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OCan FilmFest 2019

Our 2019 Annual Festival took place on November 1 and 2 at the Arts Court Theatre in Ottawa. The film festival programme consisted of 14 films—3 feature-length and 11 short films. We were fortunate to have several filmmakers (both local and from out of town) attend the festival and audience Q&A sessions followed each screening block. Filmmakers participating in the annual festival screenings in November were paid artist fees. We also presented the short film 'Secret War' at promotional event held at SAWVideo's Knot Project Space in February.

Media Advisory

November 4, 2019

'The Still Life of Annika Myers' is the 2019 Audience Favourite at the Ottawa Canadian Film Festival

We are pleased to announce that the OCanFilmFest2019 Audience Favourite award goes to The Still Life of Annika Myers. Congratulations to director Matthew Blecha, Producers Darlene Tait and Matthew Blecha and the entire cast and crew and thanks to our audience for voting.

The short film follows a survivor of the Dutch Hunger Winter as she discovers a treasure that had been torn from her family by a conspiracy of injustices. She risks breaking the law and a valued friendship in order to reclaim her heritage.

"My previous film, Super Bingo, that screened at the Ottawa Canadian Film Festival, led me to this one. I was introduced to a talented writer Claire Mulligan who showed me her script at the Short Circuit Pacific Rim festival in Victoria, and I loved it. We decided to make it. My inspiration then was to be involved in the telling of a good story." — director Matthew Blecha

Thanks to our hosts, the Arts Court Theatre and our sponsors this year, Beau’s, SAWVideo, Rideau BIA and the City of Ottawa. Information about the festival can be found online on the festival's website: ocanfilmfest.ca.

ocanfilmfest2019 audience favourite

OCanFilmFest2019 Films - Taglines / Synopses and Filmmaker Bios
(November 1-2, 2019)

The Mayor of Comedy: A Canadian Stand-up Story, Matt Kelly (Toronto, ON) [ Documentary | Feature ]

The Mayor of Comedy is an eye-opening documentary that follows Sandra as she rallies the biggest names in the Canadian comedy industry in an effort to address the many challenges they face. Sandra and filmmaker Matt Kelly give viewers an all-access pass to the murky world of Canadian showbiz, a world where the funniest people in the country struggle and the industry strives to keep it that way.The film features interviews with over 30 of Canada’s top comics including Scott Thompson (Kids In The Hall), Steve Patterson (The Debaters), Debra DiGiovanni (Conan), Mark Forward (Fargo), DeAnne Smith (Just For Laughs) and K-Trevor Wilson (Letterkenny).

Matt Kelly is the producer and director of the disruptive comedy documentary The Mayor of Comedy: A Canadian Stand-up Story. Matt has produced and directed for Canadian icons like rock band Rush and Wayne Gretzky. Matt created and produced Hookin’ Up, a successful television series for WFN that aired 4 seasons across North America. Matt’s television project The Uncomfort Zone was a finalist at Just For Laughs ComedyPRO 2014 where it sold to Big Beach Films. In 2016 Matt’s project Inhuman Resources was selected by comedy superstar Kevin Hart for his digital comedy platform LOL Network. Matt’s scripted comedy pilot Mrs Football made the finals of JFL ComedyPRO 2017.

More info: Trailer | film613 review | Official Website

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Trouble in the Garden, Roz Owen (Toronto, ON) [ Narrative | Feature ]

Trouble in the Garden is a story about an estranged family in the aftermath of the 60’s Scoop. Most non-Indigenous Canadians are blissfully unaware that between 1960-85, thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their families and adopted into white families in an effort to make them white. As the film opens, Raven (29) is arrested for protesting development on unceded land. Long estranged from her adoptive family, she never imagined her brother Colin (31) would be the one to bail her out. Now under house arrest in Colin’s suburban home, Raven discovers he’s in real estate – pre-selling houses on the very land she’s been trying to save. Trouble in the Garden is a story of reckoning with betrayal of land, love and blood.

Born in London, UK, and moving to Canada as a child, Roz Owen is an award-winning Toronto based writer-director. She began making films as an art student in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her first, a 16mm, experimental short, ‘A PRECAUTION AGAINST THE INEVITABLE’, was awarded the Theresa Cha Award and went on to screen at the AGO and other venues. Moving back to Toronto, she followed up with the short drama, ‘A LOVE OF CONTRADICTION’, which premiered at TIFF and was licensed for television. Her year-long Director-residency at the Canadian Film Centre culminated with production of her Genie nominated and award-winning short, ‘YOU LOVE ME I HATE YOU’. Premiering at Locarno, it then screened at festivals around the world.

