2006 Films

300 Seconds (300 Secondes) Canada Marie-Hélène Copti Jean-Sébastien Gallant Ginette Petit, Olivier Sabino There is no easy way to describe this tour de force of narrative truth. With one single shot, the Quebec filmmakers capture an entire lifetime’s worth of nuance. All Ben wants to do is buy a present for his son, but sometimes you can’t always get what you want. Never before has urban Quebec street culture seemed so vital, so important to character and plot. Leave your eyes in your head and don’t blink. One shot, that’s right, just one shot. Get it?
81-Year-Old Sweethearts USA Danielle Lurie Danielle Lurie Danielle Lurie Amazing, but director Danielle Lurie has fashioned a six minute documentary about an accidental discovery, an on-the-spot, live and real romantic reunion of high school sweethearts who had not seen one another for 62 years. It doesn’t get any shorter or sweeter than this.
Above and Beyond (Part 1) Canada/UK Sturla Gunnarsson Lisa Porter, John Doyle Paul Pope, Scott Garvie It’s a bird; it’s a plane… no, it’s Pope and Lisa Porter, celebrating Gander and its role in the Allied effort of World War II. George W and Condoleezza might not fully appreciate how significant Gander is in the overall scheme of things but thank goodness Pope and Porter figured it all out. With the help of John Doyle and a cast of dozens of people you know, Above and Beyond soars to the highest heights of production, some of it shot in the very theatre where you will see Part I. When dreams of flight are married to dreams of love you have a match, and a movie, made in big budget heaven. It shows. Above and Beyond is as classy an hour as you will ever see, and it’s made right here, in our own backyard, just above and beyond the overpass and into the trees. Congratulations to all for this fist class first act.
All in One Basket USA Lauren Berliner Lauren Berliner Lauren Berliner It’s said that about 10,000 babies are walking around America, all born from donated eggs. It sure has become a commercial living, and this intelligent doc forces us to examine the ethics of the practice. For many different reasons, thousands of women have bartered their eggs for money and sometimes a naïve sense of helping others out. But what do we really know about the effects of the gift that keeps on giving, and how much control should we have over our donations? Provocative and challenging, All In One Basket is all ova.
Anonymous, 1855 Canada Madi Piller Madi Piller Madi Piller For voyeurs only, watch the images come to life. Take a peep.
Baking On Heaven USA Dot Reidelbach Dot Reidelbach Laurie Allen They dress badly, they wear their hair in long stiff braids, they marry their children off at fourteen, they share creepy husbands… how is it that there can be women like this in a world that has Hilary Clinton and Gloria Steinem in it? Timely and provocative, Banking On Heaven features just captured charisma enigma Warren Jeffs, polygamist and major lawbreaker, as the self-styled guru of a huge sect of devoted women and the men who get to rule them. We seem to be as fascinated as we are repulsed by the fundamentalist sects of southwestern Mormonism, partly because it all just won’t go away; in the USA individual rights trump the social good any old day. It just goes to show you that Big Love is probably worse than no love at all.
Barney the Terrier Australia Anny Slater Anny Slater Anny Slater It’s screening katze and dogs at the film festival. Anny Slater’s latest triumph brings us Barney, the White House Scottish terrier, in conversation with his secret service agent. That’s right. And if you remember Slater’s The Ball last year, her abbreviated satiric version of the Jane Campion’s The Piano, you know you’re in for a laugh and a half.
Becoming 13 Canada Victoria King Victoria King Annette Clarke, Victoria King, Geeta Sonhi, St. John’s filmmaker Victoria King bravely followed three 12-year old girls around for a year, talking and listening to them experience their stressful, emerging lives. The result is this delicately edited summary of that experience, one that captures all the fascinating complexity of growing up with sensitivity and respect. Noticeably absent are dads. Moms bear the weight of the parenting, sometimes hovering like helicopters, sometimes letting their daughters find their own ways, but always worrying, considering, and assessing their relationships. Girls will be girls, of course, and through wise filmic compositions and the girls’ own candid articulations, we glimpse intimations of the adults they will grow themselves into. Becoming 13 is yet another excellent piece of work in a growing repertoire of documentary works by Queen Victoria King, if that isn’t redundant.
