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A Simple Guide to Pendance 2021

We were having a conversation today with a pass holder who said they got a headache trying to pick which films they wanted to watch. “Nothing’s bad, everything’s interesting, and there’s no Brad Pitt so I have no idea how to pick”.

The bigger we get, the less comprehensible we get. That’s been true every year. It takes a rare person to unpack 54 films and 20 live events across a three-and-a-half-day window. So we had an idea—why not simplify Pendance?

So below, we’re going to give you our top three picks for every genre and taste imaginable. Just go to your mood and check out our suggestions. Who better to guide you through Pendance than the programmers who picked the films? Consider this our version of Vimeo Staff Picks.

 

FILMS BY WOMEN

Lorelei by Sabrina Doyle | March 28, 8pm

Through Her Eyes Shorts Showcase | March 27, 5pm

Toprak by Sevgi Hirschhäuser | March 28, 1pm

 

HORROR FILMS

My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell it To by Jonathan Cuartas | March 26, 9pm

Bleed with Me by Amelia Moses | March 27, 11pm

Pendance Midnight Shorts | March 26, 11pm

 

DOCUMENTARIES/WORLD ISSUES

The Bears on Pine Ridge by Noel Bass | March 28, 12pm

StoryOverEverything Shorts | March 26, 2pm

The State of Texas Vs. Melissa by Sabrina Van Tassel | March 26, 4:30pm

 

SOMETHING FUN, LIGHT OR FUNNY 

Dinner in America | March 26, 7pm 

Show Me the Money Shorts | March 27, 9pm

Le Cafe de mes Souvenier (The Cafe of my Memories) by Valto Baltzar (World Premiere) | March 28, 5:30pm 

 

ARTHOUSE

Cinema Mon Amour Shorts | March 28, 3pm

The Trouble with Being Born by Sandra Wollner | March 28, 10pm 

Window Boy would Also Like to Have a Submarine | March 27, 2pm  

 

I WANT ONE FILM!

Fine. Paper Spiders by Inon Shampanier | March 27, 7pm

 

RELEVANT LINKS

Get Passes
Check Out the Full Event Schedule
Free Workshops & Panels
Check Out All the Feature Films

Check Out All the Short Films

 

 

 

HOW TO EVENTIVE

Pricing

*There are effectively 2 passes at Pendance 2021 right now; 5 for 5 ($25) and All-Access ($50). The Pendancer Pass for ($125) comes with a #StoryOverEverything sweatshirt but effectively is the same pass as the $50 all-access.

Tickets for individual screenings are

$3.99 for documentary features

$8.99 for short blocks

$8.99 for features.

How Passes Work

5-for-5 unlocks any 5 screenings for $0, and All Access and Pendancer pass unlocks all screenings for $0.

Once you have your pass, you can begin adding screenings through the ‘virtual festival portal’. You’ll see 11 features, 1 re-screening, and 5 short blocks listed. Make sure you’re logged into the eventive account (and same email) your pass was issued to. You should see a $0 charge next to the pre-order now button.

 

How a Screening Works

2 Things matter here: Unlock time, and watch window. Let’s use Dinner in America as an example. It can be pre-ordered now, but won’t officially ‘unlock’ until March 26th at 7pm. From the second it unlocks at 7pm (EST) you will have exactly 2 hours to begin watching the film. From the point you unlock, within that 2-hour window, you will have exactly 8 hours to finish watching the film.

 

28 Directors from 5 Continents Headline the International Shorts Programme at Pendance 2021

The international shorts selections at Pendance are one of the highlights each year. As a festival that’s always seeking and open to programming films from anywhere and everywhere—there are always a handful of short films that come to Pendance as their first or only North American festival.

For the full festival schedule, you can check here. In this article, we take you through each international short film selected to Pendance using the comprehensive notes from the programmers who selected them.

 

The Bears on Pine Ridge by Noel Bass – Friday, March 26, 12pm + Sunday March 28, 12pm

At 40 minutes—the film is either the longest short film or the shortest feature film in Pendance history—in either case it’s a record that’s unlikely to be touched for a few years—it’s a really special film. Unlike other short films, it will screen solo to open Pendance 2021.

