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REGARD the Saguenay International Short Film Festival

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2024 Regard – Saguenay International Short Film Festival Recap

2024 Regard – Saguenay International Short Film Festival Recap

Yesterday, the Regard – Saguenay International Short Film Festival concluded its 28th edition — well technically, in terms of the physical presence portion the five-day fest wrapped up on March 24th but then they phased into their online presence onwards until April 7th. While we were there, we were reminded how some of the best film festivals in the world are somewhat off the grid, perhaps require a bit more transportation but when you arrive you instantly feel a film community intertwined with patronage. One of the premiere international film fests in North America dedicated to short films, the municipalities of Chicoutimi and Jonquière serve as hosts with screenings taking place in auditoriums and while the cold snap of the chilly air and snow kept me mostly indoors, the staff, patrons and programmed shorts warmed up the festivities. Organized in ten competition programs with a sprinkling of thematic sections, the films that land the top prizes in the Festival’s Grand Prix are considered for Oscar nominations for best fiction short the year after.

I briefly chatted to local filmmaker Sébastien Pilote (who has given us a quartet of films dating back to Cannes selected The Salesman (’11) to his more recent oeuvre Maria Chapdelaine (’21)) who was among the first wave of folks to launch the fest – and back then it was more about film students showing off their work to their peers and a time when Quebecois cinema giants Denis Villeneuve and Jean-Marc Vallée were working on the form. Almost three decades in, the festival now feels like it’s a passing of the baton (the festival emblem of a baby carriage promotes the incubator persona) with Gen Xers (with several editions under their belt) experiencing the fest with the youthful exuberance of those who are still in film school benches. We sense the long-term viability, survival and success of the fest with just how well organized the program is. I ran into actor veteran actor Gaston Lepage who has worked with some of the best Quebecois filmmakers in the business and who anecdotally told me that the roots of his friendship with Jean-Claude Lauzon (Léolo) began with a 1981 short they worked on called “Kiwi.” What comes around goes around which brings me to one of the more fun activities in a masterclass that was given by André Turpin – a cinematographer (and filmmaker) who often works with Xavier Dolan and who last signed off on Monica Chokri’s Simple comme Sylvain.

The lieu for the ninety-minute class was a local boxing gym – here Turpin filmed an excerpt of a scene and the process reminded me that his job is very much addition and subtraction and ultimately best servicing the vision of the director. Block the natural light one way, add an extra body in a sequence or change the angle of a backlight and it can change the viewer’s gaze or the implications of a scene. Throw in a soundtrack while filming and it can totally change the atmospherics of a sequence. Here was some of that fun:


Just under the 200 film mark (out of a possible 2000 submissions), head of programming Mélissa Bouchard’s team choose from a large swath of films dating back to Cannes of last year to world premieres showcasing the local talent. One major standout of the fest was Extras from Marc-Antoine Lemire which won the FIPRESCI International Critics’ Prize (best Canadian film in the Official Competition) and the Audience Award. Extras takes a restaurant meet-up between acting talent and casting agent to extreme heights — Lemire has as much fun about the rollercoaster ride of an exchange as much as he does with what is happening outside the peripheral point of fixation. It’s a great world is one fire total chaos type of comedy.

Extras Marc-Antoine Lemire

Filipino filmmaker Sam Manacsa won the Grand Jury Prize with Cross My Heart and a special mention would go to Venezuelan-Quebecois based filmmaker Andres I. Estrada for his imaginative almost direct cinema way of profiling a storyteller in Audio y el Caimán. Also winning the Audience Award for the Focus Competition, this is about the legend of possible man-eating alligator as told by a grandfather and with The Boy Who Cried Wolf spin and wink to the festivities.

Andres I. Estrada Audio y el Caimán
One short that pulls no punches was a short timed just under the half hour mark via Denmark. Winner of a pair of prizes (the Special mention of the Quebec Critic Award AQCC and the Jury Prize, presented by the Directors Guild of Canada and Post-Moderne) Selma Sunniva‘s Et eksempel: Dem på gulvet (aka An Example) is what happens when you lose one team player …. making your regular shift evening shift at a closed psychiatric facility into a full out war zone. And speaking of wars, what happens when your body is at war with itself. The c word is omni-present in the animated Clermont and SXSW selected short. Alexandra Myotte and Jean-Sébastien Hamel‘s Un trou dans la poitrine looks at our coping devices for (very young) people still trying to articulate how they might be feeling.

Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist and critic at (founded in 2000). Eric is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson's This Teacher (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022 he served as a New Flesh Comp for Best First Feature at the 2022 Fantasia Intl. Film Festival. Current top films for 2022 include Tár (Todd Field), All That Breathes (Shaunak Sen), Aftersun (Charlotte Wells).

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