The Born of Woman showcase has long been one of my favourite parts of Fantasia Festival. Featuring female-directed shorts from around the world, this program never fails to impress with its array of high-quality genre selections. Here are a few of my highlights from this year.

Come F*ck My Robot (2020, USA)

Of all the shorts I’ve seen with plots based on Craigslist ads, Come F*ck My Robot may be the GOAT. Writer-director Mercedes Bryce Morgan has created something truly special in this modern feminist gem, which follows the story of a college-age virgin determined to deflower himself with the help of a sexy machine—or, at least, that what he hopes will happen after he responds to a mysterious ad promising just that result. As it turns out, the robot in question has her own opinions about this plan, and the film transforms from a lightly crude comedy to something altogether magical and uplifting (but still very funny!). 

Snowflakes (2019, UK)

Brash, clever, and ultimately (almost?) joyful, Snowflakes takes an uncompromising look at the brutal inhumanity of UK immigration policy and procedures before delivering a twist so gleefully cathartic that I gasped with laughter and almost started cheering. Sharon Duncan-Brewster and Cherrelle Skeete are excellent in the roles of Esther and Miriam, two women facing imminent deportation to Jamaica. Writer-director Faye Jackson handles this material beautifully, with a confident touch and a knowing wink. The storytelling is judicious and never overwrought—the amount of character backstory is sparse, but perfectly so. And that score! Snowflakes is a fabulous addition to Fantasia’s Born of Woman 2020 showcase.

Diabla (2019, Mexico)

Beautifully shot and deeply heart-wrenching, Ashley George’s Diabla may be hard to watch at times but, thanks to Sheila Altamirano’s cinematography and Ruth Ramos’s pitch-perfect performance, you absolutely cannot stop looking. The short film follows the story of a young girl, Nayeli (Ramos), dealing with the aftermath of her sexual assault, including a remoreseless assailant that just won’t go away. Written by Alonso Diaz-Rickards (with Ashley George) and based on a story by Maya Korn, Diabla is a rape revenge tale with strong cultural roots and a perfect ending. I’m very interested to see more from this team.

Blocks (2020, USA)

Bridget Moloney wrote and directed this delightful amuse-bouche of absurdity, exploring the frustrations of bourgeois motherhood through a neat little gimmick that I will not spoil. Claire Coffee shines as rundown mother Ashleigh, while Mark Webber nails it as her not-as-woke-as-he-thinks spouse.

Break Us (2019, Ireland)

You’d think that robbing a bank with your significant other would be a simple and romantic proposition. In Rioghnach Ni Ghrioghair’s Irish mini-heist short Break Us, would-be robbers Sophie (Danielle Galligan) and Mark (Gavin Drea) find that the stresses of armed crime have a tendency to bring unresolved relationship issues to the surface—at exactly the wrong time. The short offers a nice level of tension and a very satisfactory conclusion.