It’s hailed as the festival of films from all over the world, and with such an impressive arrangement of films, Montreal did not disappoint. It is with great pleasure that Night Film Reviews covered a short section at this year’s 38th Annual Montreal World Film Festival. While it’s unfortunate that we were unable to stay for the entire duration of the festival, Montreal had an array of enticing, exciting and spectacular films to offer it’s audiences.
In addition to joining the festival as a guest, and as a production manager for the short film Ginger in the Rye, by director Michael Mazzuca, Night Film Reviews was also sent to the French capital of Canada to cover an array of shorts and other events in its first short weekend.
Montreal proved to be the perfect little appetizer for the main course that is TIFF coming in a few days. So without further ado, lets get into the shorts that were covered at this year’s Festival of Films of the World.
Bad Hunter -Directed by Sahim Omar Kalifa (Belgium, 2013).
Bad Hunter is a gem of a short. Only 14 minutes long, the film takes place in rural Iraqi Kurdistan, where we are quietly introduced to Bahoz (Abdullah Taher), a young hunter-gatherer responsible for providing for his family. Despite being the youngest of the sons, with an absent patriarch, his family relies on his superior skills as a hunter. On a seemingly regular hunting routine, Behoz finds himself in the midst of tragedy as a young Nisrien (Jar Varsin) is being raped by a much older man in the middle of the woods. After intimidating the rapist into fleeing, Behoz stays to help the young and beautiful Nisrien back to her feet with offerings of water and delicious cheese.
While Bad Hunter is a film of few words, the film is a powerful case study of Kalifa’s perception of honour, duty, and the importance of family traditions. The two are obviously taken with each other physically, yet they only exchange a few alluring glances while they mend Nisrien’s torn clothes to conceal any signs of her rape. Nisrien flees abruptly, and although dumbfounded with her sudden departure, Behoz accepts Nisrien’s decision to flee, knowing deep down that their first meeting will not be their last.
Bad Hunter does a masterful job of character building, creating tension, and using its surroundings to paint a vast landscape of wonder of the very unfamiliar society that is Kurdistan. Kalifa may have painted a very dysfunctional short film at first glance, but believe that as unorthodox as the narrative may be, in the second half of the short, it will be as pleasant and affecting as many other short films, despite a momentously awkward meet-cute.
Night Film Reviews: 7.5 Out of 10 Stars.
La Météo des Plages – Directed by Aude Léa Rapin (France, 2014).
Love is surely an adventure, as the programming suggests. With La Météo des Plages, the less you know going into the short, the better. Hailing all the way from France, Plages is quite easily the most beautiful short we caught in Montreal. Meticulous in its style of filmmaking, the camera dictates the perception of what we think is happening on screen, and what is really happening between the only three characters seen.
Alice and Louise (Claudine Charreyre and Mathilde Matineau) are very much in love. What seems like an ordinary weekend away for the girls quickly turns into an abrupt and deep study of love, passion and physical attraction. Once the girls meet Tom (Jonathan Couzinié) in the middle of the deep forest, the three immediately strip and cross a river to make their way to an already-prepped campsite equipped with a tent, a ukelele and a mysterious syringe. As shenanigans ensue, naked bathing and tormenting displays of affection between the girls for Tom, the reality of the situation at hand is very different than the expectations of its audience.
Rapin is clever with her choices of shots, stripping not only her actors but also the narrative into a very raw and unsettling account of the boundaries people are willing to push for their friends, despite their better judgments. Serving as her own cinematographer, Rapin fetishizes the woods into a haven of phallic trees, lush bushes and mountainous terrain into a weekend for three friends that will change their friendship forever and the rest of their lives until the day they die.
Night Film Reviews: 8.5 Stars out of 10 Stars.
Sound of Tears – Directed by Dorothy A. Atabong (Canada, 2014).
As prevalent as the theme of love is for the programming of the shorts featured, just as important is the theme of family and honour. Sound of Tears is Atabong’s directorial debut, a grainy and affecting short about the tragic reality of honour killings happening all over the world. Set in Toronto, Canada, Amina (Atabong) is a young African woman living in a modern day Toronto, who must choose between Omar (Edgar Fraser), the husband chosen by her family, or Josh (Edsson Morales) the true love of her life.
Sound of Tears may be the least artsy of the films featured in the short programme, but Atabong’s commentary is surely one that needs attention. Torn between her feelings for Josh and his obvious downfall, his alcoholism, Amina is a defiance of the family traditions expected by her parents as well as a modern take on the independent woman notion that many young woman are threatened to inhabit.
Executed with choppy editing, a very confusing non-linear narrative and flashbacks that are somewhat out of context, Sound of Tears is a valiant effort for young woman everywhere to follow their hearts and not the expectations of society, family tradition and cultural boundaries that are not dared crossed by women worldwide.
Night Film Reviews: 5.5 Stars Out of 10 Stars.
Rencontre – Directed by Alexandre Da Sylva (Canada, 2014).
Out of the seven shorts featured in the “Love is an Adventure” programme of the 38th Annual Montreal World Film Festival, four of the films have crucial scenes set within coffee shops. And while Alexandre Da Sylva’s short Rencontre, is set entirely within a café, the film plays more like a commercial or a poorly placed scene within Rob Reiner’s When Harry Met Sally.
The short follows a man (Frédéric Cloutier) who sees a mid-age beautiful woman (Marie-Claude Henault) in a café, mindlessly minding her own business, and takes it upon himself to chat her up in hopes of sweeping her off her feet. While the dialogue is less than clever and anything but witty, the man finds his failed efforts to seductively ask for sugar from the beautiful woman in a dead end of conversation, and more of a monologue between himself. It isn’t until things get a tad interesting when another gentleman enters the frame (David-Alexandre Coiteux) and successfully gets a rise out of the woman, with a smile of approval.
