The Provider heads to Cannes

For a novice filmmaker, Moira Sauer has been getting a lot of mileage from her six-minute silent short.

The latest victory for her film, The Provider, is an invitation from Telefilm Canada to screen at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in mid-May.

The Provider started life as a last-minute entry in Cold Snap, a competition in Winter 2011 that challenged aspiring filmmakers to shoot and edit a short film in the space of only 48 hours. Sauer’s entry won the competition’s Best Film award and the Peoples’ Choice award.

The following spring, The Provider won Sauer first prize in the Dawson City International Short Film Festival’s Made in The Yukon Emerging Artist category. Last spring it also screened at the Vancouver Women in Film Festival, followed by a showing at the Tromso International Film Festival in Norway.

The film will show at Northern Scene in Ottawa on May 2, as part of Blood And Snow, a collection of 12 short films from the North and then two weeks later it’s on to Cannes, where the world’s most famous film festival runs from May 15 to 26.

The Provider features Sauer as a young woman in the Klondike with her own dog team, in the days of the Gold Rush. Struggling through a long, cold, lonesome Yukon winter, she advertises for a gentleman companion, who must be a good provider. Whitehorse musician Ryan McNally plays the young man who answers the call, and provides a surprise ending that Sauer calls “northern gothic.”

“It’s a little bit based in truth, not entirely, but a little bit,” she says. “I filmed it right in my backyard with my dogs, and I’ve always been pretty vocal about the lack of eligible men in this town as well, so the idea of doing a mail-order husband really appealed to me.”

As for the film’s budget?

“I bought everyone sushi lunch on the Saturday (of filming), so whatever that came to.” Some funding from the Yukon Film and Sound Commission for post-production editing also helped complete the film.

Sauer cites an innate flair for organization as helpful to the film’s success.

“I also am very ruthless with how I shoot the film, and it’s essentially one take, unless there’s something that goes horribly wrong,” she says. “My only experience has been in theatre, so I was completely fresh and out of the box… I work well with deadlines. I really function with a tight time-frame.”

At Cannes, her film will be showcased with 43 other Canadian short films selected by Telefilm Canada, in a special category called Not Short On Talent.

Sauer cites Quebec as a dynamic force at Cannes.

“About three-quarters of the Canadian films that are being screened are from Quebec, and that’s because that province is hugely supportive of art in general,” she says. “Quebec has a substantial amount of money set aside for their arts, and they have an audience for their art as well. Quebecers go to French films in a way that we don’t necessarily go to our own films at home in the rest of the country.”

Sauer says she wants to continue working on a trilogy of northern gothic films, of which her new film The Gift is the second, with a final in the series yet to be shot.

“I really enjoy shorts,” she says. “It feels like a feasible undertaking for me, and I can see the end-point for it too, which I really appreciate.”

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