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Canadian Film Fest 2024: Six More Shorts

A young woman picks herbs, while her mother looks sternly at her.
Courtesy of Canadian Film Fest

The 2024 edition of the Canadian Film Fest is in full swing, giving a platform to Canadian films and filmmakers. This year’s festival runs from March 18 to March 23, and The Asian Cut is fortunate to be covering a collection of films (both short and feature-length). Earlier this week, we reviewed six shorts as part of the Homegrown Shorts programs — you can check out our review here.

Now, here are six more shorts! The following films differ in size, scope, and story, but one thing unites them: each was made by a talented Asian-Canadian filmmaker with a unique perspective that ultimately proves there’s life in our national industry.

Desync dir. Minerva Navasca (12 mins)

Ana (Jadyn Nasato), a young Filipina film director, struggles to shoot an emotional scene between a mother (Anjelica Alejandro) and her daughter (Tatiana Ashton), who can’t seem to see eye-to-eye while they prepare food for a visiting relative. The scene, we learn, is pulled from a painful, real-life conversation the director had with her own mother, Celine (Jennifer Villaverde). To Ana, this is all about trying to rewrite the past.

Unlike the character in her short, director Minerva Navasca is in total control here. Deftly balancing two mother-daughter conversations, one from the past and the other in the present, her and Chen-Sing Yap’s script is sharp and poignant. They hone in on the gnawing regret that comes when you don’t necessarily mean what you say and, by extension, when you don’t say what you feel. The performances, particularly Nasato’s, fuel the short, but it’s the impeccable editing by Yap that helps it cross the finish line.

A close-up of a young boy playing outside.
Courtesy of Canadian Film Fest

Children of War dir. Salar Pashtoonyar (15 mins)

War arrives at a remote village in Afghanistan while a young boy named Baheer is playing outside with his friend, Hayat. When the bombs and gunfire begin, Baheer runs home to his family. The next day, he and his siblings will be sent away for the sake of their safety, but before he leaves, Baheer is adamant about making sure Hayat made it home to his own father, too.

Salar Pashtoonyar spares directorial flourish for the sake of amplifying the devastating effects of war on the Afghan people, particularly the children. Death awaits many here, and for those who may be lucky to be alive, like Baheer and his siblings, displacement and trauma loom ahead. Pashtoonyar closes in on the fatigue and shadows etched on everyone’s faces, young and old. At the same time, he doesn’t forget to highlight their resilience in the face of tragedy.

A young woman sits by the window with headphones in her ears.
Courtesy of Canadian Film Fest

I Never Promised You a Jasmine Garden dir. Teyama Alkamli (20 mins)

Tara (Tara Hakim) is a queer Palestinian woman living in Canada, while her best friend, Sarab (Sandy El-Bitar), is in Paris. Tara is in the middle of preparing a friend’s birthday dinner when Sarab calls, and while the pair catches up, Sarab delivers some earth-shattering news to Tara.

In the spirit of cinéma vérité, Teyama Alkamli’s short, other than the final scene, is essentially how Tara and Sarab’s phone conversation unfolds. Shot in one long take, with a handheld camera that never leaves Tara, there’s an immediate intimacy as we meet these women for the first time and are tuning into a conversation that is very clearly a follow-up discussion of something that happened before. And yet, it’s hard to feel lost, especially because Hakim has such a magnetic screen presence and El-Bitar, though we never see her, has a voice with utmost allure. Waves of euphoria, longing, passion, and heartache flood the screen, and Alkamli sails through each with aplomb.

A moody close-up of a young man with his head slightly bowed.
Courtesy of Canadian Film Fest

Seance for a Close Friend dir. Ammar Keshodia (15 mins)

After the death of a friend and roommate (Dylan Mask), a young man (Mikaël Conde) must come to terms with the unresolved issues and haunting resentment left behind.

Amped by a chilling score by Arie Verheul-van de Ven, Ammar Keshodia’s short is a richly moody tale about grief, friendship, and the games we play (both with ourselves and with each other). The film milks every second of its runtime, diving into the complex friendship history of its two central characters (played fantastically by Conde and Mask) without feeling laborious. Precise and controlled, Keshodia’s directorial viewpoint is one to watch.

A woman stands in her kitchen.
Courtesy of Canadian Film Fest

The Steak dir. Kiarash Dadgar (8 mins)

An unnamed woman (Faranak Khamis) is preparing a birthday celebration meal in her kitchen. Meanwhile, a war wages on outside. Things take a turn for the worst when the war comes knocking on the woman’s door.

Kiarash Dodger’s short is filmed in one take, and other than a slow 360-degree tilt, the camera is stationary. Combined with the fact that there is no dialogue or any cultural or historical cues to contextualize when and where the war is happening, the film encourages you to mine your own meaning of the story that unfolds. The camera tilt is a genius technique, essentially ending the film where it began while also showing how war irrevocably changes us. 

Three different shaped animated trees stand in a line.
Courtesy of Canadian Film Fest

Three Trees dir. M.R. Horhager and Aaron Hong (4 mins)

Whoopi Goldberg narrates this whimsical animated short, which sees three trees — a cubic maple, a conical pine, and a spherical magnolia — discovering what makes them unique and, more importantly, what makes them the same.

M.R. Horhager and Aaron Hong’s film is instantly vibrant and charming. The unique, inviting design of the forest we find ourselves in houses a much-needed reminder of the idea of community. It may veer into corny territory, but, in our increasingly divided and pessimistic world, a buoyant outlook feels refreshing, perhaps even radical.

For more information on CFF 2024, tickets, and scheduling, check out the festival's official website.


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