By Adam Cook
This year at VIFF I am proud to be presenting Future//Present, a new program that puts a spotlight on emerging Canadian filmmakers. Featuring eight films, it’s a focused, curated selection that emphasizes artistry and bold new voices that approach cinema in distinct ways.
As the world of filmmaking continues to evolve rapidly with new technology, the latest generation of artists are able to create meaningful work outside of normal avenues with fewer resources—all it takes is vision. The best and brightest directors in Canada are making incredible work in a variety of forms. Future//Present celebrates these rising talents and brings their unique styles together. Of the ten directors in the program, nine are first-time filmmakers (Nicolás Pereda, already renowned internationally, is the one exception as the co-director of Tales of Two Who Dreamt along with first-timer Andrea Bussmann), and five are women. The subjects and methods run the gamut: coming-of-age drama, docu-fiction, mockumentary and more.
Karl Lemieux, longtime staple of the Montréal experimental film scene (and noted collaborator with Godspeed! You Black Emperor) makes his feature debut with Maudite Poutine, a story of estranged brothers in debt to drug dealers. Shot on 16mm in black & white, it’s a richly textured and deeply felt film. Another black & white film, Tales of Two Who Dreamt was shot digitally then transferred to film, giving it an unusual feeling in sync with its characters—an immigrant family awaiting VISA approval in Toronto—who live in a limbo-like state. A staged documentary, directors Pereda and Bussmann challenge notions of representation and storytelling.
The one through-and-through documentary in the program is Lights Above Water (directed by Nicolas Lachapelle and Ariel St-Louis Lamoureux). Set in the Cree community of Waswanipi, Quebec, it’s about a group of young First Nations children and their daily lives as they talk about home, play, hunt, and dance; It’s a film of spontaneous poetry. In contrast, Lawrence Coté-Collins’ Split, is a supremely entertaining mockumentary about a meddlesome filmmaker that brings up important questions of documentary ethics, which feel particularly relevant in a time where the gravity of image-making is a passing thought.
Not a documentary, but incorporating elements of non-fiction, is Sofia Bohdanowicz’s moving first feature, Never Eat Alone. Starring her grandmother, the film fictionalizes a true story about a widow who enlists her granddaughter to track down an old flame that acted alongside her in a TV show in the 50s. Subtle and understated, this is assured, mature filmmaking that positions Bohdanowicz alongside Canada’s most gifted directors. Another deeply empathetic drama, The Lockpicker is decorated visual artist and short filmmaker Randall Okita’s first narrative feature. Hashi is an introverted teenage boy who is dealing with the trauma of a classmate’s recent suicide in strange ways, recording everything around him and playing it back in his headphones, as he becomes increasingly disconnected from reality.
The final two films in Future//Present are both troubling dramas about young women struggling with their day to day life. Ashley McKenzie’s Werewolf is about a methadone-dependent couple, Blaise and Nessa, whose relationship may at once be their only source of support and yet also be perpetuating an unending cycle of addiction and poverty. Nessa has the potential to break out of this cycle, but is she able to leave Blaise behind for her own good? In The Intestine, Maya finds herself stranded in a luxurious suburban home after a one-night stand. Sick and tired of her miserable life at home with her drug-addicted mom, she’ll do whatever it takes to claim the domestic paradise as her own. Featuring the work of rising cinematographer Nikolay Michaylov (How Heavy This Hammer), The Intestine is distinguished by a bold visual style and writer-director-composer Lev Lewis’ breathtaking musical score.
Join us for the Future//Present film series at VIFF this year and see the future of Canadian cinema, now.