Culture  Revenge in 60 seconds

The short films at the M60 festival show us how it’s done

As the saying goes, revenge is a dish best served cold. That idea was turned completely on its head by the warm atmosphere at this year’s revenge-themed M60: the Montreal 60 Second Film Festival. M60 features Montreal’s shortest, most diverse, and (at least for this year) bloodiest films. The festival’s selection process is no selection process. The only requirements for the movies shown at M60 is that they be exactly 60 seconds long, and relate in some way to the theme of revenge. M60 truly kicked off in July, with a launch party announcing the year’s theme. Filmmakers both professional and amateur could then register, and had the next month to create their minute-long masterpiece before submitting it to the organization.

Every submission is shown unedited at each of the festival’s screenings; the organizers simply choose the order in which the films will be seen at the festival. The result is 98 minutes of pure entertainment for viewers, in which quality ranges from incredible to terrible, and the on-screen emotions from exultant to vindictive. The patchwork-charm of the festival was accented by its famous venue, Cinéma Excentris on St. Laurent, a theatre that has long been known for showing high quality independent movies and live performance art. M60 ran from September 19 to 22, extending its usual three day run to four for this year.

The opening night’s screening began with an introduction from two festival organizers who greeted everyone in the theatre, issued a viewer discretion warning, and got everyone in the mood for a heaping helping of revenge with a little sex and violence thrown in. Following the introduction, a two minute “Revenge Cam” clip was shown. The “Revenge Cam” was filmed on the day of the launch party, and features the filmmakers talking about their own greatest revenge fantasies, as well as their initial reactions to the revelation of the theme. After this short introduction, the main event finally began.

Despite the common theme, each movie was totally unique. The audience could see both films that embodied classic revenge tropes, or watch a cat jump around a yard (whatever works, I guess). One of the movies was just a minute of someone walking on outdoor steps and saying “Ow” until he eventually began to wish he could have revenge on the steps. One of the best films of the evening was about a man who drowned because two women couldn’t be bothered to save him, and how he tried to haunt them in the afterlife before realizing they didn’t care. Eventually, the women adopted the ghost, and the trio played a friendly game of Scrabble – because revenge can be more complex than the plot of Taken.

This year, the filmmakers ranged from total amateurs to actual Oscar winners. The movies were mixed media – most were live action, but some were animated, or used shadow-work. The range of movies shown allowed for a surprising amount of depth. Although most filmmakers went for a comedic approach, some tried to make their movies dark and play with ‘classic’ revenge ideas. There were films in both English and French, ensuring that there was a little something for everyone, even bilingual rabbits (yes, there was a film about that). In fact, a surprising number of filmmakers decided to make their movies about animals seeking revenge, which inevitably resulted in absolute hilarity.

The greatest thing about the M60 festival is that it truly encourages freedom of artistic expression. Filmmakers of all skill levels are encouraged to submit their movies, given that none of the films are turned down or manipulated in any way. M60 celebrates art, originality, and accessibility – a recipe that makes for an eclectic and unpretentious exploration of short films.