ERIN LINN MCMULLAN
Special to the Westerly
The 19th annual Tofino Film Festival (TFF) wrapped up on Feb. 23 with a showcase of international shorts curated by one-woman-organizer Jill Patterson, plus Bravo, the winner of Thursday night’s Guerilla Film Contest by newcomers Ciara Jones and Moriah Overell.
The standout of Saturday’s “emotional rollercoaster” was the haunting 16-minute Fauve by Montreal’s Jérémy Comte, which earned a Special Jury Prize at Sundance 2018 and was Oscar-nominated in 2019 for Best Live Action Short—one of two Canadian nominees in this category. It follows two boys in an innocent power game with deadly consequences as they explore a surface mine—Thetford Mines, Quebec—with an incredible performance by Félix Grenier.
Patterson points out how lucky they were to screen it with nominees normally on hold. The local photographer, who took over the local festival four years ago, scours festival sites to create this best-of-the-fests finale to an impressive four-day program, including workshops and feature documentary. Supported entirely by local sponsorships and ticket sales, new hosts this year include Mackenzie Beach Resort in partnership with Lil’ Ronnie’s, andthe Tofino Legion accommodating the popular Guerilla contest with its $1,000 grand prize— TFF matches Rhino Coffee House’s donation. The favourite of both the audience and judges alike, Jones’ prize-winning entry Bravo is her first. She drove out to Tofino from Toronto last November and explains, “The idea came about when I met Moriah, who wrote and filmed the movie with me. We were in Australia and our friend had an old ute [pickup truck] called a ‘bravo’. He also has a certain personality that made us think of a detective persona.”
The short features Bravo, a washed up widower-detective now doing dirty work for the mob, local settings and a rare glimpse of West Coast snow.
Shot in true Guerilla style over two weeks, it came together through community effort including thrift store costumes the cast wore, in character, to Thursday’s screening.
“So many amazing people in this town who are down to support and do almost anything we ask of them,” Jones emphasizes.
While she grew up doing stunt work, mostly in Toronto’s film industry, Jones credits her dance background for Bravo’s eye-catching choreography.
“We rehearsed 20 minutes before shooting. Everyone was so amazing and focused at learning the dance! So it came together quickly.”
The rest was all improv, including the stunningly lit Noir-ish night scene set on First Street Dock shot by Overell with a Cannon 5D Mark III. “We wanted to shoot Super 8, but with the time restraint chose not to,” says Jones. Lucking out with a light on location, “a lot of the night scene was lit with good old iPhone flashlights. We definitely pride ourselves on being resourceful and making it work with what we have/can invent on short notice.”
Jones hopes to enter again.
“It’s a wonderful encouragement to have a night where we can all share and learn from each other. I feel like we’re always creating and coming up with ideas, this was a perfect reason to actually make one a reality.”
Past prizewinners took second and third place: Nate Laverty for Saliva and Myles Beeby for the satirical animated Tofino Action News, respectively. Laverty, a commercial DP, enters to support “this rad little event for our town” and all Jill’s hard work in making this festival happen.”
Self-taught, Beeby begins with hand-drawn images and trained as a painter, studying Fine Arts at Concordia University and Graphic Design at International Academy of Design in Montreal.
“The cash prize is a great motivator,” says Beeby, “however, nothing can compare to the feeling of connecting to the audience when they laugh at the right spots and cheer at the end.”