We take a look at some of the best Canadian shorts from the Festival du Nouveau Cinema, which are now available to screen online via FestivalScope. There are still tickets available to watch the selection on FestivalScope here.
If you weren’t able to attend the Festival du Nouveau Cinema in Montreal earlier this month, you can still get a piece of the experience. FestivalScope, an online streaming service focused on festival films that started as a platform for insiders, has since expanded to offer public online screenings — for a limited number of of viewers. This year, FestivalScope offers a selection of Canadian short films from the Festival du Nouveau Cinema, which will be available to watch until January. It’s a great resource for off-the-beaten path films and a glimpse at emerging directors.
For the experimental film lovers, there’s Inside McGill Inside My Head (dir. François Blouin, 6 minutes), which is a montage of black-and-white photos set to a score, meant as a look at someone haunting the halls and landscape of McGill University in Montreal. For a blitz of colour and mayhem, there’s Humanity Hyuck Hyuck (dir. Josh Owen, 6 mins), an experimental comedy about someone breaking down over heartache.
For bold visuals and eccentric tableaux, there’s Of Tides/To Distill (dir. Courtney Verwold, 16 mins), which features five dialogue-free experimental vignettes. In one, a group of women in identical white wigs and tan bodysuits braid each other’s hair and lounge about looking forlorn before hanging themselves en masse. In my favourite section, a woman enters a set covered in pink satin wearing an eighteenth-century dress. We watch her pull of the many layers of clothing, opt for sweats and a t-shirt, and then use the set in a way we’d least expect, which only these clothes would allow.
Indigenous films are always a highlight of any Canadian short film selection, giving a unique glimpse into a way of life rarely depicted in features. Sarah Baril Gaudet’s Living Here offers an introduction to the smallest community in Nunavut, told from the perspective of teenaged Martha. Through a series of wide shots of the landscape, held for long takes, we get a sense of the calm rhythm of life here, which Martha describes in voiceover. The school has empty hallways, and the streets have only a few people in them. Gaudet often sets up a shot of the landscape to allow us to watch the people move in and out of the frame, a reminder that the land endures, especially as Martha worries that a mining project could destroy her home.
One of the most stylized shorts, Cowboy of Mount Laurier (dir. Gabriel Vilandré, 11 mins), is also the creepiest. Set in a laundromat, but shot like a western (boots and shoes loom large), a young woman meets a middle-aged man washing his clothing, which she describes as fit for a cowboy. When he helps her fend off unwanted attention from a sketchy young man, she’s left wondering whether this means he’s trustworthy or not — and what the repercussions are for letting her guard down. Let’s just say I never expected to see a québécois cowboy dancing to “The Pied Piper” in a laundromat.
In Thug (15 mins), director Daniel Boos thoughtfully explores the masks we wear and the assumptions others make about us through our appearance. Three twenty-something black men appear to be in the middle of a shakedown from a drug deal. Only later does it become apparent that they’re struggling actors rehearsing a scene for an audition. As they look for ways to make their portrayal more authentic, we follow them through lives that couldn’t be more different from the scenes they’re rehearsing. And they learn the hard way that looking the part can sometimes mean getting mistaken for the part you’re playing. Simon Mutuyimana stars as the most ambitious actor, and he’s a commanding, compelling screen presence that I can’t wait to see more from.
Heather Young’s Milk was a Seventh Row favourite at TIFF, and it’s also part of the Festival du Nouveau Cinema selection on FestivalScope. Twentysomething Beatrice discovers that she herself has become pregnant. She must reckon with the emotional consequences of this mishap while working amongst the mechanized reproductive cycle of a dairy farm, where cows are in a constant cycle of birth and pregnancy so they can produce milk. Earlier this month, we talked to Young about developing the film and approaching these themes.
In total, 20 films from the Festival du Nouveau Cinema are screening on FestivalScope, representing filmmakers from across the country working in more than five languages with different stylistic and thematic interests. Don’t miss this chance to see some of tomorrow’s great auteurs honing their craft in these short films. Watch the films here.