By Alejandra Vargas García
If you have exhausted your Netflix watching options and are seeking some elevated content to feed your soul during COVID times, look no further than the Ottawa Canadian Film Festival (OCanFilmFest), which on May 15 brings you the first volume of its “Shorts at Home” series.
The OCanFilmFest aims to promote and recognize Canadian films and filmmakers. Part of that recognition means not only providing an avenue for artists to showcase their work, but also paying them. Blair Campbell, co-founder of OCanFilmFest, expressed it well: “People want their work to be seen and for people to react to it, but they also need money. It is hard to generate funds for art. This [festival] is a direct way to do that.”
With an emphasis on independent films, the Festival steers clear from any one niche audience, betting instead on a diverse set of formats and stories that mirrors their selection process. Entries are accepted through FilmFreeway and board members take a first pass at reviewing them based on a set of criteria. This is followed by an interesting approach: 20 people, 10 working in the film industry plus 10 civilians, conduct a second-round review and make selections. This process helps ensure that the material is inclusive and broadly appealing.
As a first window into the richness of the submissions, OCanFilmFestival is launching Shorts at Home Volume 1. On May 15, starting at 6pm (Eastern Time), five films (most from prior festivals) will be released for free on Vimeo’s Video on Demand platform. These were donated by the filmmakers and will only be available to stream at home for 24 hours.
One story that particularly caught my interest is from Karim Ayari. L’homme de la Maison/Before Me is a bilingual film that explores the impact of social intolerance on children. The film follows 8-year-old Mathis, whose xenophobic father’s views colour his perception of his divorced mother’s Muslim neighbour, who she is becoming very close to.
The following four films will also be released on demand for 24 hours:
- As It Was by Blake Garbe follows Mason, a young boy who senses the strain in his parents’ relationship but struggles with these feelings alone, as his older siblings are busy preparing for their own futures.
- Perfect by Karim Ayari tells the story of Julius Quicklax, who meets with his psychologist after a seemingly disastrous first date due to his involuntary tics. This comedy focuses on one man’s attempt to free himself of his flaws, learning in the process that perfection can have multiple meanings.
- Andre the Anti-Giant by Kim Saltarski tells the story of the late actor, comedian, and disability advocate Andre H. Arruda. Born with a rare genetic condition, Andre challenged expectations early in life, fulfilling his dream of becoming a showman. His defiant spirit is a source of inspiration in these trying times.
- The art of the morning by Nathan Hauch follows the director’s journey to get going in the mornings while dealing with a physical disability.
A second volume of Shorts at Home is scheduled for June 12. The program is available here.
OCanFilmFest remains open to submissions by Canadian filmmakers until May 30. Submissions can include fiction, documentary, animation, or experimental, of short or feature length. If you are not a creator but an avid consumer and patron of the arts, stay tuned for the November program.
In the meantime, make yourself some popcorn, put on those pyjamas (or if you want to get literal, some shorts) and join me on May 15 for Shorts at Home!
Shorts at Home Volume 1 begins at 6pm Eastern Time on Friday, May 15. Films will be available to stream for 24 hours. Learn more about the Ottawa Canadian Film Festival here.