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Best Films from OFFA Online Film Festival

Photo: OFFA | Photo: OFFA
Photo: OFFA | Photo: OFFA

68 films have been screened over the last six days at Oakville's 7th annual film festival, but not all of them can be the best films from OFFA Online Film Festival this year. I've watched nearly all of them over the last week, and I'd like to share my favourites with you.

The 7th annual festival moved online this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Several countries submitted both features and shorts for the festival. After profiling all the features coming to the festival, these are the five best movies from the OFFA Online Film Festival 2020.

All films are now available for purchase and viewing. Once purchased, you have 24 hours to watch and enjoy your film package(s). All films and tickets are available here online.

5. The Great Disconnect

Tamer Soliman's documentary is more resonant than ever with the current era of social distancing. Why are people so lonely? How have we become so independent and scared of each other as people? In a too-short 60 minutes, several great interviews and personal journeys are explored in North America's great disconnect.

4. From the Vine

Joe Pantoliano stars in his most sensitive role to date as a former executive who moves to Italy and reopens his grandfather's winery. The Canadian and Italian talent in the ensemble cast are magnificent. Balancing the comedy and drama is difficult at first, but it eventually comes together. The film only gets sweeter and warmer, building to, like the wines on screen, a satisfying finish.

(As a great bonus feature, this film comes with a recording of Sunday's live Q&A with the cast and crew. This one had really fun conversation.)

3. The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open

Co-Directors and writers Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers have crafted a piercing, disquieting story about the city conflicts in Indigenous people. It features Tailfeathers and co-star Violet Nelson (in a gripping debut) as two strangers in the grim circumstance of a pregnancy from sexual abuse.

It's far from easy watching, but Hepburn and Tailfeathers' leadership give bold authenticity to the starkness and fear of indigenous people in Canada's cities. The film was nominated for six Canadian Screen Awards and was a critic's pick from the New York Times last November.

2. Sockeye Salmon, Red Fish

This Russian nature film is easily the festival's most breathtaking film. The Shpilenok brother's cinematography of the Kamchatkan rivers of salmon, bears and wildlife is stunning. Sockeye Salmon, Red Fish shows the rarely seen empathetic and liberal science in Russia's economy and livelihood.

But the nature scenes is the best part. Close-ups of salmon hatching, bears fighting, and even the swooping mountain ranges through Arctic fog. The film is spine-tingling shot after shot.

It's reminiscent of the awestruck wonder from seeing IMAX MacGillvary-Freeman movies at museums with more dramatic strength. What a simply, truly terrific surprise.

1. Queen of the Morning Calm

Queen of the Morning Calm, Thursday's opening night feature, was the single best film from OFFA Online Film Festival this year. Writer/Director Gloria Kim spent 11 years making this extraordinary (surprisingly funny) drama that is both simple and epic at the same time.

Tina Jung as Debra and Eponine Lee as her daughter Mona are the dynamic duo of the festival. Both of the performances are masterful, managing to find bold stakes and tactics through everyday struggles.

Queen of the Morning Calm is THE can't miss film of the festival.

Of all this week's feature films, the only two I do not recommend are Military Wives and nature documentary Water Be Dammed.

Finally, some short films should be highlighted among the best films from OFFA Online Film Festival this year. The three best were Sébastian Pins' Traces, Wednesday's 541: A Place for the Community, Emily Sadler's Backseat and Andrew Krakower's award-winning Yarne.