Rolling out the red carpet for Albertan filmmakers

by | Oct 17, 2023 | Opinion

I’ve lived in the Edmonton area for nearly three decades and this was my first time going to the Metro Cinema. I wish I’d come sooner–the theatre is like something out of the 1940s.  

G. Mara Killian enjoying some popcorn before the show. Photo supplied.

I visited the Metro for the Edmonton Short Film Festival’s Red Carpet Gala. Each year they host a gala and screen short films, with one being selected as the winner at the end. The first night, which I attended, featured short films (under 20 minutes) and the red carpet event. The second night is for the longer films. 

The atmosphere was upbeat before the show even started. The first 100 guests got free popcorn and champagne, and there was live music.

During the show, I watched a total of 21 short films of varying lengths. So I thought I’d give my thoughts on the best of the best with short reviews of all the winners.

Best trailer: “Labelled” by Justin Kueber

New this year was a category for trailers. “Labelled” is an upcoming docu-series about Andrea Heinz, a former sex worker. Each episode features a different aspect of sex work, good or bad.

The trailer was well-edited, telling a bit about the story without giving away too much. My only caveat is that not everyone is okay with the sexual content showcased in the trailer. Like a few others shown during the gala, a content warning was needed.

Best Drama: “Toy Train” by Kyle Teirnan

This was the most professionally made short film I watched at the event. The cinematography is amazing, especially when mixed with the outstanding art direction. My only issue with this one is the acting.

There’s a scene where the main character is talking to a wise soldier. I get what they were going for, but Morgan Leblanc’s acting fell flat and took me out of the story. “Toy Trains” would have been better without any dialogue in my opinion, but that’s a testament to how well-made this one was in every other aspect.

Best Music Video: “I am Free” by Ed Ogum & Fumni Dominic Olaoye
Olaye accepting the award for Best Music Video. Photo by G. Mara Killian

We came back from our intermission to this music video. It was well shot and edited, with a fun song to go behind it. Olaoye brings an intoxicating energy to the screen, making you want to dance in your seat.

Another thing I liked about this music video was the portrayal of Jesus as Middle Eastern. The actor did a good job depicting him as kind and gentle rather than enigmatic like a lot of other media does. We need more of this sort of portrayal of Jesus.

Best Animation: “Old Dragon Man” by Douglas Cook

Old Dragon Man is a monologue about being passionate about the art you make. Its use of puppetry and the amount of effort that goes into this medium, drives home the themes explored through the monologue.

Overall, it’s a cute animation with a wholesome message that I think a lot of creatives need to hear. 

Best Documentary: “Pa’Fuera” by Diego Mendez

“Pa’Fuera” explores immigration to Alberta after Hugo Chavez fired 20 000 oil workers in 2002. Done almost entirely through interviews, you get the story from the immigrants themselves. It discusses the discrimination these immigrants faced in Venezuela and the shock of coming to Canada.

It opened my eyes to what they had to go through, which is something a documentary should do. Though there are a few technical problems, but it was made on a student budget so I can forgive the issues. 

Audience Choice: “Cream” by Kenny Heintz & Mark Hoyne
The “cream crew” at the Edmonton Short Film Festival. Photo by G. Mara Killian

This is a music video for the song “Cream” by Buck Money, an Alberta-based rapper. It focuses on Buck having a lactose-induced nightmare where he meets Ellen DeGeneres and talks about how much he wants to eat dairy.

It’s fun, well shot, and doesn’t take itself at all seriously, so it was no wonder that it won the audience choice award.

Best Comedy: “Dating Indian” by Len Morrisette

I’m going to be honest. While I understand the humor and the ridiculousness of the situation, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as some of the later entries. That said, the writing is on point. It’s satire and it successfully makes fun of these governmental systems, bringing attention to how absurd some of these things are. I may just not be in the audience to find “Dating Indian” funny.

It was well shot and acted though. The comedic timing was well done and there’s nothing technically wrong with it. It just wasn’t for me. That said, I couldn’t find it online, so you may have to go to festivals where it’s airing to watch this one.

Best Student Film: “Progenitor” by Sam Saloff

“Progenitor” is a cute animated film that throws the audience a couple of curve balls throughout its runtime. The animation is fun and fluid, and the sound work adds some punch to everything that happens on screen. The only thing I could criticize was its abrupt ending. 

Best Experimental: “Le Jardin des Délices” by Genevieve Marie Dale & Dean G. Mang-Wooley

Inspired by the works of Hieronymus Bosch, this short animation is pretty insane. It also takes inspiration from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, with the cut-out style and vulgar stop-motion animation. I enjoyed it and found myself laughing the whole way through. 

The after-party was at Dewey’s, a U of A campus bar. I chatted with the founders of the ESFF, and without a doubt, they are passionate about supporting local film. It’s their goal to make sure that independent filmmakers get their turn in the spotlight and their hard work shows that.

Overall, the Edmonton Short Film Festival’s Red Carpet Gala was a joy to attend. And it was only $30 to attend, so make sure you keep an eye out for next year’s event if you love film. You can keep up to date with the Edmonton Short Film Festival on their website.

Latest Issue