On a fine Saturday afternoon, the festival once again showcases a series of short films. This time, we have about 90 minutes worth of short films. Each one running from 2 to 14 minutes, each film is unique in style, genre and tone. Each film is entertaining in its own way, so there’s a good chance each audience member will find one entertaining.
This mini festival gets off to a great start with the horror parody The Yawning. Fed up with Tom’s (Jay Villeneuve) indifference, Annie (Rhona Rees) takes away his iPad. But then he starts Yawning. And Yawning. And he doesn’t seem to stop. Now Annie must race against time to save Tom from yawning to death. It’s a silly premise and the film has a blast with it.
With a few exceptions, these shorts films can be divided into 3 categories. The first category is the silly shorts, which feeds the audience the joy the filmmakers had making these films. One example is the short Hickey Gone Wrong. In the small town of Fort Smith, Ryan tries to cover up his hickey. But this being a small town, word gets out fast and soon his mom comes to berate him. The film seems to want to create a 1950’s feel with the old time gas station setting and the bad hammy acting. I don’t know if it’s intentional or not, but some people will find this enjoyable.
The better one is Al Alpinista, a Spanish short about a pair of mountaineers looking for the Yeti. What makes this a joy is the deliver. The film opens with the sound of Yodeling over the mountains, only for a climber to appear to reveal the mountain is actually a poster and the yodeling’s actually his alarm clock. And as they climb down the hill (which is actually a city street), this 3 minute film offers up one pythonesque sight gag after another. And wait until you find out what they substitute for a yeti.
The second category of shorts is the brief documentaries that celebrate a particular artist. Jim Robb’s Yukon celebrates the title artist who draws cartoonish log cabins and photographs northern folks. Stock-A Short Film celebrates David Brunning, a street artist who combines spray painting and classic painting. Ironhead celebrates Kelly Ludeking, head of Down on the Farm Iron Pour, a group dedicated to turning metal scraps into art. Each person demonstrates great passion in their work and these documentaries dwell into insights of their subjects. They all show the process of creation, filmed in beautiful cinematography, especially Stock with its black and white imagery.
And finally, there are the shorts that combine both. In this case, two shorts from the point of view of two young women. Within the Veil tells an unfortunate true life tale of domestic abuse. A teenage girl named Jiewa talks about her experience with a boyfriend while actors Chrystal Chocolate and Charles Mantla reenact her ordeal. It serves as a reminder of why abuse victims stay in relationships when Jiewa talks about how he started out as a nice guy. But the acting was so horrible it undermined Jiewa’s all too real account.
In contrast, director Elle-Maija Tailfeathers handles her subject matter better in Bihttos. “When I was age 16, my dad tried to kill himself.” This scene connects with the image of a teenage girl running into darkness. With a combination of home movies, animation and reenactments, Tailfeathers gives us an intimate portrait of her father, from his childhood at a Sami boarding school to his Sami right activism. Somewhere in between, her father fell into a deep dark depression. When her parents broke up, Tailfeathers recalled trying to keep him out of the darkness. She concludes the film recalling a letter from him talking about how much he loved his time with his children.
One exception to these categories is The Bear, a short thriller directed by Peter Findlay. Set in the “Bonanza Creek” Mining Camp, miner Earl (David MacNiven) retells his one on one confrontation with a Grizzly Bear to his friend Kenny (Jeff Teravainen) and the new guy Mike (Miles Faber). But they have to deal with another severe creature; their surly boss Art (Steven Bird). But then they hear growling in the night. It’s actually a pretty decent thriller with an ending you’ll take guilty pleasure in.
The other exception is Metis of the North, which is actually a trailer for an upcoming documentary about how the Metis won the right to hunt in the Great Slave area. We’ll wait to see what comes of the film.
The film ends with A Winter Jingle, a poetic love letter to winter. It’s filled with beautiful montages of a winter festival, including an ice slide and ice sculptures.
It is a shame there isn’t more opportunities to see short films in small cities like Yellowknife. Enjoying some of these films leaves me thinking what other mini works of art I could be missing out on. Whatever your taste in film, this film had at least one that would hook you. Plus, if you don’t like a short film, at least it wasted little of your precious time. Maybe the next short film would be better.