AFCOOP Films at FIN!

AFCOOP Films at FIN!

by EVAN BOWER

Last week, the folks at FIN Atlantic International Film Festival announced the lineup for this year’s edition, which will hit town September 16–23 and take place both online and in an honest-to-goodness theatre. The program features over 30 films from AFCOOP members (!), including six shorts created through our FILM 5 program. 

To celebrate, we caught up with the FILM 5 directors to learn more about them, their work, and the experience of seeing their ideas go through a film development program.

Below that, check out the complete list of AFCOOP-member work screening at FIN this year!

THE AGNOSTICS

director: Rebecca Falvey

producer: Meghan Hubley

Reel East Coast Shorts Gala

19-Sep-2021 07:00 PM | Park Lane: 81

9-Sep-2021 07:30 PM | Park Lane: 7

The Agnostics follows freshly-relapsed alcoholic Suzanne and her father Mark to an Easter gathering, which they hope will result in a much-needed cheque from their senile Uncle Raymond. Throughout the day Suzanne avoids texting her boyfriend and has disruptive visualizations of figures from her dream the night before.

What was the inspiration for your film?

Rebecca Falvey: The mistrustful relationship with reality that develops for alcoholics who black out often, dreams/paranoia/patchy memories bleeding together. The deeply unsettling feeling of being hungover, anxious and paranoid around family/loved ones—a feeling I associate with the holidays in the Maritimes, and one I hoped acknowledging on screen would make anyone else who relates to it feel less alone.

What films or filmmakers inspired you to make yours?

RF: The biggest inspiration for The Agnostics would be Dennis Potter’s 1987 mini-series The Singing Detective. It’s beautifully written and has everything you need for a good time (surreal 1940s music numbers, psychosexual childhood trauma, body horror, relationship paranoia, etc.).

What surprised you most about putting your concept through the FILM 5 process?

I gained a much better concept of time after seeing a six-page screenplay become a 16-minute rough cut. I also learned a lot during both pre- and post-production about the various ways my writing can be interpreted.

BADUK

director: Induk Lee

producer: Kelsey Power

Reel East Coast Shorts Gala

19-Sep-2021 07:00 PM | Park Lane: 8

19-Sep-2021 07:30 PM | Park Lane: 7

A young mother rediscovers a game from her childhood, revisiting moments that shaped her relationship with her own mother.

How did you get your start as a filmmaker?

Induk Lee: I started out learning about filmmaking through attending all the “intro-to-filmmaking” workshops available locally—a lot of them at AFCOOP. I learned most of my practical experience through AFCOOP’s FILM 5 program as a trainee first, then as a creative—which was how I made this film.

What was the inspiration for your film?

IL: My inspiration for this film was from my own relationship with my parents. The plot points aren’t accurate to my personal history but the emotions attached to them are. It’s the classic tale of viewing your parents differently as you get older.

What films or filmmakers inspired you to make yours?

IL: There are many filmmakers and films that have contributed to the kind of creator I am but I would say Yasujiro Ozu’s films were the most influential for this film. I love how he captures quiet but emotional moments that happen inside homes and families. I drew a lot of inspiration from that.

DEAR DAD, F*@# YOU!

director: Sam Horak
producer: Andrew Cooper

Atlantic Shorts Program 2

18-Sep-2021 01:00 PM | Park Lane: 8

Dear Dad, F*@# You! is a snapshot of complicated grief. It’s a lo-fi, angsty, femme-punk drama with very subtle notes of dark humour and minor hints of absurdity. It’s about a young woman trapped, alone, isolated, working through her shit with her art and maybe finding some kind of catharsis.

What was the inspiration for your film?

Sam Horak: The need to tell this story came to fruition when I realized how conditioned we are to insist on peace and forgiveness during a loss, regardless of circumstance, and the persistent notion that we’re supposed to avoid talking ill of the dead. Is a person we lost is suddenly absolved from wrongdoing simply because they’re dead? The script is inspired by a series of personal conversations with a close friend. I wanted this fictional representation to feel private—a young woman working through and expressing grief—a raw and intimate portrayal that one would avoid exposing to the outside world.

What’s your favourite (or worst/weirdest) memory of making this film?

SH: Favourite memory: All the wonderful and brilliant people we were fortunate enough to meet and work with throughout the process.

Weirdest memory: Cleaning up bird carcasses and mouse shit out of the location a couple days before we shot… Oh and generators and porta-potties. 

Worst memory: I honestly don’t have one. I mean I had moments where I felt like a complete fraud or totally riddled with anxiety, but I even love those moments as I think they are an important part of the process. 

What are you working on next?

SH: I am writing a feature script called So Not Punk Rock. It started as a play adaptation of an autobiographical one-person show I wrote years ago. I was going to apply for micro-budget funding this year but I don’t think the script is ready yet. I’m actually really enjoying this adaptation process, and the script is getting weirder and darker by the minute, so I think I’m going to take a little more time and keep working on it. 

