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The Independent Critic

Mei Song Shun, Du Xiao Ming, Wang Hong Sheng
Johnny Ma
19 Mins.

 "A Grand Canal" Wins Jimmy Stewart Memorial Crystal Heart Award 

One of two winners of the Jimmy Stewart Memorial Crystal Heart Award at the 2014 Heartland Film Festival, an award that includes a $2,500 cash prize, writer/director Johnny Ma's 19-minute short film is a surprisingly effective character study that proves that strong characters and a good story can be told well within the confines of a short film.

Recreated from the memories of his 10-year-old son, Grand Canal's story follows a Chinese boat captain as he tries to collect a debt that will save his fleet of boats. Caught between the needs of his family and a difficult harbor master, the captain is faced with a life-changing decision.

Described as a Greek tragedy told through Chinese pop music, a description that makes me chuckle yet strikes me as accurate, Grand Canal is an emotionally honest short film about a father-son relationship and those difficult choices we face in life and, as well, those times in life when it seems as if we may not even have a choice. While the production values don't quite always live up to the story itself, on a certain level it's this quality, which may very well have been an artistic choice, that gives the film part of its quiet ordinariness that makes it even a bit more effective.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic