Deco Dawson’s Personal Top Ten Shorts + How to Make a Great Short Film on Bargain Basement Prices

Thursday, November 26, 2009 at 7PM
Winnipeg Cinematheque
Panel to Follow: How to Make a Great Short Film on Bargain Basement Prices

In November of 2008 I was selected to be a jury member for the Toronto International Film Festival Group’s annual Top Ten List of Canadian Short Films. This allowed me the great pleasure to view over 150 shorts from all across Canada, films that had screened in dozens of festivals across this nation, not limited exclusively to the Toronto International Film Festival. As I continued through the material, it became very apparent as to which kinds of films spoke to me technically, artistically and thematically. I started to notice a trend in the strongest work that, while completely unique from one another, they each depicted their own take on Canadian identity. I amassed a list of ten films and started to marvel at how social, cultural and geographical location factored into the overall atmosphere of the film. I started to think how these films could not have been made any place outside of Canada, yet none of the films are directly about Canada, but are merely influenced by it in many unwritten ways.

Having completed my task as jury member, I have since sought out additional films from this year’s festival circuit and have come up with a top ten list of my own. Comprised of short films in every category including drama, dark comedy, animation and documentary, these ten films present no hidden agenda. These ten films are, in my opinion, the very best Canadian short films released in 2008 and deserve to be seen as such. Their styles, formats and themes are wildly disparate, yet somehow they are unified solely by having been created in Canada, by Canadians.

– Deco Dawson

Film Selection

Bird Lady by Greg Denny, Zachary Derhodge
A Super-8 window into the the life of the late Anne Ross, a longtime resident of Parkdale and avid feeder of the lowly pigeon. Anne fed literally hundreds of pigeons a day, while doling out advice to passersby on the side. Birdlady is a sensitive document of old age, loneliness and the ability to find meaning in the most unlikely things—and wings.

Mon nom est Victor Gazon by Patrick Gaze
Every once in a while, a film will come along that is so well crafted and so sophisticated in its storytelling that it seems effortless. Combine with this the naivety of a child’s first-person point of view and you have Mon nom est Victor Gazon, a tender, funny, sympathetic portrait of a young boy. Under Patrick Gazé’s direction, we identify with this mature ten-year-old child and recognize his innocence as our own. Finally Leo Lauzon has a kindred brother.

Drux Flux by Theodore Ushev
Drux Flux is a stimulating, powerful, sensory-overloading animated short that travels back through time, dramatizing the present conditions of the post-industrial age before almost subliminally reeling further to the days of the industrial revolution. Though this reverse-chronological discovery, the film infuses itself with the cinematic styles, editing and imagery of the industrial revolutionist filmmakers, culminating in pure cinema-as-historical-essay that flawlessly practises what it preaches!

Ghosts and Gravel Roads by Mike Rollo
Exploring once-settled but now-abandoned areas of the prairies, Mike Rollo uses his keen eye for composition to infuse himself into the ghost towns and vast isolation of southwestern Saskatchewan. With no sign of human existence in sight, except for shadows, relics and photographic remains, Rollo reminds us of the fragility of our communities and how easily these places are forgotten. This is a mesmerizing and reflective ode to a lost era.

Welcome by Daniel Gerson
Filmed on location in Winnipeg’s disintegrating Chinatown district, Welcome is a starkly honest look at a lonely boy’s travels along broken streets riddled with addiction.

Hydro-Levesque by Matthew Rankin
On the night of René Lévesque’s electrifying sovereigntist victory in 1976, a deaf-mute Catholic nun is drawn away from the jubilation by a paranormal cry for help from a furniture salesman in Winnipeg. Leaving her happy nation behind, the compassionate sister ventures straight into the heart of Winnipeg. There she discovers a crazed, absurd and delirious city on the brink of mass suicide.

Cattle Call by Mike Maryniuk & Matthew Rankin
Auctioneers and animation collide in this fast-paced and explosive introduction to the Winnipeg stockyards. Reflecting an unabashed prairie perspective, this blend of hyperbole and documentary creates a highly entertaining film imbued with social commentary.

Ca Pis Tout L’Reste by Patrick Boivin
Cleverly combining stunning visual animation and live action, a young couple relive their relationship in a last ditch attempt to save it.

Forty Men For the Yukon by Tony Massil
In this observational verité documentary, Frank Erl and Geordie Dobson reflect on the decades they’ve spent in the wilds of the Yukon, and what attracted them to the isolation and independence of the North. The wisdom these men impart is honest and hard earned.

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~ by cineflyer on November 23, 2009.

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