While Hollywood still has a gender disparity problem with women behind the camera, film festivals have usually been marginally better at celebrating female voices. These are some of those voices. Whether it’s Goya-winner Carlota Pereda, Sundance-favourite Eliza Hittman, or a filmmaker you’ve never heard of, this list features some of the best female directors working in the world today. And now you can stream 10 of their films, totally free through the Pendance Library.
Piggy | Carlota Pereda | Spain
Winner of the Best Short Film Jury Award at Pendance 2019, and the recipient of the Goya Award for Best Short film in 2019, Piggy follows an overweight teen, Sara, as she’s bullied by 3 classmates. One part horror, one part social commentary, all parts great cinema, ‘Piggy’ packs a lot of punch into its 15 minute runtime.
Winner of the Best Short Film Prize at Pendance 2017, Emma is a Lynchian nightmare in which a young woman must battle forces beyond her control to stay safe from a series of men at a strange hotel. ‘Emma’ uses sharp cinematography and set design to paint a story far larger than its paltry $2000 budget.
Myrsini Aristidou’s ‘Aria’ was a hit at Sundance and Venice before rocking audiences at Pendance in 2019 as part of the Deep Impact Shorts Showcase. On the surface, the story is ridiculously simple. A girl named Aria wishes for her dad to give her driving lessons. Instead, he pawns off a Chinese migrant seeking fake papers for her to look after. Aria isn’t a surface film. There are layers to this story that are captured through the lens choices, frantic movement, brilliant editing and compelling performances from all 3 principal actors.
Forever’s Gonna Start Tonight | Eliza Hittman | United States of America
‘Beach Rats’ director Eliza Hittman has gone on to become one of the most prominent female directors in the world. With multiple features sweeping the ranks at Sundance, it’s hard to remember that one of our first introductions to Hittman was in this humanistic short film about a girl going out for a night on the town with her friends, and encountering a strange and ultimately relatable situation.
This Tribeca 2019 selection follows a Serbian girl struggling to assimilate in her new Dutch school, battling the constant language barrier and the general awkwardness of being 6-years-old. How does she deal with her isolation from her classmates? She cleans. She cleans the table, mirror, and floors. And no one, including her teachers, can understand why.
When his son returns from an extended absence abroad with a new wife, a father becomes increasingly paranoid that his son has become radicalized by Islamic terrorists in Syria. An Oscar-nominated Canadian film, and arguably one of the three best Canadian short films of the last decade, ‘Brotherhood’ is a double entendre, and a massive showcase of filmmaking superpowers for Meryam Joobeur.
This deeply humanistic Hollyshorts and Tallgrass Film Festival selection screened at Pendance 2019. It’s a slow-burning story about Sara and her older brother Deno, and the hellish existence they lead taking care of their alcoholic father. Simplicity lies in the smallest of things, and it’s obvious that whatever they lack in parental guidance, Deno and Sara make up for in the bond they share with one another.
Originally made as part of the NASA short film challenge, ‘Space Girls’ went on to have a brilliant run on the festival circuit, playing at almost every festival in the continental United States before being picked up by online streaming giant Dust. The appeal is every bit as simple as the story itself. 4 little girls planning a secret mission to outer space. It’s a tightly edited, touching short about childhood dreams, brought to life by an adult who managed to retain all of her childhood wonder.
Under Darkness | Caroline Friend | United States of America
Under Darkness is based on the true story of a Jewish woman who became a photographer to document the horrific atrocities of the Nazi movement and subsequent occupation. Joining with the Soviet resistance, she finds a way to document the present while speaking to future generations. That old statement rings true. Those who don’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it.
Catastrophe | Jamille van Wijngaarden | The Netherlands
Catastrophe is the shortest film in Pendance history. But if you ask the people who watched it 3 years ago, they still remember it. All 2 minutes of it. There’s a reason cats and birds should never be friends.
When we launched Pendance in 2017, we had one thing going for us—great mentors. As filmmakers ourselves, we’d had so many opportunities to talk to and connect with programmers at film festivals we respected in order to understand the day-to-day grind of putting on a great festival.
