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Shorts Programme 3

A showcase on resilience, family and community

SUMMER 96 (ÉTÉ 96)

Country: France

Language: French

Director: Mathilde Bédouet

         Summer 96 takes the audience on a family beach trip. Beautifully animated, the film showcases what it’s like to have an immigrant dad trying to prove he fits into a new community. Having the audience see the story mostly through the child’s point of view gives the film space to explore identity in a more creative, surreal way.

Within its 12 minute runtime, the film manages to transport the audience to a beach with high tidal waves, where their car is stuck on the road. It’s not a secret animation often has its limitations when conveying human emotion, especially in this style of animation where face designs aren’t at the forefront. However, the artistic choices made by the director completely push through those barriers, communicating with the audience on a deeper level.

In a sequence where the protagonist wakes up in the middle of the night and decides to go into the ocean, the color scheme is reminiscent of walking in a dream. In that moment, the audience gives into being one with the character and their suspension of disbelief is at an all-time high.

Summer 96 feels like a cool summer night at the end of August. It’s so familiar, yet there is an ever so slight undertone of dread about things coming to an end.

MAMITA

Country: Canada

Language: Spanish

Director: Luis Molinié

Following the story of a Peruvian mother returning to her home country for her daughter’s wedding, the film deals with family, longing and community.

The film emphasizes mortality, guiding the audience to consider the value of fleeting moments spent with family. Mamita purposefully places the mother in the center of the plot, using her as a device to flip the script on traditional scenarios surrounding leaving home. Having the emphasis on the mother, underlines sacrifice and aging in ways that wouldn’t be possible if the focus was on the daughter instead.

Centralizing the daughter getting married to the plot creates the necessary irony of the cultural perception of a wedding being seen as leaving the nest, in comparison to the mother coming home. Mamita builds up an image of happiness stemming from being reunited, sharing time and memories, only to tear it apart during the last act.

At the end of its 16 minute runtime Mamita leaves the audience heartbroken after witnessing the ocean of obstacles between a mother and a daughter. The film is only made more agonizing because the director spends the first half building relationships and community dynamics, making the characters painfully real.

The film will especially resonate with people who are homesick or are missing someone they can’t talk to anymore. Every emotion evoked by the film feels like they are coming from a familiar place, even if the exact scenarios seem foreign.  

LES LAVANDIÈRES

Country: Canada

Language: French, Kinyarwanda

Director: Laura Kamugisha

The Congolese-Rwandan filmmaker Laura Kamugisha explores notions of cultural identity, memories and intergenerational baggage through her films. Referred to as visual poetryLes Lavandières is a look into the hopes, identity and dreams of an immigrant woman.

The film is an ode to the multiple personalities an immigrant woman must hold within. The double exposure film reflects on the multitudes of roles people have to carry with them. While the story has sad undertones, the voiceover is soothing, and the visuals are magical.

Decorated with soft light and visuals of luscious gardens where clotheslines are hung, the clothes change as the story evolves giving the audience an alternative measurement of time. The story, while seemingly moving slow, packs so many personal memories, sentiments, and retrospect into its five minute runtime.

Les Lavandières simultaneously feels like a warm hug and a gut punch the way it describes the intricacies of life from girlhood to motherhood and beyond.

MISS CAMPBELL: INUK TEACHER

Country: Canada

Language: English

Director: Heather Campbell

The film is centred around Director Heather Campbell’s grandmother Evelyn Campbell, a residential school survivor and trailblazer educator in the small community of Rigolet, Nfld.

Similar to other films in the Shorts Programme, Miss Campbell: Inuk Teacher also uses mixed media, layering animation and video. The animation component is anchored in (Heather) Campbell’s drawings of nature and community life around her. By having Campbell speak about her grandmother and create drawings inspired by her community, the film simultaneously brings the audience into the story in different layers.

The film serves as a memoir, biography and a historical record all at once talking about the good and the bad of (Evelyn) Campbell’s personal history. The audience is carried deeper into the story as the director reflects on her family’s past. Miss Campbell: Inuk Teacher manages to be deeply personal and a public record of events at the same time, making it a special watch.

