WSFF: Official Selection - Who's Your Dada?

The Big Tree
Guy Maddin fans unite! The Worldwide Short Film Festival Official Selection “Who’s Your Dada?” opens with the black and white acid trip The Big Tree (Canada, 5 min.), which clearly owes a debt of inspiration to the eccentric Winnipeg formalist. Directors Andrew Struthers and Pasheabel Hart craft a tale from the lunatic fringe about a lumberjack, a fair maiden, a cast of singing woodland creatures. Don’t expect the “Happy Working Song” from Enchanted: this is Bambi gone bananas. With its clever use of tone and style, The Big Tree proves that The Artist is as original as a bologna sandwich. Bologna sandwiches, though, might provide the kind of manly fuel for the cast of the next film, Men of the Earth (Australia, 10 min.). Directed by Andrew Kavanagh, Men of the Earth shows what’s actually going on in those busy construction sites filled with the men in the bright orange shirts. Men of the Earth boasts some showy and precisely orchestrated direction and cinematography – not to mention some truly impressive Steadicam work – and it offers a nice homage to the men on the road.

Errol Morris's The Umbrella Man
While “Who’s Your Dada?” offers some strange and surreal tales of the imagination for moviegoers, it also proves the only thing stranger than fiction is the truth. The truth is artfully toyed with in the experimental short Woodcarver (Canada, 6 min.), which take footage from the dashboard cam on a police cruiser and plays it on a loop. By revisiting a fateful shooting over and over again, but with a slight manipulation each time, Woodcarver provocatively asks why one man’s murder at the hands of the police has gone unresolved. The film will certainly leave viewers thinking, as will the conspiracy theory posed in the next film, The Umbrella Man (USA, 6 min.). Academy-Award winner Errol Morris (The Fog of War, The Thin Blue Line) directs this intriguing documentary that revisits the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The film has scholar Josiah “Tink” Thompson explain an intriguing conclusion he drew while examining the famed Zapruder footage in the aftermath of the President’s death. Thompson explains that it had rained in Dallas the night before the fateful parade; however, he notes that all the bystanders are dry and coatless since the weather was agreeable during the parade. Closer inspection of the footage, though, reveals one man sporting an open umbrella. As Thompson notes, the President’s car passed “The Umbrella Man” at the exact moment of the shooting. “The Umbrella Man” must therefore be the second shooter, Thompson explains, since his presence is too sinister to ignore. Thompson’s one idea spawned a range of theories that bordered upon insanity, yet Morris uses the story to show that every wild idea can never be as strange as the truth itself. This riveting short is as wild as any feature length doc that Morris has ever done.
Nothing Else (Plus rien ne vouloir)
One hopes that the next film is not based on a true story. Edmond was a Donkey (Edmond était un âne) (Canada/France, 14 min.) is a quirky animated short by Franck Dion. Edmond was a Donkey gives a retrospective look a quiet man named Edmond who was teased and tormented by his co-workers. Edmond takes their prank to heart one day when they place a paper hat upon his head and he imagines the hat as a magical pair of ears. Edmond realizes that he must be a donkey. Although he makes an ass of himself in the eyes of others, Edmond finds freedom by escaping the world of humans. Edmond was a Donkey is an imaginatively rendered fable. Moving from dreamy animation to a live-action story about a man who cannot dream, “Who’s Your Dada?” continues with a short by Canadian newbie Anne Émond. Émond became the next big thing in Canada’s film scene when her Nuit #1 opened to raves at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival and then won her the Claude Jutra Award for breakthrough filmmaker at the Genies. I caught Nuit #1 at the festival and, I’ll admit, I hated it. After seeing Nothing Else (Plus rien ne vouloir) (Canada, 14 min.), however, I’ll have to agree that Mlle. Émond really has talent. Like Nuit #1, Nothing Else is a sparse realist film that is driven by character and lots of dialogue. Émond gets good work from her lead performer once again, too, with Pierre-Luc Brillant (C.R.A.Z.Y.) offering a fine turn as Maxime who celebrates his birthday by fretting over his inability to dream. Fingers crossed that Émond’s next feature continues to prove me wrong.
Kali the Little Vampire
The best short of “Who’s Your Dada?” is the animated film Kali the Little Vampire (Canada/France/Portugal/Switzerland, 9 min.). I pleaded that the vampire genre was in much need of an overhaul when I conclude my review of Dark Shadows, and it looks like this little NFB film (one of two in the series: the other is Edmond was a Donkey) has done it. Proving that vampire movies still have lots of blood in them, Kali the Little Vampire is a moving story of a young vampire who just wants to make some friends. Told in gothic and evocative hand-drawings that recall the art of Edvard Munch, Regina Pessoa crafts a truly magical film. In addition to the beautiful animation, Kali stands out thanks to an excellent performance by Christopher Plummer who narrates this sad yet inspired tale of a child’s need to fit in. Morgan Freeman and his penguins are no match for Christopher Plummer and his little vampire.

“Who’s Your Dada?” ends with another story of odd personal ties. In The Twin (Tvillingen) (Sweden, 29 min.) Gustav visits the doctor to investigate an uncomfortable lump in his throat. It turns out that Gustav has a tumour. It’s not any ordinary tumour, though. The lump in Gustav’s throat is actually a twelve-inch twin that has been living within him since the womb. The twin forces Gustav to re-evaluate his life when it starts to grow on him. Strange and droll, The Twin caps off many of the themes and stories of “Who’s Your Dada?” by asking if someone can give birth to themself, and what happens when that self is a monster. One of the stronger programmes in the WSFF Official Selections, “Who’s Your Dada?” shows that life is but a dream. Or, more likely, a nightmare.

“Who’s Your Dada?” screens:
Isabel Bader Theatre, Wednesday, June 6 at 1:30 p.m.
Isabel Bader Theatre, Saturday, June 9 at 7:45 p.m.

Please visit www.shorterisbetter.com for tickets, program/film info, and show times.
And check the label WSFF for more reviews of festival programs.

Want to see "Who's Your Dada"? Well, you're in luck! We have 5 pairs of tickets up for grabs for the screening on Wednesday June 6 courtesy of WSFF and the Canadian Film Centre. To enter, please email pat@cinemablographer.com with the subject "Dada" and provide your name and email address. And since this programme boasts some great shorts, please tell us the name of the short that won the Audience Award at last year's WSFF. (Hint: the answer is in the review for one of this year's programmes!) Bonus entries go out to anyone who shares this link on Twitter with the phrase "Win tickets to see ‘Who's Your Dada’ at #wsff12 from
Contest closes Tuesday June 5 at 9 am.