Trevor Mack’s collaborative new short film ?Etsu, meaning grandmother, is making its world premiere at the prestigious 2017 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) running in Toronto Sept. 7 to 17.
The 13-minute drama is about a young First Nations boy who struggles to deal with the death of his grandmother, but finds connections with her through an old VHS camcorder.
An award-winning actor, writer and director who began making films at the age of 17 Mack collaborated with executive producer Kelton Stepanowich and co-writer Derek Vermillion to shoot ?Etsu on the Tl’etinqox reserve in the Chilcotin where Mack was raised.
“The film was made as a proof-of-concept for a feature film the three of us are working on to shoot next summer,” Mack said. “Kelton said ‘hey, here’s $500. Go make it,’ and it came together very quickly after that.”
The film stars Elias Louie as the young boy, Rose Elkins as the grandmother, Richard Macdonald as the father, Celeste Sam as the elder, and Rebeka Solomon as the wife.
So far Mack said that all of his films could not have existed without the help of his Tsilhqot’in communities, and ?Etsu isn’t an exception.
“I used my cousins as actors and the reason why is because non-actors’ reactions and cadence is truly genuine,” Mack said.
“It’s a film about loneliness, confusion, grief, and memory,” Mack explains. “My grandmother was a big part of my life and when myself and Derek were thinking of a short story to make the proof-of-concept with, I instantly knew what I wanted to do.”
Elaborating on the uniquely striking, frenetic, glitchy visual effects that help to reveal the trauma and grief the boy is going through, Mack explains that he collaborated with Vancouver filmmaker Asia Youngman.
“Asia has an incredible artistic eye, and is very technologically-savvy, so when I needed somebody to help me with this vision I had, I knew she’d easily be able to pull it off. And the visuals in the film look straight up legit. It’s something I’ve never seen before, and I hope audiences will be as impressed with it as we all were.”
Mack is also one of 10 Canadians selected to participate in the TIFF Talent Lab for writers and directors to advance their knowledge and work in the film industry.
ʔEtsu is apart of the Short Cuts Programme 3 and was screened for the first time at the festival on Saturday, Sept. 9 at 4 p.m.
?Etsu will be screened again at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 15 at the Scotiabank Theatre in downtown Toronto. The program includes another film by an Indigenous director Caroline Monnet titled Creatura Dada.
Mack said there will be live streaming of the question and answer session that takes place after the screenings on the www.facebook.com/IndigenousCinema page.
Mack, now 25, started his film career at 17 years old when he helped create a freelance video editing and motion graphics group called Viral Design which secured contracts to produce promotional videos for companies such as Red Bull, Gunnar Optiks, and Steelseries.
In 2013, at age 21, he debuted his first short film, The Blanketing (2013) that was screened across North America and in New Zealand at festivals such as the Vancouver Indigenous Media Arts Festival, Toronto Independent Film Festival, and imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival among others.
His 2015 film Clouds of Autumn premiered at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival and took home Canadian Short Drama at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival, best cinematography at the 2016 Air Canada enRoute Film Festival, and the Prix Jeunesse at the Festival Cine Alter’Natif 2016.
In the spring of 2016, Mack was chosen to direct seven episodes of the acclaimed APTN seriesThe Other Side, which aired on broadcast TV in October 2016.
Currently, he is working with Kathleen Hepburn on the script for the feature film Out of the Barren with support from the Canada Council for the Arts.