Now Streaming: Technology and Nature Dance in NFB Shorts Quartet

Mounds is one of four new films released in the NFB’s collaboration with Paralœil

By Pat Mullen

This week’s release from the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) offers a quartet of short films from filmmakers in Quebec’s Bas-Saint-Laurent region. The films are the fourth installment in the NFB’s Five Shorts Project, which creates short works in partnership with artists from the Paralœil production centre in Rimouski. Ranging between three and five minutes, the four films transport viewers through the Quebecois landscape to explore the woodlands, fields, and marshes, putting human experiences in conversation with the flora and fauna of the natural environment. Technology plays a key role in each film as the shorts evoke the relationship between natural and artificial elements.

Each film is a collaboration between a filmmaker and a sound artist that harnesses the interplay between the visual and aural elements of cinema to inspire audiences to think more deeply about the land that traverses the screen. Attuned by Steve Verreault and Sébastien Dave Tremblay explores the therapeutic release of bathing oneself in nature as the camera goes into the woods to convey the soothing serenity offered by green space. A point with which this writer can agree, having escaped to cottage country mid-pandemic to de-stress!

Mounds by Tom Jacques and Nicolas Paquet offers a dazzling industrial ballet. Tractors whir through the fields as their movements unite to create two mounds of peat. Technology plays a larger role in the next two films as the shorts, as the calming images of Attuned yield to busier frequencies in the third and fourth films.

It’ll Be Nice Tomorrow by Antoine Létourneau-Berger and Guillaume Lévesque features oodles of screen time as various Quebeckers consider the weather. This film emphasizes human speech as snippets of forecasts and everyday chatter about the weather finds poetry in the most banal topic for conversation. Human speech also fuels Night Fair by Cynthia Naggar and Gueze. Arguably the most technologically innovative of the shorts, Night Fair uses voice messages in which anonymous callers describe their dreams. Then, algorithms interpret sleep patterns to animate the mind’s activity during a sleep cycle, moving from light sleep to REM to waking.

If watched in succession, the four films artfully convey the impact of technology on the brain and the role of nature in soothing the soul. Perhaps this writer can politely suggest that readers watch the films in reverse and find inspiration to unplug and get outside this weekend!

Attuned, Steve Verreault & Sébastien Dave Tremblay, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Mounds, Tom Jacques & Nicolas Paquet, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

It'll Be Nice Out Tomorrow, Antoine Létourneau-Berger & Guillaume Lévesque, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Night Fair, Cynthia Naggar & Gueze, provided by the National Film Board of Canada