Your Nickel’s Worth

The Nickel Film Festival is fast approaching. Adam Clarke offers a few highlights from this year’s local entries.

Festival time is here.

No, put down your torches. I’m not talking about The Wicker Man, I’m talking about the Nickel Film Festival, which boasts a schedule that is perhaps more loaded than ever with local films. This year’s Nickel Film Festival is brimming with a series of filmmaker workshops, a marathon night of horror films, alongside the short films typical of the event.

Hard Light
Of the films that I previewed, one highlight would definitely be Justin Simms’ Hard Light. Rather than an adaptation of award-winning author Michael Crummey’s book of the same name, Simms’ movie consists largely of a series of interviews with Crummey.

One thing I must praise about it is its brief interludes when the talking head segments are broken up with re-enactments and visual sketches. With any kind of re-enactment during a film, you risk having the project degenerate into the awkward, amateurish and completely ropey segments that would typify shows like Heart Of Courage (with TV’s Alex Trebek), Rescue 911 (with TV’s William Shatner) and that enduring monument to gullibility, Paranormal Witness (with no one). The sequences that we do see, realized from Crummey’s work and personal remembrances are understated and evocative.

The conversations with Michael Crummey go through his life as a writer, his decision to return to Newfoundland, his failures in past relationships, his memories of his parents and his thoughts on why modern life seems so alienating. Crummey’s criticism of the current obsession with personal happiness and its relationship to the increasingly prevalent technology surrounding us is provacative. Loss and unhappiness are the two thoughts that keep bubbling up in Crummey’s interviews here, and with careful, thoughtful editing, the author’s views build onto the film as well. Even a slight slip up in the editing bay could have resulted in a messy ramble, but that definitely doesn’t happen here.

Nickel Shorts
Other highlights of this year’s festival are, unsurprisingly, the litany of shorts. One short, Last of the Snow (2012), falls under the portentous promise of being a Dogme 95 film and attempts to follow that movement’s stringent regulations. While I don’t give a damn about that movement and its “Vow of Chastity”, there’s an interesting backstory drawn out of the simple placement of a man, a woman and a child next door during a winter’s day in St. John’s. Writer-director Jonathan Watton (perhaps best known for his role on CBC’s Murdoch Mysteries) does a commendable job of telling a lot while showing as little as possible.

But the most fun night of the Nickel is guaranteed to be the horror night. This year’s night of horror features Mike Fardy’s terrifically silly Respect Your Eldritch, which won the Nickel’s 48 Hour Horror Film Challenge last November. Joining Eldritch are a few entertaining entries from last year’s challenge including such as The Date, and Trick Or Treat, as well as the award-winning Survivor Type and The Master & Me (starring Robert Joy).

Zombie illustration by Kyle Bustin.