The 19th Silver Wave Film Festival wrapped this weekend. I was lucky enough to catch the festival’s third showcase of New Brunswick short films on Saturday night. The Fredericton Playhouse was nearly at capacity for the event. Friends, family, and supporters of local film talent were in attendance.
Before the evening began, the filmmakers, varied in directorial experience and years involved in the industry, introduced themselves to the audience and gave thanks to the people who made their films possible.
When We Were Young
Director/Writer: Annick Blizzard
Producer: Annick Blizzard, Jon Blizzard
Cast: Annick Blizzard, Ryan Griffith, Elizabeth Goodyear
In this short film from Annick Blizzard, Blizzard plays Liv, a woman who returns to the town where she grew up. Her visit home surprises people from her past. Not in a good way. The hotel clerk (Elizabeth Goodyear) is reluctant to let Liv book a room. Liv hands the clerk a big wad of cash to help change her mind. Her childhood friend Jake (Ryan Griiffith) wants nothing to do with Liv. 15 years later, the accidental death of Liv’s brother by her hand still haunts Jake. There’s nothing left to say, Jake tells Liv.
Before she tries speaking to Jake again, Liv travels to her childhood home. Memories from the past rush back to her. Liv is standing in a field with a rifle in her hands. A young man runs up to her. She turns around quickly with the rifle aimed high.
Liv finds Jake drinking alone in a bar. She tells him about a pair of keys she found in a pencil case. The keys, she says to Jake, unlock a secret container that they buried when they were kids. Liv wants Jake to dig it up with her. Jake relents and joins Liv to the location of the box.
Blizzard brings a muted intensity to the role of Liv. She is a woman with a plan. In her performance, Blizzard makes clear that Liv is not someone to be underestimated. Griffith goes all-out as Jake. He’s angry and unwilling to bury the past. Griffith’s Jake leaves nothing on the table with Liv, which might be a mistake. He is worn down by Liv’s persistence and emotional manipulation. Blizzard and Griffith make for a dynamic pairing.
Like the ending of Inception, When We Were Young leaves viewers wanting just a few seconds more to find out what happens next. Is Liv sincere in her intentions to reconnect, or is there something sinister afoot?
Director/Writer: Gordon Mihan
Producer: Lance Kenneth Blakney, Arianna Martinez
Cast: Jean-Michel Cliche, Catherine Belzile, Tania Breen, Sharisse LeBrun, Ryan Barton, Cassidy Ingersoll, Anthony Bryan, Jon Blizzard
After narrowly violating his probation, a con-artist named Trevor (Jean-Michel Cliche) turns away from crime and organizes a film festival. Well, not without some help from his sister Sophie (Catherine Belzile).
A con-artist herself, Sophie brings Trevor into her low-level film festival scam (accept entry fees but reject all the films) to keep him busy. What begins as just another job turns into something more. Trevor enthusiastically accepts all the film entries. In the meantime, Sophie is planning a bank heist.
Unofficial Selection weaves in and out of the three short films that Trevor accepted to his film festival. The first short film is about a dystopian society where the government has banned recreational swimming due to a water shortage. A former swim champion (Anthony Bryan) breaks into a pool for one more swim. The second film begins with guests at a wedding reception, recording video messages for the bride and groom. Everything goes wrong when the apocalypse rolls in and wreaks havoc on the party. And finally, the third film sees a young man (Ryan Barton) interviewing for a new job. He may seem confident on the outside, but there’s a lot happening on the inside. When the interviewers ask about his biggest weakness, the man lets it all out.
Unofficial Selection celebrates the transformative power of film. Trevor is plucked from his bubble and brought into something larger than himself. In viewing these films, the con-artist finds not only purpose, but also empathy. Trevor evolves from trying to con a pizza delivery guy to placing himself into someone else’s shoes to making something real happen.
In its story of a con-artist buying into fiction, Unofficial Selection identifies the sleight-of-hand inherent in storytelling: a story is never just a story.
Director/Writer: Mélanie Léger, Émilie Peltier
Cast: Mélanie Léger, Marcel Romain Theriault, Katherine Kilfoil, Ariel Villalon
In 54 North. Moncton filmmaker Mélanie Léger plays a homeless woman named Sam. One day, Sam finds a key on the ground. The key sparks something in Sam’s memory. She digs through her belongings to find a photograph of a young boy. Sam finds herself at the door of a familiar house in a nearby residential area.
The residents of the house are an older couple (Marcel Romain Theriault, Katherine Kilfoil) preparing for someone’s birthday. Sam begins quietly living in their space.
Before leaving for a birthday party, the wife tells her husband she doesn’t feel okay leaving the house, not after recent break-ins in the neighborhood. Her husband assures her that everything will be fine and that he’ll call the security company to fix their alarm system. Once the couple leaves, Sam comes out of hiding and begins searching the house for a cell phone. Coming out of the shower, she hears someone breaking into the house downstairs.
After subduing the burglar, Sam sits in the family room to make a call on the burglar’s cellphone. It is here that the film shatters everything we think we know about Sam. Sam looks on the walls of the room and sees herself in family photos.The boy from earlier in the film is her son. His grandparents are the older couple who own the house. Sam is a university graduate. When her son picks up the phone, Sam is overwhelmed by emotion. She cannot speak a word. All she can do is cry as she listens to her son’s voice again. At last, Sam reconnects with the life she once knew.
In its final moments, the film lifts Sam from a solitary outsider to an individual with history, relationships, and feelings. 54 North pushes back against the dehumanizing ideas that persist in discussions about homelessness. It reminds us that homelessness does not discriminate. Homelessness can happen to anybody, and it is not typically a choice.
Léger delivers an inspired performance as Sam, a character with no dialogue. She brings a wonderful physical fluency to the role. I was in awe of the film’s ability to deliver social commentary with minimal dialogue.
54 North is a powerful film. A must-see.
The 19th Silver Wave Film Festival ran November 7 – 10 in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
Complete list of films screened at New Brunswick Shorts III:
End of Leash
Life’s a Bitch
Together We Move
When We Were Young
After The War
Velle to Want