Big Girl Canada Renuka Jeyapalan Renuka Jeyapalan Anneli Ekborn, Michael Gelfand Award-winning dramatic short from the prestigious Canadian Film Centre, Big Girl shows off big talent. Filmmaker Renuka Jeyapalan expertly treads the delicate terrain of childhood, focusing on a young girl’s reactions to her single mother’s dating life. Nine-years old and sensitive as a kitten, Josephine works through her emotions with a studied, intuitive maturity. This is such a strongly directed and acted film you are sure to be grateful just for the chance to enjoy it.
Borderless Canada Min Sook Lee Min Sook Lee Tanya Chute Molina, Lisa Valencia-Svensson A lot of films scream Important but few are as well made as Borderless, a documentary that dares to give a voice to illegal workers in Toronto. Award-winning director Min Sook Lee has created a moving film about their many challenges and understandable fears. Brilliant writer-poet-thinker Dionne Brand wrote the lyrical script and it shows in every frame, every edit. In fact, Lee and Brand comprise something like a women’s dream team and Borderless is the inevitable, perfect, and socially engaged product of such a dynamic collaboration.
Cottonland Canada Nance Ackerman (in collaboration with Eddie Buchanan) Nance Ackerman (in collaboration with Eddie Buchanan) Annette Clarke Fresh from winning the biggest prizes at the Atlantic Film festival, Cottonland is a superb documentary about the ravages of unemployment and its inevitable illnesses. Filmed entirely in and about Glace Bay, a community reeling from the closure of the mines and the attendant emptiness of purpose, Cottonland explores the community dependency on OxyContin, and the effects of such addiction on family and friends. Nance Ackerman’s portrait of a town dealing with its own pain is unflinchingly candid and yet almost miraculously positive. Bravo to the achievement of such a fine and hopeful balance.
Dating Ray Fenwick UK Kitty Flanagan Kitty Flanagan Alison McPhail, Henry Normal What happens when you take a time-honoured theme like mother-daughter relationships and mix it up in the UK? You get Dating Ray Fenwick, a wacky approach with a honey of a punch line. No surprise that Australian-born filmmaker Kitty Flanagan was also a stand-up comedian. You can feel a bada-bing coming on but yet you’re not sure how. This is bound to be a popular festival entry.
Dealbreaker USA Gwyneth Paltrow, Mary Wigmore Gail Hilberbrandt Kevin Chinoy, Robert Fernandez, Dan Levinson, Francesca Silvestri You’ll be talking about this one for a long time, although perhaps not over dinner. Brought to us by the talented writing and directing team of Gwyneth Paltrow and Mary Wigmore,Dealbreaker is a must-see short about the perils of dating, the self-imposed prohibitions against finding Mr. Right, and a young NY woman’s resolve to go with the, er, flow. Crisply shot and edited, Dealbreaker probably goes where no dating movie has dared to go—and so we can practically hear your delighted squeals of reaction ahead of time. Bonus info, in case you don’t know: Wigmore is Apple’s godmother and Gwyneth is also known as Mrs. Martin. If they all show up for the screening you’ll hear about it.
Die Besucher (The Visitors) Germany Ulrike Molsen Ulrike Molsen Ulrike Molsen Perhaps being bored is the gods’ way of keeping us out of trouble. In this short, dramatic, German film, a woman invites a young family into share her living quarters or a while, not realizing what she is getting herself into. The film cleverly banks of psychological realism, drawing us into the power and fear of the unknown. If Hitchcock were filming a knock knock joke it might end up looking like this.
Dinner for One Canada Anita McGee Anita McGee Anita McGee Another entry by ex-pat Newfoundlander Anita McGee, this charming little flick will remind you of Neighbours, McGee’s highly acclaimed and former festival entry about thin walls and heavy breathing. This time we have thin walls and heavy singing. Mary-Colin Chisolm and Bob Joy take the lead roles to unexpected places, hitting all the right high notes along the way.
