Follow Her (Dir. Sylvia Caminer)
In Follow Her Jess (Dani Barker) is a social media influencer and sex worker, though it seems clear that no sex workers were consulted in the scripting of this film. It’s not even trying to be realistic, or authentic, or even fair, to sex workers. This was apparent in just her interactions with clients, and is not about the plot points we’ll get into next.
Jess secretly films her sessions and uploads the video to a social media site called “The Hive”. She is always sure to blur her client’s faces… except for one mistake where the man is recognizable for a split second. By the time she notices, the video has already garnered her a lot of popularity, so she decides not to take it down.
She finds a new gig working as a screenwriter for a man, Tom Brady (Luke Cook), who brings her to his home, a renovated barn in the middle of the forest to collaborate. But the draft he gives her features the two of them as main characters, and she discovers hidden cameras all over the house. Tom’s ulterior motives seem to be linked to her previous anonymization mistake.
All in all, Follow Her is pretty pedestrian. I would have felt more invested if Jess didn’t seem like a cheap caricature throughout. The sexual chemistry between Jess and Tom is reasonably hot, and the ending is solid.
Vicinal (Dir. Andrew David Osborne)
Vicinal is a short film centring on the horror of rental housing in Toronto. Thom and Romina have found a cool apartment above a Jimmy’s coffee shop. Romina grew up in the wealthy neighbourhood of Rosedale and doesn’t appreciate their score enough to ignore a creepy tiny door in the corner of the bathroom. Then the former tenant, Walter, shows up. He’s been priced out of downtown and wants to see what they’ve done with the place. But perhaps he wants a bit more than that – and he knows what’s behind the tiny door.
This short may not hit for people who live in more affordable locales than Toronto, but I enjoyed it. I feel bad for Thom in a number of ways, including that he hitched his horse to the annoying, rich Rosedale Romina.
Mother Tongue (dir. Shelly J. Hong)
Director, writer and actor Shelly J. Hong’s Mother Tongue explores the harrowing relationship between mothers and daughters, especially those in immigrant families. Grace, (Shelly J Hong) has noticed her daughter behaving oddly, in ways that remind her of strange things that happened to her when she was young. So she returns to her childhood home to confront her mother – who has not aged. What ensues is a surrealistic series of images that evoke ancient religions and cultural customs, sacrifice, loss and alienation. I’m looking forward to what Hong may do next.
AlieNation (Dir. Ray Raghavan)
A Mexican girl, Maria (Maria Frazer) and her mother (Margarita Iturriaga) get separated as U.S. Border Patrol pursues them through the woods. But as much as American law enforcement might consider them “aliens”, there’s an actual alien presence in this forest: and apparently it knows enough to attack the men with guns, not the nice Latinas. A very satisfying short. (Fuck ICE!)
Angakusajaujuq: The Shaman’s Apprentice (Dir. Zacharias Kunuk)
An old woman taps out patterns in a fire. Her grand-daughter, an apprentice in the art of shamanism, sits beside her sewing, as a haunting song plays. The peace is broken by the white light of the outside, as a man asks for their help in healing a hunter who has fallen ill.
This animated short, presented in Inuktitut, is an adaptation of an Inuit legend. The young shaman-in-training must travel to the underworld to visit a being named Kannaaluk, The One Below, and learn to conquer her fear. Angakusajaujuq is by Zacharias Kunuk, who directed Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, so it’s not surprising that this film is gorgeous, somber, and powerful.