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Top-three finish for Vernon filmmaker

Janalee Budge’s Grandma Lee’s Dress was a finalist on CBC TV’s 16th annual Short Film Face Off
The indie short film Grandma Lee’s Dress, developed and directed by Vernon native Janalee Budge, was a top-three finalist in the 16th annual CBC TV Short Film Face Off. (Contributed)

If it was an Olympic event, she’d be on the podium.

As it is, independent filmmaker Janalee Budge (née Guenther) of Vernon, who now lives in Whistler, is bursting with pride to see her film, Grandma Lee’s Dress, make the final and finish in the top three (out of nine) in the 16th annual season of CBC-TV’s Short Film Face Off.

“What a great ride the whole @cbcshortfilm has been,” said Budge, a Vernon Senior Secondary School 1982 graduate. “So absolutely over the moon that Grandma Lee’s Dress was seen by so many people. It was a huge learning experience for me and I can’t wait to take my learnings into my next film. Stay tuned for more.”

Budge’s film, taken from real life when she was 10, is, “A fantastical drama about the complexities of growing up in a mixed Chinese/Canadian family and the power that a grandmother can have over her children even long after she is gone. Inspired by true events, this story explores the complexity of mother/daughter relationships in three generations of the Lee family as seen through the eyes of 12-year-old Lily Lee.”

Budge’s cousin, Ana Pacheco, who helped write the short film, also starred as the main character.

Cultural commentator Eli Glasner, content curator Mohit Rajhans and Cinespace Studios’ Magali Simard served as Face Off’s panelists, and all three loved Budge’s flick.

“Yours was a complex narrative to develop,” said Simard “It includes familial roots, cultural expectations, and the new generation wanting to be the best of it all. You’ve done with it thoughtfulness and playfulness in how you use the medium. Combining fantastical and comical elements gives your film great flair…”

Rajhans: “Your ability to delicately capture the subtleties of the characters, the narrative, sparked my connection to the film. There are layers to this story that you cleverly peel away while forming a strong bond with the audience…”

Glasner: “When I heard the title, I didn’t expect it to be a vehicle for possession, much less a way of exploring a family torn apart. There’s some really creative ideas here…On top of that, working with your young actors it would be very easy to over-torque the emotions, but I think you calibrated those performances perfectly. Well done.”

The top three films were selected from an online vote conducted by viewers. Joining director Budge in the top three were Out Standing In His Field, directed by Lynette Piper of Saskatchewan; and Adore, directed by Beth Warrian of Toronto.

All nine films selected for the 16th season of Face Off were shown over three weeks, leading up to the finale on Sept. 23, which showed the top three as a result of the online voting.

The winning film, Adore, received the grand prize of a Telefilm Canada grant of $30,000, and also focused on a dress.

Telefilm vice-president Francesca Accinelli made the announcement on the Face Off finale.

Warrian’s winning short tells the story of Luci, a queer Peruvian-Canadian woman who gives her nephew the Christmas gift of his dreams: a beautiful sequinned dress. When the nephew tries to show the rest of the family the dress, Luci “finds herself enacting the very restrictions and shaming she hopes to protect him from.”

“Congrats to Adore for taking the win,” said Budge. “A huge thank you once again to every single person who voted and to everyone who helped make this film a reality. And of course to my incredible Grandma Lee for everything that she sacrificed so that our family could have the freedom and strength to do whatever we choose to do in our lives today.”

Grandma Lee’s Dress won Best International Film at the Huntington Beach (California) Cultural Film Festival, and was also one of the three finalists for Best of Fest there.

Piper’s film is about an elderly man with dementia who escapes his Saskatchewan nursing home and winds up back on his former wheat field. There, he meets up with his late wife from the 1970s, and must decide in which world he wants to live.

The top three films, the six others, and the show’s finale, can all be seen on the CBC Gem app.

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Roger Knox

About the Author: Roger Knox

I am a journalist with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. I started my career in radio and have spent the last 21 years working with Black Press Media.
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