Bass takes an unflinching dive into the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, which declared a State of Emergency as youth suicide rates jumped to the highest levels in the country.

Director Noel Bass will be live for the Q&A after the screening where he will join a panel of others on the topic of suicide among Native populations, what barriers to support youngsters face, and what needs to change.

The Bears on Pine Ridge had its World Premiere earlier this year at the Academy Award®-Qualifying Big Sky Documentary Film Festival and will have its Canadian Premiere at 12pm on Friday, March 26th at Pendance. The film screens again at 12pm on Sunday, March 28th. Noah Bass is expected to join the Q&A for a panel discussion about the film and its message. Watch Trailer

 

#StoryOverEverything Shorts Showcase – Friday, March 26, 2021, 2pm

#StoryOverEverything is a short block devoted to documentaries and true stories—starting with Blue Frontier by Ivan Milosavljević—which had its North American Premiere at the Big Sky Documentary festival earlier this year. A co-production between Serbia and Slovenia—the documentary follows an elderly fisherman as he seeks to catch a sea giant—the largest fish in the Danube River.

Each morning he wakes up and heads to the river—clapping at the surface of the water with a hand-carved piece of wood, longing to meet the creature just once before one of them dies.

Featuring some stunning cinematography, and hyper-focused pacing, the film serves as a visually powerful allegory that any dreamer could relate to. Trailer

School Ties by Oscar Albert is a visually compelling dramatic short about lost innocence. Two boys help a friend in need after he runs away from the nearby boarding school—building him a makeshift tent and sneaking him food whenever they can.

It’s rare to have child actors deliver such even performances, and the impressive attention to wardrobe and set design goes a very long way in terms of world building.

At the heart of the film is the question that is asked repeatedly—why did he run away in the first place? Albert leaves that to the viewer to decide. Trailer

Maalbeek is an animated/experimental film, which challenges the very notion of what a documentary is. Director Ismaël Joffroy Chandoutis examines the notion of remembering and forgetting by exploring the tragic 2016 Maalbeek metro bombing in Brussels—which killed 32 civilians, three perpetrators and injured over 300 others.

The film dives into one of those survivors—Sabine—who has severe amnesia about the event. She remembers it in bits and fragments unlike those around her who’ve formed their memories of the horrific event through news footage and second-hand accounts.

The film examines the notion of memories and how they influence feelings and perspectives—and perhaps how losing our memories allows us to actually move forward.

On a much-needed lighter note, we move to Thomas Sandler‘s highly enjoyable documentary about Edward Pratt—a young man who unicycled around the world. At the heart of Sandler’s short film is one question, which he asks repeatedly—why did Ed do it?

The Curiosity of Edward Pratt invites the viewer to open their minds to bigger ideas. Ed’s story is every bit as fascinating as it is inspiring. You can watch a bit about Ed and the 22,000 miles he cycled via this video.

 

There’s a juxtaposition at the heart of Guillermo and Javier Fesser de Petino‘s The Invisible Monster—how can a film about such a heartbreaking topic be this gorgeous? Both brothers are masterful and accomplished Spanish filmmakers with a list of career accomplishments so long it would span the length of this article to list them.

Their 29-minute short film ventures far east to the Philippines and follows an 8-year-old-boy Aminodin and his family as they navigate the hardships of living in the Papandayan dump with a central focus on exploring the topic of world hunger.

Jairo Iglesias’ cinematography—which earned the film an in-competition Selection at Camerimage 2020 in Poland elevates this film into masterpiece territory.

 

Pendance Midnight Shorts Showcase – Friday, March 26, 2021, 11pm.

 

Pendance Midnight is back and it’s edgier than ever. Screening at 11pm on March 26th, The Midnight Shorts showcase begins with Special Selection The Fall, by Under the Skin director Jonathan Glazer. At just over 6 minutes, the film packs a haunting punch.

Inspired by The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters—an etching by Francisco Goya, the film takes a surrealist approach, which feels a bit like a live-action representation of a Goya painting.