Dirty Mary USA Stuart Rogers Daniele Ferraro Mike Draghi, Alicia Ferraro, Daniele Ferraro, Dave Rosen It takes all kinds and there is something about Mary that reminds us of Sex in the City on acid. Mary’s dilemma is that she falls for the wrong guys and makes all the wrong moves. This time, however, she is resolved to do things right—to discourage a highly desirable suitor, not to lead him on, by affecting all the things men allegedly hate, from drinking and applying too much make-up to wearing granny panties. The short has already won a ton of awards. Danièle Ferraro wrote and stars as the dirty girl herself, and her performance is superb, almost have-to-look-away credible.
Electric Chairs Canada Anita McGee Anita McGee Silva Basmajian, Mark J. Bishop, Matthew Hornburg, Judy Gladstone Familiar filmmaker and former board member Anita McGee brings us this typically quirky short about the enduring power of love. George is celebrating his 95th birthday but what’s to laugh about when there’s no one his age to flirt with? Fortunately, Electric Chairs motors up to a delightful resolution to this challenging dilemma.
Familia Canada Louise Archambault Louise Archambault Luc Déry This widely acclaimed debut feature by Quebec-based Archambault, Familia shows you what French Canada does so well and with so much realism. Her life spiraling out of control, Michele and her 14-year-old daughter are forced to slum it for a while with an old girlfriend, Janine. But Janine is living a comfortable bourgeois life and made uneasy by the invasion of so much female intensity, unnerving her and her middle class concerns. Of course, all is not what it appears to be in suburbia and the plot unravels like a tangled ball of intrigue, with many comic moments carrying along the serious theme of dysfunction. This is very much a film about women and generations of class, social, and personal conflicts, all buoyantly presented with gusto and the kind of credibility reality TV can only dream about. Eat your heart out Dr. Phil.
Fourteen USA Nicole Barnette Renee Ridgeley Tegan Jones You might consider this seven powerful minutes that rock your world. Fourteen is about Hannah, a totally lovely young creature who awakes to presents and the warm honey smiles of her family. And some big family it is, too. Keep watching to see what all the fuss is about. Then watch your jaw drop.
Gnome USA Jenny Bicks Jenny Bicks, Tina Slatton Kevin Chinoy, Robert Fernandez, Dan Levinson Oh, how we love a Gilmore Girl and Gnome stars none other than Lauren (Lorelei) Graham in the role of desperate housewife Amanda. One day the Lexus breaks down and Amanda has to rely on the kindness of gender-challenged strangers. What follows is a surprising journey. Written and directed by TV professional Jenny Bicks, Gnome transforms a garden ornament into a metaphor of substance, even in suburbia.
Harvest Queens USA Julia Nunes Julia Nunes Janis Hass, Peter Starr, Silva Basmajian Women have the vote, run corporations, and, obviously, make movies, but yet beauty pageants thrive and girls still dream of being crowned Miss This and That. This highly entertaining documentary by Julia Nunes showcases three young women competing for the Harvest Queen title in their northern Ontario community. Wisely, the film avers judgment, preferring instead to show us the many sides of the competition and the girls’ motives for entering rituals just like this one. Each one is as different as peaches and cream, and each in her own way stakes a worthy claim not only for the throne but for the whole competitive round itself. You’ll be surprised.
I Was a Teenage Feminist USA Therese Shechter Therese Shechter Barbara Barde, Malinda Foy, Ellen Ko, Therese Shechter, Stephanie St. Pierre Yes, it wouldn’t be a women’s film festival if we didn’t invite updated considerations of the F-word. The filmmaker advises that no bras were burned during the making of this film, yet she does torch more than one stale assumption in this witty, amusing reality check. Therese Shechter wisely knows that the way to a viewer’s intelligence is though the funny bone, and laughter goes a long way to probing how feminism has transformed itself through successive generations. This film ought to be a primer for every Women’s Studies student, but it is so wise and lively that you should bring along your fathers, brothers and boyfriends, too.
