by Cheryl Wagner
From May 8-13, Prince Edward Island was a-buzz with independent film makers and film fans as the third annual IMAF opened its doors and turned off the lights, screening over 60 short films from all four Atlantic provinces.
The theme was Diverse Networks - and the variety of topics and styles reflected that with panache. IMAF’s Managing Director Dave Ward offered that this diversity distills into a vibrant regional community. And Curator [and WIFT-AT member] Mille Clarkes was challenged with a tough selection process with over 120 submissions.
“We received so many quality works from across Atlantic Canada that we wished we could have added many more screenings to the roster. It is amazing what so many artists can do, and often with so few resources,” Clarkes said.
There was a strong representation of works by WIFT-Atlantic members, including our own Britany Sparrow’s Gamers: A Love Story. The festival kicked-off with Kristen Santos’ kick-ass music video Cannonball for PEI’s singer-songwriter, bright light Brooke Miller. Next up was the Island’s Jenna MacMillan’s romantic comedy Sweethearts. This opening night show – with screenings in Charlottetown, Summerside and Georgetown – also featured Nova Scotia’s Ashley McKenzie’s award-winning Rhonda’s Party.
Documentary night Where We Are – Docs about Atlantic Canada included the charming In Key Choir from Rothsay’s Gretchen Kelbaugh which introduced us to members of an unforgettable choir of ‘challenged’ adults. This 10-minute film challenged our attitudes. In the Same Boat by Halifax’s Rachel Bower presented us with the surprising parallels between a Newfoundland inshore fisherman and an Alberta cattle rancher as they assess their years of effort and what the future holds. Both filmmakers had made the jaunt across the big bridge and were present to introduce their films which was a real bonus.
Thirteen films were screened at the Experience Experimental night of media art and art docs. And of these films EIGHT were by woman filmmakers. These included Mille Clarkes’ In Between Spaces, a video project that explores the notion of a communal gaze. New Brunswick had a strong presence with films by Louise Bourque, Kamaya Lindquist, E. Hearte, Jessica Arsenault and Leandre Bourgeois.
Comedy Night – Funny HaHa – included the very pointed Ken Fucks Up by Nova Scotia’s own Ruby Boutilier and Sarah Byrne. It was interesting to note that with Renee LaPrise’s Buzz Off ,only 2 of the 15 comedy shorts screened were by women. It does pose the question – why do we feel more compelled to make experimental/art shorts and shy away from comedy? Friday Night Freak Out featured eight shorts of zombies and mythical creatures all by male film makers. Interesting.
The week flew by with panels and screenings that included terrific work from Grade 6 kids in an animation workshop who created remarkable ‘camera-less animation’ by drawing on 16 mm film and making their own music for the score. This was inspiring! Other interesting works by young people included two compelling shorts with strong messages about texting while driving.
The most intriguing panel was the announcement of the MicroBudget Program by Telefilm Directrice Carolle Brabant with Gordon Whittaker. This fund will finance 10 feature films providing experience for short filmmakers as preparation for Low Budget financing. IMAC and the Island Film Factory hosted a reception for the very warm and approachable Mme Brabant who indicated gender-equity is important in the project.
The IMAF Gala on Sunday night was hosted by CBC. The night was a celebration of Ten of PEI’s Best Shorts and FIVE of them were by our WIFT-AT gals here on PEI. Susan Rodger’s extended music video Silence Bloodhound was tender and touching. Fine Tuning by Jenna MacMillan was an accomplished work, showing her great promise fresh out of Ryerson. JoDee Samuleson continues to display her world-class talents as an animator with her very drole A Brief History of Charlottetown. Wrapping up the program was an episode of Periscope Pictures’ BunnyBop!, and songstress Catherine MacLellan shone in Mille’s video of her single Stealin’. The big news of the night was the announcement of the CBC’s 3-2-1 Award of $9K toward the making of a short film. The winner was the very pregnant Harmony Wagner for The Queen of the Crows. We know she will deliver!
To top off the night, Louise Lalonde was surprised to be awarded the WIFT-AT Saulte Award for her contribution to our region’s community in producing the annual PEI Screenwriters’ Bootcamp. This award provides an annual WIFT-AT membership and full registration to the 2013 Women Making Waves event. Congrats Louise!