Overall Experience 5/5
Audience: adult (not exclusively)
Price: FREE (with free popcorn and freezies)
Montreal’s festival season is still going strong. In the wake of heavy hitters like Osheaga, Îlesoniq and Heavy Montréal, one may feel like exorbitant ticket prices and 100 000+ attendances are the recipe for a great festival experience — and this is not entirely false when we’re talking music. However, in a city like Montréal, you’d be sorely missing out by only attending music fests. From fashion to food, there’s a little something for everyone… and the M. Night Shyamalan twist: many of these events are FREE (and I’m not talking about the Lebanese pizza samples outside of Saj Mahal). I found one such event at Mondo Quebec’s fifth annual P’tit Pain animated short-film festival.
Small in comparison to other film festivals like the Montréal Stop-Motion Festival or RIDM (Montréal International Doc Fest), this cozy outdoor projection at Parc Persillier-Lachapelle (just down Alexandre-DeSève, north of Ontario) is a celebration of all things weird, funny and provocative. The mellow vibes of opening musical act Moussette did everything but prepare me for the 20-some animated shorts which followed and I’m starting to think this was done intentionally by Mathieu Dubois, Marie-Andrée Landreville and the rest of the team at Mondo Québec.
What I like about P’tit Pain is that the featured films range from a few seconds to 15 minutes max. This means that over the course of the night there is such a wonderful variety in subject matter, style and technique. The weirdness of each entry could usually be summed up by what type of reaction you heard from the audience. At one moment giggles would erupt into hysteria. Then, (sometimes in the same short) laughter would dampen to uncomfortable chuckles — silence would follow the more shocking moments. The shift in moods was almost therapeutic.
Although the festival was at the mercy of the weather, Thor smiled down on us from Valhalla and the night was warm and cozy as could be. The sound system was great and nothing was amiss except for minor issues with the projector which were promptly dealt with. A group of about 60 chairs or so were set up in front of the projection screen but it was quickly apparent that it wouldn’t be enough. Starting out at about 30 people when I arrived, attendance peaked to roughly over 100 from my guesstimate (though it was hard to see in the dark). Luckily, the park had many picnic tables set up and some people even came equipped with mattresses or sat right on the ground. Most in attendance were adults, (which echoes Mondo Québec’s statement: “Une soirée définitivement pas pour les enfants !”) but I did see a few children around. Although the content of the features never went too far, the younger ones were much less interested in the event in any case.
While remaining essentially francophone, P’tit Pain hosts features from all over the globe. Entries from France, England, Russia, Korea, and right here in Québec (to name a few) are roughly half in French and the other in English. This isn’t a major detail since many shorts don’t rely heavily on the use of language anyway. English subtitles were supplied for most of the entries, but one short in particular, Le Repas Dominical by Céline Devaux, could have been easier understood with some text.
My P’tit Pain #5 shortlist is below. This year’s program blew me away — some more than others. Check these out!
A Prank Time by Jaime Rodriguez
My favourite of the night is without a doubt A Prank Time. This wacky short features a kid pulling a prank on his grandfather. Sh*t quickly hits the fan. Here it’s the transitions and the ‘liquid’ aspect of the animation that really impressed me. It’s morphin’ time!
Shiny Daniel by Cloud Campos
My next fave is a stop-motion animation called Shiny. I cannot top Campos’ brilliant description: “A damsel in distress gets undressed when a man from the mid west puts to rest a world that’s obsessed with the priceless, also know as, ‘The Shiny.’ ”
Hound by Georgia Kriss, Australia
Lastly, Kriss delivers a hilariously weird ode to dogs and dog lovers.
If I had the authority, I would say that this is one of Montréal’s hidden gems. However, I’ve only been here for a year, so take it with some salt. P’tit Pain, although it’s small and leaves a strange taste in your mouth (much like its religious namesake) opens a rift revealing the weird, soft, fleshy underbelly of the animation world — The Upside Down of mainstream Disney-Pixar fairy-tail land, if you will (Stranger Things FTW). I highly recommend checking out this festival and will surely be attending next year’s. Until then, check out Mondo Québec for more kool events like this one.
To end, I would like to leave a correspondence I had with Mathieu Dubois, creator of P’tit Pain. We chatted about the history of Mondo Québec and what goes into the programming of a festival such as this one.
Josh McLeod: To begin, I was wondering what gave you the initial idea to start an animated short film festival?
Mathieu Dubois: Mondo Québec started in 2010 when I had the impulse of producing what became the North American premiere of KINSKI JESUS CHRISTUS ERLÖSER, a documentary about Klaus Kinski doing the life of Jesus as a monologue. I rented the Goethe Institut, sold tickets and I showed it two nights. For two years I searched for interesting independent documentaries with no luck. I didn’t find a film that gave me the same impulse, the same “coup de coeur”.
Since 2010 I became more and more interested in animated films and attended a lot of screening in film festivals (Sommets du cinéma d’animation, FNC, etc…) and the more I thought of it, the more I grew dissatisfied with the programs I saw. Some of them were like a melting pot of short films without any link between them, no coherence. The idea of the “perfect” screening of short animated films was planted and P’tit Pain was born in 2012, the summer of the Maple Spring. I was unhappy with the job I had at the time so I decide to take things in hand and do my own little festival.
Since I hate all things 3D like Pixar stuff, the idea for P’tit Pain was to show animated short films done with traditional techniques (stop motion, drawn animation, flash is ok but it has to have handmade qualities) and no boring stuff. Just films that will make people laugh, wonder wtf, surprise them a little and throw at them one or two emotional short films in the mix. In fact, I see programming as the same thing as doing a mix tape. A good mix tape consist of not only good songs, but [grouping and order matter as well] so there’s a crescendo from beginning to end. But P’tit Pain is more garage than jazz.
JM: It seems like you take great care in the programming, who do you hope to reach out to as far as audience members for P’tit Pain?
MD: The average public attending seems to be 20-35 I’d say. There’s some kids too. But parents leave early!
I spend a lot of hours searching for and watching short films for P’tit Pain. And when the selection begins, I have help from my friends Gabriel Martin-Meilleur and Mathieu Lefebvre along with my girlfriend Marie-Andrée Landreville. Making a coherent program is my motto. So we have no pity. If we like a film but it doesn’t fit in, it gets cut off.
JM: It seems like you go for the more provocative shorts, and in my experience, shorts have a tendency to be quite experimental compared to full length films. What is it about the short format that you like?
MD: The fact that it’s short! That it can be about just an idea, a mood, a full story, an inside joke, or a joke with no punch line. I do have a natural affinity for provocative short films or edgier stuff. It’s the colour of P’tit Pain.
I think short films are considered more experimental because it’s a perfect medium to try new ideas, new techniques, new genres without spending too much time or money (but that’s relative of course). It’s harder to do than a full length movie I think. One must know which format suits the idea best. Not all short films would make good full length and vice versa.
P’tit Pain 5 was held on August 18th. Keep an eye out next August for the 6th edition of the festival.