I Was a Teenage Vampire Canada FRAMED Film Camp, Jessise Meyer Jessie Meyer Newfoundland Independent Filmmakers Cooperative (NIFCO), the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival MENTORS: Linda Fitzpatrick, Jordan Canning, Brad Gover Well, it turns out that the kids are alright after all. Or so it would seem according to the creative dynamite that is I Was A Teenage Vampire. Written by Jessie Meyer and developed by NIFCO and the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival during the 5th annual FRAMED Media Camp, the films stands alone as a testament to the work of the next generation of Newfoundland filmmakers. Hats off to FRAMED participants Desiree Baker, Jesse Church, Jessie Meyer, Luke Patterson, Melanie Jones, Melissa Williams, Samantha Hussey, Sara Meyer, Stephen Dunn, and Tara Bowers and mentors Linda Fitzpatrick, Jordan Canning, and Brad Gover. Contrary to popular belief, there are no vampires, zombies or horrific creatures of any kind. Unless, of course, you include teenagers in that group.
Irène Schweizer Switzerland Gitta Gsell Gitta Gsell Franziska Reck This irresistible film portrait of the great Swiss jazz pianist really needed a music room of its own. Filmmaker Gitta Gsell is smart enough to have recognized the formidable talent of Irène Schweizer and shrewd enough to let the music do most of the talking. In the male-dominated jazz world of the fifties and sixties, Schweizer managed to elbow her way, quite literally, all over the piano keys, emerging as one of the greatest improvisers in the field. Gsell brings the musician’s lively personality and her amazing skills to international attention through the miracle of film. If Schweizer’s music be the food of life, Diana Krall is eating her heart out.
Jack & Jacques Canada Marie-Hélène Copti Marie-Hélène Copti Marie-Hélène Copti The ampersand in the tile covers all the language bases, eh? Inspired by the consequences of Hollywood North, this dramatic short introduces us to mediocre actor, Jacques, all dressed up and soon to go on the Montreal set to play a tiny role against his idol Jack Nicholson. Waiting for Jack opens up a can of confessions. We’re listening.
Judith Canada Caroline Bâcle Caroline Bâcle Caroline Bâcle This one walks a really delicate line between pathos and comedy. Judith lives in an east-London flat surrounded by plants and her fantasies. She lives in her head, writing intense love novels and wondering when her prince will come. One day a nice enough young man shows up, intent on leasing her spare room and keeping to himself. This original little film explores their first weekend together in the same flat, the mysterious man and the deluded woman. You’ll laugh; you’ll have empathy.
Cathoey China/Thailand Ning Binbin Ning Binbin Ning Binbin, Ning Dandan, Xuesong Feng If you know your Wikepedia you know that the term kathoey refers to a male-to-female transgender person, or an effeminate gay male in Thailand. This documentary takes us deep into that world, and right around to the backstage where a gaggle of excited kathoey performers openly reveal—and show–what makes them tick. Not for the prim or easily shocked among us, Kathoey is a fascinating study of a popular phenomenon, one you don’t get to stare at everyday.
Keeping Up With Kathy Jones Canada Barbara Doran Barbara Doran Lynne Wilson Truth is it’s hard keeping up with Barbara Doran, whose directorial skills managed to nail down one of the most quicksilver characters in our midst, at least for a time. Everyone surely appreciates Cathy’s creative genius in front of the camera, but what is she like when the lights are off and the camera purrs to sleep? Finding that line between on and off, pubic and private, is never easy, but Doran and her crew worked their artistic magic and coaxed a lot of life and time out of Cathy Jones. This highly entertaining documentary is a candid portrait and a respectful tribute to one of our national treasures.
Kitchen France Alice Winocour Alice Winocour Isabelle Madelaine, Emilie Tisné France’s proud entry at the Cannes film festival, this stunning short film by Alice Winacour gives new meaning to the phrase ‘beautifully executed.’ The premise is simple. The implications are profound. A woman is faced with the task of cooking two live lobsters. In fifteen short minutes this amazing little drama outstrips even Annie Hall’s famous lobster scene of any possible legitimacy. Warning: it seems that live crustaceans might have been injured during production. If this keeps Pamela Anderson away from the festival all the better.
