by MEI LING CHEN
Short films generally aren’t as popular as their longer feature film counterparts, but the amount of skill and creativity to tell a full story in only a few minutes should not be overlooked. This year at the 15th Annual Reel World Film Festival, the shorts program screened a variety of films by mostly local artists of racially and culturally diverse backgrounds.
One of the standouts of the first night was Isaiah’s Birthday. As nine-year-old Isaiah prepares for his birthday party, his biological father, Kevin, prepares to meet him for the first time. Due to the mother’s objections to this meeting, Kevin disguises himself as the birthday clown to be able to enter the party. The symbolism is not lost on the audience as we watch Kevin, who is black, literally put on a white face to fit in with the wealthy suburban neighbourhood in which Isaiah and his family live. Sprinkled with humour throughout, Isaiah’s Birthday, is a touching short film based on director Shawn Gerrard’s own relationship with his father.
If you were given a second chance, what would you do to keep it? The Time Traveler explores just that when one man who’s only known violence and death suddenly wakes up with amnesia. He builds a new life in Canada, but a visitor from his past threatens to destroy the peace he’s worked so hard to create. The film takes a very dark turn as we watch the new man try to reconcile the man he was with the man he wants to be.
Uprooted Generation explores the devastating effects of Indian Residential School System on one young Innu woman and how she copes with the pain. The film is moving in some parts and upsetting in others; it is a story that needs to be told about Canada’s often overlooked people.
The second night of the shorts program took a closer look at familial relationships, starting with Grandma Knows Best?. Director Tamara Dawit reunites her two grandmothers for the first time in years to gain a better understanding of their values and the intentions behind their shared goal of getting her to marry. Coming from very different backgrounds, the love the grandmothers have for Dawit is what kept their own relationship intact after all these years, even after the divorce of their children. The film is an interesting study of how love transcends culture and can often be displayed in unsolicited ways.
It is often when one starts to consider the future that one wants to know more about one’s past. Expecting his first child, a Chinese-Canadian man decides to finally ask his mother about his own family history in Descendants of the Past, Ancestors of the Future. The film depicts the intergenerational struggle that often exists in families of immigrants as parent and child try desperately to understand each other. Albert M. Chan pulls double duty as the main character and director in this touching film about family and traditions.
Of this year’s line-up, perhaps none hits harder than The Bravest, The Boldest. A young mother living in a housing project sees the arrival of two army soldiers and fears the worst. Instinctively, she runs away and wanders the apartment building, hiding from these men and delaying the truth. Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris plays the mother beautifully as she frantically tries to hold on to what hope she has left. The Bravest, The Boldest is a haunting film about the consequences of war.