And while there’s so much that we’re still learning in our fourth year about the larger elements of festival productions—press, film market, publicity, distributors, etc, we think we know a thing or two about programming great films.
We see programming holistically as a 4-stage-process; getting submissions, watching submissions, choosing submissions, and finally putting those submissions together in a carefully curated program which maximizes the potential impact and reach of each film. For the sake of keeping this brief, we’ll hone in on one critical stage which we’ve always felt is the most overlooked—watching submissions.
It is becoming increasingly rare that a festival director or programmer watches every film submission. At Pendance, we had over 257 hours worth of submissions last year and it took 4 programmers months of dedicated viewing to get through them twice. We can only imagine how many hours of films larger festivals like TIFF or Sundance receive. It’s not realistic to expect head programmers to watch every film. But whoever is watching these films has a great deal of responsibility.
Whether they’re recent film school graduates or outright random volunteers, here are four things that will help provide more accurate reviewing, and subsequently, better programming. Naturally, anyone being tasked with screening films should have at least an intermediate understanding of film and film theory. Let’s just pretend that one’s a given.
How you Watch
Watch early, watch consistently, watch by genre, and always give a 5 minute break between films. There’s so much psychological research to back this up from studying how people grade tests in college. You’re not you when you’re hungry. You’re also not you when you’ve just had a fight with your partner, are sleep-deprived, or after a long flight. It’s not enough to just watch the films. You have to watch them in the right state of mind.
You’re a part of this film. What happened that day, or five minutes before you sat down impacts how you see the film. The third toxic masculinity film is going to rate differently than the first. So whenever possible, clear your mind and meditate for five minutes before viewing. If you find yourself emotionally impacted, give a longer break before viewing the next submission.
Till the End
Sometimes, it’s obvious that a film is bad. Like really bad. Sound’s off, color’s off, performances are bad. We’ve all seen these. Still, watch it to completion. Because frankly, you don’t have an accurate read two minutes in. And we can prove it.
In 2019, we asked screeners to rate the first 2 minutes of films, and then asked them to rate the full films on a separate viewing. The average deviation between the two scores was 1.3 grade points out of 10. Being 13% inaccurate is probably a bad solution long-term. In fact, one film dropped from a 7.6 to a 3.4, and another rose from 4.5 to 7.9. If it’s a 16 minute film, it’s likely 16 minutes for a reason. >
Address Your Biases
Who you are, your experiences, shape what you see on the screen. Whenever possible, try to pick diverse programming teams and pair programmers and screeners from opposite ends. You can address for gender, socio-economic background, cultural backgrounds, political leanings, and even age.
Can 4 22-year-old Caucasian cis men from Vancouver, who attended the same film school, all voted Liberal, and grew up in the same neighbourhood program a great film festival? Yes.
Will they? Likely not.
Keep an Open Mind
Film is subjective. There’s a way to do things, and then someone changes the way to do things and the way we do things becomes the way we used to do things. So dare to imagine. You’re holding people’s work and if you’re programming at a bigger festival, you may even hold the keys to a big career boost. Don’t waste it by picking the same types of films by the same people over and over because it’s safe.
Following these four tips is not going to help you program a lineup of films that rivals Sundance or Berlinale. But that should never be the goal anyway.
It has been a full year since the passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna ‘Gigi’ Bryant in a helicopter crash. There are literally thousands of interviews, games, and moments that contribute to Kobe’s ever-lasting legacy as one of the greatest athletes ever, but we wanted to take a moment to talk about five moments that will forever define Kobe for us. >
5. From High School to the NBA, 1996.
Kobe was a string bean from Lower Merion High School. It was uncommon for guards to jump from prep to pros but Kobe was convinced he could blaze his own trail. And he did. When Jerry West saw a 17-year-old Kobe hold his own against a tough defender like Michael Cooper in a private workout, he knew he had to build a team around him. Out went Vlade Divac to the Hornets. and in came Kobe. Moreover, Kobe forced it. He said before the draft he was only willing to play for the Lakers. And guess what? He never played for anyone else. >
4. The first Threepeat, 2002.
Yeah it was Shaq’s team, but it would later be remembered differently. Watching the heir apparent actually win 3 in dominant fashion was the stuff of legends. He did it all down the stretch for the Lakers. Kobe pushed his team past elite competition for three straight years while being the best two-way wing in the NBA. People will point to those final two championships without Shaq as being more important, but those two mean very little without the first three.