A man clings to a tree for dear life as strangers wearing masks attempt to rattle him free. The title leaves little to the imagination regarding what happens next—the fall.

As the mob descends on the fallen man, they force him to pose for a picture—a decision Glazer states was inspired by a photo Eric Trump and Donald Trump JR. took next to the carcass of a defenceless leopard.

It’s one of the strongest short films of the past decade and one that’s likely to have a strong and bitter aftertaste.

Rob Stanton-Cook‘s Kilter examines generational trauma through a poetic lens. To call the film’s cinematography by Aaron McLisky excellent would be an understatement—it’s one of the most visually dazzling shorts of the year.

It uses smart cuts and breathtaking locations to tell the story of a young man haunted by abuse at the hands of his father and a disconnection he feels from his younger self.

The film’s deeper messaging exploring toxic masculinity is represented by the radical physical transformation the character makes, and the constant visions he has of himself as a child which blur the line between dreams and reality.

Words are never spoken—and with a clear sense for visual storytelling and probably one of the better cinematographers in the world behind the camera, they aren’t really missed.

We had a strange Greek entry in the Midnight block in 2019 with Fake News, and 2021 re-welcomes Greece to Pendance Midnight with Take It And End It by Kirineos Papadimatos. The film is a delightfully allegorical tale about a butcher who refuses to kill a veal he’s grown to view as his own child.

To say anymore would be to ruin the film, but it’s absolutely a dream fit in the middle of this block.

There will be MONSTERS is a 5-minute short film by Pendance alumnus Carlota Pereda—winner of the Best Short Film Award in 2019 for her film Piggy.

Her most recent film brings us to a summer night in Spain as a clearly intoxicated woman sits on a bench trying to gather herself. As she’s approached by a group of rowdy men looking to have a few laughs—and much more—at her expense, the story turns from mildly uncomfortable to absolutely horrifying.

Pereda is a master of suspense and tension—the camera always holds to raise the nerves at the perfect boiling temperature. There’s always a twist—and it’s always a good one. Trailer

 

Matheus Farias and Enock Carvalho bring the audience to Brazil in their Sundance 2021-selection Unliveable. The 20-minute short film follows a woman desperately in search for answers after her daughter—a trans woman—goes missing.

Seeking answers and support from those who knew her daughter best, the film explores a mother’s grief and the rampant social issue of violence against transgendered individuals in Brazil.

While at the surface, this feels like an odd fit for the midnight block, you may comprehend the reasoning a bit better in the film’s final act.

Closing out Pendance Midnight, Japanese filmmaker Ken’ichi Ugana brings us the weirdest short film in Pendance’s 4-year history.

Extraneous Matter is an unflinching, erotically charged and surrealist look at a sexless woman’s longing for affection from her disinterested partner. The film takes a sharp turn as she finds a solution to her woes in her bedroom closet.

Like Pereda and Glazer, Ugana absolutely understands how to hold a frame to manipulate the audience. No one’s going to bed after watching this film.

 

Through Her EYES Shorts Showcase – Saturday, March 27, 2021, 5pm.

 

Through Her Eyes Shorts showcase starts with Mamaville, by Turkish director Irmak Karasu.

The film follows a young girl as she spends her summer days with her grandmother watching soap operas, hanging out with boys she may or may not like, and sitting in the shade at the beach—all of which is building on the boredom she feels and sense of sexual awakening she desires.

The film is a meditation on being young and pensive whilst attempting to transition from childhood innocence to full-fledged adulthood.

Milena Bennett‘s The Listening follows a couple—Freya and Dan—who move to the countryside to have their first child. As the pregnancy develops, they lose their grip on reality.

Distance and time, dreams and waking life, the living and the dead converge in this 25-minute short film about isolation—an all-too-relevant topic amidst the current state of the world.

There will be MONSTERS makes a second appearance in this block because as much as it is a genre film, it’s also a film about a woman establishing ultimate control.

We won’t spend any more time hyping up this 5-minute gem—just consider this a good opportunity to check it out if you miss it the first time around.

