We’re getting there! I certainly hope you have had the opportunity to check out many movies and recommendations I have made for the 2020 edition of Whistler Film Festival. Adding into the virtual mix today is a caffeinated new feature from El Salvador and a feature by BC filmmaker Carl Bessai that is almost like a shorts package of its own, to go right along with the final round of Kristyn Stilling’s always terrific Shortwork program. Tomorrow we will also feature the Student Shortwork which features a lot of outstanding BC talent.
In Her City (Canada, dir. Carl Bessai)
Nearly feeling like this should be included in the shorts program, Carl Bessai’s solid new feature is a group of short films created by young women living in New York, Toronto and LA. Using improvisation, these are all stories that just pan through in a few minutes but leave an impact on women surviving in the city and trying to make something of themselves. All of the subjects are from different cultural and class backgrounds, and it gets that perfect feeling across when you pass someone interesting-looking on the street and you take a second to just think about what their life story could be.
Where IN HER CITY works is that we just jump right into the middle of these stories but we are immediately given a sense of not just their surroundings but the subject’s journey. The pre-pandemic city life where the camera closely follows its subjects is an absolute highlight; Bessai’s DIY indie passion has always reminded me of some of the earlier works of Edward Burns, especially SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK where I felt like most of the action was really happening. IN HER CITY is a brave and experimental watch, always welcome to see at film festivals, but I also champion all of the women (too many to name here) who are also such strong creatives who worked closely with Bessai’s never-ending spirit.
Rating: *** out of ****
The Whisper of Silence (El Salvador, dir. Alfonso Quijada)
Warning: you will need several cups of coffee to go along with a screening of THE WHISPER OF SILENCE. Not because it will simply give you that caffeine fix but Josefina, the lead character, is able to do the wonderful job of evaluating coffee beans and their flavoring in her small village in Central America. She’s so good at this that after she turns 18, she develops quite a job out of it, even attracting more popular coffee roasters. With that said, there is also has a dark undercurrent running through in its male characters and the film’s final act gets a bit more harsh, but it is also showing what was always there in that part of the world.
Directed by Alfonso Quijada and filmed in an ultra-wide aspect ratio that is both vivid in its scope AND can be extremely claustrophobic when needed, THE WHISPER OF SILENCE starts off wanting to make you visit that area of the world — how could you not as you can practically smell the coffee and food in some of the earlier scenes — but also really make you aware of the actual surroundings. Either way, how’s that coffee working out for you?
Rating: *** out of ****
Shortwork Showcase #4
Ashmina (UK/Nepal, Director: Dekel Berenson)
This small drama from Nepal feels like it has a few slight Whistler connections; Whistler itself is a tourist destination with lots to do, there are a LOT of out of towners and there is a lot of partying to go along with the mountain activities. But what about the people who actually WORK there? Who are they? ASHMINA asks this question, depicting the lead character of the same name who works in Pokhara, Nepal which is also the paragliding capital of the world. She’s a 13 year old girl who also collects tips which gets her in trouble when some very rich paragliders give her too much tip money. This visually strong movie is the most effective when it follows quiet, shy Ashmina in her day to day routine and how she is barely ever noticed.
Da Yie (Ghana, Belgium, Director: Anthony Nti)
Told from the perspective of kids in the open streets of Ghana, DA YIE (or GOOD NIGHT) depicts two kids who are picked up in a van by a foreigner, unbeknownst to the kids that he may need them to help out with some criminal activity. The foreigner, however, appears to have a change of thought when he realizes he has befriended them instead. Shot almost entirely hand-held and framed within a slight window box for added effect, this is a nice depiction of the openness of kids in a village with a slightly scary adult element underneath. It ends on a wonderful shot that I won’t spoil, but it speaks volumes to the place and youth of that part of the world.
Found Me (Quebec, Director: David Findlay)
David Findlay’s visually spectacular, soundtrack filled parable is about Mitch, a down on his luck worker who suddenly discovers underground wrestling on a cold winter night. This changes everything for him and brings him a new lease on life but it also confuses his girlfriend, well played here in mostly reaction faces by Nahema Ricci who was a big face of last year’s Whistler Film Festival with her performance in the award winning ANTIGONE. Both performances here suggest a strong loneliness that takes a sudden and unexpected turn for the better, ending with a smile on each of their faces.
On The Line (Quebec, Director: Marc-André Girard)
A really unique housebound concept with a fun twist, ON THE LINE is about what appears to be a phone scammer trying to get people to sign up for an at-home COVID-19 test kit. The scammer himself is all by himself in a big house as well. You start to wonder if this is working, but then the movie makes a nice twist and everything falls into place. Shot entirely at a house (likely too the filmmaker and lead actor did this during the lockdown), this is a fun little idea that could also be a nice warning sign to some people who are quick to give their credit card information over the phone.
Pelican Milkshake (Canada, Director: Marcus Newman)
PELICAN MILKSHAKE is a fun, gore-filled lark about a woman (played by Sophie McBean), we’re guessing some kind of contract killer, who is up in the woods burying a body when, suddenly, a drone appears behind her, fully recording her in the act. She traces it to the owner nearby who has recorded all of the footage by complete surprise (he’s just getting footage for himself) and a pretty graphic standoff happens. This is a fun genre concept and a neat little commentary on how you can’t seem to ever escape the eye of a camera, and made all the more exciting by Marcus Newman’s fun idea and execution, complete with Sophie McBean, future action star.
Single (United States, dir. Director: Ashley Eakin)
SINGLE was going to premiere at this year’s South By Southwest and this was on my radar all the way back in March. Sadly the festival didn’t happen but I am thrilled it’s in the WFF lineup and catching up with it here, as it’s a great concept about a disabled woman named Kim (actress here) who is trying to get on the dating scene again, even with her disability. Her friend sets her up on a date with a man who is also disabled, which enrages Kim as she doesn’t want to be seen that way. Ashley Eakin’s short is quite revealing not just by utilizing disabled actors but also in the way these two have chemistry together and it feels honest on how this date would go down.
Waste Away (Canada, Director: Elly Stern)
I feel like it has been awhile since I have seen stop motion animation in this fashion, and WASTE AWAY is a visual delight for a mere five minutes, mostly as it follows a woman who swallows a fish on the street and becomes engulfed with it, literally. Not exactly a movie for kids (there is a shot of the woman peeing on the street; yes, it’s animated but still pretty noticeable) but more to showcase the environment around us. Oddly enough I was reminded a bit of the final scenes in INCEPTION with the city wasting away, and it’s a compliment to WASTE AWAY which uses its animation style to make some shrewd comments in such a quick time.
#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!