More info: Trailer | Official Website | CBC Gem

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Nose to Tail, Jesse Zigelstein (Toronto, ON) [ Narrative | Feature ]

Nose to Tail stars Aaron Abrams (Hannibal, Blindspot) as a talented but abrasive chef struggling mightily with his personal demons and the relentless pressures of running a high-end restaurant in downtown Toronto. Over the course of one increasingly frantic day and night, he faces a rash of private trials and professional tribulations in a desperate bid to beat the odds and save the business that he’s sacrificed virtually everything in his life to build.

Jesse Zigelstein was born in Toronto. He studied film at York University and UCLA. Nose to Tail is his first feature.

More info: Trailer | film613 review | Official Facebook page

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Life Via Rail, Jonny Micay (Toronto, ON) [ Documentary | Short ]

Life Via Rail tells the story of Jason Shron, a train enthusiast from Canada who abandoned a prestigious phD program to pursue his dream of a career in the model train industry. Currently Jason is the CEO of Rapido Trains, one of Canada’s largest model train manufacturers.

Jonny Micay is a filmmaker and cinematographer from Toronto, Canada. He is incredibly passionate about people and loves to immerse himself in unfamiliar environments. As of now, he has worked professionally in 13 countries around the world. When he isn’t making his own films, Jonny is an avid lighting and grip technician in the Toronto film community.

More info: Trailer

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Girl in the Hallway, Valerie Barnhart (Toronto, ON) [ Animation | Short ]

Why does ‘Little Red Riding hood’ give Jamie nightmares? It’s been 15 years, and the girl in the hallway haunts him still. This is a testament to locked doors. A lullaby sung by wolves with duct tape and polaroids. Not all girls make it out of the forest. Some stories children shouldn’t hear.

Valerie Barnhart is an independent animator and visual artist based out of Ottawa, Canada. Her interdisciplinary practice is exploratory in nature but revolves specifically around the dynamics of silence and inaction as a form of violence. Valerie’s background in book arts and photography led her to study at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design with a major in Visual Arts: a studio specialty in Printmaking and Drawing and an academic emphasis in Decolonization Politics and Non Western Art. In Valerie’s 3rd year, she was sent on exchange to Willem de Kooning Academie Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. There she explored stone lithography, architecture, and trend watching. Upon completion of her degree, Valerie exhibited in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, and Lima. Her art practice made a massive shift into documentary and animation entirely by accident. Girl in the Hallway is Valerie’s very first animation. She taught herself how to animate during this three year production. She lives with her husband, her 2 dogs, and 2 cats amongst piles of dusty books, blooming cacti, and hot tea.

More info: Trailer

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Dog Bite, Luvia Petersen (Vancouver, BC) [ Narrative | Short ]

Boy loves girl. Girl loves boy. Dog bites girl’s face and things get complicated. After a brutal dog attack, career woman Jen becomes determined to start a new life inside a child-like fort. Her dysfunctional family tries to coax her back out into the world. But the only person who can get Jen to go outside is Jen.

Luvia Petersen is a multi-nominated actor and emerging filmmaker living in Vancouver, BC. Her projects include the Leo Nominated short film Dog Bite, which has screened internationally and continues to do the film festival circuit. The independent feature film Writing Kim, and two music videos – one of which won an “Award of Excellence” at the 2016 Canadian International Film Festival. Luvia is the recipient of the 2019 Harold Greenberg Fund shorts-to-feature grant for her project “Happiness” which will be released in 2020.

More info: Trailer

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Baba Yaga, Nicole Sitanski and Cheryl Taam (Vancouver, BC) [ Animation | Short ]

A desperate mother with an incurably ill baby ventures into the dark woods long believed to be the home of Baba Yaga, a mystical witch with the power to change fate.

Nicole Sitanski has always been fascinated with the lasting power of storytelling and the effect certain fables have on cultures all around the world. She believes storytelling transcends not only time but lifestyles and cultures, and is at the core of all forms of art. Inspired by both new and old mediums, she tries her best to tell a story through what she creates in order to immerse herself – and hopefully others – into new worlds.

Cheryl Taam is a Vancouver-based 3D artist who is inspired by early 2000s CG films like Monsters’ Inc and The Incredibles. She is a recent graduate of the Animation program at Emily Carr University.