Cinematographer Molly Manning Walker flexes her strong directing and writing chops in Good Thanks, You? A young woman, Amy, played by the talented Jasmine Jobson, finds herself voiceless amidst a sea of bureaucratic incompetence following a violent attack.

Unable to speak about the event to her boyfriend, played by the Michael Ward, Amy must navigate the sea of questions on her own as she grows increasingly distanced from the ones she needs most.

So much is said through the powerful acting and strong script, but the dizzying effect and the sinking experience of watching the film has a lot to do with Molly Manning-Walker’s strong command of camera movement and visual storytelling. It’s a must-watch film. Trailer

Sister This by Claire Byrne is an Irish drama driven by two strong performances and a solid script which take the form of a phone conversation between an away-from-home working mom and her sister.

As the sisters war over their differing priorities, a child lays himself down in the grocery store pouting for attention.

It’s a rather intelligent and compelling spin on the working father trope and an engaging short film.

 

Finally, Peeps by Sophie Somerville closes the block on a hilarious high note. This delightfully weird Aussie selection will have you in stitches.

Peeps provides a peek into the inner world of a turbulent group of teenage girls during their after-school shopping trip. It’s equal parts brilliant and original from the opening credits to the final frame.

As shorts programmers wrote in their notes “it did things to me that only a handful of shorts have ever done”. It’s high praise from a group that have watched nearly 500 short films per year for four years running.

 

Show ME the Money!!! Shorts Showcase – Saturday, March 27, 2021, 9pm

 

Show ME the Money!!! is an absolutely hilarious short film block which features some of the most brilliant and daring attempts by a hodgepodge of defiant characters to circumvent the overall moral fabric of society.

In Ilya Polyakov‘s How to Get $100 Million—a young woman goes to extreme lengths on the advice of a self-help guru to achieve her goals—the price is just a little higher than she expected. It’s a completely fun and accessible short film which you won’t have to think about too much.

Amandine ThomasCherry Cola stars Thomas in the leading role, and it prompts two immediate questions—is the film good because Thomas is a strong director, or is it good because she’s a really talented actress?

The programmers answered this question with another question—does it really matter? Point taken. Honestly, it’s a little bit of both.

We meet Sherri as she’s being fired for stealing from her employer. When her emphatic pleas for reconsideration and mercy are met with contempt, Sherri goes to unimaginable lengths to pay her bills—manipulating everyone and anyone around her.

It’s rather unusual to cheer for the bad guy to win. But the bad guy isn’t a bad guy—it’s a charming bad girl—and it’s hard not to root for her when everyone around her is equally cold, equally calculating, or helplessly stupid.

Boris Kozlov’s The PIGS Method continues the earlier chapter on slimy self-help gurus. Toni is a father to two children who don’t take him very seriously.

His ex-wife is a sex cam worker and his biggest idol is a self-help guru who inspires Toni to write a book—the PIGS method—about using the useless scraps to make something meaningful of your life.

The film features damn-near-perfect acting across the board and serves as a great and subtle exploration of the perceptions of success and the toxicity of social media.

 

Georgi M. Unkovski‘s Sticker is one of the most prominent festival darlings of 2020, having premiered at Sundance and gone on to 200+ festivals worldwide.

The film follows a down-on-his-luck Dejan who can’t seem to renew his car registration. Equipped with a toy horse for his daughter who is performing in a play that evening, Dejan will do anything within his power to show up for the play to earn his daughter’s love forever.

Unfortunately, a series of events and consistent run-ins with the cops will threaten his desired outcome.

It’s not derivative, but Sticker will probably evoke a lot of the same feelings as 2012’s Live-Action-Oscar-Winner Curfew by Shawn Christensen. It’s a total crowd-pleaser. There are surely deeper undertones in Unkovski’s work, but the surface is just glossy and substantial enough to work on two levels. Trailer

 

Cinema Mon Amour – Sunday, March 28, 2021, 3pm.

Cinema Mon Amour is a short block devoted to unique and creative expressions—experimental, art-house with a little bit of narrative drama. This block is for the cinematically inclined and initiated crowd. Consider yourself warned.

