Thursday, October 14, 2010

2010 enRoute Film Festival Wraps Up in Toronto

enRoute Film Festival 2010
Public screening & awards presentation October 13, 2010 (Toronto)

I haven't flown with Air Canada in a couple of years, but I hear the fab touch screens available at every seat are the best thing to happen to commercial aviation in a long time. Best of all, they've used that technology to showcase the work of short filmmakers via the enRoute Film Festival that just wrapped up last night. If you did fly with AC this past summer, you may have seen some of the finalists, which were broadcast on their inflight entertainment system to a large international audience. In fact, the inflight screenings continue to the end of this year.

Short film is an important breeding ground for experimentation and young talent, and I had the chance to chat with a few of the filmmakers at the pre-screening cocktail party yesterday about their work. Now, I won't exactly claim to be psychic, but of the four I spoke to at random, the first two were recent graduates of Sheridan College's Animation programme - where I'd just spent the day modeling for a class of current-future animators - and three of the four ended up winning awards. (Pictured below from left to right: Adam Shamash, Alessandro Piedimonte, King Mugabi, Shervin Kermani, and Rob Coxford)

Alessandro Piedimonte created his animated short, A Cut Above, for his fourth year film project, and spent some time considering what his statement would be. In the end, he decided to keep it close to home in a story about an old Italian barber closing up his failing business. "It's a social commentary," he says. "I wanted to make it about old professions." Inspired by his grandparents, it ends on an optimistic note. "I wanted to convey a message of spirituality," he notes. The film features a combination of imaginative character design and very effective visual storytelling, (and it's no mean feat to tell a story in 3 minutes or so,) and is quite poignant in its impression.

King Mugabi's Red Snow is another thesis film, this one based on the idea that a child-like perception is what creates mythology. "Mythic events are a matter of perception," he notes. The story about orphaned brothers, on the face of it, is about bullying and eventually tragedy, but is elevated in the young narrator's mind to a legend of heroic proportions. "I'm an orphan, so's my brother," King says candidly. "I wanted to tell a love story to my brother. (The film is dedicated to him.) " Beautifully rendered and atmospherically told, the short animation managed to pack pathos, a little humour and poetry into a few short minutes.

Shervin Kermani's Sofia is a live action story about the last fleeting thoughts of a dying painter. A Ryerson grad, this was also a thesis project. "It has a crazy production history," he laughs, "it gave me pangs at birthing!" The story follows a man as he drifts through various scenes from his life - scenes where he mournfully observes his own callousness and cold heart, until the very last vignette, where a vision of his mother as a beautiful ballerina brings some measure of redemption. "I can't help but feel a great resonance with Dostoevsky when he said that beauty could save the world," Shervin says. "Beauty imparts a human experience that's inaccessible any other way." It's an engaging story, anchored by the solid performance of his lead and a moody visual aesthetic, and is indeed lit up by the beauty and grace of Sonia Rodriguez - one of the National Ballet of Canada's principal dancers - in the role of Sofia. He calls the film a "litmus test" of sorts, and exposure on the Air Canada inflight system has brought unexpected results. "I get emails from people I haven't spoken to in a long time," he says, "telling me they saw my film on a flight!"

Montreal's Adam Shamash is a graduate of Concordia University's film programme, and his work, titled La Khaima: The Tent of Mile-End was inspired by his introduction to that city's West African Muslim comunity. "It's a window into that subculture," he explains. "They have a real joie de vivre."  (Video embedded with permission.)


La Khaima: The Tent of Mile-End (2010) [English subtitled version] from One Light Cinema on Vimeo.

The title refers to a Mauritanian restaurant owned by Atigh Ould, star of the piece, a colourful character who's full of that typical West African exuberance."He's a really charismatic and funky guy," Adam remarks. The film takes an imaginative look into Atigh's world and world view in a a pastiche of narration, documentary style footage and quirky Mauritanian TV commercials, with special effects to add to its visual appeal. "He loves his identity as an African," Adam explains, a fact that's abundantly clear in the film. But he's brought that passion to Canada, trading sandstorms for snowstorms, and the closeness of the tribe with a strong connection to his adopted community. In the Mauritanian desert, the Tent of Mile-End was a place where anyone could find hospitality, and that's the energy he brings to his new home. "It's interesting to see the mélange of the two (cultures)," Adam says. "He introduces the world to his culture via the restaurant."

Between cocktails and hors d'oeuvres (with kudos to the asparagus wrapped in parmesan pastry btw) I didn't have time to interview any other filmmakers - no reflection on their talents. And, I had to duck out before the awards ceremony at the Drake, but here are the finalists and winners.

The 2010 Air Canada enRoute Film Festival Nominees:

Sandrine Brodeur-Desrosiers Un Trou dans la Memoire
Rob Coxford, Josh Vamos and Marlaina D’Angelo Push Past: Rob Dyer's Skate across Canada
Shervin Kermani and Aita Jason Sofia
King Mugabi Red Snow
Allessandro Piedmonte A Cut Above
Adam Shamash La Khaima: The Tent of Mile End

2010 enRoute Award Winners

BEST ANIMATION
King Mugabi (Toronto) for Red Snow
A young war orphan struggles to survive the terrors of the school yard until one day he is inspired by a hero with a calling.

BEST DIRECTION and BEST FILM
Adam Shamash (Montreal) for La Khaima: The Tent of Mile-End (documentary)
A portrait of Atigh Ould and his famous Mauritanian restaurant in Montreal. Here, people of diverse backgrounds come together under the canopy of the khaima.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Shervin Kermani (Originally from Montreal, now Toronto) and Aita Jason for Sofia
In his final moments, a reclusive painter dreams of people from his past including his mother Sofia, a ballerina whose dancing becomes an image of redemption.

About Air Canada enRoute Magazine:
Air Canada enRoute Magazine is published by Spafax, one of the world’s leading custom publishers and providers of in-flight media, with offices in eight cities around the world. Spafax is a part of the specialist communications division of WPP.

Presenting Judges:

Rob Stewart (director, Sharkwater) - Presenter of best animation
Kathleen Robertson (A Night For Dying Tigers, 90210) - Presenter of best animation
Kari Skogland (Genie Award-winner for Best Adapted Screenplay, director/writer, Fifty Dead Men Walking) - Judge and presenter for best direction
Carlo Rota (Actor) - Judge and presenter for best cinematography

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for the wonderful write up. I can see you really understood what wanted to do with the film.

    It was a great pleasure to meet you.
    Best wishes.

    -King

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ditto! I'm expecting to see more of your work in the years to come.

    ReplyDelete