The National Film Board of Canada will showcase four animated shorts at the 31st annual Vancouver International Film Festival, to be held from September 27 to October 12.
The NFB’s Studio D and its founder, Kathleen Shannon (1935-1998) are celebrated in the hand-painted Assembly by Vancouver filmmaker and mixed-media artist Jenn Strom. The now defunct Studio D, which has won more Oscars than any other NFB studio to date, enabled female filmmakers to tackle specifically female subject matter in an environment that had previously not always welcomed such efforts.
Written, directed and edited by Strom, Assembly (4 min. 25 sec.) was produced by Tracey Friesen.
A flatbed editing table is snapped on. A woman’s hands reach in and out of the frame, cutting and editing a reel of film. She splices, scrubs, rewinds and rolls the sound and images. Fragments of animated archival footage flash across the screen: women walking in chains, protesting with placards, speaking at podiums. We hear bursts of words and the percussive whir and click of the Steenbeck — until a “message” is finally revealed. Inspired by Studio D filmmakers and dedicated to Shannon’s memory, Assembly is an experimental short featuring a rhythmic soundscape and paint-on-glass animation.
Three animated gems exploring themes of self-discovery round out the NFB short films screening at VIFF.
Edmond Was a Donkey (15 min. 3 sec.), written, directed and edited by France’s Franck Dion, was produced by Dion and Richard Van Den Boom (Papy3D Productions) and Julie Roy (NFB). This year, it won the Bravo!Fact Award for Best Canadian Short at the Worldwide Short Film Festival and the Special Jury Award at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival.
Edmond is not like everybody else. When his co-workers jokingly crown him with a pair of donkey ears, he suddenly discovers his true nature. And while Edmond revels in his new identity, it creates an ever-widening gap between him and others. With great empathy, director Dion tells the touching story of an outsider, illustrating the challenges of being true to yourself in a world filled with conformists. Since he can’t bring himself to be what others expect, Edmond makes the only possible choice.
Halifax, Nova Scotia-based writer-director Andrea Dorfman has a way with words. In Big Mouth (8 min. 16 sec.), she explores the experiences of a bright-minded, quick-witted child, questioning what it means to speak the truth, and coming to understand how our differences make us unique. Dorfman’s whimsical storytelling is all heart.
Hand-drawn puppets dance, skip and cartwheel across the screen as one little girl discovers the complexity of words and that what we say may not be what we mean. Trudy, equal parts truthful and rude, has an unfiltered and deeply curious way of looking at the world. She honestly points out what she sees — be it a big mole or a big belly! The result is an impressive accumulation of disciplinary notes from her teacher. Like Trudy, eventually we all learn how to read, make friends and develop a healthy relationship with the truth. A film for anyone, young or old, who has gotten in trouble for saying too much, Big Mouth is about one of life’s big lessons. It was produced by Annette Clarke.