Like a Ship in the Night USA/UK/Ireland Melissa Thompson Melissa Thompson Melissa Thompson All agreed this strong documentary was just too important to resist. Abortion remains illegal in Ireland and yet over 8,0000 women a year travel to England to avail of the service. What’s wrong with that disturbing cost-ineffective picture? Melissa Thompson is the kind of activist filmmaker who puts her camera where her head is—reminding us of the importance of protecting and keeping vigilant of women’s rights. This is a terrific piece of documentary art, energizing and hopeful despite its distressing subject.
Made in India? India/USA Deepti Paul, Deepti Paul Deepti Paul, Sudha Narasimhan Deepti Paul is young, feisty, and under a lot of parental pressure to get married to someone just like her—that is Indian and middle class. She was born in New York but there’s no place for a husband like the homeland and so she agrees to check out the mating pool as long as she can document the journey. The result is this lively, often hilarious documentary about Deepti’s own experience. Will Deepti go from maid to made in India? Come see for yourself.
McLaren’s Negatives Canada Marie-Josée St. Pierre Marie-Josée St. Pierre Marie-Josée St. Pierre A wise man once said it’s not what’s on the screen but what’s between the frames that counts. That man was legendary NFB animator-creator Normal McLaren, whose moving experiments put the NFB on the international map and revolutionized the illustrated image. This stunning tribute reintroduces his genius to smart audiences everywhere. No surprise it’s played in many festivals and won many awards this year already.
Miss Russia UK Jane Devoy Jane Devoy Jane Devoy A really touching short film that tells an almost epic’s worth of story. In the age of the internet, computer dating has replaced mail-order brides. Yulia, a determined Russian woman, trolls the web in search of a mate. Gary, a hapless bachelor from southwest England, is doing the same. As with everyone else in their situation, truth is slightly exaggerated to protect some of the drab facts. And so what happens when east finally meets west? Fantasy comes crashing down like the Berlin Wall. Keystroke Save As terrific.
Nachbeben (Going Private) Switzerland Stina Werenfels Petra Lüschow, Stina Werenfels Karin Koch, Samir If you thought the only thing the Swiss gave the world was the cuckoo clock, as Orson Wells once famously said, then you haven’t seen what they can do with a good script. Indeed, there’s a lot more than kebobs sizzling on the grill in this riveting feature film that’s hot on the Euro-festival circuit. When a bunch of rich beautiful people gather for a summer outing, personalities become edgier than one of their army knives. Where there’s lighter fluid there’s fire. Secrets and lies are revealed. Masks fall. Lives change. These once smug folks melt faster than raclettes. This is a really strong, intensely riveting drama in the tradition of a Peter Greenaway or a Bergman. In other words, you’ll feel smarter for having seen it.
Nadia’s Journey (Le Voyage de Nadia) Canada Carmen Garcia, Nadia Zouaoui Carmen Garcia, Nadia Zouaoui Yves Bisaillon, Carmen Garcia It’s hard to know how a film could be more timely than this bold inquiry into the lives of Moslem women in a rural region of Algeria. Filmmaker Nadia Zouaoui journeys into the heart of the challenges and contradictions besetting roughly half the population. Her access is impressive, as she coaxes candid conversations from a number of smart and self possessed women and the men who inadvertently reveal the patriarchal narrowness that keeps their women in place. Well crafted and spirited in the telling, Nadia’s Journey goes so much further than the 6 o’clock news.
No Vacancy Canada Gaël D’Ynglemare Gaël D’Ynglemare Sonia Despars Just when everything was already going so badly, Catherine and Michael head out for a dirty weekend, only to discover that there is no record of their hotel reservation. What’s a therapy-addled couple to do?
Origasmi Canada Jill Rosenberg Jill Rosenberg Jill Rosenberg What happens when skillfully cut pieces of paper start to get it on with each other? Why, you have a paper porn-comedy-thriller, of course. Rated S for scenes of salacious silliness.
