By Justine Kraemer, GAC volunteer writer
As the Guelph Film Festival begins to wind down, we wanted to share four short films that deserve a special shout out and that you still have time to see! The Festival’s short films are available for the entirety of this year’s Festival, running until December 5th. Even if short films aren’t typically your cup of tea, these are definitely worth checking out.
Galapagos: Secrets of Ocean Giants
Galapagos: Secrets of Ocean Giants is stunningly gorgeous. Featuring approximately 30 minutes of underwater shots, the viewer is transported to another world entirely. Director Jeffery Garriock follows a crew of scientists who work to study the lives of the world’s largest fish, the whale shark. These scientists find themselves on Darwin Island, a natural whale shark habitat. There’s an incredible moment where a scientist takes a blood sample from one of these gorgeous giants, under water, while the shark is on the move.
Interspersed with these mesmerizing shots is a very serious discussion of the threats that these beautiful animals face. With the fishing industry being the main existential threat the shark population faces, humans can’t hope to protect these animals without understanding the lives of their critical part in maintaining the ocean ecosystem. Unfortunately, because the threats these animals face are so severe, it is often so difficult to gather basic data.
This short film will hopefully shine a spotlight on the critical work scientists are doing to better understand whale sharks, and why this research is so important for us to understand as we face the climate crisis.
Directed by Jamie Miller, MerB’ys is a delightful watch shining a spotlight on a colourful cast of characters in Newfoundland. These men have banded together to challenge traditional portrayals of men, and to do some good in their home communities.
Every year, this group releases a calendar raising money for a worthy cause featuring men of all shapes and sizes outfitted in gorgeous mermaid tails and often other beautiful body adornments. These men have come from a variety of different backgrounds and have faced an array of challenges in their lives. They have faced discrimination, grief, loss, and have found this project as a way to express themselves and to connect with others.
All of the men featured here are so incredibly endearing, and I came away just wanting a full length documentary with more in-depth interviews with them about their lives and the process they go through to become MerB’ys.
If I Tell Them:
(Image Source: https://maineoutdoorfilmfestival.com/)
Director Oliver Sutro’s If I Tell Them is an intimate look at James Sampsel, an artist and fly fishing guide who lives with bipolar disorder. With bipolar disorder still being so stigmatized and often misunderstood, it was an insightful snapshot of how the illness affects one man.
It was gut wrenching to hear Sampsel discuss his fears about how his illness will not only impact his life in the present moment, but how it will continue to loom large over his future.
His fears are both his alone, and indicative of how so many others living with this illness feel about their own lives.
Sutro is to be commended for shining a spotlight on one mental illness that continues to be heavily stigmatized every day, in spite of all the progress we have made as a society to better understand mental health conditions in general.
Co-directors Kaitlyn Schwalje and Alex Wolf Lewis spend every Thanksgiving visiting Alex’s Aunt and Uncle. While there, they always make a point to visit the family tortoise, Snowy, thus the title of the film.
At the beginning of the film, Alex’s extended family appear blissfully unaware of Snowy’s inner workings, and maddeningly content to leave him in his designated corner of the family basement. Any parent who has bought their child or children a pet will understand the family’s dynamic of leaving care of Snowy to the father of the house, Alex’s Uncle Larry.
However, after consulting with reptilian experts, the family has their eyes opened to the complexities of the tortoise mind, and how much they need engagement in their surroundings to lead a fulfilling life.
Snowy ultimately challenges viewers to consider that animals have very real needs and that pets deserved to be nurtured and loved for their whole lives, rather than having their families shut them away out of sight and mind.
The Guelph Film Festival runs until December 5th.