2014 Canadian Film Fest: Short Films – Part 2

Bastards - 2014 Canadian Film FestBastards

Director: Jeremy LaLonde
Writer: Jeremy LaLonde
Actors: Julian Richings, Ennis Esmer, Paul Amos, Tara Spencer-Nairn
Runtime: 16 min

The so-called “mockumentary” style of filmmaking has become extremely popular as of late, and has even extended into the world of the short film. Bastards, from filmmaker Jeremy Lalonde (Sex After Kids), uses this style to tell the story of an aging rock star from the eyes of his loyal butler. When Jack discovers that he is dying, he invites all of his illegitimate children to live in his mansion and compete for his fortune. Of course, hilarity ensues as the grown children interact with their absent father, battle it out for his money, and form meaningful relationships along the way.

The mock documentary style that is used in this film still feels surprisingly fresh, despite its recent over saturation, and lends a fun element to the piece as the audience is exposed to the hidden thoughts and motivations of each character in turn. The actors are actually quite strong, and the screenplay is welcomingly sharp and funny. This short has the feel of a sitcom, and easily could be extended into a full television series. Indeed, the piece ends inconclusively, and will undoubtedly leave an audience wanting to see much more of these diverse, funny, and likeable characters.

Bastards is a witty film with a final twist full of heart. Well planned and executed, this short could definitely be extended into a feature length film or even an episodic television series. Full of formulae that are funny in their recognisability, Bastards is a brief but amusing good time.

Rating: 7.5/10

Kate - 2014 Canadian Film FestKate

Director: Illya Klymkiw
Writer: Holly Merritt
Actors: Holly Merritt, Steve Boyer, Anna Jaegar
Runtime: 12 min

In the short film Kate, a former couple spends a lazy afternoon together after meeting by chance on a subway platform. As the two walk, talk, and catch up, they are forced to face the inevitable impact each has had on the other. These individuals are ordinary, everyday people in whom every audience member can easily identify a part of himself or herself, and the emotions addressed are wide ranging and universal.

Kate moves surprisingly slowly for a short film, yet the meandering pace and lack of hurry are both refreshing and enjoyable. The camera focuses intently on the characters, often allowing the background setting to blur into obscurity. The effect of this technique is that all audience attention is placed on the actors and their abilities, which are passable here but not extraordinary. The characters do seem real and believable, however, so the overall intention is realized. When gaps in dialogue do appear, pleasant music appears to fill them in. The resulting piece is slow and simple, yet emotional and honest in its depiction of sadness and pain.

Kate is not a complicated work of film. Rather, it aims to depict an everyday story in a relatable manner, and it achieves this goal effectively. The story is tinged with sweetness and sadness, and the film offers a momentary reflection that may not have a lasting impact but is nonetheless enjoyable while it lasts.

Rating: 7/10

My Old Man - 2014 Canadian Film FestMy Old Man

Director: Ryan M. Andrews
Writer: G.M. Giacomelli
Actors: Robert Nolan, Adrian Cowan
Runtime: 10 min

Cleo is an angry young lady struggling with drug abuse in the short film My Old Man. This work depicts her complex interactions with a wizened and elderly individual whose identity never becomes clear, but whom Cleo compares to her “old man.” Full of complicated dialogue and detailed shots, this short film feels as though it could easily be extended into a full-length feature.

My Old Man opens with a scene full of intense lighting and music, immediately establishing a dark and atmospheric tone and grabbing the attention of the viewer. As Cleo and the unnamed man interact, the mystery surrounding their relationship deepens even as other elements of their story gradually become clear. Their words are not simple, and it is a challenge to keep up with the verbal acrobatics the two perform. Both actors create mesmerizing characters, although one is clearly a lot stranger than the other. The cinematography in this short is also detailed and impressive, and many shots intrigue as they unsettle.   

My Old Man is a well-shot and intricate short film. The narrative may not entirely make sense, but the film intrigues nonetheless. Brutal and emotional, here is a film that grabs one’s attention right from its opening and refuses to let it go for the entirety of its ten-minute runtime.

Rating: 7/10 

Margaret Finds Her Mojo - 2014 Canadian Film FestMargaret Finds Her Mojo

Director: Brett Heard
Writer: Penny Eizenga
Actors: Penny Eizenga, Elizabeth Harpur, Tasha Quintas
Runtime: 11 min

Margaret Finds He Mojo depicts the tale of a sweet and reserved lady who is faced with rude and manipulative potential employers. Convinced that she has already been offered a job at a high profile company, Margaret is surprised to discover that she is actually one of three candidates for the position. By the conclusion of the short, Margaret has learned how to assert herself and takes control of her own life as the film takes an unexpected and genuinely hilarious turn.

Margaret Finds Her Mojo is a film full of surprises. The opening scene is filmed through a security camera – an intriguing and effective technique – and quickly sets the precedent for fun and unusual camera shots, such as a close up of clacking high heels that emphasizes the ridiculous nature of Margaret’s potential employers. Light-hearted and upbeat music is also a highlight that is employed to great effect. Although the acting in such a film could easily have become over-the-top, the performances, especially that of Margaret, are actually quite strong, and it is easy to root for this likeable character as she grows in an amusing manner.

It is often difficult for a short film to depict change and evolution in a brief time span, but Margaret Finds Her Mojo achieves this feat in an entertaining and very funny manner. If the piece was any longer, the plot may have become tiresome, making the short film the ideal medium to present this story. Light, fun, and well made, this is a highly enjoyable short at which it is impossible not to crack a smile.

Rating: 7/10

Ephemeral - 2014 Canadian Film FestEphemeral

Director: Rebecca Davis
Writer: Rebecca Davis
Actors: Rebecca Davis, Colin Foo, Giles Panton
Runtime: 10 min

Ephemeral is a very well meaning film with an important message. This short depicts the world of a high profile businesswoman who is obsessed with making money at any cost. One evening, her life is changed after a chance encounter with a total stranger emphasizes the interconnection of the human race and the significant effect one person can have on another.

This film is beautifully shot, highlighting the city of Vancouver in an arresting manner. Simple piano music offers a lovely accompaniment to scenes and images that reveal moments of joy even amidst concrete chaos. Regrettably, however, the main narration of this film is presented as a voice-over by the main character, and is severely over acted. This voice does not sound real or natural, and it becomes increasingly difficult, though not impossible, to relate to the words that are spoken. These lines come across as heavy handed at times, and could have been improved by a bit more subtlety.

Ephemeral was written and directed by the young Rebecca Davis, who also stars in the film. Davis’ message is a beautiful and necessary one that should definitely be applauded, and she has crafted a film that is visually impressive to support it. A stronger actress and a more nuanced screenplay would have resulted in an even better short film, yet I believe this young filmmaker will continue to develop and am interested to see what she presents us with next.

Rating: 6/10