Vancouver Short Film Festival showcases the power of small


If you want to acquaint yourself with the next generation of Vancouver filmmakers, expect to watch a ton of short films.

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Some movie fans immediately recoil at the pairing of those two words. The genre has a not-completely-unwarranted reputation for tedium. They tend to be associated with film-school students and newbies who want to try out an idea for a feature film before they have the funds and expertise to bring a bigger project to fruition. And yes, sometimes they’re dreck.

But more often than not – especially in Vancouver, where we have a concentration of scrappy showbiz professionals with stories to tell, and the drive and mad skills to commit them to film – short films are compelling, satisfying, audacious and really, really good.

This truth is crystal clear at the Vancouver Short Film Festival (VSFF). The seventh edition of the annual fest, which runs this week at the Vancity Theatre, screens more than two-dozen live-action, animated, and digital shorts by emerging and established local, national and international filmmakers. VSFF’s films have one thing in common: a run-time somewhere between two and 19 minutes. Other than that, the line-up runs the gamut of genres and voices, from dystopian sci-fi to documentary to horror-comedy.

vancouver short film festival
Joel McCarthy behind the scenes of 'I Love You So Much It’s Killing Them'. - Contributed photo

A primo example of the latter is I Love You So Much It’s Killing Them, directed, edited and co-written by Joel Ashton McCarthy. The Vancouver filmmaker’s eclectic filmography includes several award-winning feature films (like his dark comedy Shooting the Musical, and the documentary Taking My Parents to Burning Man) and shorts (most recently Fathers and Son, which screened at the 2016 Whistler Film Festival).

I Love You So Much It’s Killing Them follows Vivian, a nerdy, lonely serial killer whose three loves are math, accounting and killing random people. The original version had a male protagonist, but “we decided it would be more interesting if it was a female serial killer, because women should be able to kill people on screen,” says McCarthy, in a recent phone interview.

It’s a parody of vanilla short films about shy office workers who fall in love with their new co-workers, says McCarthy. “I think we’ve seen that short film a million times, and we’re so sick of it. We wanted to play with a format we’ve seen a million times and add, ‘Oh, she happens to be a really messed up serial killer on the side,’ but it’s not all about that.”

In this way, I Love You So Much It’s Killing Them is similar to Shooting the Musical (about film-school grads making a musical about a school shooting) and another McCarthy film, Why Does God Hate Me? (a coming-of-age comedy about a 14-year-old boy whose best friend tries to “cure” him of being gay): It’s irreverent. “Either we’re dealing with subject matter that some people are uncomfortable with, or we’re making jokes that cross the line,” says the filmmaker. “We don’t try to make stuff that’s going to be loved by every single human being.”

“In my other films, I’ve tackled religion and other things that people get very sensitive about, and I’ve found that there are people who will take that journey with you,” adds McCarthy, who is currently shooting a web series titled Inconceivable, about an unplanned pregnancy between friends.

I Love You So Much It’s Killing Them was created as part of last year’s Crazy 8s filmmaking competition, wherein six teams film and finesse a short in eight days. Crazy 8s’ pressure-cooker conditions – as well as the cash and production package that supplies everything needed to shoot and lock a film in the allotted time – only served to make the film better, according to McCarthy. “It wasn’t this backyard filmmaking that we were used to. We had a crew that was an army. We had three days to shoot, five days for post[-production], and 13 locations. It made me really obsess over the details. We ended up shooting exactly what we needed for the film – nothing more and nothing less.”

Last August,I Love You So Much It’s Killing Them beat out hundreds of submissions from all over the world to win the award for best short in the third annual Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival in Chicago.

Other highlights on the VSFF schedule include Brenda at 10, 15, 20, in which director Ana de Lara intertwines three time periods in the life of a breast-cancer survivor, with a focus on the character’s relationship with her breasts; Arun Fryer’s Before She’s Gone, a documentary love story about a 67-year marriage and the husband’s role as caretaker after his wife is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; and Counter Act, an award-winning short from the Affolter Brothers about a 1960s lunch-counter protest.

The Vancouver Short Film Festival runs Jan. 27-28 at Vancity Theatre. Tickets and info:

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