festival Plein(s) Écran(s) Quebec short films Frimas


Free online festival Plein(s) Écran(s) puts the spotlight on Quebec short films

Running through Jan. 22, the sixth annual festival features a solid and diverse selection of genres and voices, including two Oscar contenders.

For its sixth edition, Plein(s) Écran(s) returns to its roots. Since 2016, the Facebook film festival has focused on Quebec cinema. With films available to watch for free on Facebook and Instagram (and also on their website), the festival has a long-standing mandate of accessibility. Most films feature both English and French subtitles. Each day, four films premiere and are available to watch for 24 hours. Last year’s edition reached half a million viewers, an impressive feat for a festival devoted to short-form narrative storytelling.

2021 was a banner year for Quebec short films, part of a larger wave that has only grown over the past decade. Two live-action shorts, Frimas (Jan. 18) and Les grandes claques (Jan. 20), are currently in the running for Oscars; both will be playing at the festival. Speaking with Ariane Roy Poirier, she discusses Quebec’s audaciousness in short-filmmaking that has shed international light on the province. “Watching so many short films this past year, what strikes me about Quebec cinema is its sincerity. Just look at the Quebec shorts that resonate internationally — they’re stories from the heart.” 

The pandemic has also shifted things. With more people at home watching screen media on new platforms, short films find new audiences. Last year’s festival took place during the early stages of the curfew. Their numbers jumped. Poirier also emphasizes that Quebec is unique in that it has distributors devoted to the production, promotion and distribution of short films. Their work, Poirier argues, is a large part of the success of short films at home and internationally. 

This year’s edition features a solid and diverse selection of genres and voices. Among the highlights: Catcalls (Jan. 14), a stop-motion animation that recreates stories about street harassment featuring fuzzy animals; They’re Here (Jan. 20), a horror film about a young girl who’s convinced her grandmother is possessed by an alien; and Dieu@Mail.com (Jan. 19), an unexpected twist on the African prince phishing email. 

Les grandes claques festival Plein(s) Écran(s) Quebec short films
Les grandes claques

The program at Plein(s) Écran(s) emphasizes the films and the community around them. This year’s edition will include an Instagram live discussion with their spokesperson, Julianne Côté, on Jan. 15. The Quebec star best known for her starring role in Tu Dors Nicole will be joined by the yet-to-be-announced secret spokesperson for the upcoming Regard short film festival that usually takes place in March. The discussion will be centred on their experience and love of short films. 

On Jan. 22, there will also be a discussion between director Maxime Giroux (The Great Darkened Days) et cinematographer Sara Mishara (The Great Darkened Days, Les oiseaux ivres). The festival’s ongoing commitment to not only celebrating Quebec cinema but sharing the passion and knowledge of experts continues. There will also be several post-film discussions with filmmakers, including Annie St-Pierre, director of Oscar hopeful Les grandes claques on Jan. 20 at 7:30 p.m. 

Still growing, Plein(s) Écran(s) has long-term plans for more projects involving schools and young people. The expansion to Instagram is just one way they hope to reach a younger audience, and they have other projects in the works meant to help celebrate Quebec film within schools. Accessibility and ease drive their model. “We hope people are scrolling on their feed and stop to watch a film,” says Poirier, but the festival has bigger dreams.

While the pandemic has seemingly helped their numbers, Poirier is frustrated that Quebec finds itself in the same spot one year later. “When the festival was created in 2016, one of the first projects was to help bring short films into the cinema,” Poirier explained. With year-long projects in the works to help do that, Poirier hopes the accessibility of the festival helps push people to check out short films all year long. “I hope, at least, our program can act as a balm for people’s hearts,” she says. “Bring a little relief.” ■

For more on Plein(s) Écran(s), please visit the festival’s website.

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