> 3. The Rape Trial, 2003
There’s nothing that tests a human being more than controversy. With the Lakers superteam flailing, Shaq on his way out, his marriage on the rocks, a media assassination of his character, Kobe fessed up and found a way to rebound. This is not a commentary on the act itself. Adultery and rape accusations aren’t a joke. But to have the career he had after this trial speaks to his resilience. Can’t remember the good without the bad.
“When we are saying this cannot be accomplished, this cannot be done, then we are short-changing ourselves. My brain, it cannot process failure. It will not process failure. Because if I have to sit there and face myself and tell myself ‘you are a failure,’ I think that is almost worse than dying.”
> 2. 81 Points, 2006
Well, he did the unthinkable. In the midst of the ‘Lost Years’ of Kobe’s career where he had teammates like Smush Parker and Kwame Brown starting with him, he did the unthinkable. He scored 81 points agains the Toronto Raptors. Years later he would, as Kobe does, comment that given the number of easy ones he missed, he could have scored 100. We agree. This is really where Kobe became the biggest star in the world.
1. Life After the NBA, 2016-2020
We love the two additional championships, and the final game, but… he had more in him. He made a documentary. He championed the women’s game. He became a great mentor to young players. He won an Oscar and had a production company. He became a great dad and husband. With how many athletes fade into retirement, Kobe shot into it. There was a real sense that he might have ten times more to give the world post-basketball than he did through basketball.
Past selections, festival favorites, cinema classics, roundtable discussions and video essays, all in one place. The Pendance Library represents a renewed focus from the Pendance Film Festival to bring great content to our audience, year-round. Boasting over 50 new titles on launch with the promise of more titles added each week, the move signifies a shift towards embracing streaming and digital exhibition in light of the pandemic.
A New Interface Focussed on Clean Navigation and Design
Moving forward, the Pendance Library will be a place to catch digital world premieres, catch up on your favorite selections from past editions, and discover powerful stories, always hand-picked by our team, and curated with #StoryOverEverything in mind. Here are five films we think you should absolutely watch this weekend!
This poetic and visually dazzling short by Pendance alum Ben Brand (2019) will have you thinking for days. When a man dies in a traffic accident and gets into a conversation with God, he gets an answer to the biggest question of life. Based on a short story, ‘The Egg’ by Andy Weir.
Serbian filmmaker Nikola Polic’s short film, which screened as part of the 2019 festival’s Tarkovsky block is another heavy-hitter emotionally. Whereas Ben Brand’s Re-Entry spans the globe and feels like a larger than life film, ‘On My Own’ falls on the other end of the spectrum in the best way possible. It’s isolated and self-contained, bordering on claustrophobic. Marko is living a lie. He has convinced his boss, his friends, casual strangers, and his mother that things in his life are going well. Through a series of seemingly irrelevant events, Marko must finally confront the truth that he has tried to bury for so long.
‘La Haine’ is timeless in every sense of the word. From the ground-breaking camera work and cinematography that has gone on to inspire many knock-off’s, to the core themes and message that remain as relevant today as they were in 1995, this film is a masterpiece. After a youth is tortured by the police, a riot explodes on the streets of Paris. Vinz, Said and Hubert find a gun lost by the police in the riots and threaten to kill a cop if their friend dies.
‘Cerdita’ (Piggy) tackles the issue of bullying and body image in a way only Carlota Pereda can. Poetic, visual, justice. This film was award the Goya Award for Best Short Film, and won Best Short Film at Pendance 2019 in arguably our strongest ever competition. Sara is an overweight teen that lives in the shadow of a clique of cool girls holidaying in her village. Not even her childhood friend, Claudia, defends her when she’s bullied at the local pool in front of an unknown man.
One of four additions to the Pendance Library from our 2020 Shorts lineup, ‘Under Darkness’ is likely one of the most visually polished films we’ve ever screened. But beyond the stunning cinematography and set design is a compact and impactful true story which is very much worth sharing and absorbing. Based on a true story in World War II Poland, a young Jewish woman struggles to survive after her family is murdered. Refusing to give up, she joins the Soviet resistance, and realizes that through photography she can remember the past while documenting for the future.
