By Benjamin Akpan
The 7th annual Vaughan International Film Festival came into full swing on Monday, May 13th, bringing a wide range of multi-genre short films from around the globe to its audience.
The not-for-profit festival, which seeks to offer a platform for independent film creators to put forth their work, opened its five-day event with a block of 11 short films highlighting local and international filmmakers alike. And these 11 shorts – 36% of which are directed by women – did not fail to deliver.
The screening begins with Foster Wilson’s Made Public, which teaches those about to tie the knot what NOT to do before your wedding. The film follows Dave, a groom whose doubts about getting married blow out of proportion when he posts a Facebook poll asking whether to go through with saying ‘I do.’ The film has garnered four nominations from the VFF Awards for Best Film, Director, Actor, and Actress. The film features a bounty of tracking shots that’s sure to make any film enthusiast swoon. Accompanied by a moody score, Made Public takes its time building tension, refusing to reveal the story to us until six minutes in. Eventually, its comedic timing and light emotional punch makes the tension worth it, and the release even more exhilarating.
Sparkles, a black and white story from France possesses all the qualities of a classic silent film; down to the jazz soundtrack. France also gives us Arthur Rambo, a twenty-minute drama following Alain, a boy born on the wrong side of the tracks who recites poems to earn a few pennies by the roadside. The film shows the disconnection between what we are and what we wish to be, when Alain is invited to a birthday party by a boy from the upscale neighbourhoods. The acting is impeccable, and you feel attached to the characters as soon as the film begins.
Gisela Nadasy’s A Kiss is a simple drama about kissing that doesn’t really go anywhere; while Lost and Found from Andrew Goldsmith & Bradley Slabe is a touching stop-motion that highlights the things we do for the ones we love.
We are also treated to a couple nonfiction pieces – Sura Mallouh’s documentary for CBC Docs, Sedra, follows a young refugee from Syria and her struggle to rebuild her life in Canada. Sedra, together with her parents and grandmother, fled Syria in 2011 and settled in New Brunswick in 2016, leaving behind her six siblings. Her grandmother has Alzheimer’s, her mother’s battling PTSD, and her father’s undergone three surgeries. As a result, it falls on 17-year-old Sedra to carry the weight of the family. In addition to adapting to a new language and culture, they were in severe debt. Fighting tears, Sedra says: “We’re barely holding it together… I feel broken.” Yet, despite their circumstances, all she sees is hope; hope that she would be reunited with her siblings once again; hope that she would succeed in her education and become a doctor; and hope that she would make her family proud. This hope is what keeps her going every day, and her story is sure to leave a tear down your face.
With The Secret of Travel, Lizzie Peirce treats us to a two minute montage of her time in Iceland, which could double as a tourism ad. Made as a gift to her boyfriend, the film is beautifully shot, earning a best cinematography nomination. Ultimately, it is a love story, showing that home can be anywhere, as long as you have your loved ones with you.
And if you are interested in an experimental, what-did-I-just-watch experience with a fair dose of bloodshed, look no further than Spencer Ryerson’s Claire, which tells the story of a young woman who blatantly refuses to die to a piece of music she despises. The beauty of Claire is that you have no idea where it is headed. The first few minutes of the film is dark and eerie, as we watch this woman struggle to crawl towards a car. In the second half, there’s a slow change in tone to a more light-hearted feel. The director Spencer Ryerson makes clear that the shift in tone was wholly intentional.
In an exclusive interview to VIBE105, Spencer states: “I never intended it to stay dark. The heart of the film was the relationship you see in the second half of the film. The first half is sort of a teaser that is sort of setting up expectations.”
In a bid to maintain the eerie nature of the film, cinematographer Howard Wan made sure to keep the palette to a few primary colours, such as white, the warm yellow glow of the headlights, as well as the red of the brake lights. If nothing else, Claire highlights how much you can achieve with zero to no budget.
Each year, the Vaughan International Film Festival reminds us that indie filmmaking is alive and well. And if this first day is any indication of what the rest of the festival is going to look like, then all who’ve bought a ticket can be rest assured that they are in for a thrilling and entertaining ride.
*Editor’s Note: VIBE105 is the official media partner of Vaughan International Film Festival 2019