We start this block with the second and newest short film by Jonathan GlazerSTRASBOURG 1508. The film is an adaptation of Martin Amis’s holocaust novel The Zone of Interest, featuring a series of head-banging interpretive dance performances from some of the world’s top dancers—filmed in isolation during the pandemic.

The film is as much a protest as it is another brilliant entry into the filmography of one of the world’s most interesting directors.

The first of two Pendance Alumni with shorts in the Cinema Mon Amour Short Block is Jonas Riemer with The One Who Crossed the Sea.

The animated documentary tells the story of a GDR refugee who joins the new right. In a folding boat, he flees via Denmark to Western Germany, where the story tips into the dark.

His newly acquired freedom turns into disorientation. Only in a burgeoning nationalist movement does the main character find a new home.

The film poses the elementary question: Where does the fear of the foreign and the desire for isolation really come from?

Riemer created the film” with the Cast&Cut short film grant via Nordmedia, and it continues a lifelong obsession for the young director of genre-blending.

With 2019’s Mascarpone, there was a very unique blend of animation with Live-Action. His most recent short is certainly an animated documentary—but flashes the director’s chops as an experimental filmmaker as well. We’re consistently on edge to learn what Jonas Riemer will do next.

To Sonny by Maggie Briggs and Federico Spiazzi is both a meditation on a simple life and a hyper smart character study of a lonely vending machine delivery driver.

The context for the film is peppered throughout via a series of radio interviews that serve as a backdrop for the audience to re-live the 2016 run-up to the American Presidential election.

The film doesn’t necessarily take a side—opting instead to ask questions; who are these people? How can they think the way they think? And have I actually met any of them?

In a world which feels increasingly closed off to debate and discussion, To Sonny urges viewers to sit in the shoes of a simple man, listening to the things he hears all day, seeing the roads he travels, and coming a little closer to seeing him as an actual human being. Trailer

Audiences in Toronto should be familiar with Nikola Polić, given that his earlier short film On My Own had its North American Premiere at Pendance in 2019.

In his most recent short film, Organisms, a young man named Petar finds himself distraught—when after a decade of cohabiting—his sister decides to move out of their shared apartment to start a family of her own.

Unable to cope with the loss, Petar concludes that his definition of family is at odds with the society he lives in.

Organisms represents a maturation for Polić as a storyteller. Many of the thematic elements remain consistent between both films—loneliness, isolation, longing for connection, idealism vs. reality.

This is obviously the work of a director who is still exploring some of the same fundamental questions as he was three years ago. What has changed is how he’s doing it.

Organisms feels more focused and surer of itself—it dares to be virtually inaccessible—but only in service of telling the story.

There are so many Easter eggs peppered in throughout the film’s 15-minute runtime that a few watchings may be essential to grab all of it. What’s clear is that this is an important film from an emerging director who is absolutely finding his voice. Trailer

Finally, closing Cinema Mon Amour is 2021 Live-Action-Oscar contender De Yie by Anthony Nti, a 20-minute short film from Ghana which follows 2 children as they’re forced to navigate some intense adult situations when they meet a stranger who offers to take them to the beach.

The film is a thrilling and at-times terrifying ride through the eyes of vulnerable children. Nti masterfully subverts expectations at every turn, leaving for one of the richest short-film experiences you’re likely to have this year.

That it for the International Shorts at Pendance 2021—to learn more about some of the feature films, you can read an article we wrote highlighting them. To read about some of the homegrown talent from Canada in the Shorts Programme, check here.

 


Robert Misovic is a Serbian-Canadian writer and director, the founder of the Pensare Films Studio in Toronto, and the festival director for the Pendance Film Festival. If you’d like to keep up with Rob on social media, you can find him on instagram @pensare.films or reach him directly at robert.misovic@pensarefilms.com 

A Record-Setting 17 Canadian Directors Heading to Pendance 2021

Short films have always been a huge part of our programming at Pendance, and as the festival goes virtual in 2021 for the first time, we were bound to break a few records. Fun Fact: there are more Canadians selected to Pendance 2021 than there have been from 2017-2020 combined—and they’re all worth talking about.

