling, so while open to satire, I was not interested in that. If someone is upset at Chance Encounter then they probably have anger issues.

GARY: I think you have to just tell your story first and then fit the expected “fan” elements in around it, which is how the staff writers across all the series approached things too I suspect. “Star Trek” evokes certain things that one might assume you have to include – aliens, transporters, warp drive, photon torpedoes, etc, all of which are absent from our film, and so maybe if there is a level of fandom you need to reach before writing fan fiction, it’s knowing the franchise well enough to strip out all the surface elements like those and yet still feel true to the source material.

ASSHOLES: What was it like making a film with so many visual effects on a limited budget?

PAUL: Gary is the tech genius and it is a testament to his years of training that he was able to produce such great results on a limited budget. Kudos to him.

GARY: Thanks mate! I think on such a low budget, part of getting the visual effects “right” is knowing when not to do them. It’s tempting to think that once you’ve got the computer and the software the sky’s the limit and so why not go crazy. But that’s not how the shows were made. Why green-screen and motion track stars outside the spaceship windows when we can do it just as effectively in-camera with a black fabric and bits of tin foil? Less is more was our philosophy!

ASSHOLES: What was the casting process like? Had you worked with any of the actors before?

PAUL: Having made over ten short films and various promos over the years our casting process is very organised now. We use online casting websites such as Shooting People and Casting Call Pro and have also built up an ensemble of actors we have used in the past. There are SO many talented people out there and when we post on the sites you will get a hell of a lot of responses. We then sieved the actors down to a shortlist and then we either meet in person (where the leads are concerned most definitely) or Skype first contact before meeting them. We had only worked with Phil Delancy before (Captain Janssen) so this was a whole new cast generally on this one.

GARY: Yes the casting went pretty smoothly and we feel blessed that we found such good people for all the roles. Everyone was very professional and did a great job – a pleasure to work with them all.

ASSHOLES: What are the challenges of making a short film rather than feature length?

PAUL: Well, I haven’t made a feature film but I have worked on them as crew and obviously everything is bigger on a feature; even a low budget one. Personally, though I think the amount of hard work you need to put in is commensurate for both. Most importantly in any production is you must have a good story and screenplay as your basis, then you can get talented people to commit to the project. Of course, a short film for me is a microcosmic feature but the biggest challenge is me and Gary pretty much did EVERYTHING from start to finish. I guess it would be difficult to do that on a feature, but maybe not impossible – as Robert Rodriguez has demonstrated.

GARY: My only experiences on features were as a tiny cog in a very large machine, but as director on numerous shorts you have to do everything. I guess film-making always boils down to being incredibly hard work though, just different kinds of work.

ASSHOLES:How do you run a successful crowdfunding campaign?

PAUL: Gary was the brains behind our campaign and I chipped in with a little clip. I think the most important thing is not ask for too much money! Be realistic and HAVE A GOOD STORY or IDEA you feel passionate about. We believed in our story and the angle of making a Star Trek fan film really helped us too. I mean, if you’re asking for $1,000,000 to make a film about paint drying you could struggle!

GARY: Exactly – we didn’t want to ask for any more money than we thought was needed. Also, it’s our first, and so far only campaign so I don’t know if our success was a fluke or not! We were just open, honest and did what we said we’d do – the rest is just left to fate I guess.

ASSHOLES: What feedback have you received from your backers?

PAUL: Amazing! One guy has even done a fan review on YouTube. All the feedback so far for Chance Encounter has been SO positive. People love the story and characters and effects, so nothing but good stuff so far. No nasty Star-Trek-Klingon-Trolling on YouTube comments either. Well, not YET!

GARY: Yes at this point people have been overwhelmingly positive about the film. With so much content out there we’re really flattered that people have even taken the time to watch it – that they like it too is just wonderful. Also, many of the comments say how true to Star Trek it felt, so that is a huge compliment in itself of course.

ASSHOLES: You’ve (Paul) described various roles as “caterer, florist, dead body” – what has surprised you most as a producer on a low budget indie?