Straight Up | Feb 21, 8:00pm | TIFF Bell Lightbox BUY TICKETS
Starring Katie Findlay (The Killing), Randall Park (Aquaman), Betsy Brandt (Breaking Bad), James Scully (You Season 2) and the uber-talented James Sweeney, this film is a winner. It’s hilarious, and one of the best-written films we saw all year. Check out this trailer about a dramedy featuring the couple-of-the-year: Todd, a guy who may or may not be gay, and Rory, an actress who may or may not care.
Saint Frances | Feb 22 9:30pm | TIFF Bell Lightbox BUY TICKETS
This film deservedly won the Audience Award at SXSW last year, and it’s absolutely one of the best films at Pendance 2020. Some films split our team. This film was a unanimous no-brainer for everyone. It’s heading to theatres in March, so here’s a great chance to watch it before the rest of the world. Saint Frances, written by and starring the positively charming Kelly O’Sullivan follows Bridget, a woman who accepts a nanny position weeks after ending her pregnancy. It’s a coming-of-age story like we haven’t seen. It’s funny. It’s heart-warming. It’s everything we’ve ever wanted to see from a film.
The Short History of the Long Road | Feb 21, 4:00PM | TIFF Bell Lightbox BUY TICKETS
One of the biggest emerging stars in Hollywood, Sabrina Carpenter, leads a star-cast featuring Danny Trejo. Maggie Siff (Sons of Anarchy) and Steven Ogg (The Walking Dead) in a positively heart-warming story about Nola, a nomad who must confront life on the road once tragedy strikes. Writer & Director Ani Simon-Kennedy and cinematographer Cailin Yatsko in attendance.
The topic of inclusion and diversity has been something that has come up for Pendance many times. We’ve had long debates over it. People have left over it. I’ve personally shed tears over it twice. It would be a good time to mention that as the festival director, I’m sharing only my own views on this subject and I’m absolutely positive that they’re not identical to anyone else’s on our team. We all think differently, and yet we all try to agree.
We have never placed a diversity mandate for our own festival, and yet so very many times over the last two years we’ve seen women, LGBTQ stories, and people of color represented and celebrated at our festival.
Two years in a row, the Jury Award for best short has gone to women of Spanish descent. 2018 winner Clara Lezama (Emma) and 2019 winner Carlota Pereda (Piggy) both had, in our opinion, the best overall short film. They didn’t win because they were women. But we do acknowledge as programmers that the path to making a film in the first place was harder for them than their male counterparts. Did it impact how we voted? No. Did it impact how proud we were when they won? Absolutely. Bonus? They’re both on our short film jury for 2020.
So is King right? Do we just try to be as unbiased as possible, cross our fingers, say our prayers, and hope that the pool will just become more diverse over the long haul?
This argument is so complex and has so many layers to unpack, it warrants a deeper dive into each issue.
1. Can we just vote for quality?
No. Art is highly subjective. Any assessment about the quality of said art is thereby not objective truth about said art, but rather an interpretation by the viewer of the art’s perceived merits. In a sense, King would be right in a perfect world. But this isn’t a perfect world. And King among others need to realize that.
Much of cinema and the enjoyment of cinema comes down to subjective viewpoints, and assuming that Stephen King is going to have the same ability to identify with a story about a black woman as Ava DuVernay is ambitious, if not ludicrous.
Does viewing a film with subtitles take away from the overall experience of viewing the film? Sure. As one focusses on the “one-inch-tall-barrier” as Parasite director Joon Ho Bong called it, it would be easy to understand that subtle performance notes may slip by on first watch. It would be hard to argue in a vacuum for instance in 2012 that ‘The Artist’ was objectively better than Asghar Farhadi’s ‘A Separation’ which took the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. I’d love to hear the argument for the merits of the former over the latter. Actually, I’d pay to hear someone explain why ‘A Separation’ didn’t get a nomination for Best Picture. It might be one of the ten best films of the decade.
