Whistler Film Festival, Day 6: Quebec Exits & Scary Manitoba Demons In Shortwork Order

Jason Whyte | Get Reel Movies

It’s Day 6 of Whistler Film Festival and now the festival is officially running LONGER than its usual five days when it’s in Whistler Village. There’s a lot more breathing room and now that there aren’t any industry live-streams until Wednesday, it’s time to buckle down and watch more movies! 

As it has been mentioned in other daily articles, I am seeing all of the titles ahead of time so I can give you a daily rundown of what is playing and my thoughts. And In a bit of change in my daily coverage, I am moving one title UP a day as my Day 7 coverage will exclusively feature one single movie for a very important reason. For Day 6, we’re looking at another installment of Kristyn Stilling’s Shortwork along with a new Quebec comedy AND a French-language horror movie…out of Winnipeg? Keep reading. 

Quebexit (Quebec, dir. Joshua Demers)

Set mostly on a piece of border road between Quebec and New Brunswick, sometimes a little TOO much for its running time, we have a LOT of crazy conflict going on here! And it’s not just the borders, but the languages; we have both English, French AND Cree all at wits with one another after another Quebec sovereign referendum kicks off after a trans-national pipeline going through le province. The Canadian Forces are sent in to battle (mostly at wits) with a Independent Quebec Army. Yes, my reader, wackiness ensues. 

A fun riff in the mockumentary category, I even had a few minor riffs of early Armando Iannucci in some of QUEBEXIT. There are a lot of clashing personalities here but director Joshua Demers has a lot of fun with it, even balancing some modern events (This is also one of the first feature films this year to mention COVID-19, but it’s handled in good taste.) I only fear the movie won’t be that accessible much outside of its French audience, but it still really worked for me. 

Rating: *** out of ****

QUEBEXIT will be able to stream with alternate subtitles depending on region starting today on the virtual screening room page. 

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The Corruption of Divine Providence (Manitoba, directed by Jeremy Torrie)

In a small Northern town in Manitoba, a young Metis girl named Jeanne (a terrific Ali Skovbye, younger sister to Tiera who was at WFF a few years ago with PRODIGALS) suddenly disappears

Where I found the movie really took off was both with its lead characters. Jane’s parents, a bitter married couple (Elyse Levesque and David LaHaye) who have some of the most harsh exchanges I have EVER seen in a motion picture, are of course horrified with the situation and don’t know how to deal with it except for verbal blows. You almost wonder how one hasn’t had the other killed somehow. Later, the movie gets some fun mileage about of a TV evangelist who offers “six figures” for the family to be exclusively interviewed. This all leads to a big struggle for Jeanne as the walls seem to be closing in on her. 

Effectively directed with great visual tricks and special effects, director Jeremy Torrie has made a satisfying thriller that’s also a great slice of Winnipeg life and showing the culture that is just outside of the norm. 

Rating: *** out of ****

NOTE: This film begins streaming tomorrow, December 7th, on Virtual WFF. 

Shortwork 2

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AFTER THAT (British Columbia, dir. Aerlan Barrett)

A quietly powerful subject on the effects of staying quiet on sexual violence, AFTER THAT bounces back and forth through a couple of quick timelines with the pre-cursor, incident and aftermath of an incident of a young woman named Cassie (Carolyn Yonge). What’s shocking about AFTER THAT is the incident itself probably happens way too often in life and none of it is reported, and thankfully in this short it is dealt with realism. As Cassie, Carolyn Yonge is very effective here in a performance that I can only imagine was based off of an actual experience, and there is a particular sequence she is fascinating in where she deals with the shocking incident. 

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Average Happiness (Switzerland, dir. Maja Gehrig)

An eight minute visual overload of daring and colourful imagery as a PowerPoint presentation goes haywire, AVERAGE HAPPINESS is what happens when graphs and pie-charts decide to break free of their restrictions and go wild, going back to one of my favourite sayings “Drawing outside of the circle”. This is a wonderful concept with eye-popping colours, a fun narration that doesn’t take itself too seriously along with a fun soundtrack. Director Maja Gehrig and her team deserve congratulations for an incredible idea that is followed through with a lot of wit, sarcasm and making us look at pie-charts in a whole new way.

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The Lord’s Day (Quebec, dir. Simon Weizineau)

A nice little idea of following a young Atikameku boy on an overcast day in his small Quebec village as he reminisces about his lost dog; THE LORD’S DAY uses quiet narration anc quaint images of train tracks, bushes and his small village flowing by in each shot. Even at just a six minute running time and a very unfiltered, digitally shot look and feel, I liked the immediate sense of place and community here and wonder about all of the little stories of everyone around me. There is also a quick but effective nod to possible racism in the boy’s school life which could be a reason for his sadness. 

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Our Hearts Beat Like War (Isreal, dir. Elinor Nechemya)

Opening on a beautiful woman and slowly changing its perspective to a young boy named Sinai, we follow a quick story on a son who follows his mom to her workplace, he falls asleep and a unique dream —featuring a balance of low-resolution film and animation — takes over. It’s almost difficult to describe OUR HEARTS BEAT LIKE WAR, but it’s also a testament to the power of short films. Utilizing soft music, a mostly hand-held approach for effective realism and then branching off into a child’s imagination and ending with a few brief but fascinating shots focusing between dreams and reality.

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The Rabbit Hunters (Canada, dir. Guy Maddin, Evan & Galen Johnson)

The last time I saw a collaboration between Guy Maddin, Galen & Elgen Johnson I was sitting in a gala screening at the Vancouver International Film Festival watching the Kronos Quartet live-perform a series of crazy, overcranked visuals set to the theme of VERTIGO. I still haven’t made much sense of that night, and as I watched their new short THE RABBIT HUNTERS, I still pretty much can’t except to say that it’s a tremendous visual hodge-podge of nightmare visuals starring Isabella Rossellini (who I remember clearly from her participation in Maddin’s feature THE SADDEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD) as a woman who keeps trying to reunite with her wife, but can’t. If you have ever had a dream where you need to just open that door but you can’t, you’ll be right at home here in this wacko visual journey. 

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Shooting Star (Quebec, dir. Anriane Louise-Seize)

A very effective take on a mother-daughter bond when a new boyfriend comes into the picture, SHOOTING STAR asks what could possibly happen when a young but world-wise girl may have feelings for her mom’s new boyfriend. It does come across as a creepy concept but as the short progressed, I was very engrossed in the wild ways of the mom, the subtle ways of the boyfriend but especially the intelligence and beauty of the daughter, in a terrific performance by Margerite Bouchard. When I thought the short was going in a wrong direction it threw a bit of a surprise at me that I thought absolutely worked. I even think that this could work as a feature to develop the relationships more and expand on the setting as well, which is all of these possible love connections happening when viewing the shooting stars of the title. 

Jason Whyte | Get Reel Movies

An Uninvited Guest (Canada, dir. Richard B. Pierre)

It’s really hard to describe AN UNINVITED GUEST as it only runs three quick minutes but it is an absolutely fascinating concept of what may or may not be a repeating cycle of terror involving a black man who is assaulted by a policeman right outside of a dinner happening at a picture window. There is no dialogue (there isn’t enough time!) and all of the soundtrack is a loud and aggressive mix of noise to really grab you immediately and throw you through this quick but powerful nightmare.

Shortwork 2 is now available along with Shortwork 1 still available throughout December. 

#WFF20 is here! Join in celebrating cinematic excellence with 97 fresh films, including 30 features and 67 shorts, now 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 stand by our Streamer Box of choice, Apple TV through the Eventival app) 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

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