Fighter (2020)

Fighter by Toronto-based documentarian Meagan Brown is Canada’s sole short doc at Pendance 2021. Meagan turns the camera on her own family—three generations of firefighters—and asks them why they do what they do. It’s deeply honest and hits a high note on the climax.

Cliff Skeltons Not Your Average Bear follows a middle-aged man attempting a daring and ingenious heist to escape a mountain of debt and his mother’s piling medical bills. It’s a reasonably smart film that is one part action-thriller, another part underdog-comedy.

Savage Breakup is a masterclass in why tension and comedy make good bedfellows.  The film marks Jaclyn Vogl‘s directorial debut and it’s an early indication of good things to come from the team at Hysterical Hearts Collective—a Toronto production company led by Vogl, Sarah Slywchuk, Nora Smith and Melissa Paulson.

The shortest Canadian film comes from one of Canada’s funniest personalities—Gemini award-winner Shaun Majumder with Truth Hurtz. It’s 3 minutes long and it’s clear from the first twelve seconds that Majumder just understands comedic beats.

And finally, while it’s not strictly a comedy, Aris AthanasopoulosLloyd Loses Everything might be one of the funniest shorts we’ve ever seen at Pendance. It’s incredibly paced, so well-acted, and features commanding performances from Mickey Milan and Jenny Raven (Black Mirror, Kim’s Convenience).

Her Coming (2020)

Switching gears to sci-fi, Vancouver’s Christie Will Wolf and former-Torontonian-turned-Vancouverite Camille Hollett-French are coming to Pendance with Her Coming and FREYA, respectively.

Her Coming starring Chelsea Hobbs examines a future where men are gone and female leaders rule a conflict-free world, while FREYA imagines a dystopian future in which the state and social media operate as one. Both films are visually breathtaking and massive accomplishments in production design and storytelling.

 

Canada’s Got Talent

There’s Nothing You Can Do (2021)

 

Switching from the west coast, it turns out Quebec’s got a gem on the rise as well. You’d assume when a 22-year-old decides to direct, produce, write, edit, sound-design and act in his own project that the project would be unfathomably bad—but apparently, if you’re gifted and work hard enough, things turn out just fine. This film is ridiculously good.

It might give you an anxiety attack, but Ryan Terk‘s There’s Nothing You Can Do is an absolutely pure adrenaline rush and a commendable short film. At 27 minutes, it’s the second longest short ever selected to Pendance.

 

A familiar face—Pendance alumni Michael Alexander Uccello follows up Pendance 2020 selection Dreamcatcher with his new shot-on-16mm-short film The Man Who Became Everything. It’s a moody sci-fi film that earns some serious style points.

Noah Brown‘s stunning animated short The Wireman is ethereal, open-ended, and a remarkable accomplishment relative to its paltry budget. It joins a host of international animation films that are absolutely the strongest we’ve ever had and totally holds its own.

If there’s one short film that’s sure to make you cry, it’s probably Christian Bunea’s Pacaroni, which follows a teenage boy’s attempts to salvage the last remnant’s of his mother’s homemade pasta following her sudden death. Bunea’s sense of pacing and visual literacy are well beyond his years.

Another Canadian foray into the sci-fi genre, Douglas GibbensDeparture takes us to a future where an uninhabitable earth leads humanity to make a mass exodus to Mars. The gorgeous production design by A.K. Shand is complimented by Pendance alumni Matt Kinahan‘s (The Sunset Channel) dazzling score and writer-actress Konstantina Mantelos‘ strong performance.

And He Was Gone (2021)

Ace McCallum‘s And He Was Gone is a suspenseful dramatic short. The setup is simple enough—a young boy sees a man through his kitchen window. He smiles at the man to let us know the man is fine, and the music lets us know that he’s anything but.

Giran Findlay probably wasn’t thinking about pandemic protocols when he wrote Line—a Kafkaesque short film about the lunacy of bureaucracy—but he might have inadvertently made a film that stands as the perfect metaphor for the past 12 months.