Asghar Farhadi’s ‘A Separation’ deserved a Best Picture nomination in 2012.
And that’s when you start to agree with Ava DuVernay by default. You need a reason for people to start celebrating someone other than CIS white men. But maybe this is a symptom of a larger problem? As Randy Pausch once argued, systemic problems require systemic solutions.
2. Why is inclusion important?
This is something that is often lost on most people. Diversity has become a buzz word of sorts with very little understanding of why it’s important, and why it’s dangerous to ignore the problem any more than we already have.
It’s not just a matter of writing female roles. The history of cinema is littered with forgettable female roles, objectifying women, forcing actresses to read God-awful dialogue, settling for stereotypically secondary roles. How many times can you see a woman introduced in a screenplay who has little purpose other than to serve as an object for two competing men? How inherently uninteresting are these roles to watch, and how difficult are they to act for the women asked to play these characters?
“Just blush darling. Look down, blink, and just blush. It’s what women do when they get nervous” said an unnamed Hollywood director 500 times a year for the last 100 years. I’m sure Harvey Weinstein is out there somewhere nodding his stupid head.
How many times can Asian men be the awkward best friend or comedic relief? How many times can we see African American actors being lit using the same practices designed for white skin tones? How many times can we see a white actor play a non-white character because “you know, marketing purposes”?
And why does it matter? They’re just movies. Right?
This is popular culture. If you only ever see black people in prison on screen, or only ever make films about white protagonists, or fetishize Asian women while mocking the sexuality of Asian men, or soften LGBTQ sexuality, you’re hurting the collective psyche of people who identify with those demographics.
It builds a complex to only ever see yourself represented one way. To ignore this is to ignore the realities of human experience. Go ahead and tell me the last time you saw a Muslim man depicted as something other than a terrorist or a side character in a film? It’s hard. You have to think about it. It’s one of the biggest demographics in the world and yet we don’t really see Muslim men often depicted as leads in romantic comedies. It’s just an unspoken rule. Don’t do it.
I’ll take you through a personal story. In 2002 it was awkward to be Serbian. Those plane rides were long and awkward back then. CNN portrayed the entire country as a band of genocidal maniacs after wars ravaged Yugoslavia throughout the 90s. Serbs were held by the Western viewpoint as aggressors, and there was no counter-movement or mass-consumed other-side-of-the-coin movie. We waited for a while and by 2012 when you told someone you were Serbian, the narrative had changed. Why?
As one British woman sitting next to me on a plane exclaimed in 2013 “Oh! Like Novak Djokovic!!” That’s right. A tennis player was able to change people’s minds by hitting a tennis ball better than his peers and being a generally affable and lovely person. He didn’t have a beard. He wasn’t holding a gun. He didn’t look mad or crazy. He smiled a lot. If I ever speak with Novak, I would ask him if he was ever aware of what he was doing. I’d also thank him for making that plane ride way less awkward than it had been eleven years prior.
Novak Djokovic should be in charge of Serbia’s PR department.
Movies are important. Sports are important. In the wake of Trump, and all the complex emotions his presidency has stirred among women and minority groups, it isn’t hard to see why the Oscars lineup is pissing a lot of people off. Seeing people represented on screen should be something we champion. But there’s an elephant in the room.
A big one.
3. How do you achieve real diversity?
I’ll try to tell you how we did it. Between our jury and our team, we are 26 people. The demographics break down to: half women on the features jury, 75% women on the shorts jury, just over 75% people of color on the shorts jury, a 50/50 male to female ratio in shorts and features programming departments, and a 50/50 male to female split between the two chair positions of artistic and festival director. Among the 14 people on our core team, we pushed for as much diverse talent as we could possibly find.
The importance here is talent. We didn’t put anyone up to fail. We didn’t bring in underqualified people because of the color of their skin or what gender they identified with. And critics may cite that our team isn’t diverse enough. Our core team features 14 people under the age of 40. No Aboriginal voices among 26 people. And you know what? Time and time again, it has bit us in our asses.
Diversity isn’t a good thing just because. People have different experiences and if you’re willing to hear them, they allow for richer perspectives and better decision-making.
So what’s the problem?
The people in control aren’t changing.
