The Whistler Film Festival is slowly starting to come to a close with its daily premieres but what is just great to see is how many of its selections are now readily available on the site. Both a stunning wildlife documentary and another collection of Kristyn Stilling’s Shortwork are up for viewing today on the WFF Virtual site.
Overland (United States, dir. Elisabeth Haviland James & Revere La Noue)
Featuring a few remote locations in South Africa, Italy, Dubai and the US, OVERLAND moves all over the world in its story of several people involved with the art of connection to their bird companions. There are quite a few different connections here from a falcon trainer, a woman determined to have a career in devoting her time to following eagles and a man living in solitary with bird companions. All of these stories are trying to continue a tradition that seems to be slipping away from them.
Bird lovers and fans of nature documentaries will absolutely enjoy OVERLAND; the husband-wife team of Elisabeth Haviland James and Revere La Noue understand the big-screen concept here and while it has a lot of intimate shots of its subjects, it goes for grand scale as well with some epic desert and nature shots. It’s a BIT overlong at 105 minutes with some of the stories lingering a bit longer over their welcome, but this is such a visually triumphant piece of work. While I have mentioned many times that nothing beats a cinematic presentation, all I can push for with OVERLAND is to have a really good home viewing system right now for maximum impact.
Rating: *** out of ****
Shortwork Showcase #3:
The Best Orchestra In The World (Austria, Director: Henning Backhaus)
What does a sock have to do to get any respect over here? That’s the dilemma facing Ingbert Socke, who is a very talented double bass player, so much so that he auditions at the Vienna State Orchestra. Bonus points that even though Ingbert is a mere sock that he can also magically change notes on the fly with one hand! Because two hands to play an instrument…who has time for that? An adorable, silly little comedy from Austrian filmmaker Henning Backhaus that takes a fun subject and runs with it. It is also a true underdog story…or an undersock, if you will.
4 North A (Canada, Director: Howie Shia, Jordan Canning)
A fascinating subject on the sounds that a hospital can make that help reflect on your past, 4 NORTH A was written and co-directed by WFF alum Jordan Canning (WE WERE WOLVES, which to this date is still one of my favourite festival movies) who no doubt drew on personal experience to use animation as a powerful tool as our lead woman reflects on memories of her father, mostly painted in blue. What’s fascinating is how this particular use of animation actually made me feel more of the reality of the situation, from the painting of hallways, vending machines and the banality of the surroundings to lush, fluid memories. It is of course a very sad story but Canning and co-director Howie Shia pack a big emotional wallop into just 11 minutes.
March (Canada, dir: Emily Dickinson)
Set in the not too distant future, a young woman (Victoria Maria) travels from New York to Toronto to get an abortion as abortions are now illegal in the United States. Most of the running time is involved in extreme close-ups of Maria as she navigates her way around the city and has deep thoughts about why she is choosing to do this, along with a quick flashback to an argument with her mom. Most of it relies on young actress Victoria Maria who has such an expressive face and director Emily Dickinson focuses really closely on her every move and nuance. A pretty quiet but powerful work here.
Odehimin (Canada, Director: Kijatai Alexandra Veillette Cheezo)
There have been quite a few of these style of shorts throughout all of the shorts programming, mostly visual poems about Indigenous characters and life. ODEHIMIN features the title character of the same name reconnecting in nature, mostly all set in a lake outside her home. It features a lot of colourful edits, subtitles, both English and French making for a lush visual poem. I would like to see many more of these all together in a shorts film package to promote these stories.
When The Night Has Come (Canada, Director: Janice Mingas)
What initially starts as an absolute cliche of a white cop trying to detain a black man from walking home suddenly turns into a more interesting concept of the cop and suspect having a conversation in their car and quickly learning about each other’s past. Janice Mingas does make a solid case here for an effective short in the last few minutes, including a very shocking finale and final shot that speaks volumes about current culture.
Vayu (Iran, Director: Panahbarkhoda Rezaee)
A small village is taken over by a flood that almost totally decimates the area in Panahbarkhoda Rezaee’s stunning visual poem that combines lyrical narration and a lot of wide vista shots of a natural disaster and how it impacts its locals. There are so many eye-popping moments here; of roads torn apart by floods, of outlets torrenting water that never seems to end, of former plains now covered in water, of animals swimming up to their necks just to get to the next dry spot, that you almost forget that it’s a natural disaster. Cinematographer Farshid Azari also deserves huge credit for setting up these mostly wide and open visuals and letting us take it all in.
You Will Still Be Here Tomorrow (Canada, Director: Michael Hanley)
It’s astonishing to see a masterful short like this that in just a mere 13 minutes gets right in and out with a powerful story between father and son. In this story, a son is visiting his father as his memory is rapidly going away and in a few fleeing cuts we see multiple timelines of a son trying to reveal news to his dad but he either reacts poorly or forgets about it, and the effects it has on the son (Jonathan Watton in an unforgettable performance) is palpable. Michael Hanley is a deeply skilled filmmaker here, also adding in the great presence of bedrooms, living rooms and even a cafeteria setting that all flow together flawlessly.
#WFF20 is here! Join in celebrating cinematic excellence with 97 fresh films, including 30 features and 67 shorts, premiering through December 20th and available to Canadian audiences online until December 31. Once you order a film, you have 24 hours to watch it. (We at Get Reel Movies recommend the TV streaming box Apple TV or even the Roku app, both of which I use to stream titles this year.) Plus, WFF has pledged to share net online proceeds on a 50/50 basis directly with the filmmakers or Canadian rights holders.
For more information, visit www.whistlerfilmfestival.com!