Pennies... Canada Warner Loughlin, Diana Valentine Eddie Adams Matthew Godbey Academy award-nominated Amy Adams is Charlotte Brown, a waitress with a child and a huge debt problem. She has only a few hours to find the money to pay a menacing figure at the other end of the phone. Part Pulp Fiction, part Working Girl, Pennies… draws us deeply into Charlotte’s web with some finely spun threads of suspense, and so how clever of the film to then have its last laughing way with us. To say more would be to rob you of your viewing pleasure, and robbing is only a fraction of what Pennies… is about.
Pickles Israel Dalit Kimor Dalit Kimor Nitza Gonen A story of hope and survival from an Arab Israeli village in Galilee, Pickles shows us how eight widows defied all odds ands set up their own business, the Azra Pickle Cooperative, a business that saved them and their children’s futures. First they faced despair; then they took small steps towards financial autonomy. Learning the production chain from scratch, these women somehow managed to stay ahead of the creditors. Their story is moving and inspirational and goes a long way to demonstrating the importance of self reliance. It’s no accident there is an entire documentary devoted to their successes.
Richard is Beautiful Canada Debra Felstead, Ross McKie James Grainger, Ross McKie Debra Felstead, James Grainger, Brad Johnson Remember Debra Felstead from last year’s festival? Well, she’s back, and this time she means monkey business. This intriguing well crafted short hovers over the bed of two lazy afternoon lovers. Soon it becomes clear that they are not only languorous but they are flirting dangerously with the ethics of romance. She is his best friend’s girlfriend. It’s complicated, and delicious, irresistible, and as commonplace as a five o’clock shadow.
Schrödinger’s Cat (Schrödinger’s Katze) Germany Sana Schönle Sana Schönle Suzanne Schönle The title plays on the famous brain teaser by Erwin Schrödinger, an experiment too weird to write about but more obvious when illustrated by a clever animator like Sana Schönle. Einstein loved the experiment, adored the paradox, and for all we knew appreciated the cat, but we’re content enough with the film version. Now if a woman left her house at 6:00 pm and the projectors started warming up at 6:15, how long will it take her to find a seat at the Majestic to enjoy this witty film?
Second Wind Canada Donna Downey Lois Brown, Ian C. Feltham Donna Downey, Barbara Neis Based on a play by Lois Brown and Ian Feltham, Second Wind examines an aspect of Newfoundland and Labrador’s snow crab fishery that is not often discussed or taken seriously: occupational asthma or “crab lung.” As outport communities struggle to survive and adapt to changing and limited resources, this film questions the human costs involved.
Smudge Canada Gail Maurice Silva Basmajian, Gerry Flahive Sonia Despars This informative short documentary shows us the challenge of finding serenity and spiritual solace in the hubbub of urban noise. Cathedrals and mosques harbour Christians and Moslems, but First Nations peoples require only the temple of Nature Herself. Filmmaker Gail Maurice follows three native aboriginal women as they find places to worship among us. A 2006 Sundance entry and a winning example of Native experience from the inside out.
Snapshots for Henry Canada Teresa Hannigan Teresa Hannigan, Colette Yvonne Charlotte Disher, Mehernaz Lentin eresa Hannigan and her team have given us the gift of this quietly accomplished little film, expertly presented like a careful album of memories. A woman returns to her past and her youthful mistakes to make amends with and for herself. There are no permanently happy endings but there are resolutions for those who have the courage to get on with it. Snapshots for Henry is a lovely, intelligent example of how you can tell a simple story in complex and interesting ways.
Terminal USA Renie Oxley Ethan Erwin, Marty Musatov Rebecca Sekulich This dramatic short is full of surprises. You might think you know where it’s going, just like the husband in the careful plot, but hell hath no fury like you-know-who scorned. This is a strong and stunning accomplishment, guaranteed to make your spine tingle.
The Banker UK Hattie Dalton Hattie Dalton Kelly Broad, Michael Sheen, Trudie Styler Not your garden variety banker, of course, but the kind who collects a different kind of deposit, he is fastidiously responsible, compulsively focused. He is also in love with a nurse who just doesn’t seem to notice. This excellently executed, dark little UK comedy comes to us with a full deposit of wit: we know you will be pleased with the investment.