I have seen many shorts do much more than Da Sylva does with seven minutes of running time, but unfortunately the director fails to offer any real conviction or convincing towards his quite obvious narrative surprise. What remains is a tired, worn-out short with unoriginal dialogue, trivial subject matter and a bitter taste than anything else.
Night Film Reviews: 1 Out of 10 Stars.
I Know You – Director Colin Gerrard (Netherlands, 2014).
As the only documentary in the programme and the film that deals the least amount with love in the conventional sense of the love between two people, Colin Gerrard’s I Know You may very well be the documentary that loves itself more than the subject matter that it briefly tries to portray to its audiences.
I Know You ambiguously is set around the notion that, “when most kids are asked what they want to be when they grow up, they say famous, although they are not sure what they want to be famous for, they just know they want to be famous”. In an interesting turn of self-reflexive, hypocritical fashion, it seems that the only one that wants to be famous is Gerrard himself.
The documentary short could have very well been a true, interesting take on the idealism of fame and fortune, the doc is rather a hollow and over-glamourized account of one man’s own obsession of having flashing lights around him, a beautiful woman hanging from his arm, the high living with fancy clothing, a shimmering hotel residence and all eyes looking at him for a whole eight minutes.
Night Film Reviews: 2 Out of 10 Stars.
Through The Pane – Directed by Pauline Egan (Canada, 2014).
Surely the most inventive and creative short of the programme, Pauline Egan’s sweet black-and-white short is a true enjoyment of subtle filmmaking. Undoubtedly inspired by the 2011 breakout hit The Artist, Pauline Egan (who shares a striking resemblance to The Artist’s female star Bérénice Bejo) crafts a gorgeously shot and executed short full of surprises, laughs, tears and concentrated cinematic joy.
When Annabelle (Egan) finds herself, like any other day, by her piano, focused on the bittersweet melodies of her past as she looks past a picture of her and an ex-lover, she notices Lewis (Louis Ferreira), a painter, staring at her through the pane in the building across from her. As they exchange innocent smiles to one another, Lewis begins a silent, romantic dialogue of clever and heartwarming words to Annabelle, who is quick to respond. As the two share trivial information about each other, the two share in window dates through breakfast and dinner, that leads to harsh truths about their pasts and the demons each one of them face beyond the harmless pane of glass.
Egan’s film is a true gem. While the two protagonists share a romance without words and solely with the expressions on their faces, the two actors truly make you fall in love with each of their characters, as well as the idea that true love, as whimsical as it could be, could happen in the most mundane places. The two, in a very short time, show the hardships people face in relationships through differences of personalities, the limitations of the body and the true nature of human beings and love itself. Through the Pane was sure to be my favourite short of the festival. A short that asks important questions about the limitations and will of happiness, the reflective commentary on our ability to strive for happiness despite our own, personal disabilities and most importantly, the desire to go out there and be vulnerable, all in the name of love.
Night Film Reviews: 9 Stars Out of 10 Stars.
Café Para Llevar – Directed by Patricia Font (Spain, 2014).
The coffee shop is the quintessential location for first dates, reconnecting with old flames, budding romances and in this case, straightening out loose ends. With Café Para Llevar, no film uses the classic café motif better, and with such an emotional response.
Café Para Llevar is without question the best short film we caught at the fest, and quite possibly one of our favourite shorts centered on love we have ever seen. Sweet, to the point and implicitly shattering, in a mere thirteen minutes, the film makes you laugh, cry and wanting to know more about past lovers played by Daniel Grao and Alexandra Jiménez.
Both actors, who are seasoned Latin stars across Spanish speaking nations, give the most organic chemistry within the programme, delivering true moments of relief, pain and hardship that is hard to ignore. Grao, plays a man whose life takes a quick and sudden turn, showing a man who has lost himself, and found love instead. While Jiménez plays a woman whose quickly ticking life clock has found a man who gives her what she needs, but not particularly what she wants out of life. When the two cross paths at a local café before embarking back to the lives they have chosen after their break-up, the film leaves us wanting more in terms of the possibility that true love and a passionate history is enough for a happy ending.
Director Patricia Font gives real insight to the idea of a happy ending, never giving audiences too much of what they want, but always pleasing the true nature of relationships, hardships and the struggle to accept the past as the past, and the future as a present state of reality. The adventure we face everyday is life; love is the journey towards the happiness and overall goal of this adventure, and Café Para Llevar proves this notion magically, without ever losing its charm and deep-rooted honesty in the portrayal of the real world. The film may be titled coffee to go, but it surely also is, in quite a small and pleasurable package, food for thought also.
Night Film Reviews: 9.5 Out of 10 Stars.
So there you have it folks, Night Film Reviews short and concise overview of the shorts that were covered at this year’s Montreal World Film Festival. It was a pleasure to have the wonderful city of Montreal host Night Film Reviews and we will surely be honoured if we are asked to return for longer in the coming years.
Although it is never easy to find the shorts featured at so many of these festivals, Night Film Reviews will do its best to make sure that when many of these shorts become available online, you will be the first to know. So keep it locked here for any updates regarding these wonderful shorts, as many of them really do need to be seen.
It was a wonderful time and make sure you come back for our up-coming coverage of the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. Festival time is the best time, so make sure to share in all the joy, magic and wonder that is cinema gearing towards what is promising to be one of the most exciting awards-seasons yet.