VSFF 21 – Weekend on the Web

Nothing to start off my year like a film festival, especially one with short films so I could balance out my schedule. As per usual, Vancouver Short Film Festival had a variety and this year had the most screenings, I guess they just keep increasing by the year, which is progressive. Anyways, I’ll keep this intro short and start discussing the program.


Programme 1 – Nothing starts off a film like, films. Ugh, why do I keep saying this? But to start it off, audience got treated to the online treatment, which I am still not used to for some reason. But the first program showed interesting artistic shorts such as ALIVE, Plantonic, and L’Arpege. There was also Nadagukunda Deja, a documentary of self-discovery. A young man named Sébastien Desrosiers learns about his family and meets with his Rwandan father. It was quite informative. But there’s a little bit of humour too with The New Leash on Life, where a talking dog named Basketball is sent to be put down. Yeah, it goes from funny to depressing in a matter of time. Somehow it ended awkwardly. Ben’s Room was a heartwarming stop-motion story of a little Lego man who goes on a quest around a bedroom to find his missing arm. Finally, The Weight and The Quieting both focus on women who try to connect with their mothers. Actually, I’ve already seen The Quieting. So I’ll just go onto the next event.


Partner Event: Scripting Aloud! Online Edition Reading – Taking place online at another crowded Zoom meeting which I’m completely used to by now, The Reading Session consisted of two short scripts. The Bed by Henry J. Man and Day 220 by Alesandria Mentari. These were some very interesting stories and I hope to see them made into films one day.


InFocus Film School Screening – Something interesting and new, a chance to watch student films of InFocus Film School (fantastic school btw) as they spent a long time creating films with the new restrictions thanks to COVID. So many stories had to get altered, so many precautions to mark things safe. Now I don’t want to go into too much detail (each and every one is extremely unique) so I’ll talk about them as quickly as I can. Squeaky Clean shows the funny story of a cleaning lady battling against very hard-to-find mice. Forked is what happens when a robber gets lucky to rob a till but has to deal with helping a pregnant woman birth her baby, which was a bit questionable to watch. Now Brothers was a lot darker, focusing on what life is like when your older brother works with criminals in the underground. It was probably the most ambitious and detailed film of all. I think Starved was supposed to be about camping life during COVID, it had the story of a father and son living in the wilderness together to avoid other people. Then things got heartwarming with I miss you, Margaret which was a beautiful short film about a woman thinking back on days long ago. All The Time in the World was also a beautiful documentary about a girl talking about her best friend, a little dog who disappeared. That was a story I heard so many times but can understand so well. Now for The Strangest Day, this was truly strange. When a lady kept trying to look out over a bridge, people thought she was going to commit suicide. But they don’t really know what’s really going on. Speaking of which, I had no idea what was going on with Path.OS which was about an operation that explored a woman’s mindset. Mainly so she could earn some extra money to pay her bills. It ends on a sad yet unemotional moment. Finally Screen Girl pretty much shows life in quarantine, and what happens when lonely men decide to watch girls on streaming sites who seem to be making the most income these days. Lyle gets a new kick upon watching a blonde named Vanessa and they get to know each other overtime. It seems interesting and then it gets somewhat awkward. Oh well, still some pretty fantastic student films to screen at VSFF.


Programme 2 – This program focused more on culture and life development. First off, the two short films to start this were about black people and their culture. They were informative and really told some detailed information that would be useful to this day. Everything else seemed to focus on the fun and hardships of being a young adult (Toward You and Found Me) or about discoveries in life (The Gift and Asal). Except for maybe Devoted which has two adults in an acting class getting to know each other better, and After That which talks about what happened after a girl had sex with a man she recently met.


VSFF + DGC BC Panel – Through the magic of Facebook Live, viewers watched as Zach Lipovsky talked to Jason Karman, Jeremy Lutter, and the Spear Sisters. Zach asked them questions on how they became directors, their films that played at VSFF, what went into making their films, adjusting to COVID, film festivals, lessons and some interesting thorough questions from commenters. It was a lengthy discussion with lots of details and help for aspiring directors. I’m proud of myself for asking a good question on that livestream.


Programme 3 – About 2 of these I already saw. So I’ll talk about the others. The Tailor showcases a connection between two people who enjoy dressing up in drag. I think I may have thought up a similar concept before, but this one was very beautifully made a lot more than my idea. Speak Up! speaks up on social injustice especially around black people as a black person rants about this problem. Man was that intense. But not as intense as the determination of a baby owl who learns how to fly on her own in Try to Fly which went from freaky and frightening to miserable and mixed thanks to a long ongoing speech about the issues of life. Crazy to think what goes on in a baby owl’s mind. Le Doctorat was about an oddball named Bruno who seems more focused on painting miniature statues of Pokemon. He also lives with his vegan partner Jonathan. Bruno goes through a serious issue of being too nervous about job interviews and has to learn to get his act together. It didn’t seem like much but it was actually pretty chilling to watch as the second half happened. Finally, there was some vagueness in A Sketchy Truth which was shown completely in grayscale. It kind of reminded me of my own job interviewing people because that’s what the film mainly was. It did have some humour to it like one wouldn’t expect.


Programme 4 – Well, this seems to be a common theme in short films at VSFF this year. Real-life issues and happenings. That’s what nearly everything focused on in this programme though they all were different issues in particular. Meanwhile, Plugged In and Freya gave me a glimpse of what may be the future, if civilization doesn’t go Mad Max with this pandemic. As for Watershed, I may not get into detail about because *READ SHAUN’S ARTICLE! READ SHAUN’S ARTICLE!*. It was a good program anyhow and taught me a lot more than I ever knew.


After Dark Programme – Ooh, now things are getting spooky. I’ve already talked about Mr. James is Dead, so I’ll go right into Crown Juul which is about a time in the future where a vaping corporation seems to be ruling the world. Ugh. So freaky to think of that as a possibility, I don’t even like the idea of putting a piece of metal in my mouth. Honestly it wasn’t too much. Now on to An Evening of Cocktails and Calamity, a film that looked like a period piece with Victorian costumes, until a modernly dressed guy comes to this party. It only gets weirder and weirder from there. Nothing else to say, because I don’t know how to describe this, but I did enjoy it. Very lively. Clout was a little more creepy being about an alien parasite infecting the body of a lifestyle blogger. A similar incident happened in Bug when a girl battles strange creepy crawlies with her lightning tennis racket. Now that was even freakier and pretty glitchy as well. Whether or not the glitching was part of the movie, I was disturbed beyond belief. Thankfully I got out of that more or less with Logan Lee & the Rise of the Purple Dawn. A pretty cool film about drugs that feels like you’re on drugs. Fruit was… well, fruity. And crazy. I’m not even going to say what’s going on, because it felt like another drug trip. A little too intense in surrealism for my taste. Glow Dorris snapped me out after that with a film that went in interesting directions. It was pretty entertaining with short quick intermission type skits. Amazing what fun you can have with improv skills and a green screen. Now out with the surreal and back to the ominous.  Since I’ve seen Odd Girl, now is a good time to talk about Too Late. See what I did there? It’s an animated film about a man working at his computer, doing basic data stuff. Oh, and Big Brother is watching/forbidding him from leaving work. It was kind of relatable, I’ve worked in office environments before. It was also pretty dark too. It seems like last year’s Crazy 8’s and films covered by Shaun keep popping up, so I’ll get on the final 2 of the program. What We Found Out There started out like a basic camping trip and then turned into a disturbing discovery when they come across a deceased old man who has some pretty creepy tapes in his camcorder. Man, that had a TWIST. Finally there was The Freeze, a film about a girl who gets a new fridge courtesy of her landlord and there’s a dead boy inside. This was chilling in more than one way (totally intended). Oh yeah, I got a million of ‘em. I am a writer after all. 

And that’s the creepiest of the programs. Despite being frightening, I didn’t have trouble sleeping. I guess I grew accustomed to horror thanks to James Rolfe.


Programme 5 – There’s a lot of shorts about love and emotion in this block. Deeper I Go focused on a man’s love for his fur-baby, er- cat and Looking Back was a musical between a mother and daughter. I can’t tell if those two films were heartwarming or odd. But She Made Me had the beautiful feels of the first two as it was a mother and son connection and had some pretty cool music and intensity. Nene was a nice story about a woman and her son going to meet an elderly woman who loves to paint. More art comes along as The Ink Runs Deep was about body art. Anyone who knows me knows I have no intention of having body ink of any kind for many reasons. All of them can be interpreted as “I’m a weirdo” or “I’m a wuss”. Unlike the rest, it was a documentary about how tattoos are a labour of love sometimes and they even symbolize love. It also brought up the subject of First Nations and Indigenous symbols as body ink, really cool stuff in my opinion. Funny enough, things were in some sort of pattern because Yarlung was an animation that looked illustrated in a style similar to body ink. It was a pretty sad story though about losing a family member. And as for the last film, Whale, it was about a young boy who has to cope with his father’s death and learns about the community he’s in. Oh, and a whale is involved. It went on a while, but it was still a nice film about family and history.


Programme 6 – So this is the last one and how does it hold up? It was interesting and there were a lot of Vancouver vibes in it. To start it off, Ginger Beef was a short film about being a new student in a school and it seems like so much is new and scary. Honestly there wasn’t too much to this at all. As for The Sunday Cycle which screened right after and took place in a laundromat. Having hardly ever been in a laundromat myself, this is something I’m not familiar with, but the setting does remind me of typical locations in town. What started as a simple film got dramatic quickly. Now onto the film, There and Then which like The Sunday Cycle took place in Vancouver only it was a short doc about a cyclist as he journeys on his track bike. Basic Vancouver content honestly but still pretty cool in shots. After that was 33’ Lot, another documentary about Vancouver living. This is why I mention Vancouver vibes. As for the last two that I haven’t watched/covered, No More Parties was about a young girl with a broken foot who goes to a party and makes a deeper connection with her mother despite the distance. As for Breaking The Silence, this was a documentary but about an Asian man talking about cultural exploitation, growing up dealing with racism and art. Once again, love and Vancouver Vibes. Mostly. They were all delightful anyways.


Awards Ceremony – Now to end it all and find out who won what. Like a lot of programs and screenings, it was a mix. I’m sensing a pattern here. Or maybe these online viewings are finally getting to me. The Awards were hosted by David C Jones, who not only brought in high energy and included a dance break which caused me to throw out my back, but he also had what I think were either the magical changing powers of Superman or some mysterious clothes-changing invention. I’m serious, he wore multiple outfits through this whole thing. After some speeches by Bob D’Eith and Kristyn Stilling, we got introduced to the judges, Doreen Manuel, Arnold Lim, and Kathleen Mullen. There were a lot of awards which as per usual I won’t go into detail. But like most VSFF award ceremonies go, the most awarded is the best short. This year’s was The Ink Runs Deep. Follow up with some awkward audience awards where somebody claims to be every winner, and you’ve got one final evening of entertainment.


Well, that’s VSFF for this year. Nothing but screenings and Zooms, mostly screenings but it was still an experience like no other. Except for maybe a couple other festivals I attended online. Still, it was great because the team made do with what they had. Now to get out of patterns in short films and back to my pattern of the weekly stay-at-home work. Sheesh, my life is getting bland…

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