The Better Half Israel Talya Salama Talya Salama Shir Shoshani, Perhaps conflict really does produce great art. The war-challenged state of Israel sure is producing a wealth of material, several examples of which appear in this festival. In this charming short, Boaz is a shy bachelor who works all day as a decorator of bridal cars, a good opportunity to dream about romance and the girl who might end up in his passenger seat. His mother owns the business and never misses the chance to nag. Boaz pines for Osnat, a loopy young woman who is also in the bridal business. Getting her attention will take more than pompoms on the dashboard.
The Danish Poet Canada/Norway Torill Kove Torill Kove Lise Fearnley, Marcy Page, Tove Klovvik, David Verrall Believe us, after watching this lovely animated fable you’ll know there is something wonderful in the state of Denmark. It’s all very magical and before you can say which way is Norway, this charming tale of Kasper the friendly poet and Sigrid the successful writer will sweep you up into its romantic power.
The Lost Tribe USA Rachel Landers Rachel Landers Dylan Blowen, Rachel Landers You’ve never heard anyone like Sue Ann Post, an ex-Mormon lesbian stand-up comedian. The Lost Tribe follows her from her Australian home base back to Salt Lake City and the annual Gay and Lesbian Mormon Convention (see Banking on Heaven). Oh, what a tangled web of identity politics we weave. There is so much going on here your head will spin like Linda Blair. It’s a pretty wild ride, amusing, moving, and utterly original.
The Sparky Book Canada Mary Lewis Mary Lewis Annette Clarke, Michael Fukushima We have come to expect nothing but greatness from Mary Lewis and so it’s no surprise that here she delivers again. The Sparky Book follows the same artistic line of continuity she has developed in earlier work, shaping a hybrid genre of live action and animation to stunning effect. Essentially a fish story about a dog and a sick little girl, the tale unspools through one gorgeous image after another.
The Substitute Israel Talya Lavie Talya Lavie Gil Asheri Another little masterpiece from Israel, this intense dramatic short follows the trials of a young Israeli soldier, posted out in the middle of nowhere, restless, frustrated, and anxious to escape her confining duty. Zohara is hopeful when she applies for a transfer and her “substitute” shows up, but the replacement girl has her own notions about how to escape, and the film takes a sudden and startling turn. It is impossible not to see metaphors of meaning here. Clever, subtle, and harrowing, The Substitute shows there is, indeed, no life like it, certainly not for a woman.
The Wait Canada Ann Verrall Ann Verrall Ann Verrall Halifax-based Ann Verrall has been making terrific films for a few decades now. The Wait is definitely her best to date, a Toronto Film Festival highlight about the struggle to let go and get on with it. Coming of age isn’t any easier than it ever was, and Jake, played brilliantly by Seamus Morrison, wrestles with his feelings for Sarah (Leah MacDonlad) who is leaving for school in Montreal. The real achievement here is the pacing, subtle handling of emotions, and strategic use of camera. This short shows a strong sophisticated talent, well worth every one of its 24 minutes.
The World, Naked as a Jaybird USA Tiina Treasure Tiina Treasure Tiina Treasure We adore this quirky, poignant animated film from the USA. Okay, so a nuclear war has blasted the earth and it’s practically impossible to remember where home used to be. What’s a girl to do?
Thick and Thin Canada Jordan Canning Jordan Canning Jordan Canning Awarded the William F. White Award for Excellence in a First Film Production by an Emerging Female Filmmaker at last year’s festival, Jordan Canning is back with the accomplishedThick and Thin. A persuasively wrought story about the pains and gains of close friendship, the film features young actors Marthe Bernard and Sylina Jones in uncannily strong performances. Added bonus: watch for a smouldering Joel Hynes as Mr Not So Nice Guy. It’s great to see such fresh local talent up and behind the screen.
