For our latest featured artist we chatted with filmmaker Aaron Ries about his new short film that will be showing at TIFF this year in Toronto.
What are you currently working on?
Dziadzio is my first short film, and is 12-minute ride through suburban Toronto, exploring themes of intergenerational disconnection and suburban malaise. It hones in on characters living together who are family, and are connected at that most basic level, but because of their individual histories and unique experiences, and the change of an immigrant culture in a new country from generation to generation, feel sometimes worlds apart.
Stefania (played by Sydney Herauf) lives with her Polish grandfather, or Dziadzio (played by Otto Friedman), one summer after finishing university in suburban Toronto. She should be out with her friends having a good time, but is instead stuck helping him with menial tasks in his once-full family home. She doesn’t understand the culture that binds them, and he knows it. They’re stuck together out of convenience, but clearly not by choice. As she passes the lazy summer days, something begins to stir within her. As they go about their daily routine they are set off down a spiral of lonely fantasy together.
What inspired you to create Dziadzio?
I wrote and directed Dziadzio, after being inspired by my own summer living in North York, Toronto, with my family. I’m half Polish, and while the plot that we see unfold in Dziadzio is entirely fictitious, the themes and feelings it explores are borne out of my own experiences.
When and where did you shoot it?
The film was shot in the summer of 2017 in North York. We rented a house in the North West of the city, and the entire short is shot on location in North York. One of the themes that came out in the writing process, that drew me to the shoot this, is how we have traditionally not seen many far-flung parts of Toronto presented on screen. While the inner ring suburbs of Toronto may have a reputation for highways, families and suburban living, as anyone who’s lived in Toronto knows, they are full of life and stories waiting to be uncovered, and are some of the most uniquely ‘Toronto’ places in this city.
Who did you work with on the film?
The Director of Photography Jesse McCracken, the editor John Gallagher and the Art Director Jill Wilkie on this project did an amazing job of bringing to life a world that feels lonely and isolated, but full of a bubbling tension, simmering just underneath the surface. The performances of our lead actors Sydney Herauf and Otto Friedman surpassed any of my wildest expectations, and it is these people who really carry the film.
Where can we check out the film?
Dziadzio plays at TIFF this September as part of Short Cuts Programme 2, premiering on Friday September 7 at 6:45pm, and screening again on Thursday September 13 at 9:00pm. Tickets are on sale September 3.