Talent in short form

in Saguenay International Short Film Festival

by Diego Faraone

Snowy strolls, lively parties, and exceptional screenings define the Regard Short Film Festival, held annually in Saguenay (north of Quebec City) in Canada. The temperatures dropped to -15ºC during the event, which motivated the local population, guests from other countries and regions, and a vibrant and enthusiastic youth to fill the large exhibition halls and engage in four days of conversations, discussions, and celebrations of cinema. It would be impossible to summarize the diverse range of international filmmakers, styles, themes, and concerns presented in the vast array of films collected and exhibited. Therefore, I will choose to highlight my top 5 short films that I had the opportunity to see during the festival.

The Bitch (La perra) (Carla Melo, France/Colombia, 2023).

This personal story involves a tremendous creative display, presenting the growth of a girl and her perspective on sexuality. The esthetics are attractive and impressive; a watercolor technique reminding of Rorschach inkblots displays sexualized anthropomorphic birds that relate and collide. Its suggestive dynamic leads us to understand the feeling of abandonment and sources of anguish in a solitary childhood, with just a dog for company and emotional support. Director Franco Lolli, an essential figure in the current Colombian film production, is already a hallmark of quality and produces this outstanding short film.

An Example (Et Eksempel: Dem På Gulvet, Selma Sunniva, Danmark, 2022).

In a single sequence shot, this formidable short film expertly exposes the pressing needs within a psychiatric hospital. Doctors, patients, and interns come together in a stressful situation where the severity of the patient’s mental illness and the overwhelming workload burden the few available staff. This short film, sharing common elements with the Romanian masterpiece The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu, 2005), represents a powerful indictment of the lack of state resources directed toward mental health and its treatments.

Extras (Marc-Antoine Lemire, Canada, 2024).

A fading actress meets her agent in a cafe, hoping to land a role that will help her regain the popularity and recognition she had a decade ago. However, reality falls short of her illusions, and the protagonist refuses to continue humiliating herself and vehemently rejects the idea of sacrificing her dignity. This film offers a very humorous and intelligent satire on the world of cinema and the role it relegates to women over 35. Actress Isabelle Giroux’s performance is formidable, capturing attention despite a chaotic staging that requires a scrutiny of the backgrounds.

There’s No Friend’s Home (Abbas Taheri, Iran, 2023).

Sarah and Mehri, student friends, secretly drink alcohol in high school. However, a secondary school in Iran differs from any other, and this small ”slip” could be terrible for them and their respective families. When they are discovered, it opens a Pandora’s box; not even the teachers can close it again. The remarkable anecdote constructed proposes a realistic, tense, and regrettable situation while denouncing the regulatory rigidity, especially for the youngest, in the prevailing theocracy of the Persian country.

A Kind of Testament (Stephen Vuillemin, France, 2023).

The premise is devilishly attractive and original: a woman finds a series of animations made from her personal Facebook photos on the internet. A perfect stranger dedicated years of her life to creating them; she shares the same name and is sick with cancer. When the protagonist tries to contact this older woman, she dies before revealing her motivations. However, more profound revelations emerge upon further exploring these horrifying animations. This disturbing story poses a macabre game of mirrors and dark personalities, with echoes of Satoshi Kon animations (Perfect Blue, Paprika).

By Diego Faraone
Edited by Anne-Christine Loranger