Short film to be shot in Strathclair

A short film set in Westman and showcasing life in rural Manitoba will be submitted to film festivals across the country next year.

Rare Birds, by filmmaker Robin Dalla-Vicenza, tells the story of a woman named Catherine who returns to her hometown for the first time since the death of her father during her childhood.

“She meets a man there named Al who kind of confronts her about some things regarding the property and the land that she’s on, and it kind of puts her on a personal turmoil quest through the rest of the movie,” Dalla-Vicenza told the Sun.

orn in Brandon and having grown up in Winnipeg, Dalla-Vicenza chose to shoot the short film in Strathclair, Man., located 92 kilometres northwest of the Wheat City, where she has a lot of family still living.

“One of the locations we’re going to be actually using is the house that my mom spent the first five years of her life in,” Dalla-Vicenza said. “The people that bought it from her father … haven’t updated it — it has a real ‘60s, ‘70s vibe, which is really cool.”

There are some things in the film that Dalla-Vicenza says are inspired by her own experiences in Manitoba, another reason it was so vital that she shoot the film in a place that she had deep roots in.

The landscape of Canadian cinema is largely made up of the backdrops of Toronto and Vancouver, Dalla-Vicenza says, and this lack of diversity will allow Rare Birds to stand out from other short Canadian films, she hopes.

“I have been really inspired — in all of my art making — by the Prairies, and by the quietness of everything. There’s this kind of sprawling landscape, and that really characterizes that life in rural Manitoba,” Dalla-Vicenza said.

But just setting the film in Manitoba wasn’t enough for the young filmmaker, who lives in Vancouver and graduated from Simon Fraser University in 2018. For her first major project after graduating, she wanted to create a film that also represented what life in rural Manitoba was like.

“I’ve always wanted to make a film out here, I just never had the opportunity, and this seemed like a good time to kind of go after it. And, I finally had a story that I feel like would warrant the landscape and draw attention to it,” Dalla-Vicenza said.

The film is still in pre-production, but it won’t be long before things get moving. Dalla-Vicenza has already cast most of the characters in the film with the help of the Strathclair Drama Club, which put the casting call out on their social media in July.

Far from being surprised that the Strathclair area had so many actors and people interested in filmmaking, Dalla-Vicenza said she’s always known that a streak of creativity runs deep in the Prairies and the people that call Westman home.

“Creative people are everywhere,” she said. “It’s really special.”

Funding for the film has been approved by the Canada Council for the Arts, and the budget is in place. Dalla-Vincenza expects to start filming Rare Birds in early summer next year.

“It’s really exciting,” she said.

In the lead up to filming, Dalla-Vicenza says she will continue to gather a crew for the film and finalize their shooting plan, although all the locations have already been scouted out. Once the film is shot, it’ll be off to post-production.

“We’ll have to edit the film, sound mix it, all of those things, and then submit it to festivals,” she said.

With a release date of autumn 2024 in mind, Dalla-Vicenza will submit Rare Birds to festivals such as the Toronto International Film Festival and the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Submitting to film festivals is quite a long process, so if that drags on a bit, it is possible the film won’t be released until early 2025, Dalla-Vicenza said. After it’s submitted to festivals, she doesn’t expect to hear back for quite a while to know if it will be screened or not.

“Short films have a much longer life and are [involved in] a much longer process,” she said. “I think anybody would think it’s amazing how much work can go into something that’s only 10 minutes long.”

But the hard work and planning that goes into making a film, editing it and then the anticipation that sets in after submitting it to festivals is all part of the creative process, Dalla-Vicenza said. She’s confident that Rare Birds will strike a chord with audiences and tell the story of life in Manitoba to those who have never visited the province, she added.

“We definitely have big ambitions for this project, and how many people we think can see it.”

Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun