Exclusive – Aaron Ries Presents His Film Dziadzio at TIFF

I think it’s safe to say that most of us have spent time around a grandparent born in another country when we were younger. It doesn’t take long to realize how polar opposite you both might be. It can be a teaching moment or it can seem to force a wedge into the relationship. Aaron Ries explores this relationship further, in his 11 ½ min film, Dziadzio.  It will be making its World Premiere at TIFF. I had the unique opportunity to speak with him in Toronto, where he resides.

“Is this is a fantasy based film?”

“It’s a blend of a couple different genres. It’s a drama that takes a turn into thriller and fantasy.”


“Have you made this type of film before?”

“I’ve made some music videos before but this is the first short film that I’ve done.”


“What was the inspiration behind this film?”

“I am half Polish and I had spent a summer with my own Polish grandfather (Dziadzio) in North York. It was an interesting time. The story is based around a young woman that lives with her Polish grandfather for one summer. They have a bit of a tense relationship and over the course of the film we see that things go off the rails a bit, in the relationship and in her head. That was the inspiration for the world in the film. What happens in the film is fiction but my experience had set up the canvas for it. It’s also inspired by the work of other filmmakers.”


“Considering you based the story on your own experience, why did you decide to use a female to portray your experience?”

“I did that to help with the writing process and to try and get out of my own head in order to think about the story differently.”


“Did you find that swapping out the male for a female character added a different dynamic to the relationship?”

“Yes, I think it helped the film to take its own form. It helped to think about the film in a different way and let the story go off in its own direction. Although it’s based on my own experiences, the film was allowed to move in its own unique direction. The most beneficial part was when we were shooting the film I didn’t layer on my own experience to the actors playing the roles. The actress playing the lead character was able to make it her own. In doing that, it really took on a life of its own in the writing and the creating. It took its own direction that was more than just the story and the experience that formed it.”


“Where did you find the actors?”

“They’re all from Toronto. The grandfather played by Otto Friedman is the father of a casting agent. He’s not a professional actor and had a long career in the hotel industry. When he retired his daughter suggested he try acting to pass the time. As it turns out he’s really good at it. The other lead Sydney Herauf is originally from Calgary but moved to Toronto to study at Ryerson University and is a professional actor that performs in a lot of theatre and short films. She’s also a writer and an artist on the move.”


“Are you quite satisfied with the outcome of the film?”

“I really am. I’ve watched it a million times and still didn’t know if I liked it but then you take a break and watch it with fresh eyes and you can’t help but notice things here and there. I’m really happy with the outcome. The people that worked on it were excellent.”


“Considering there is some fantasy in the film, did you create any CGI?”

“No, there’s no special effects, it was all done in camera. Some of the more fantastical things we’d work on in setup, in camera with lighting and backdrops that myself and my cinematographer (Jesse McKracken) would work out and plan. We really did a lot with a little to make some of the effects that are all in camera.”


“Did you finance this film out of pocket?”

“Yes, I did it through savings and visa’s. It still hurts (slight chuckle).”


“Are there any subtitles, considering the grandfather is Polish?”

“No there isn’t. It’s all in English, however there is some folk music in it that has a dialect that is between Czech and Polish.”  


“What is the message you hope for people to take away from this film?”

“I suppose it would be about the tension between two people that are generations apart and very different that are coming from diverse backgrounds living in North York and other places in Canada; where people from the same family and how they can be vastly different, because one was born in another country.”


“When and where did you shoot Dziadzio?”

“We shot it in August of last summer in North York (suburb in Toronto) at a home near Downsview. We also shot a lot of B-roll near there and around the 401 Hwy, near Leslieville and the Finch hydro corridor.  It’s kind of suburban and kind of urban.”


“How long did it take to shoot and finish post production?”

“We shot it over 3 days and post took 6 months to finish. It took me about a year to write the screenplay.”


Aaron is presently working on a script for a feature film that takes place on the shores of Lake Erie. He says he intends on staying within the same genre that touch on both drama, fantasy and thriller with a fast pace. After TIFF Aaron hopes to announce other festivals screenings.

We wish him much success with the film and continued success with future films.


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