A Patchwork Programme: Not Short on Talent at Clermont-Ferrand 2024

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A couple months after my son was born, I committed what I imagine is a common first-time parent mistake: After changing his diaper and his outfit, I absentmindedly tossed his onesie in the trash bin. Oops!

Oh well, right? It was just a onesie; a thin piece of cloth he’d wear for, if we were lucky, another couple weeks. And yet it still held sentimental value: partly because it was adorable, but mostly because, as the first article of clothing we bought for our then unborn child, it represented the new fabric of life I had since entered.

That’s the material power of the threads that weave our everyday narratives. From the mental to the cultural, the emotional to the familial, these fabrics are the ties that constitute our personal tapestries — something I thought of often whilst screening for this latest iteration of Telefilm Canada’s Not Short on Talent programme, for in this selection of seven Canadian shorts, a theme emerges from the patchwork: When it comes to feeling like yourself (or even feeling accepted), finding the right patterns can make all the difference.

Things unspool, albeit nervously, with Glad You’re Out, Matthew Moir’s house party short that doubles as a study in anxiety. (And anxieties.) (And great wardrobe design.) Navigating a sweaty basement show and a series of cramped conversations, Cole, played by Moir, wears a knitted toque throughout it all that acts, maybe, as an emotional support hat — especially once it’s offered to someone else having an off night of their own.

Matthew Moir, Molly Flood, Isabelle Grignon-Francke, Julien Cadieux

That’s followed by Molly Flood’s The Cut, which canoes us to a remote island in the Ontario wilderness to follow two friends (one played by Flood, eight months pregnant at the time of shooting) enjoying some time away. Between these women, however, their friendship feels frayed. Can things be bandaged? Can the connection be salvaged? The same questions are asked after an unfortunate slip of a dinner prep knife.

Sometimes a job becomes something more when the working crew is so tight knit. That’s certainly the case in Isabelle Grignon-Francke’s short documentary L’Artifice (The Sparkle), which tracks one man, Kim, as he spends the summer with a travelling carnival. His tasks are varied; they include everything from setting up structures to repairing prizes (even darning stuffed animals). Gorgeous cinematography captures it all, but it’s Grignon-Francke’s incorporation of Kim’s real passion, geology, where the short gets additional depth and shine.

Next is Daniel le tisserand (Daniel the Weaver), Julien Cadieux’s sunny (even cute!) documentary about Daniel Robichaud, an Acadian weaver and AIDS survivor who, despite fatigue and dexterity difficulties, retreats to his loom as a form of therapy — and as a new identity. Evidently, he is an artisan; Cadieux, wisely, treats us to Robichaud’s weavings as transition dividers as we learn his story. Yet there are many other wonderful patterns and colours elsewhere (the paint of New Brunswick exteriors, clothes on a laundry line, piles of rope, the galactic swirls of bowling balls) that further brighten this biography, too.

As we see in Julien G. Marcotte and Jani Bellefleur-Kaltush’s Katshinau (Les mains sales), language is far more than speech patterns: it’s how we intertwine with our communities. Period-perfect design transports us to the St. Lawrence Valley in 1759 — New France before the British conquest — and it’s here where Marie, an enslaved Indigenous person, serves the local surgeon. But cannon fire and violence are on the horizon, and the arrival of a young girl Marie presumes to be her daughter stokes, in this mother, a fire to act.

Jani Bellefleur-Kaltush and Julien G. Marcotte, Spencer Glassman, Alexandre Isabelle

Spencer Glassman’s How’d You Sleep? has a title that feels less like a morning greeting and more like an inquiry: “Please, tell me how you fell asleep.” Glassman, directing themself, tries a combination of approaches to wind down: warm milk, lavender scents, chewable melatonin, ASMR videos. Nothing seems to truly work — but before long, the fun really unravels once stressful recurring dreams pull on the loose threads of Glassman’s overactive mind.

The last stitch that fastens this programme together is À toi les oreilles, Alexandre Isabelle’s humourous (cacophonous?) short about the melodies of Étienne and his family. (They’re not everyone’s jam, so to speak.) As their small town’s big parade draws near, Étienne strives to get the band back together, even if it’ll take some convincing. Still, they’ve got a float — and, most importantly, they’ve got each other. Isn’t that all that matters? Isabelle closes his short with a musical showstopper that gets everyone on board — and then rides off into the sunset.

Not Short on Talent is powered by Telefilm Canada. This programme screens at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Market, Tuesday, February 6 at 9AM CEST – Georges-Conchon Theatre. The programme aims to increase the visibility of new Canadian short films, and to promote talent to professionals from international markets, including buyers and festival programmers. 

For more information contact: anthea.zeng@telefilm.ca


Jake Howell is a Toronto-based writer and freelance film programmer.

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