PAUL: Oh yes, that was an attempt at humour on my part on my blog article. Basically, with Fix Films me and Gary have taken on various duties in the filmmaking process over the years and we love that aspect of it. But the most surprising thing is that film is ultimately a collaborative process and the amount of assistance and support we have had with our projects has been amazing. I’ve had friends and family and people I’ve never met before helping us on productions; and Chance Encounter is a case in point. Being a bit of a cynic I kind of thought that raising even £2000 for a Star Trek fan film would be tough but people came through for us and helped us make a wonderful story. I thank you all.

GARY: Yes, both the effort and money from so many people that made Chance Encounter happen was a thing to behold – we’re incredibly grateful.

ASSHOLES: Any plans to revisit these characters?

PAUL: I wouldn’t rule it out at all. It depends on writing a script that would work and of course getting finance on another production. But we spent a lot of time working on the characters, creating their back stories and biographies, so there is a great foundation with which to work from.

GARY: Well these characters were created for this specific story, so as Paul says – if they do return would depend on if they fit into a future story or not. I suspect that there is another Star Trek film lurking somewhere within us, with or without these characters – but at the end of the day it would have to depend on whether future fund raising efforts were successful or not. Watch this space!

The White Helmets

The White Helmets is a short, 40 minute Oscar-nominated documentary that’s available on Netflix right now, and here’s why you should watch it:

My amazing godson is into many things: Ghostbusters, Paw Patrol, trampolining, and putting Sean in jail (aka my mom’s closet) are just a few. When he was one, I remember sitting out in the backyard on a sunny summer day, and marveling at his chubby little finger pointing at the plane leaving a white cloud across the sky. None of the adults would have noticed it, but at one he was fascinated with planes and trains and automobiles and had a habit of pointing them all out with unabated fascination.

The White Helmets, also known as the Syria Civil Defense, are a group of volunteers social-share-01known for the white helmets they wear while rushing into the crumbling buildings and raging fires left after an airstrike. They live in and around Aleppo, and are committed to saving as many of the innocent but somehow still targeted civilians that get attacked every single day in Syria.

Over 400 000 Syrians have been killed in the past 5 years. The city of Aleppo is in ruins. There are no more services, no more infrastructure. Ordinary people – a tailor, a blacksmith, a builder – are learning the art of first response because they must. No one else is coming.

This documentary doesn’t touch the terrorism, it tackles instead the every day heroism of those who pull bodies from the rubble. The white helmets are of course not exempt from the violence. Their homes are just as likely to be bombed as anyone else’s. They pull family members from the wreckage. They know pain. And they risk everything to help. 154 White Helmets have died to save others, but 78 000 others have been saved to date. They have been nominated as a group for the Nobel Peace Prize but are banned from entering Donald Trump’s United States of America.

One man, a devoted White Helmet volunteer, tells the camera of his young son who crawls into his lap, cowering in fear every time a plane goes by. To him, plane = bomb. And that’s what tore me to shreds. By accident of birth, by geographical lottery, I am privileged. My godson is privileged. He thinks planes are wondrous. This little boy knows planes only to be destructive. It isn’t fair.

 

 

 

To donate: https://peoplesmillion.whitehelmets.org/act/peoples-million

 

 

Short: The Present

What was the best present you got this year?

Did you ever get a dog for Christmas? Dogs are probably as close to the meaning of life as we’ll ever get, but a dog is also a responsibility more than a gift, so  you should always think twice, and maybe even three times before you give a dog to someone. Like giving a cell phone, which saddles the recipient with a monthly bill, a dog is a mouth to feed and 4 paws to clean, and about 3\4 of your bed to kiss goodbye. But they fill your heart with joy.

That said, I present to you a 4-minute short that will likely pull on your heartstrings. A boy gets an unexpected gift from his mother – and he’s less than happy about it. With thanks to Mr. Bad Bloke Bob for turning us on to it, you can watch it here (and I recommend that you do):

Attractive animation and smart, succinct story-telling accomplished in near-silence. The Present is a 4-minute gift you should give yourself right now.

Short Films Galore!

Candy Skin: Ottawa’s own Kyle Martellacci has a short film that preys on our fear of the unknown. The protagonist, David, wakes up to find himself alone in a deserted world. Visibly alone at least  – something unseen is hunting him, but finding out may be more than he can handle. Watch the trailer here.