Admittedly, the pacing is slower when compared to other films in the program but the use of mixed media and archival photos makes up for the steady pace. The audience feels the love and admiration the director has for her grandmother while feeling lucky to be able to share this rich history.

THRIVING: A DISSOCIATED REVERIE

Country: Canada

Language: English

Director: Nicole Bazuin

Thriving is a surrealist exploration of dissociative identity disorder (DID) based on real life lived experiences of a Black, nonbinary, disabled artist and former sex worker. The film explores the protagonist’s different identities as individual characters. The audience is introduced to the different identities as the film unfolds. 

The film was the only one of its kind at the festival. The exploration of DID within the film is equal parts retrospective and comedic. The narrator/protagonist introduces the audience to the alternative apocalyptic landscape within their head, where against all odds they are thriving

While the subject matter might seem complicated for a 10 minute runtime, the way it’s handled is swift and relatable. The film doesn’t try to dumb DID down to break it down for its audience, nor does it take itself too seriously like a documentary. Thriving simply showcases the lived experiences of an individual in experimental exploration. 

The colour palette consisting of neons is hypnotizing and fits perfectly with the characters and the on screen dialogue. Similarly the set, while not overstated, is designed to look busy with a lot of furniture and clothes, reflecting how the protagonist feels. While neither of these aspects are overpowering to the  cleverly written dialogue, they do make the film visually enticing. 

The director’s use of quick cuts and spiffy dialogue makes Thriving one of the faster paced films in the programme. The film also gives the audience a well needed break from the slower paced, more serious and personal films with elements of comedy. Thriving is simultaneously an interesting and entertaining watch. 

MISERABLE MIRACLE

Country: Canada, Japan, France

Language: English

Director: Ryo Orikasa

Inspired by the book of the same name by Henri Michaux, Miserable Miracle is directed by Japanese filmmaker Ryo Orikasa. The book, and consequently the film, explores Michaux’s experiences with mescaline by playing with the audience’s perception of language, sound, shapes and meaning. 

Completely animated, the audience is guided by a voiceover. The film is captivating and painfully self-aware and self-referential. The voiceover is beautifully done and is one of the biggest factors in keeping the audience interested. 

The film seemingly doesn’t have a linear storyline, instead the audience is presented with various shapes, sounds and textures on screen. Admittedly, this type of experimental filmmaker does not always find success in mass audiences, however Miserable Miracle’s expert storytelling does carry the film further than its counterparts. 

Throughout its eight minute runtime the film does not bore the audience. In contrast, the film takes the audience through a philosophical journey where they laugh, contemplate life and at times simply just enjoy the ride that is Miserable Miracle

IN BETWEEN (ENTRE-DEUX)

Country: Canada

Language: French, Polish

Director: Clara Prévost

In Between (Entre-Deux) perhaps falls victim to where it’s been placed within the programme. Coming in last, with a considerably longer runtime at 23 minutes, the film falls flat compared to the others. 

The film follows Adèle as she tries to figure out if she wants to become a mother while being haunted by the fact her youth is limited and passing. While the film’s description on the festival website states “she strives to confront the very emotions that she’s drowning in”, the film itself lacks confrontation or emotion. 

While the film is visually enticing, the enamour fades as In Between hits the halfway mark with static pacing and flat dialogue. There are so many factors making the film worth seeing, however sadly the film fails to build the characters in a way the audience will care about them. The lack of care results in boredom. 

There is neither conflict or confrontation to be found in the gorgeous pastoral backdrop. While the protagonist does show emotion and some sort of a conflict with the two sides of her, these moments are brief and not enough to keep the audience’s attention. Similarly, the scenes where the couple is together seem perfectly manufactured, yet lacking on-screen chemistry and good pacing. 

Perhaps if the film was tighter with varying pacing, the charming and alluring visuals wouldn’t have to do the heavy lifting and could just be left for the audience to enjoy as a treat. 


*ENTRÉE (dir. Akshay Shirke) was also part of this programme, however the author did not include a review as she was part of the production crew.

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