Featured image: Sera Lys-McArthur in Kwêshkosîw (She Whistles). (Courtesy of Fantasia.)
As the Fantasia Film Festival wrapped up this past Wednesday, August 25, I still have some interviews to post from the festival, as well as a few smaller reviews of some of the short films that I saw at the festival. Those included She Whistles (Kwêshkosîw), Victim No. 6, Neo Cryptide, 10-33, and Ryuk-Sa: A Teaser.
Let’s get right into them with…
Kwêshkosîw (She Whistles) (find my interview with writer/director Thirza Cuthand here, as well as star Sera-Lys McArthur)
Directed by Thirza Cuthand, Kwêshkosîw (She Whistles) highlights the issue of missing Indigenous women in Canada, continuing the conversation through a neat genre piece that played at Fantasia as a part of the Born of Woman programme. Starring a powerful Sera-Lys McArthur in the role of Stephanie, she takes a taxi to her girlfriend’s home after a night out.
Immediately uncomfortable in the taxi, she tries to take a picture of the driver’s licence before her phone dies. The driver, played eerily by Aidan Devine, starts the conversation by asking her where she’s really from. It’s jabs like this one that makes the racism in the short film well-written.
The way Cuthand incorporates the Northern Lights, too, is fascinating; with the sentiment that “if you whistle at the Northern Lights, the ancestors will take you away.” I’ve always been fascinated by the Northern Lights, so learning a bit more about that mythology in different cultures adds a neat layer to this effective film. Not to mention that they’re rendered beautifully, too. The character of Stephanie feels empowering, and it’s no wonder that this film was picked for the Born of Woman programme.
Victim No. 6
Also in the Born of Woman programme at Fantasia was Nancy Menagh’s 22-minute thriller Victim No. 6, set in downtown New York in 1975, where Donna (Heather Brittain O’Scanlon) finds herself out on the town, despite concerns of a serial killer at large in the city. Much like She Whistles, Menagh’s film feels so relevant to our society today.
Both in the psychology at play in the film, as well as women feeling unsafe in our society and the risks of inviting people into their home; and generally merely trusting strangers. Menagh brings this aspects into play here in thought provoking ways. It’s a fascinating and brilliant idea to implant that story in 1975 New York.
The style is so on-point here, both in cinematography by Aram Bauman and how he and Menagh help transport us to a different time. The production design and set design especially at the New York bar, where this is largely set, is immaculate with lighting and vibe. The costumes by Amanda Crout Carmona is on-point, too. The dialogue in the bar and how it’s delivered by a magnetic Heather Brittain O’Scanlon as Donna, too, has a great flow to it. Donna’s a great character, able to take care of her own, and the confidence in the performance is a great quality. There’s banter in the conversation – especially with a character called Mark (Russ Russo) – but there’s also an air of danger with the looming serial killer at large.
Menagh addresses toxic masculinity in certain ways during the short film, but in ways that are clever and grounded, and not in a way where it’s shoving an agenda on anyone. The 22 minutes here holds attention throughout, as it’s filled with surprises, memorable performances and compelling monologues, too.
This will be a short write-up as this is just a 1-minute short out of Quebec from director Nicholas Bourget, in a film about a teen who hears a strange noise in the middle of the night, and finds himself face-to-face with a creature. It packs some great animation and one big laugh into the short, as it played right before…
Playing after Neo Cryptide was Alexander Maxim Seltzer’s incredibly tense 10-33, where a young woman (Alison Louder) finds herself in a bathroom stall at the cinema when an active shooter situation starts in the theatre lobby. It’s staged incredibly well and is a taut 10 minutes, as the shooter (voice of Andrew Chown) comes into the bathroom and checks the stalls. The tense conversation that takes place, and the power dynamic explored here, makes for a memorable short film.
Ryuk-Sa: A Teaser
I also checked out the short film Ryuk-Sa: A Teaser, directed by Cho Jin-woong and out of South Korea, which reportedly could become a feature film. It shows, as the production value is great here, about a woman (Kim You-lee) waiting at a café for the man (Kim Sung-hoon) who saved her life, taking her out of the rubble under a collapsed building.
It’s a sweet story, as he wants her to forget it happened as he likes living privately, and we learn why as he’s a superhero, but doesn’t want to be. You can tell he did it because it was the right thing to do, not because he wanted to. I love the fact that this character is a baseball player, too, and I’m looking forward to learning how that comes into play in the feature. In these 17 minutes, Cho Jin-woong sets up the world so well, and I do want to see more from these characters. There’s a lot of compelling things fit into the short, especially in terms of humour and a subtle nod to The Incredibles.
Were you able to check out any films at the Fantasia Film Festival? Keep an eye out for a trio of interviews in the coming days from the festival.