Capilano student film Accidental heading to Cannes Film Festival
Silent film-inspired symphonic short lands Malibu Taetz, 20, spot in top film fest’s Short Film Corner.
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A second-year Capilano University film student’s Cannes-do attitude has landed him a coveted spot at the world-famous festival held all next week.
Malibu Taetz’s 13-minute silent film Accidental — a symphonic short that tells its love story via Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 — was selected as part of the venerable event’s Short Film Corner, which although not a competition offers a chance to be noticed by industry distributors.
One of his instructors suggested he submit his short, filmed last year when he was 19, to Cannes for consideration.
“I thought that’s ridiculous, that’ll never happen,” he recalled in a phone interview. “But when it made it into the Short Film Corner there I wasn’t sure what to do after that. It was pretty awesome.”
Filmed without dialogue, Accidental is about an orchestra’s clumsy fifth French horn player, with a comically minor musical part, who accidentally swaps music with the first cellist at the opposite end of the orchestra before a performance — and goes to great lengths to crawl unnoticed under the musicians to get it back to her.
All seemingly unnoticed by the stern conductor despite his noisy exploits dodging a gauntlet of trombone slides, disapproving brass section stares, and a beat-stomping clarinetist.
Why did Taetz choose a French horn for the bumbling, smitten protagonist? That, he admitted, is autobiographical.
“It’s the strangest instrument ever; it’s the only one that faces backwards,” he explained. “When you’re playing it in an orchestra, you’re in the very farthest corner, and you often just count for 100 bars of rests before one note — and just when you’re about to play your note, the conductor will stop you …
“You sit there having a lot of time to think.”
But when the French horn finally gets its moment of melodic glory, he argued, “it’s the most beautiful sound in the orchestra, I think — when it really gets the chance.”
As for the film's title, in written music an "accidental" is a musical note that is not part of the composition's key signature, usually indicated with a sharp or flat symbol.
Born and raised in Kelowna, the North Vancouver resident was able to make the unusual film thanks to Capilano’s School of Motion Picture Arts — in particular, its Advanced Film Projects initiative, nicknamed “Off the Grid” because it’s extra-curricular and allows students to use the department’s equipment and facilities in the month-long gap between spring semester and summer maintenance, explained the school's chair Michael Thoma.
“I found some of the good projects slip through the cracks,” Thoma told Metro. “Sometimes the filmmakers have a vision that doesn’t fit the curriculum for one reason or another — I wanted to create a net to capture some of those great projects.”
Accidental is the first Off the Grid creation to make it to Cannes, but previous cohorts have won awards and one is being adapted into a full-length feature, he said.
“Malibu is very talented and ambitious,” Thoma said. “Accidental was very complicated — he wanted a full orchestra and no dialogue, based on just one piece of classical music.
“But it fell outside the curriculum because it’s a fair amount of organization to bring in a 40-piece orchestra.”
Thoma launched the program roughly eight years ago, and has mentored roughly 50 students through the filmmaking process beyond what’s already taught in class.
Taetz said his biggest inspiration is early 20th-century Italian-American director Frank Capra — the force behind It’s a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington — and Charlie Chaplin silent films.
“Off the Grid is a unique thing,” Taetz said. “I just love it because it gave us a lot more freedom than you get in a school project, when everyone does the thing they never thought you could do.
“But Off the Grid is doing the thing you’ve always wanted to do — and doing your best at it.”
On Wednesday, he wrapped up shooting on his newest film project, Return to Sender — also an Off the Grid creation — a crowdfunded love story about a celestial mail sorting facility that inadvertently sends a heavenly message to a dishwasher on his alley break, and an angel to retrieve it.
Correction (May 19): An earlier version of this story misspelled the surname of Michael Thoma, chair of Capilano University's School of Motion Picture Arts.