Shaw Media supports the Fearless Female Director award in our film fest, presented to the best film by a female director four times a year. To honour the award, we’re bringing you a month of our favourite films by female directors.
Each week watch two fantastic films by talented Canadian female directors: they’ve all been in the NSI Online Short Film Festival, some have won awards and all are totally worth seeing again.
This week’s shorts are from directors Karen Lam and Michelle Latimer who are also both NSI grads.
Choke is directed by Michelle Latimer.
Jimmy leaves his northern First Nations reserve to pursue a life in the city but quickly realizes that urban life is not what he’d imagined. As he encounters the lost souls of the city, he is reminded that no matter how far you travel, you cannot escape who you are.
Inspired by the late, contemporary First Nations artist Kyle Morrisseau, Choke uses stop-motion animation to explore themes of urban isolation and the individual search for identity within modern society.
Michelle Latimer says, “I was first drawn to Kyle when I was researching a documentary about First Nations youth who are forced to leave their families and homes in the north in order to attend high school in the city. These students end up living in urban centres with families they don’t know. Many experience feelings of extreme isolation and depression.
Kyle was not unique in this way. He had trouble adjusting to this new lifestyle and he missed his family deeply. He ended up turning to painting as an emotional outlet. It was in his genes, as his grandfather was the world famous painter Norval Morrisseau. Kyle was showing great promise as an artist. People were calling him the next Norval. He was only 17 years old, but his work had a profound maturity and depth.
Tragically, the world will never get to experience the sheer talent that Kyle had. In 2009, Kyle was found drowned in a city river, not far from the high school he attended. Many believe he took his own life. That year, he was the third First Nations student in his community to do so.
I made this film in dedication to his life and in tribute to all of the northern students who will leave their homes in search of the opportunities that only education can provide.”
Doll Parts is directed by Karen Lam.
Edward should have turned the car back when he lost his lucky sunglasses but he decides to not waste the beautiful day. He’s got his supplies ready to go in the back seat – a rope, large hunting knife and duct tape – and the long stretch of highway in front of him holds much opportunity.
Before long, he spots a pale girl standing in the middle of the road. She’s thin and shivering and climbs into his car. Edward soon has his victim gagged and bound and looks for the right place to finish the job. But things don’t go as planned: the girl he picked up isn’t human after all and now the prey has become the predator.
Karen Lam says, “The idea for Doll Parts came from the last visit I had with my late grandmother in Hong Kong.
Every evening, lying wide awake from jet lag, I could hear my grandma arguing with some unseen presence in the next room, speaking a dialect from her childhood that I didn’t recognize. And every morning, I would head downstairs for a bowl of congee, armed with a book of Neil Gaiman-edited short stories. One in particular caught my attention: Catch and Release by Lawrence Block, which featured a serial killer who would catch and “release” female hitchhikers.
Between the heat and emotional exhaustion, my mood veered quickly downhill as I stewed about the story. Why are women always being killed by psychopathic nut jobs? And why are the killers always written as heroes? It’s hard not to be angry about the sheer number of women that go missing or are murdered, particularly when you live in Vancouver.
Given that I only write when I’m angry or bitter, Doll Parts was practically created in that moment. For me, this is a film that considers the nature of victims and heroes, inspired as much by the missing women along the Highway of Tears as by the Asian demons of the underworld.”
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We’ve also programmed two new films in the NSI Online Short Film Festival: Deliveries by James Anthony Usas and Good Expectations by Daniel D’Alimonte. Find out more.
The NSI Online Short Film Festival is made possible through the support of Presenting Sponsor Shaw Media, Program Partner Telefilm Canada, Comedy Award Sponsor Blue Ant Media, Female Director Award Sponsor Shaw Media, Overall Best Film Award Sponsor A&E Television Networks, and Supporting Sponsor Netflix.