I mean don’t get me wrong. They are changing slowly. And I’m happy to see the changes that are happening with pioneers like Ava DuVernay pushing for inclusion and festivals like TIFF and Sundance pushing for diversity across the board. But the real reason to have diversity mandates is to serve as a check against biases. For our shorts jury, we would never dare to tell them that they need to nominate a woman, a person of color or an LGBTQ film. And why would we? We selected a jury that’s as diverse as any jury we’ve ever seen, most of whom hold views that champion inclusion and diversity. What we didn’t do was reverse engineer diversity by selecting an all-white-male jury and telling them they had to champion diversity.
Stop seeing diversity as a buzz word to gain likes on social media and get government grants. Start seeing it as a competitive advantage to have different perspectives included at the very top of your organization. And start understanding diversity on a deeper level. It isn’t enough to just cherrypick. Selecting 6 ethnicities to a jury who all grew up in the same upper-middle-class neighborhood isn’t enough. You need to get people in the decision rooms who truly think differently and have grown up differently. And you need to allow these ideas to merge together to create the better tomorrow we’re all pushing for. We tokenize diversity when we should be striving to understand it. Five black voices on a jury out of ten doesn’t mean the jury is diverse. Not on its own anyway.
Stop selecting women to film festivals just so you can make the headline that you selected 50% women to your festival. Change your festival’s leadership. Stop asking Steven King to vote for stories he can’t identify with. Start removing the barriers to entry that stop people of color from rising to his spot.
This is a problem that is so complex it would warrant an anthology of scientific research to properly assess. You shouldn’t nominate ‘A Separation’ for best picture in 2012 because it’s a film from Iran. You shouldn’t do it because it would make a huge impact on future Iranian filmmakers seeking funding for projects. You should nominate it because it was worthy of a nomination. And if it wins, don’t pat yourself on the back and think you solved the problem. Just be proud and acknowledge that Asghar Farhadi’s road to prominence has been different than Michael Bay’s.
In 2020, we have ‘Parasite’ up for Best Picture. If it loses, there will be those citing a white-lash. If it wins, people will say it won because of a diversity mandate and the Academy doing damage control after the recent backlash. But maybe it wins because it was a masterpiece? Wouldn’t that be something beautiful.
What’s the point? Be fair. That’s the point. It’s time to stop asking the gate-keepers to think differently. It hasn’t worked. The logical move is rather obvious: change the gatekeepers.
The Pendance Film Festival is excited to announce a new partnership with Via Rail Canada to create the new Rise Canada program. Rise Canada is a program open to all Canadian filmmakers 30 or under. The program provides full travel to Toronto for the Pendance Film Festival from anywhere in Canada provided by Via Rail Canada and complete enrolment in the Pendance Film Festival’s first Director Lab program.
The lab program provides 10 Canadian filmmakers complete access to Pendance workshops, conferences, panels, screenings & mentorship opportunities with top directors and producers from across the globe.
Applicants may apply to the lab program by submitting a resume, a few lines about why they got into filmmaking, and a sample of their work. Samples may be a link to a previous short film completed after 2015 or scenes from a work-in-progress. Submit all materials to firstname.lastname@example.org by January 31, 2020.
1. Via Rail agrees to cover travel only in Canada, coast-to-coast. For any applicants who are based outside of Canada, Via will only cover travel expenses within Canada.
2. Pendance agrees to grant all 10 selected directors complete access to the festival between February 20-23, including all screenings, conferences, galas, workshops, networking events, panels, and 2 passes to Pendance Music.
3. Applicants must be 30 years old or under at the time of submitting.
We’re pleased to welcome the first 6 short films selected to Pendance 2020.
The Van – Erenik Bequiri (Albania)
The Van finally stops, the doors open and Ben comes out alive. A few more fights and he will be able to pay his way out of Albania, and hopefully, take his father with him.
Solar Plexus – David McShane (UK)
Noah battles to overcome his grief at the death of his mother, a journey that takes him from his flat to beyond the stars.
La Maman des Poissons – Zita Hanrot (France)
On the day of their grandmother’s funeral, Sacha gathers her cousins to write a tribute to her, but nothing will happen as planned.
