In our collective imagination, Canada is… the second-largest country in the world, great snow-covered plains, Céline Dion, Quebecois expressions, maple syrup and Justin Trudeau’s socks. But did you know that the two greatest box office successes of all time were directed by a Canadian? That the funniest American actor was born in Ontario? That behind the HBO series Big Little Lies,which racked up awards on the other side of the Atlantic, lies a Quebecois director? Contrary to what American cultural hegemony may lead us to think, Canadian cinema is indispensable, as can be seen by the critically-acclaimed, popular films of David Cronenberg and Denis Villeneuve. All the biggest names in the seventh art have ticked the short-film box (except for Céline Dion), and a number of them have wandered the streets of Clermont-Ferrand and even gone home with a Vercingetorix under their arm, forever leaving their mark on the Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival. In the very first programme of this retrospective, called Flash Back, you will discover the films of Jean-Marc Vallée (Les mots magiques, 1998 Grand Prix), Guy Maddin (Night Mayor,2011 Labo Grand Prix), and if you listen carefully, you will even hear the voice of Xavier Dolan in Les journaux de Lipsett (Best Animated Film, 2011) from the master of animation and adopted Canadian Theodore Ushev.
The other 5 programmes will provide the opportunity to discover less well-known names thanks to films produced over the last 20 years that will be shown for the first time in Clermont, subtitled in both English and French. Canada is a complex country, with its 13 provinces and territories, its two official languages (English and French), its still young history (the country celebrated its 150thbirthday in 2018) relatively unknown to the inhabitants of the Old Continent. The thirty or so short films that make up this retrospective offer a voyage throughout these territories that we know so little about, from Quebec to the roots of the First Nations. Addressing the indigenous population (numbering nearly 1.3 million people), we have L’enfance déracinée which shows the ravages of the forced cultural assimilation suffered by generations of indigenous children in residential schools. On this subject we also have Tshiuetin by Caroline Monnet, multidisciplinary artist with Algonquin roots and member of this year’s international jury. Quebecois short films will represent the lion’s share of films in this retrospective as they are responsible for a large part of the short films produced in Canada. These films will take us from Saguenay in Bleu Tonnerre – where thirty-something Bruno, recently dumped, rekindles his love for wrestling – to the neon lights of the big city in Pre-Drink, where two friends (re)discover their bodies and their identities. Also a journey through time, from the last flight of pilot Mynarski, who died in combat in 1944, to the gymnasium in La Course Navette, where a young teenager faces the mocking of his classmates. On the English language side, we can see Ellen Page (Juno) in her very first role (The Wet Season), find ourselves behind the Camera of David Cronenberg and listen to a Jewish grandmother describe her discovery of bacon (Bacon & God’s Wrath). Of course, the films of the National Film Board of Canada (which will be celebrating its 80 years in 2019) will also be at the party, with emblematic works like Les ramoneurs cérébraux by Patrick Bouchard (in the Lab competition this year with his film Le Sujet).
If you would like to extend your journey between the wide-open spaces and intimate stories, the Flash Forward programme is available on Facebook during the festival thanks to our Quebecois friends at Plein(s) Ecran(s). There, you can (re)watch the Canadian films selected in Clermont these last few years, true ambassadors of a North American New Wave. You still want more? Run and see the Décibels 1 or the Phillip Barker Collection, inspirational works that can be seen in a special exposition in the hallways of the Maison de la culture. And for those who would like to relive the karaoke scene in Mommy that has since gained cult status, and who are craving a dose of Céline Dion, you are invited to a special evening during the Festival to recall some of the greatest “earworms” of the Great North. For its first retrospective in Clermont-Ferrand, Canada will get you thinking big. Exciting, eh?
© Medical Drama (Sophie Jarvis, 2017)