At the 2014 Cannes International Film Festival, Canadian short films were given the spotlight with the Not Short on Talent programme. Consisting of five separate programs, and made up of 45 short films, directors across the country shared their work with the world. Although we couldn’t possibly review every short film in the programme, Toronto Film Scene wanted to make sure to share some of our picks with readers, and to continue shining the spotlight on this group of talented Canadian filmmakers.
Prends-moi – 11 minutes
This moving short from Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, and André Turpin, fits in well with the current TFS theme of disability in film. The short follows a nurse working in a centre for the disabled. He’s tasked with moving a husband and wife into a bed together, so they may be intimate. Eventually, the couple need more help than the man is comfortable doing, and he’s forced to decide if this is too much to handle. This is a beautiful example of how able bodied people can frequently forget the challenges that many individuals face. While the nurse is upset about the work he must do, he quickly realizes not only how important his help is, but what his patients have had to give up, in order to simply enjoy the same intimacy that we all enjoy.
Day 40 – 5 minutes
This animated retelling of the story of Noah, takes viewers on a very different journey than they may be familiar with. Directed by Sol Friedman, who previously directed Junko’s Shamisen and Beasts in the Real World, and written by Evan Morgan, producer and writer of the incredible film, The Dirties, Day 40 starts with the creation of the Earth, before showing how people began embracing sin. Once Noah builds his ark, and the animals all board, the story changes to the strange happenings on the ship. If man had been sinful, the animals are worse, and what awaits them when the floods have finally finished, is even worse than anything they could have imagined. It’s outrageous, ridiculous, and darkly funny, and continues the great work from Friedman.
Sly Cad – 16 minutes
Michael Seater writes, directs, and stars in this short film, following Jack, a man who sustains his lifestyle by dating wealthy, older women. Climbing out of a house one morning, he meets Gabi (Chloe Rose), a young woman who causes Jack to break all his rules, and may finally be the reason he stops playing the field. While the ending can be a little predictable, it’s the chemistry between Rose and Seater that makes this one worth watching. It’s also shot in and around Toronto, showing a very gorgeous side of the city that few of us may take the time to appreciate.
Sound Asleep – 14 minutes
Written and directed by Aisling Chin-Yee, this short film follows Declan (Isaiah Gero-Marsman), a young boy whose baby brother died in his sleep on Declan’s birthday. While his parents try to deal with this tragedy, Declan tries to understand what has happened. The subject matter may not be the most uplifting premise, but watching Declan deal with his brother’s death is actually quite sweet. Declan has a strong interest in space, and he uses this interest to understand what has happened. Sitting in his brother’s crib, Declan talks about how there’s no air on the moon, and that his brother died because he couldn’t breathe the air here. If his brother had lived on the moon, he may still be alive. It’s a bittersweet idea, and one that only a child could think of, creating a very moving portrait of unending brotherly love.
Very Good Dirt – 13 minutes
This documentary short from director Catharine Parke is one that works mostly on a visual level. The town of McConnell, Manitoba was once filled with farmers, but the land has been left behind, leaving crumbling buildings almost every place you look. Using archival photos, Parke shoots images of the town now, with old pictures of the same area superimposed within the shot. The inside of a dilapidated building will have an image of the previous owner on the wall, or the film will have a then and now comparison. All this is set to narration from various people who lived in the town. It’s a visually stunning journey, and one that is incredibly interesting.
Josef & Aimee – 17 minutes
Another visually stunning short is offered in director Ben Shirinian’s film, Josef & Aimee. Josef and Aimee are two Jewish children, living in an orphanage in the south of France during WWII. When Aimee is adopted, Josef is heartbroken, but Aimee tells him to “always remember to imagine”, and leaves him with a caterpillar named Parpar. One day, Parpar begins talking to Josef, and tells him that if he wants to see Aimee again, all he has to do is go and find her. The short blends live action, with some incredibly detailed CG work, and even uses miniatures for some background buildings. It’s gorgeous to view, and features a heartbreaking story of love, in its most purest form.
Paradise Falls – 17 minutes
Director Fantavious Fritz continues the visually stunning shorts with the film Paradise Falls. One of the more lighthearted films of the programme, the short tells the story of two boys who claim they can spend at least a week in a reportedly haunted mansion, nestled in the middle of a booming suburbs called Paradise Falls. Once inside, the boys find that the house is so welcoming, that they just don’t want to leave. They begin planting food within the house, and eventually run into the ghost of the former owner’s daughter. Together, they live happily in the house, wondering if they’ll ever have to leave. Fritz manages to create a world within a world, as the boys take the empty mansion, and fill it with all kinds of plants, even creating a jungle in one room. There’s a real sense of freedom, especially considering the younger age of the boys. It’s something that many young people would dream about — having a place to live, without any real parental interference. It’s a secret wish come to life, and the journey is funny, and very entertaining.
This is just a small sample of what was offered during Cannes, and you can learn more about all the Canadian programming at the Canada at Cannes website. The short films presented at Cannes were outstanding, and while you may not recognize all the names attached to the films, you’re sure to be hearing from them in the years to come. What better way to get acquainted with them now, than by enjoying some of their short films. Be sure to seek out these short films, their creative teams, and all the amazing Canadians that showed the world what we can do.