Nov 21, 2023 | Festival News Previews and reviews
Tiny, Ritchie Hemphill (he/him), Ryan Haché (he/him), (Victoria, BC) [ Short | Documentary | Stop Motion Animation ]
In the next film, we were transported into a stop-motion universe in a film called Tiny, by Ritchie Hemphill. This film was a treat for the eyes with its incredible sets and figures made from clay and other materials. It was also a treat for the ears as the beautiful narration is cradled softly by the instrumental score. But perhaps most of all, this film hit the mark on an emotional level with all these elements working in tandem to bring this story to life. Narrated by Hemphill’s mother, Colleen Hemphill, we listen to Colleen as she recounts memories of her childhood that have remained with her long into her adult life. Now as an Elder from the Kwakwaka‘wakw territory, we understand that her connection to the environment has had a very meaningful and spiritual impact. Without going into too much detail, the stories Colleen shares are ones with heavy themes of family, community, and her relationship with the unpredictable West Coast environment. With the sets being so detailed and representative of Colleen’s memories, the nature and the environments in the story feel like another character and they become integral to the film’s visual storytelling. You could tell that there was a lot of love put into this piece. The characters are all hand sculpted by animator Ryan Haché, which gives the film an additional human touch. Additionally, Colleen’s narration was sourced from an intimate conversation between her and her son, which added another layer of intimacy to the film. The amount of effort and love put into this film was not lost on me. I loved every second spent in Collen Hemphill’s dreamy memory-scape, and I tip my hat to director Ritche Hemphill for bringing all these elements together. To me, Tiny is not just a good film, it has easily become one of my favorite stop-motion films of all time.
Leo & Chester, Andrea Wing (she/her), (Golden, BC) [ Short | Documentary ]
The next film that I want to highlight is a film called Leo and Chester, a short documentary by Andrea Wing. In this fascinating tale, we meet a man called Leo Downey, who has abandoned his former life as an LA rock star, for a life of spiritual discovery in Canada’s wilderness. The film immediately draws you in with the cinematography and accomplishes top-tier storytelling in just 9 short minutes. Once hooked by the majestic wide-angle shots of wild Canadian Rockies, we then are introduced to Leo as he gives us context about the rock & roll life he led before making the decision to drastically change his life path. Fast forward to the present day, Leo is living out his wild Canadian dreams and has settled on a buffalo ranch in Alberta BC. Once seeking fame and fortune, Leo now only seeks acceptance from the buffalo herd. Perhaps one of the most integral parts of the storytelling is when Leo shares a bit of history about the violent and cruel ways that the early colonizers abused their coexistence with the great buffalo. The connection and relationship that Leo shares with the buffalo herd aligns with his desire for a harmonious existence. Leo introduces us to his favorite buffalo, a bull called Chester Junior. We watch as Leo interacts with Chester like an old friend and in exchange, Chester accepts Leo as one of his own. Seeing the strength of the bond between man and buffalo is the most heartwarming part of the story. The film allows for this voyeuristic look at the bond between Leo and Chester and offers a unique and thought-provoking perspective on the connection between humans and animals. Through its thought-provoking themes, stunning visuals, and powerful storytelling, it challenges viewers to reconsider their relationship with animals and recognize the potential for profound connections beyond species boundaries.
To conclude this review, I want to reiterate that the Ottawa Canadian Film Festival was a remarkable event that showcased a diverse range of films from filmmakers all across the country. These festivals are integral to our community as they foster a supportive environment where individuals with a shared passion for filmmaking can come together and build lasting connections. It’s films like the ones mentioned above that encourage filmmakers to take risks and explore unconventional storytelling techniques. Seeing filmmakers exercise their freedom to experiment with different visual styles, narrative structures, and genres was refreshing and left me feeling inspired.
We also want to acknowledge and thank all the directors whose films made this year’s festival so special. A very special thank you goes out to OCan Co-founder Blair Campbell and all the team members and volunteers who helped behind the scenes. And a final appreciation to you, the viewers who came out to support Canadian filmmaking, your attendance helps keep the art of filmmaking alive.
Thank you for reading.