The stars were out, popcorn was popped, awards were gleaming and the red carpet was teaming with excited filmmakers and filmgoers. No, this wasn’t the Toronto International Film Festival. This was Snowdance, Trent Film Society’s first annual short film festival.
The name of the event is a humorous play on one of the biggest festivals in the USA, Sundance, held in Park City, Utah.
Trent Film Society, whose members grace the pages of Arthur every week, selected seven short films to screen at Market Hall on March 16.
For co-director Amy Jane Vosper, the selection process was a challenging one. They received 25 submissions and narrowed it down to a manageable evening of fare.
“We were overwhelmed by the talent in this city,” Vosper mentioned enthusiastically.
The program began with Kirsten Johnson’s Dollface (2016). Johnson is one of two filmmakers from outside of Peterborough.
This quirky five-minute film features a fictional mother lying on a pile of dolls. Shot entirely from above, Dollface animates several of the doll’s faces whom then engage in hilarious and sad conversation with the mother. Two dolls represent two poles of the character’s mental state – either “mess” or “fantastic.” The animation was simply brilliant.
Peterborough’s Lester Alfonso has been an active filmmaker for years. His “What is Art?” series has also been screened in various venues across town.
Alfonso showed his 2014 film Art is Constructing a Symbology, which first premiered as part of CinePoetry at Artspace. Alfonso followed slam poet Tessa Nasca around Peterborough and intercuts Nasca’s recitation of the titular poem on the street and at the local slam poetry venue, The Spill.
Trent University’s Kerri Kennedy followed Alfonso’s. Her two-minute film, made for the Cultural Studies Experimental Film course, is entitled “Projection: Reproduction: Distortion: A Digital Landscape.”
This work presents vibrant colors across what appears to be a moving landscape. The idea behind this work was to make visible filmmaking processes and concerns such as materiality, temporality and the reception of space.
Pro-Can(Ibalism) was the next film. It was made by Montreal’s Keenan Poloncsak. This 2014 zombie film had more than its share of guts and gore (and a few audience members had to step out of the auditorium).
Angel’s Bike (2010), by Angel Hamilton and Nathan Kopjar, resumed the event after a brief intermission.
The two directors made the film while they were attending film school in North Vancouver. The very personal film, described as a “vulnerable piece” by Hamilton, documents her struggles with unlocking her bike after her key broke.
The bike and accompanying struggle serve as symbols of Hamilton’s difficulties living in Vancouver, finding housing there and financial stress. Overall though, Hamilton said there was a definite positive transformation during the time of filmmaking.
Olya Glotka dances in the following film. Letters to Friends: Natalka also narrates the titular letter to Natalka, a friend, we learn, who passed away a year prior. The location of the dance is an old abandoned church. Making use of emotional music, lens flares and slow motion, Letters expresses a deep sadness that we will all unfortunately come to experience in our lifetimes.
The evening concluded with Milkweed (2015), a film by Matthew Hayes. Milkweed premiered at the UFO Congress in Scotsdale, Arizona in February. Hayes’s sci-fi drama stars the talented Kate Story and tells the tale of the character, Kate, visiting her mother’s home after the latter had mysteriously disappeared. Kate gleans some clues and perhaps encounters the cause of her mother’s disappearance.
Milkweed was shot on a shoestring budget with a crew of five in Mt. Pleasant. While Hayes was keen to explore UFO tropes, he was also interested in familial drama. The film was such a success that the Trent Film Society co-directors chose the film for its “Snowy Palm” prize.
Vosper explains that there was a fight to decide which film takes home Best Picture. Dollface and Art took home awards and gift certificates as well. In the spirit of inclusivity, the other four films received honorary awards.
Snowdance was undoubtedly a hit. Vosper and the rest of the TFS team had a red carpet, a photographer and snacks prior to the screenings. Doors also opened an hour earlier so spectators could mingle with the filmmakers.
“What a great event! We are lucky to have Trent Film Society and their film screenings for free!” expressed Katie Green, an audience member at the event.
Let’s hope we see Snowdance 2 in March 2017. Hayes stated that this type of event is something Peterborough has needed for years.