A man is forced to wait behind a white line to get out of an empty roomonly to realize that every time he gets out, he comes right back in. Sounds like grocery stores in 2020 to us!

Shifting back to familiar faces, Pendance goers probably remember Molly Shears from Pendance 2020—she was one of the 10 filmmakers selected to our first-ever Pendance directors lab. In her latest short film Middle of Nowhere, she tackles grief through the lens of a young girl and her brother reeling from the sudden loss of their older brother. It’s a smart film and is an assured entry from a director on the rise.

The final Canadian short at Pendance is Right Side Down by the Jefferies Brothers—perfectly capturing the collective feeling of having the world flipped upside down by literally having a protagonist who was born and lives upside down. There are no words to explain why he’s born upside down, but the cinematography and music absolutely speak for themselves.

With much of the world closed, it has never felt quite as small and connected as it does today. We’re excited that home-grown artists from across the country will share the platform with 29 of the best filmmakers from across 5 continents. You can check out the full list of shorts selected to Pendance 2021 here. 

 


Robert Misovic is a Serbian-Canadian writer and director, the founder of the Pensare Films Studio in Toronto, and the festival director for the Pendance Film Festival. If you’d like to keep up with Rob on social media, you can find him on instagram @pensare.films or reach him directly at robert.misovic@pensarefilms.com 

44 Short Films Selected To Pendance 2021

The Pendance Film Festival is going virtual on March 26-28, 2021 via Eventive. Passes go on sale March 9th. With 2020 being a generally slow year for the film industry, we’re absolutely humbled to announce that our shorts programme may be our best one yet. Below is a full list of short films selected to Pendance 2021.

INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILMS | OFFICIAL SELECTION

 

Blue Frontier | Ivan Milosavljević | Serbia
Cherry Cola | Amandine Thomas | United States
Da Yie | Anthony Nti | Ghana
Extraneous Matter | Kenichi Ugana | Japan
Good Thanks, You? | Molly Manning Walker | United Kingdom
Kilter | Rob Stanton-Cook | Australia
How to Get $100 Million | Ilya Polyakov | United States
Maalbeek | Ismaël Joffroy Chandoutis | France
Mamaville | Irmak Karasu | Turkey
Organisms | Nikola Polić | Serbia
Peeps | Sophie Somerville | Australia
School Ties | Oscar Albert | United Kingdom
Sister This | Claire Byrne | Ireland
Sticker | Georgi M. Unkovski | Macedonia
Take it and End it | Kirineos Papadimatos | 20 mins
The Bears on Pine Ridge | Noel Bass | United States
The Curiosity of Edward Pratt | Thomas Sandler | Belgium
The Invisible Monster | Guillermo Fesser Perez de Petinto, Javier Fesser Perez de Petinto | Spain
The Listening | Milena Bennett | Australia
The One Who Crossed the Sea | Jonas Riemer | Germany 
The PIGS method | Boris Kozlov | Spain
There will be MONSTERS | Carlota Pereda | Spain
To Sonny | Federico Spiazzi, Maggie Briggs | United States
Unliveable | Matheus Farias, Enock Carvalho | Brazil 

 

CANADIAN SHORT FILMS | OFFICIAL SELECTION

 

Fighter | Meagan Brown | Canada
FREYA | Camille Hollett-French | Canada
Lloyd Loses Everything | Aris Athanasopoulos | Canada
Not Your Average Bear | Cliff Skelton | Canada
Pacaroni | Christian Bunea | Canada
Right Side Down | Ted Jefferies, Marshall Jefferies | Canada
Savage Breakup | Jaclyn Vogl | Canada
The Man Who Became Everything | Michael Alexander Uccello | Canada
The Wireman | Noah Brown | Canada
There’s Nothing You Can Do | Ryan Terk | Canada  

 

NON-COMPETITION | SPECIAL SELECTION

 

And He Was Gone | Ace McCallum | Canada 
Bertin | Elise Lausseur | France 
Departure | Douglas Gibbens | Canada 
Her Coming | Christie Will Wolf  | Canada 
If You Love Her, Let Her Go |  Ilan Zerrouki | France
Line | Giran Findlay | Canada 
Middle of No Where | Molly Shears | Canada 
Strasbourg 1518 | Jonathan Glazer | United Kingdom 
The Fall | Jonathan Glazer | United Kingdom
Truth Hurtz | Shaun Majumder | United States 