More info: Trailer

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Rise n’ Shine, Silver Kim (West Vancouver, BC) [ Narrative | Short ]

Marriage gets complicated when your husband decides to kidnap you. During the Klondike gold rush, Tagish First Nation, Skookum Jim, hid millions of dollars’ worth of gold around the Yukon. 100 years later, Amanda, a small town wife/mother, dreams of opening Rise n’ Shine bakery on the Alaska Highway in memory of her mother. When her loan application is rejected because of her husband’s gambling problem, she is spiritually crushed, and kicks Jim out. Later, when she returns to work at Dawson Peaks Resort, two armed masked men hold up the restaurant and steal the historic relic “Charlie” believing that there’s gold in its nose. Amanda recognizes the men are her husband Jim and his shady friend Randy. She volunteers herself as a hostage. After they dodge the RCMP and find a hideout, gold fever inevitably takes over, and Randy tries to steal the gold for himself. Jim and Randy fight, causing Jim to fall 100 feet into a river. Just as Randy is about to run away with the gold, Amanda catches him off guard and knocks him out. As the gold falls into the river, Amanda must choose between saving her goodhearted but flawed husband or retrieve the sinking gold.

Silver Kim is a festival winning director and actor who is fanatical about pushing boundaries. He has won awards for his short films Pressure to Play and Cost of Paradise. He directed a web series: Resistant Virus starring Emily Tenant (Motive, Supernatural), Landon Liboiron (Degrassi) and Robert Clarke (Murdock Mysteries, Dirk Gently). In 2016, Silver directed/produced a parody music video of Michael Jackson’s Thriller that screened at Miami Urban Film Festival, Toronto Independent Short Film Festival, Queens City Film Festival and Comedy Film Festival in L.A. Prior to directing, Silver was an actor in the TV series Metropia with Maestro Fresh Wes. He’s appeared in V, Fringe, The Pacifier, New York Minute. He is an outdoor enthusiast who has a passion for the north. He has been visiting the Yukon for the last decade. Silver went to Ryerson University in Film Production and has a Master’s Degree from Yonsei University in South Korea.

More info: Trailer

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Newborn, Ray Savaya (Toronto, ON) [ Narrative | Short ]

A couple welcomes their first born son into the world. Tensions slowly arise over a disagreement which lead them into questioning their identity.

Ray Savaya is a filmmaker from Toronto, Canada. He arrived in Canada as an infant when his parents escaped the Gulf War in 1991 as refugees. As a film editor, Ray’s work has been accepted into countless festivals including Cannes, TIFF, VIFF, and LA Shorts Fest. He has won a short film competition for Jimmy Kimmel Live! and a writing competition for The Simpsons. Ray’s directorial debut, Newborn, is his most personal project to date.

More info: Trailer

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The Order of Things to Come, Tavit Melikian (Montreal, QC) [ Narrative | Short ]

Neil Berman, a petty criminal, was recently released from prison. In order to rehabilitate himself and go ‘straight’, he decides to reconcile with his old crime boss Frankie Flacco. Needless to say that the visit doesn’t go as well as he planned.

Tavit Melikian is a three-time award-winning filmmaker. His first short film entitled “End Of The Night” garnered the best short film award in London Film Awards, the best Canadian Short Film in Canada Independent Film Festival and the award of commendation from Canada Shorts Film Festival. Born in Lebanon Beirut to Armenian parents, Tavit currently lives in Montreal and is working on making his first feature film.

More info: Trailer

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Overgrowth,Christian Belisle (Ottawa, ON) [ Narrative | Short ]

A couple take a hike to an old ruin and in the process discover how much their relationship has changed.

Christian Belisle is a writer, director, and production designer. An Ottawa native, Christian graduated with distinction from Carleton University with an honours degree in Film Studies. After graduating, Christian sought experience in film production and became passionate about production design and directing. After working as a production designer and an art director on many shorts, Christian directed his first short in 2018, “Overgrowth,” which went on to win Best Film at the Digi60 Filmmakers’ Festival in Ottawa. Christian has since been seeking out creative projects, both short and feature length, to gain further experience and hone his skills in direction and production design.

More info: Trailer

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May Flowers, Marianna Phung (Toronto, ON) [ Narrative | Short ]

A misunderstanding occurs when Jimmy goes to pick up an order for his boss at May Flowers. Little did he expect how the tables would turn.

Marianna Phung is a Toronto-based director, writer and actor of Vietnamese descent. After graduating from York University with a BA in Theatre she began her career as a filmmaker and has written, produced, and directed multiple independently-funded short films to date.

More info: Trailer

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The Still Life of Annika Myers, Matthew Blecha (Victoria, BC) [ Narrative | Short ]

When a survivor of the Dutch Hunger Winter discovers a treasure that had been torn from her family by a conspiracy of injustices, she risks breaking the law and a valued friendship in order to reclaim her heritage. During the Dutch Hunger winter of 1945, ANNIKA MYERS was forced to trade her family’s treasured painting of a feast for rations. Now, at 84, she has found it, and she wants EVAN O’NEILL, the diligent retired manager of a grocery store, to help her steal it back. But is it truly the painting she hungers for? Evan, who has something of his own to reclaim, is faced with a difficult but life-affirming choice in this short drama, The Still Life of Annika Myers.

