By Ally Oman
It’s What Each Person Needs (Sophy Romvari, Canada)
Finessing what is often at play in Sophy Romvari’s work, It’s What Each Person Needs toes the line between truth and fabrication, documentary and fiction. The film depicts a series of video calls between Torontonian singer Becca Willow Moss and the two distinctive groups of people that make up her clientele; it’s been structured as a record of everyday acts of performance and image-making. While Moss plays herself for her director, she is curated by various close-ups that fracture her into a series of discrete, uninterpretable pieces. Romvari favours the look of Becca’s mouth as she talks and the way she adjusts her posture for each new conversation, fusing ideas about how Moss performs as an actor and how she performs as herself. She is surrounded at all times by screens and cameras, including the one Romvari stands behind and, at one point, visibly adjusts. These technologies promise connection, but there is no doubting the loneliness they create—a paradox at the heart of Romvari’s film.
Nanitic (Carol Nguyen, Canada)
There is an inescapable softness to Carol Nguyen’s Nanitic as Trang, a young girl, distantly watches her aunt care for her ailing grandmother. The soundtrack verges on ASMR, taking pleasure in every creak of the house where Trang and her cousin sneak around opening jars of candy and feeding their pet ants. The delicacy is not quaint, however: it’s grounded by the distinct horror of witnessing death for the first time, and the remarkable intergenerational care that is so often expected and unquestionably offered in immigrant families. Each shot is compact and intimate, gathering together the varying spaces between family members, the geography of a home, and the relative distance between childhood and death. Nguyen’s touch is thoughtful and effective; Nanitic feels like it’s been carved out of a memory.
Pleasure Garden (Rita Ferrando, Canada)
What is interesting about Pleasure Garden is not the film’s intimacy—which lies on the surface in the form of recognizable images that merely suggest the possibility of interiority and connection—but in its distinctive lack thereof. As a couple spends their day preparing to abort a pregnancy, the pleasure suggested by the title is more a cause than a recourse. The two escape into tender moments, carefully observed by director Rita Ferrando with lingering, indulgent shots that never allow the viewer access to anything beyond the frame. It is in the woman’s refusal to share with her partner what she is thinking that the aesthetics of intimacy begin to look an awful lot like an absence. It is, furthermore, an absence of their own creation: one that is borne out of removing an element that has unwillingly become a part of their relationship.
Untold Hours (Daniel Warth, Canada)
A document of artistry and the distinct solitude of millennial city life, Untold Hours reads like a love story to process and creation. The slow reveal of what visual artist Alicia Nauta is up to as she tests an alcoholic concoction in a baby bottle and painstakingly sculpts the head of an aged version of herself is concerning, but ultimately admirable. Taking an idea from concept to realization is neither wholly painful nor beautiful: it is slow, meditative, lonely, and strange. Filmmaker Daniel Warth’s skill is in his humour and his unwillingness to make an artist’s work look more interesting than a person living alone in their basement apartment, making something they will only show off once.
Simo (Aziz Zoromba, Canada)
The looming, varying threats of sibling rivalry, online gaming, race, and popularity compound in Aziz Zoromba’s intervention into male identity. Simo (played compellingly by Basel El Rayes) struggles to recognize the ways in which his actions might be perceived online, ultimately placing his family in danger. While at times overwrought in its drama, Zoromba’s film sticks the landing well enough to suggest something interesting. While so many stories of children of immigrant parents ruminate on the loss of connection to culture, it is ultimately Simo’s desire to listen to his beloved Egyptian hip hop—which his brother says he doesn’t even understand—that elevates the family above the violence done to them.