 

Click to Read More About the Selected Films Here

 

INTERNATIONAL PROGRAMME | IN COMPETITION 

Peeps (2020) – Sophie Somerville

 

2021 has brought the world together in unique ways. Our International In-Competition programme for 2021 features projects from 13 countries; Australia, United States, United Kingdom, France, Ghana, Greece, Turkey, Serbia, Macedonia, Germany, Brazil, Japan and Belgium—that’s 24 different perspectives across 5 continents. And they’re all really good. Exploring diverse genres and ideas, from established and emerging directors alike, these 24 films will absolutely blow your mind.

CANADIAN PROGRAMME | IN COMPETITION 

There’s Nothing You Can Do (2021) – Ryan Terk

2021 is a record year for Canadian short films at Pendance. With 15 Canadian selections among the 43 shorts, there are more Canadian short films at Pendance 2021 than there were in our first three years combined. Among the 10 Canadian shorts, 9 are by directors who are being selected to Pendance for the very first time.

 

SPECIAL PROGRAMME | NON-COMPETITION

The Fall (2019) – Jonathan Glazer

Most Special Selections to Pendance will be free to access through the Pendance Library. Each year we’ve had to leave five or ten really deserving films off of the Official Selection Programme. It’s not a statement on the quality of the film—sometimes it’s just a matter of fit. Programming a cohesive short block around theme sometimes means a film we really believe in often finds itself on the outside looking in.

As we move towards virtual cinema in 2021, we wanted to celebrate as many artists as possible. Making most of our special selections free-to-access means even those who do not purchase a single pass or ticket to Pendance 2021 can still enjoy quality shorts!
Note: The Fall and Strasbourg 1508 by Jonathan Glazer will exclusively screen (Geo-Blocked to Ontario) via Eventive. 

10 Brilliant Films by Women Now Free to Stream on The Pendance Library

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.

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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.

Watch Now

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Emma | Clara Lezama | Uruguay

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.

Aria | Myrsini Aristidou | Cyprus/France

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.

Watch Now

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Maja | Marijana Jankovic | Serbia

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.

Watch Now

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Now Streaming on The Pendance Library

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Brotherhood | Meryam Joobeur | Canada

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.


Ambi | Marija Apcevska | Macedonia

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.


Space Girls | Carys Watford | United Kingdom

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.

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4 Tips for Programming Better Film Festivals

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.


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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.
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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.

#tips #filmindustry #filmfestival #movies #filmfestival #torontofilm #cinema #programming #pendance #StoryOverEverything #Filmfreeway #austin #moviemaker #torontofilm

Mamba Out—The Five Kobe Moments We Will Never Forget

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. 
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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.
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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. 

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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.”


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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.

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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.

We miss you Kobe. Mamba out.

#missmamba #mambaout #kobebryant #kobe #lakers #mambamentality #81points #nba #gigibryant #rip

5 Films Worth Watching on the New Pendance Library

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! 

RE-ENTRY | BEN BRAND | 9 MINS | 2021 (ONLINE PREMIERE JAN 5TH)

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.

ON MY OWN | NIKOLA POLIC | 16 MINS | 2018 (ONLINE PREMIERE) 

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 | MATHIEU KASSOVITZ | 96 MINS | 1995

‘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.

PIGGY | CARLOTA PEREDA | 14 MINS | 2018

‘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.

UNDER DARKNESS | CAROLINE FRIEND | 20 MINS| 2019

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.

Why Does Diversity Matter?

Why We Need to Rethink the Broken System

by Robert Misovic

It’s been a topic of much debate in the wake of the Oscars announcing their nominees for Best Director. Not a single woman in sight. Really? This year?

I awoke this morning to comments by author Stephen King whereby he cited that he voted for quality, and not diversity. Director Ava DuVernay called King’s comments backward” among other things.

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?

Wrong.

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.