Director/Producer Matthew Blecha and Producer Darlene Tait had collaborated previously and re-connected over their shared love of the script written by Giller Prize nominee, Claire Mulligan. Matthew knew intuitively, the actors who could fulfill the roles having witnessed Barbara Wallace’s (ANNIKA MYERS) work and and having worked with Brian Taylor (EVAN O’NEILL) in the past. Darlene brought in an award-winning team in Production Designer, Joyce Kline, (LEO 2017), sound Designer/Composer, Gilles Maillet (LEO 2017), and Cinematographer, Daniel Carruthers (LEO 2018) all of whom had worked on two of her previously produced films, The Cameraman (LEO BEST SHORT 2017) and ENCORE (LEO nominated 2019). With key creatives in place, Matthew enrolled some of the best crew the industry has to offer. Then he and Joyce locked down locations that dramatically enhanced each and every scene. Fortunate to be filmed in a city rich with historic locations, the stage was fully set to begin production of The Still Life of Annika Myers.

More info: Trailer

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Fragile Dream, Isabelle Hayeur (Rawdon, QC) [ Experimental | Short ]

In the Aboriginal conception of the world, all forms of life are part of a dynamic system of complex interactions. This video was filmed in Australia, in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. The title refers to “Dreamtime” as the central theme of Aboriginal culture. In their conception of the world, all forms of life are part of a dynamic system of complex interactions. The earth, men, animals and plants are only parts of the same whole. Plunged into an unprecedented environmental crisis we know that this ideal remains an abstraction, a distant dream. Perhaps it is the Western worldview that has caused the imbalances that are now leading to disaster.

Isabelle Hayeur is known for her photographs and her experimental videos. Her work is situated within a critical approach to the environment, urban development and to social conditions. Isabelle participated in many exhibitions, such as the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts (North Adams), Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (Berlin), Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (Montreal), Tampa Museum of Art (Tampa), Bruce Silverstein Gallery (New York), Casino Luxembourg Forum d’art contemporain (Luxembourg), Today Art Museum (Beijing) and Les Rencontres internationales de la photographie à Arles. Her works are to be found in some thirty collections, including those of the National Gallery of Canada (NGC), the Fonds national d’art contemporain in Paris (FNAC), the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG), the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), the Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton), the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MACM), the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) and the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago (MoCP).

More info: Trailer

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OCanFilmFest Presents: Secret War

OCanFilmfest presented a free screening on Saturday February 2nd with a presentation of the short film Secret War at SAWVideo‘s Knot Project Space (2 Daly Avenue).

The film follows the emotional journey of two veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Mental illness is a growing issue in the military as suicide has taken more lives than the war Afghanistan. The War Horse Project uses equine therapy to help soldiers find peace and maybe a companion along the way. Shannon Lough, Emanuela Campanella, Sarah Turnbull and Fangliang Xu were students at the School of Journalism at Carleton University when then created the film in 2015. The film was an Official Selection at the Yorkton Film Festival that year.

More info: Secret War Trailer | CMF magazine write-up | Interview with the Filmmakers

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OCanFilmFest2019 Festival Photos

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Check out the photo album here: OCanFilmFest2019 Festival Photos

Media Advisory

September 29, 2019

Ottawa Canadian Film Festival 2019 - A Celebration of Canadian Independent Film

The Ottawa Canadian Festival is pleased to announce our third annual festival taking place on November 1 and 2 at the Arts Court Theatre in the heart of Ottawa's art district. This year's film festival program consists of 3 feature-length films and 11 short films.

Noteworthy short films include:

Feature films:

“We are lucky to live in a city that hosts so many different film festivals throughout the year.” says Ottawa Canadian Film Festival president Jith Paul. “What makes OCanFilmFest unique is that we focus exclusively on Canadian films — excellent, compelling, thought-provoking, entertaining films by Canadian writers and directors from across the country. This year’s line-up features, films of various genres and lengths so there’s something for almost everyone.”

The Ottawa Canadian Film Festival (OCanFilmFest) is a cultural, not-for-profit organization whose mission is to celebrate Canadian films and filmmakers. Our mission is grounded in the belief that Canadian film and filmmakers are distinctive and vital to our country’s culture and the development of the local economy.

Information about the festival program, the films, filmmakers can be found online on the festival's website: ocanfilmfest.ca.