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Canadian Film Fest 2024: Six Shorts

film still from ahu
Courtesy of Canadian Film Fest

The Canadian Film Fest highlights independent Canadian filmmakers and talent. This year, the festival is being held from March 18 to 23 with a variety of features and shorts that span many places and themes. The Asian Cut takes a look at the Asian-Canadian stories and storytellers on display during the festival run, with a focus on six short films. Keep your eyes peeled for our second batch of shorts reviews this week!

Ahu dir. Mahsa Razavi (14 mins)

A graduate student (Nahéma Ricci) in the midst of finishing her thesis is plagued by insomnia, bed bugs, and loudly argumentative neighbours. Simply trying to find a little peace and quiet, she ends up helping the neighbour who can’t help herself.

Not especially heavy on plot or character, Ahu gets by on the realities of living in less-than-ideal circumstances and the tiny ways that women intuitively help each other, despite social obstacles and being strangers.

film still from boat people
Courtesy of Canadian Film Fest

Boat People dir. Thao Lam and Kjell Boersma (9 mins)

Thao Lam relates the personal history of her family fleeing Vietnam and becoming among the refugees known as the “boat people.” Overlaying the stunning paper cut-out animation is the metaphor of a colony of ants reacting to danger, which is deftly linked to a childhood tale of observing the small creatures. 

A rich, sonic landscape and a simple, but evocative, art style work together to tell the story in a way that people of all ages can appreciate. Having a family drama pared down to its essence with subtle character expressions makes this a lovely piece of art to mull over. 

film still from don't forget me
Courtesy of Canadian Film Fest

Don't Forget Me dir. Alice Wang (19 mins)

A quiet film about grief and love, Don’t Forget Me focuses on a young Chinese-Canadian lesbian woman (Tristen Huang), searching for the recipient of her grandmother’s last secret love letter. The backstory partly reveals itself through voiceover as the letter is read out loud by granddaughter and then grandmother.

Well shot and acted, the film finds picturesque Canadian vistas to act as backdrop to the understated story. While the main quest is not super high-energy, the ending manages to be plenty moving nonetheless. 

film still from eitr
Courtesy of Canadian Film Fest

Eitr dir. Fateema Al-Hamaydeh Miller (14 mins)

Bored and horny shopkeeper Mohamed (Mostafa Shaker) has been set up for a blind date by his fussy mother who doesn’t know he’s in the closet. But an unexpected encounter with a tall shopper looking for cheap cologne pulls him out of his stasis. 

Peppered with soap-opera style musical cues and bright title cards in both Arabic and English, Eitr has a tongue-in-cheek tone that makes it super fun to watch. It revels in the lowbrow setting of the knock-off perfume shop and mines humour from every angle, from the cluttered stockroom where the lead character prays to the tiny shorts of a passing mail delivery man. 

film still from fish boy
Courtesy of Canadian Film Fest

Fish Boy dir. Christopher Yip (11 mins)

Sixteen-year-old Patrick (Ian Chen of Fresh Off the Boat fame) drifts away from his parents’ religion and toward the freedom and acceptance exemplified by two young adults in his orbit. The film is intercut with dream sequences where the teen protagonist images himself slowly turning into a fish by growing scales. 

The narration is rather clunky, and most of the acting is pretty wooden. Fish Boy tries to blend the iconography of baptism with Patrick’s transition toward being a young man, which is not ineffective, although not very original. The Cantonese attempted by the actor who plays Patrick’s dad really took me out, unfortunately. 

film still from rock the cradle
Courtesy of Canadian Film Fest

Rock The Cradle dir. Asis Sethi (11 mins)

Motherhood as a horror film. Pari (Gauri Prasad) is a new mom with a baby girl who won’t stop crying, a mother-in-law who won’t stop criticizing, and a body that is on the verge of collapse. Inner voices and wails won’t be drowned out, no matter what she does or says, culminating into several breakdowns.

A very stress-inducing nightmare scenario is built up as Rock The Cradle shows the many ways that Pari becomes overwhelmed by her duties as a mother and sinks into the terrifying realities of postpartum depression. The film jumps temporalities and mental spaces, focusing on Prasad’s constantly anguished face, which compellingly holds viewers in place.


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