The 24th edition of the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival takes place from October 22-26. The Scope’s crack team of film critics picked a few of their favourites from the lineup.
We Wanted More
Friday, October 25, 7 pm, LSPU Hall
Newfoundland, 2013, 15 minutes
Directed by St. John’s native Stephen Dunn, co-written by Dunn and Margaret Rose Lester, and produced by Jennifer Shin, We Wanted More is a taut psychological thriller with more than a little science fiction and horror thrown in. On the opening night of her world tour and on the verge of real success, a singer (Christine Horne) locks herself away in a hotel room where her long-buried mental anguish comes to bear—through Cronenbergian horror tropes and a tone reminiscent of Rosemary’s Baby.
After vomiting and pulling a long, hairy umbilical cord out of her throat, the singer tosses the entire mess into the bathtub and realizes she has lost her voice. The thing in the tub emerges as a little girl (Skyler Wexler of Orphan Black) who speaks with the singer’s stolen voice as the singer’s agent (Angela Asher) relentlessly harangues from the other side of the door.
Did the singer choose her career over this strange form of motherhood? Is she struggling with demonic laryngitis or supernatural stage-fright? The metaphor is delightfully murky, and the film’s breathless pace will keep you guessing until the end. Mark Jerrett
Thursday, October 24, 7 pm, LSPU Hall
Ontario, 2012, 8 minutes
Is there any crueler joke than dreaming of seeing Paris, France when you were born in Paris, Ontario? That’s certainly the fate for the beautiful illustrator, Lillian (Mika Collins), though I imagine London, Ontario residents must share her pain. Lillian creates wonderful little sketches of her surroundings with all sorts of little cartoony touches to add a bit of life to her drab surroundings. She’s not living the way she wants, but her sketching brings her pleasure.
Sitting on a bench across from her is Jacques (Emmanuel Bilodeau), a man whose life is weighed down by something worse than Lillian’s malaise. She is in a rut, but Jacques is at the end of his rope.
Pamplemousse is a thoroughly warm and sweet story, well-told in less than eight minutes. Co-star Collins and director Jonathan Watton have created a perfect mix of humour and sentimentality in their script, adapted from Morris Panych’s play 7 Stories. Aided by some striking hand-drawn animation effects and gorgeous cinematography by Pawel Porgozelski, Pamplemousse is a gem of a sleeper playing at this year’s fest. Adam Clarke
Talus and Scree
Friday, October 25, 7 pm, LSPU Hall
Newfoundland, 2013, 10 minutes
As a child, you grow up struggling to make sense of the world. It’s all complicated and unknowable until reality is illuminated with time and maturity. Before that happens, children attach reasons to the things that happen to them.
When the world delivers senseless pain and suffering, children have to make sense of that too.
For writer-director Ruth Lawrence, a violent childhood trauma involving her sister became one of the formative events of her life. It’s not a disgraceful family secret, but a quiet burden that Lawrence carried with her into adulthood.
In Lawrence’s film, the young actors (Emily Dawe, Tegan MacDonald) deliver strong performances. There’s a moment in the film when the camera catches a look of heartache on Dawe’s face and it really lands like punch to the gut.
As director of photography, Montreal cinematographer Stéphanie Weber Biron develops some incredible visuals. The rocks and stones and water of Paradise and Petty Harbour are all represented, but also the refined images of a Newfoundland household in 1975.
Lawrence’s short film plays like a prologue to a longer story. Two key events of her childhood are tied together, and they inform the woman she has become. Through it, we get an understanding of what it means hold on, and to let go. Lauren Power
Saturday, October 26, 8PM, Arts & Culture Centre
Newfoundland, 2013, 93 minutes
In this adaptation of Kevin Major’s junior high school classic, Avery Ash stars as Michael, a 14 year old boy who moves from his home in Major’s Harbour to Mount Pearl when his parents are killed in a car accident. He’s a bit of a hard ticket, so when he begins his new life in suburbia, things don’t go exactly as planned.
Life with his Aunt Ellen and Uncle Ted (Molly Parker and Aiden Flynn) is much different than his life in back home. His cousin Curtis (Douglas Sullivan) is quiet and distant, and he’s picked on at school.
After he takes down his tormentor and isn’t allowed to go to a school dance with his girlfriend Brenda, he decides he’s had enough of the place and decides to run away. Curtis, also fed up with his father’s rules, joins him and the two take off.
Michael’s father was supposed to take him to Green Gardens in Gros Morne that year and he wants to go on a quest and pay his respects. Together the two boys hitchhike, steal cars, skin rabbits and quickly learn to appreciate each other.
Des Walsh, Andy Jones, the magical Pamela Morgan and the two young stars are fantastic, plus it’s especially fun to try to guess where all the filming took place (and wonder why it took the youngsters two whole days to get to St. John’s International Airport.) Director Justin Simms has created another beautifully shot and engaging film, worth watching for the scenery alone, and, as usual with Simm’s work, this is bound to please audiences at this year’s festival. Jen Squires
Distraction of a Stationary Nature
Thursday, October 24, 7pm, LSPU Hall
Canada, 2012, 9 minutes
Written, performed, edited, produced, and directed by Shyra de Souza, this is a 10 minute, stop motion film that explores the idea that anything can be interesting enough to distract you when you’re supposed to be working—even office supplies. If you’ve ever tried to pull a Pepsi and Hawkin’s Cheezies-fueled all-nighter you’ll appreciate this short.
De Souza is a multimedia artist whose goal is bring mundane objects to life.
At first you’ll wonder about the lack of a soundtrack, but as the forest scene starts to take shape, the rustling Post-Its begin to sound like leaves and waves, and then build to a cacophony, and leading her to put all of the office supplies in the trash until the room is silent.
Spoiler: Whiteout tape turns into a snail. Natalie Ivany
By Adam Clarke, Natalie Ivany, Mark Jerrett, Jen Squires and Lauren Power.
For details and ticket info, check www.womensfilmfestival.com