Bonobo – Zoel Aeschbacher (Switzerland)
When the elevator of their public housing breaks down, the fates of Felix, a disabled pensioner, Ana, a single mother struggling with her move and Seydou, a young man passionate about dance, intertwine towards an explosive ending where their limits will be tested.
She Runs – Qiu Yang (China/France)
In an ordinary Chinese winter, a small city junior high student, YU, tries to quit her school aerobic dancing team.
Heroes – Pablo Manchado Cascon & Santiago Cardelus Ruis-Alberd (Spain)
An average guy driving his car comes across a woman being assaulted. He is torn between his instinct to ignore the scene and drive on, or sum up his courage and become a hero.
Programmers Masha Litvinava & Robert Misovic have taken shorts programming to a new level this year. These films are a mixed bag of some fresh discoveries and some of the most decorated shorts of 2019. Pendance fans may remember Qiu Yang’s 2017 Gentle Night which won Best Director at Pendance and Palme d’Or at Cannes. She Runs won the Leitz Cine Discovery Prize at Semaine de la Critique. Bonobo by Zoel Aeschbacher won the Audience Award at Clermont-Ferrand. The Van premiered at the Cannes Film Festival as an Official Selection in 2019.
Solar Plexus becomes the fourth film selected to Pendance from the Cannes Cinefoundation showcase – the first 3 being last year’s Rubber Dolphin, Inanimate, and Equally Red & Blue.Heroes & Speechless are wonderful films by extremely talented emerging directors. Speechless director Zita Hanrot is best known as an actress, and she won the Cesar Award in 2016 for the film Fatima.
So much of what made Pendance 2019 successful was about the films. But so much of it wasn’t. Who could forget Mark Raso’s filmmaking workshop? Or Quest director Santiago Rizzo’s heart-felt skype Q&A about youth in crisis? And what would Pendance’s opening-night feature ‘Age Out’ have been without the eye-opening Q&A by OnBuzz CEO and Social Impact advocate Alan Elias?
“We’re trying to be more than a place people go to watch films. We’re trying to bring new ideas and important stories to the forefront and share them against the backdrop of Toronto winters. We want Pendance to become as synonymous with big ideas, important conversations, great music, innovation, and learning as it is with great cinema” stated festival director Robert Misovic.
Doctrina Leaders Maria Fomina (left) and Kristina Zabelin (right)
Pendance Doctrina features 5 components; social impact initiatives, documentaries, workshops, panels and conferences. Doctrina is Latin and is tied with learning, knowledge, or teaching. It is also feminine. And it’s no accident that an initiative entitled ‘Doctrina’ which aims to empower youth is led by two of Pendance’s youngest members; Kristina Zabelin & Maria Fomina leading the workshops and conferences respectively.
For Pendance Workshops, the festival has spent over a year researching how people learn. These free-to-attend workshops feature industry leaders teaching core topics in an engaging way, implementing student participation, audio-visual tools, and hands-on learning. These aren’t merely lectures or how-to instructionals.
Alan Elias speaks on the American Foster Care system at Pendance 2019
The Panels feature lively debates exploring topics from multiple angles and unique perspectives. The team has sought out the brightest and most credible minds in the industry to speak at these panels and by allowing free access to students and partnering with film schools, Pendance is hoping to ignite a deep curiosity among youngsters breaking into the film and television industry.
Pendance conferences follow the format of lectures or talks from key speakers on issues the festival feels are worth exploring. Finally, Pendance will begin to feature documentary features as a means of diversifying its narrative-heavy selections from the first two years.
“Rob Stewart was a big inspiration to me growing up, and documentaries like Sharkwater have sparked global movements. With so many conversations that are best explored through the documentary medium, we look forward to making documentaries a big part of what we’re doing at Pendance and our Doctrina arm going forward” stated festival director Robert Misovic.
Finally, social impact is a means of engaging community involvement year-round. This means youth-driven initiatives and support for charities and causes the festival holds in high regard. In 2019, the festival will be re-launching the ‘Warming the Streets’ initiative in which volunteers take a night to walk through the city with gift-wrapped coats, jackets, sweaters, socks, gift cards, and vouchers and break bread with the city’s underprivelged population.