DOORS

director: Alexandra McDonald
producer: Shelby McDonald

Atlantic Shorts Program 1

17-Sep-2021 03:30 PM | Park Lane: 8

As a last-ditch effort to overcome things that she’s been struggling with, Zoey—a troubled young woman fighting for her life in a coma—opens three doors that she couldn’t bear to unlock in the physical world.

How did you get your start as a filmmaker?

Alexandra McDonald: Right after high school, I moved to Toronto at the ripe age of 17 to attend Humber College’s “Acting For Film & Television” two-year program. From there, I met tons of different storytellers in Toronto/Halifax and quickly realized acting wasn’t my sole purpose in this industry. After starring in Stephanie Joline’s feature film Night Blooms, she suggested I should apply for the FILM 5 program, and that I did.

What was the inspiration for your film?

AM: My sister and co-writer, Shelby McDonald, got the inspiration for the film from the song “If the World Was Ending” by JP Saxe ft. Julia Micheals. It would play on the radio a lot while she was driving, and she wondered who she would say bye to if the world was ending. It developed from there to something a lot deeper and personal to Shelby and me.

What are you working on next?

AM: Personally, I am working on writing the pilot of a TV series I would like to be the showrunner of. Professionally, I am an associate producer on a feature film that’s being produced by Shut Up & Colour Pictures, planning to go to camera end of October 2021.

MAID

director: Melānie Mendez Munden
producer: Sandrella Mohanna

Atlantic Shorts Program 2

18-Sep-2021 01:00 PM | Park Lane: 8

Lina, a live-in migrant worker from the Philippines, struggles with feelings of depression and isolation. Jay, the neglected son of a wealthy family, uses drugs to mask his own feelings of despair. Their lives collide and end in tragedy.

How did you get your start as a filmmaker?

Melānie Mendez Munden: I always had a camera in my hand, or a diary documenting my life. During the Pandemic AFCOOP had a FILM 5 training program, and instead of being miserable, I thought that I could harness my creative energy into a film. 

What was the inspiration for your film?

MMM: My mother, my siblings and our story.

What surprised you most about putting your concept through the FILM 5 process?

MMM: It surprised me that my film connected with people in many ways. That gave me the courage to persevere. 

THERE IS ENOUGH FOR EVERYBODY!

director: Jinos Akhtarkhavari
producer: Ehsan Yazdani

NextGen Shorts Program

20-Sep-2021 06:20 PM | Park Lane: 1

A little boy is worried about his friend’s health and stops her from eating a certain kind of treat. When he finds out that for some reason he cannot protect her from all harmful food, he solves the problem in his own way!

What was the inspiration for your film?

Jinos Akhtarkhavari: Actually, the inspiration came from our son and his never-ending questions. If you see the film, there are many questions and statements delivered by children. Almost all of them come from endless conversations we have with my son and his friends around different subjects. 

How did you get your start as a filmmaker?

JA: I used to act and write but directing was not really an option for me because I did not have the needed education for it, but after I got to know AFCOOP and the programs and workshops, it seemed possible. So I think AFCOOP made it possible for me through the language program in 2017. Ehsan, the producer, is my husband, and although he had a slight interest and training in filmmaking before … he entered the world of filmmaking in a more serious way through AFCOOP.

What are you working on next?

JA: We are working on a feature. The subject is very sensitive and personal for both of us, and it is going really slow, but we are enjoying working on it anyway.

Check out these other films from AFCOOP members screening at FIN:

Opening Night Gala

Wildhood (dir. Bretten Hannam)

Gala Presentation

Dawn, Her Dad & The Tractor (dir. Shelley Thompson)

Special Presentation

Tin Can (dir. Seth A. Smith)

Features

8:37 Rebirth (written & produced by J. Hank White)

Shush (dir. Michael Ray Fox)

Stream Me (dir. Stephanie Joline)

Reel East Coast Shorts Gala

The Mohel (dir. Charles Wahl)

Second Wedding (dir. Taylor Olson)

Atlantic Shorts Program 1

Ark (dir. Todd Fraser)

Divinations (dir. Simon Mutabazi, Dan Boos)

needles (dir. Dawn George)

Projections (dir. Nicole Close)

The Vestiges of Marie-Henry [Les vestiges de Marie-Henry] (dir. Jennifer Tilley, Julian Krizsan)

Atlantic Shorts Program 2

Breakout (dir. Kevin Hartford)

The Dog Owner (dir. Kevin Hartford)

High Road (dir. Jagger Lillington)

I Hate You (dir. Taylor Olson, Koumbie)

Keep Going (dir. Joyce MacDonald)

Atlantic Shorts Program 3

Face Off (dir. Walter Forsyth, Angus Swantee)

Atlantic Shorts Program 4

The Artistic Accountant (dir. Dominic Fegan)

Bistro Girls (dir. Jenna Marks)

Concrete Creations (dir. Madeline Toal) 

The Million Dollar Baby Eel Deal (dir. Stephanie Joline)

The Smoke Shop (dir. Bill Chernin, Jake Harris)

I’m Thinking of a Place (dir. Devon Pennick-Reilly)

NextGen Shorts Program

Move (dir. Blossom Mendoza)