Treat Day Canada Derek Norman Janet McDonald Newfoundland Independent Filmmakers Cooperative (NIFCO) A first time achievement by Janet MacDonald, this comic short borne out of the NIFCO hot house has great potential written all over it. It’s the story of a girl and her battle with the bulge. Heart wrenchingly familiar and yet comically fresh, Treat Day offers a healthy low-cal belly chuckle—sweet and good for you, too.
Twilight USA/Russia Victoria Gamburg Victoria Gamburg Victoria Gamburg Shot on location in St. Petersburg, Russia, Twilight is a huge festival darling for obvious reasons. The city, as shot so lovingly by Victoria Gamburg, is a post-Soviet fantasy of power and loss. The city landscape itself is, in fact, as integral to this story of a woman searching for her missing daughter as the plot itself. The title marks both a temporal and a symbolic truth, as the film explores the border between light and dark, rational and irrational, and hope and fear. A technical masterpiece, Twilight is utterly unforgettable.
Two Months to Home USA Janice Ahn Janice Ahn Janice Ahn It can’t get more dramatic than this: just before 9-11 an Afghani woman named Samira escapes from the Taliban. Resettled in NY, she is awakened in the middle of the night as if she were Joseph K. and threatened with deportation. Indeed, the following weeks are a nightmare of Kafaesque dimensions, as Samira and her family wait for obscure signs of their fate. Timely and more immediate than any current affairs reporting you’ll see on television, Two Months to Home is too important to miss.
Una Lira Soluzione Finland Matleena Jänis, Emilia Lehtinen Matleena Jänis, Emilia Lehtinen Matleena Jänis, Emilia Lehtinen To sum it all up, a family wins the lottery and takes their perfect dream vacation in Italy. No wonder they’re cheerful. They’re dolls. Yeah, that’s right, dolls.
Walk for Walk Canada Amy Lockhart Amy Lockhart Amy Lockhart We like where a new genre of moving illustrations is going, and this year the festival boasts several outstanding award-winging examples of emerging talent. Walk for Walk is one such example from the pen of Halifax-based Amy Lockhart. Here we witness Lockhart’s vivid imagination at work, as her drawn characters inhabit a quirky dreamscape of play and weirdness. We are amused.
Who I Am and What I Want UK Chris Shepherd, David Shrigley Chris Shepherd, David Shrigley Maria Manton What’s a nice producer like Maria Manton doing mixed up in a weirdly animated boy’s world like this? There is something ripe and familiar about the drawn figures here, and yet you know you are watching an entirely original sensibility come to life. Odd and oddly compelling, this filmic universe is hypnotically, comically strange.
You Can't Get There From Here Canada/USA Liss Platt Liss Platt Liss Platt What’s short, queer, and always on the move? No, we’re not talking about Michael Jackson. It’s this witty, spirited film from Liss Platt, who offers a creative film diary of memory and meaning. Evocative and personal, yet uncannily accessible, Platt’s wonderful film makes solid connections out of fragments of experience.
Young Triffie’s Been Made Away With Canada Mary Walsh Ray Guy, Christian Murray, Mary Walsh Barbara Doran, Daniel Louis, Denise Robert, Lynne Wilson A first feature directorial effort by local icon Mary Walsh, adapted from the Ray Guy play, and co-produced with Quebec’s Denise Robert, this opening night treat is almost too good to be true. With so much collaborative talent, it’s no wonder the result is a smart, crisp unflinching comedy that reaches deep into the darkness of Newfoundland life for its thematic punch. No stone is left unturned, and, indeed, no theme is left unstoned. Set in Swyers’ Harbour, Newfoundland, in the history-marking moment of 1948, the story begins with the washed up body of she who has been made away with. The sweet-faced Ranger is sent to the community to investigate, an innocent foil for all the goings on if there ever were one. Among others, the Ranger has to confront a manically hyper minister (Andy Jones), a gossipy postmistress (Mary Walsh), and a cast of characters straight from outport casting. The film moves well and quickly, while tongues wag and all hell breaks loose. Expertly directed (bravo Mary), shrewdly edited, brilliantly written, acted, and all tied up, Young Triffie… is a credit to the outstanding comic tradition of people and place.
Elling Lien