Lookouts: a team of young woodland scouts are training in order to defeat a mythical, Opening_Run_Master_2500_v2.jpgdangerous beast called a basilisk. Pehn depends on the guidance of his mentor and the memories of his mother to give him the courage to confront the monster he can scarcely define, let alone identify. Shot in lush coastal California forest, Lookouts is about as beautiful and accomplished a short film as I have ever seen and the acting is superb. It uses practical effects and real locations to elevate this period fantasy based on Penny Arcade’s Lookouts to something truly unique and special. Director David Bousquet has tapped into real magic, and you can share in it by watching the film here. You’re welcome. 😉

Pigskin: a cheerleader’s romance with a football player leads to a walking-nightmare manifestation of her body dismorphia. This body-horror short is stunningly shot, with beautiful, throwback cinematography that will hearken 80s nostalgia while communicating a present-day message about body consciousness, brought to you by the creative team of director\writer Jake Hammond and cinematographer\writer Nicola Newton.

Night of the Slasher: from director Shant Hamassian, this 11 minute short depicts a young girl determined to commit all the usual “horror movie sins” like drinking and dancing half naked in order to attract a serial killer. Why do such a thing? Well, that scar on her neck and the glint of revenge in her eye might serve as clues. Excellently executed and impressively shot in one take, Hamassian wants us to rethink the slasher genre and hopes to turn this short into a full-length, high-profile cinematic piece. You can watch it here, and see for yourself:

Shorts: ImagineNative Film Festival

God’s Acre

You hear the squelching of his boots before you register much else. An older godsacre_02Aboriginal man is paying his respects at a rustic grave. The mud takes hold of his boots, lets go only reluctantly. He plods back to his humble shack, and sets to work counting stores. His traps are empty. Nothing grows. A way of life very likely already threatened is now near extinction with floods inching ever closer.

Two Mounties shows up to serve him a final evacuation notice; he’s the last hold out. “Even the animals knew enough to get out of here,” they tell him, and though he knows this to be true, he is unable to leave. With less than 15 minutes running time, we can only guess at this man’s bond to the land, why it means so much to him, why he feels so tied to his home that he puts himself in peril just to stay. Likewise we can only guess at what life in the city would be like for him, a man who still finds dinner in a trap he laid in woods he knows like the back of his hand; a man who signs his name with an X.

With very little dialogue, Lorne Cardinal masters the character and gives him dignity as he wrestles with a life-changing decision, with only hinted-at spiritual repercussions. First-time director Kelton Stepanowich shot God’s Acre in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, and manages some striking imagery within his limited budget. The sound mixing is perhaps not what it should be but this is clearly a film maker with something to say about Aboriginal identity, and his is one of many voices that needs to be heard.

Dig It If You Can

This film by Kyle Bell serves as an introductory piece to Native American artist, Steven Paul Judd. Judd is a mostly self-taught man, whether it be film, Photoshop, even writing for television. The need to create drives him but his Native (Kiowa-Choctaw) ancestry is what inspires him.

spj3Growing up on a reservation, Judd had limited exposure to outside influences like film and television, and what little he did see never reflected his own image. Today he creates the kind of images that would have comforted his younger self in a style blending pop culture and Native art that’s all his own. Banksy-esque, even Warhol-esque, his art is at once familiar and thought-provoking. His bold, “indigenized” pieces, overtly or covertly political, give people pause. But more than that, they offer his people representation, a chance to see their own culture and identity as a direct influence on the popular culture of today.

Director Kyle Bell (himself Thlopthlocco/Creek) takes a cool approach to the film’s subject, never quite achieving intimacy, unafraid to use up 2 of the film’s economic 20 minutes keeping Judd at a remove. But he accomplishes what he sets out to do: he gives voice to a subversive Indian artist, and thus gives voice to an entire people.

7 Minutes

Marie’s walk home from her campus library is almost exactly 7 minutes. After being aggressively harassed one night, she can no longer help noticing just how vulnerable a young Native woman in Saskatoon can be. Her experience of reporting the incident, to the seemingly uninterested local police, only makes her feel less safe.

7 Minutes, the 7-minute documentary short from Tasha Hubbard, recreates 7min.pngMarie’s experience through a re-enactment narrated using Marie’s own words.

