Nice guy going far

Jonathan Adams talks to local director Noel Harris about the success of his short films Colic and Two or More.

This week we present the uplifting story of down-to-earth local boy Noel Harris, whose dedication, hard work, and unfailing politeness have somehow found favour in the big mean world, where life for such people is normally nasty, brutish, and short. Yes, friends, this is the story of the triumph of the Protestant Ethic in, of all places, the callous and cutthroat world of international show business.

That is to say: Harris’s short film Two or More, which premiered earlier this summer at the Nickel Film Festival, has been selected to screen at the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival (September 5-14), the Samhlaíocht Kerry Film Festival in Ireland (October 23-29), and, closer to home, the 26th Annual Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax, Nova Scotia (September 14-23). The filmmaker hastens to credit his film’s success to the local independent film community: “When I go down to L.A. and watch it up on the screen with all the other filmmakers there,” he says, “I’m gonna think of the crew and the actors … and, by extent, the whole community here.”

Harris toured the festival circuit a few years ago with his short film Colic, which received honourable mentions at both the JVC Tokyo Festival and the Toronto Cabbagetown Festival in 2001. Watching Colic and Two or More together, you will quickly get a sense of the fascination with small, seemingly (or actually) mundane moments which informs Harris’s sensibility as a filmmaker. “I don’t think I’ll ever make a film where it’s just full of eighteen-wheelers going off the road, and crashing and banging into each other. All my stories will be … personal, intimate, humanistic stories.”

So it is that in Harris’s films, such quiet events as a father’s calming his crying child, or an elderly woman’s finding her way through the saturnine
streets of St. John’s, are imbued with a tender and observant compassion.

It is a mark of Harris’s confidence as a director that he allows his audience to read an actor’s facial expression without the aid of any kind of dialogue or commentary. As often as not, the most affecting moments in Harris’s films are completely silent exchanges between his actors. An excellent example of this is the very opening of Colic, in which a young mother and father (played by Sherry White and Roger Maunder) awaken to the sound of their infant crying in the next room.  Without a word between them, the father is incontestibly appointed the one who will be getting out of bed.

Similarly, in this vein, the whole meaning and import of Two or More hinges on the change in the way the viewer interprets Maunder’s face in two separate scenes. The subtlety of this change stands as a testament to Maunder’s natural talent as a film actor.

Harris’s current projects include his first feature-length movie under his own production company, Chain Rock Productions, entitled Gros Morne. If it too is dedicated to his mother, like his previous films, we submit that she is a mother deservedly proud of her son’s accomplishments. How many films have you directed for your mother lately?    

Two or More and Colic are both available to download for free at
Coming soon : an extended interview with Noel Harris, featuring a deeper consideration of the masculine beauty of Roger Maunder’s face. Check The Scope’s Log.