A little Clermont-Ferrand awaits you in the heart of Northern Quebec

in Saguenay International Short Film Festival

by Davide Abbatescianni

It’s been quite a journey to reach Saguenay to attend this year’s edition of Festival Regard (20-24 March). But rest assured, it was really worth it. After a few intense days of onsite work in Denmark to cover the non-fiction business carried at CPH: DOX, I flew directly to this lively, snowy town located north of Montreal and Quebec City. Saguenay gave us a warm welcome from start to end.

Festival Regard is a gem in the crowded world of short-focused festivals. Friendly, passionate people organize it. It includes excellent networking activities and welcomes filmmakers and industry reps from every corner of the globe. Above all, it boasts excellent programs showcasing both Canadian and international excellence. In this report, I will be focusing on five titles that caught my eye, one of which was awarded with a Special Mention by our FIPRESCI jury.

Mothers and Monsters – Édith Jorisch, Canada

In just 15 minutes, the filmmaker crafts a beautiful allegory of women’s social anxieties and fears about motherhood. Impressive visual style and careful production design echo the artistry of David Cronenberg. Still, such reference only serves to tell a brand-new tale, which zooms in on a group of women at a banquet whose babies are delivered to them in heads of cabbage. The spectators enter an increasingly bizarre and disturbing atmosphere as the tension mounts.

 Bail Bail – Sandrine Brodeur-Desrosiers, Canada

This film is probably the craziest comedy I’ve seen screened at the festival, along with our FIPRESCI champion, Marc-Antoine Lemire’s Extras. Set at Christmas time, Sandrine Brodeur-Desrosiers’s short follows two long-time roommates who end up signing a new lease agreement, only to find out that their new landlord – a woman their age – is going to evict them illegally. What comes next is a surreal, highly entertaining (and quite violent) fight between the two roommates and their landlord.

Chat Mort – Annie-Claude Caron and Danick Audet, Canada

The story is as simple as crazy: Catherine and Louis live with their young daughter Sophie and her cat Nugget, who accidentally dies at the film’s start. They hide the cat’s demise by embalming it and giving it back to their child. Sophie seems to believe that her pet is still alive, but what comes next is a playful role reversal, which makes this short a compelling piece of black comedy.

Hello Stranger – Amélie Hardy, Canada

Hardy’s short is a rather original take on transsexuality. Young Cooper tells the story of her gender reassignment journey between loads of laundry at the corner laundromat. Hello Stranger delves into her past but, in particular, tells us how she managed to make peace with the last male’s ‘imprint’, namely her deep voice. It’s a heartfelt, genuine account worth watching, which manages to go deep despite its 16-minute run.

Vibrations from Gaza – Rehab Nazzal, Canada

This timely, heartbreaking short offers the audience a glimpse into the lives of deaf children living in the coastal part of the titular war-torn city who have witnessed the violence of Israeli military forces. It takes a bold artistic approach, lacking sound for the most part and expecting the viewers to be in these children’s shoes for at least 16 minutes.

By Davide Abbatescianni
Edited by Anne-Christine Loranger