I’m not always a fan of re-enactments in documentaries. Like most people, for example, I was captivated by 2008’s Oscar-winner Man on Wire, but could have done without the fake footage. The recreation of Marie’s walk home, however, serves 7 Minutes quite nicely. First, it spares its subject, who is already brave enough to tell her story, from having to appear onscreen. Second, it is artfully shot, edited and, though I would have rather they tone down the spooky music, does an excellent job building tension. Lastly, it gives us the chance to imagine what it must have been like for her on that very scary night.

As a film, 7 Minutes turns out not to be long enough; Hubbard is very effective at covering the night in question in great and harrowing detail. Marie’s summary in the film’s final minutes about her experience with the police and her conclusions about violence towards First Nations women feel rushed. As a result the film feels like a short segment of an important and thought-provoking feature-length documentary.

Mannahatta

Films like Mannahatta are always tough to watch as a white male. They serve as a reminder that what’s mine has come at someone else’s expense. Manhattan is the classic example of that, a chunk of land “bought” for nothing where the tiniest square of land is now worth millions of dollars, from high-end department stores to small neighbourhood pizzerias.

mannahatta_fb6a8815_movMannahatta focuses on one of those Manhattan pizzerias. The film maintains a tight focus in order to convey its message, and that is a wise choice. Mannahatta is a small story of a new employee at the pizzeria who is haunted by a man that no one else sees. At first he is confused and annoyed by this ghost but eventually he listens to and understands him. It’s a cooperative awakening and we see that a joint effort is required to truly bury the horrors of the past.

The biggest problems are best dealt with by breaking them down into smaller, manageable bits. Mannahatta takes that approach and it succeeds in its endeavour. It is thought-provoking without being preachy, and its message is both obvious and worthy of repetition. We are all in this together, and while we cannot change the past, we can move forward together if we are guided by compassion and empathy. One step at a time.

 

 

Check out Cinema Axis for more coverage from the ImagineNative film festival.

 

 

Disney Short: Inner Workings

This past week at the Ottawa International Animation Festival, we were treated to something extra special. Not only did we get to see a preview screening of Disney’s upcoming short, Inner Workings, but we got to hear the director talk about its inspiration and production, start to finish.

2016-06-17-1466185874-8132255-inner1-thumbAs you may know, Pixar started the trend of releasing shorts before their films. It was a great way to showcase some stellar work that often gets overlooked. Disney has taken a page from the Pixar handbook and saw lots of success with its Frozen short, Frozen Fever, which aired before Cinderella. Inner Workings is slated to debut before their November release of Moana.

Inner Workings is going to take its place among the Disney\Pixar best. It’s a charming little short that nominally stars Paul, but really stars Paul’s brain, INNER-WORKINGS_first_look.jpgand his heart. From the moment he wakes up, we see the interplay between his two most boisterous organs, and the way they direct the others as well. The organs have been properly Disneyfied – they are cute, they are funny, but they are never gross or full of blood and guts. Paul is just a regular guy who’s got to get to work. His brain marches him toward the office while his heart is distracted by the many other tempting options. The pace is jaunty, the jokes are clever, the short is colourful.

Director Leo Matsuda and producer Sean Lurie followed up the screening with an in-depth look at the making of their little film. Matsudo was inspired by INNER WORKINGSthe encyclopedias he studied as a child, clear plastic pages holding the nervous system, circulatory system, etc of a man that could be overlaid on a body to see what fit where. Working at Disney as a storyboard artist, Leo along with many others, was invited to an open-pitch, where anyone could present their idea to John Lasseter and one would be chosen for production. Leo wrote his story with those encyclopedia images in mind. Spoiler alert: Leo won. Lurie mentioned that his deadpan pitched coupled with fanciful and humourous drawing really made his presentation stand out.

Matsuda discussed the influence of his Brazilian-Japanese background, the respect he has for the small team who quickly created his vision, the gratitude he feels at seeing his dream realized. We got to see the many iterations characters go through before their definitive look gets locked in, and the “cheats” they use in animation to create a small world as efficiently as possible, and the tiny little details in the drawings that all help to tell the story without words. Fascinating. Wish you could have been there.