Stereophonic is always an exciting weekend in Sackville, but this year the festival had a new event up its sleeve. For the first time, a series of short films was screened at The Vogue on Saturday as part of the festival. This allowed the audience a break from dancing at Thunder & Lightning and the Legion and an opportunity to indulge in visual cinematic stimulation – or a box of Mike and Ikes and a small popcorn.
Michael Mohan’s Loveline, Pat Bonner’s Bad Noise, Ryan O’Toole’s Sour World and Travis Welowsky’s Et tu, Dude? are all Canadian-directed short films that boasted titles as intriguing as their material.
It was apparent that Stereophonic organizers were enthusiastic to showcase the work of local writers, producers, artists and directors. Co-director Corinna Paumier explained that the idea for a short film showcase came to her after receiving positive feedback from a small screening at Thunder & Lightning she organized this past summer.
In Loveline, a woman calls a relationship hotline for advice on her complicated feelings for someone she loves. The scenes have no added dialogue, only a voiceover of a woman explaining her complex attachment and fear of lost love.
The film consistently employed the colour blue as a motif. The two lovers interrupt their industrial and residential environments while wearing blue denim, never speaking, only communicating through gesture. Simplistic and almost motionless shots make the film feel like a recollection of memories. The film romanticizes the intimacy of small-town love by walking the viewer through a mundane and mysterious love story.
Fragmented moments of the couple walking alongside train tracks and lounging in long grass on warm summer days remind us of our first experiences of love, in all their bittersweet serendipity – perhaps even the love we feel in the small town of Sackville.
Bonner’s Bad Noise tells the story of an awkward, young band member with performance anxiety who recruits an exuberant, older karaoke singer to play in her set. Shot at Flourish music festival in Fredericton, the film parallels the music scene that exists in Sackville during Stereophonic. The scenes of the band playing were strikingly similar to what you would have seen at the Legion or Thunder & Lightning this past weekend.
Et tu, Dude? depicts the music scene in London, ON. with specific reference to the influence of the city’s socio-economic climate.
Welowsky interviewed several musicians, artists and owners of venues to illuminate what makes London’s music scene so diverse. The film explains how the music community has been dealing with issues related to post-industrialization. In this intimate film, the artists speak candidly about their lives and the bleakness – but also joy – associated with the London music scene. Although the film highlights the problems specific to London, these issues can be topical to other regions in Canada like Halifax and Saint John. Adam Sturgeon of Whoop-szo, who played at Stereophonic on Saturday night, made an appearance.
Sour World, written and directed by O’Toole, left the audience mesmerized by pool reflections and in a haze of bubblegum pink. It was a sugar rush that felt all too relatable, but incredibly surreal.
In Sour World, it is evident the compositions were meticulously considered. The narrative follows a young woman who interacts with props like creamsicles, cotton candy, pink lemonade, wine, Hello Kitty speakers and lava lamps, saturating the screen with nauseating colours. She wanders the night after getting stood up by a friend with whom she nervously coordinated plans.
“It was certainly inspired in part by New Brunswick and small-town landscapes, corner stores and wandering around quiet residential streets at night alone – all of which are ‘pretty Sackville’ in my eyes,” O’Toole said.
Entering the Vogue feels like O’Toole’s description, nostalgic and familiar. Going to the theatre by myself felt much like a reflexive stroll home at night in solitude.
Raised in Fredericton, O’Toole now studies at the New School in New York. He explained his film-creating process varies from film to film, but typically begins with formal elements of shape and texture. “It’s all very intuitive,” O’Toole said.
He explained that production was intimate, despite the precision required to create the film. There was no formal script and the small crew on set enabled a focus on essential emotions. O’Toole felt that “worrying about all the expensive frills and the production elements distract and often get in the way of those [emotions].”
Stereophonic has once again successfully reaffirmed Sackville’s identity as a prospering music and art hub. Curiously, the sleepy town of Sackville attracts bands from cities like Montreal and Halifax, fostering an eclectic music scene that is anything but lethargic. Stereophonic brought a breath of fresh air to staple Sackville venues like Thunder & Lightning, the Legion and the Vogue – sensorially refurbishing them in the new year.