Regent Park Film Festival Opens with a Spotlight on Canadian Shorts

Photo: Rick O'Brien.
Toronto’s Regent Park Film Festival offers four days of free screenings of films from Canada and around the world, but the festival’s shorts program on opening night is just the ticket for anyone who wants to see what this community film festival represents. RPFF kicks off with “Next: Emerging Directors Spotlight,” which opens the festival with a celebration of up-and-coming Canadian talent. This quartet of promising shorts bodes well for the future of Canadian film.

The thriller Hailstorm, for example, from director/co-writer John Virtue, offers a taut psychological drama about the moral consequences of street justice. An angry radical named Hailey, played by a strong Melissa Hood, leads a group of eco-terrorists on a mission to get even with a dodgy factory that caused the death of several children through a lethal E-coli outbreak. A snapping pace ensures that Hailstorm is a gripping, edgy thriller thanks to the tight editing by Jane MacRae and atmospheric cinematography by Jackson Parrell. This stylish, layered thriller crackles a hefty moral spark right through to its explosive finale. It’s a solid production overall.

Equally impressive stylistically is Still, an ambitious sci-fi film directed by Slater Jewell-Kemker that screened at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year. (Review here.) Still, like Hailstorm, is a production from Toronto’s Canadian Film Centre, and both offerings from this year’s Short Dramatic Film Program hint at lots of potential with these ambitious and well-crafted shorts.

Also screening in “Next” is the two-hander drama Blow Out from director Anthony Swan. Jim Watson and Kit Weyman star as two brothers who confront the impending death of their sister in an intense and emotional game of truth or dare. Whereas Hailstorm and Still offer thrilling and mind-bending escapes, respectively, Blow Out hits close to home with the gritty realism of its direction and with the authenticity of its performances. It’s a subtly affecting film.
The Journey
Finally, The Journey gives the programme an inspiring tale that shows what the Regent Park Film Festival is all about. This reflective doc by Richard Fung examines how the arts offer an outlet for youths and provide a viable alternative for growing, nurturing, and educating the generations to come. The doc looks at the changes in Regent Park through the eyes of several young adults who have experienced personal growth by fostering their talents and finding their voices through the arts. The film offers an honest and optimistic portrait of this Toronto neighbourhood as residents both past and present reflect on life in Regent Park matter-of-factly. They explain how elements of violence and poverty sometime label the community within the grater perception of Torontonians, but they state with pride how Regent Park has a tangible sense of community one struggles to find elsewhere in the city. The participatory nature of The Journey complements the positive atmosphere and sense of community of which the participants speak.

The Journey takes audiences into the community centres that are serving young people as the community undergoes rapid development. Organized programs educate the youth by giving them outlets for their experiences, but also education in the business of art so that they may grow as professional performers. This handsomely-shot doc is itself an invaluable snapshot of the benefits of local programming for the arts, as its honest and inspiring portrait of a community is a fine feat of self-representation.

“Next: Emerging Directors’ Spotlight” screens at the Regent Park Film Festival on Wednesday, Nov. 19 at 7:30 pm.
The night also includes the “Talkback: Opening Night and RBC Emerging Artist Award” with Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival, and filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin, director of Trick or Treaty? .

Tickets are free and may be reserved here.
Please visit www. http://regentparkfilmfestival.com for more information.