Stuck in the “top Oscar movie of the year” state of mind, it’s easy to forget about the other genres and areas of film outside of those that hit the box-office.


Short films; foreign films; documentaries; experimental; animations that aren’t Pixar or Disney. There’s a lot out there to watch.


These types of films don’t have the budget to rack in the big names and to CGI the big explosions and epic scenes, but it doesn’t take millions of dollars to make a good story. It’s takes good writing,real characters and excellent production; all of which possible with just the right ideas coming together with the right talent.


Even though there are some great stories told by big-time productions, as of late, there’s been a trend in film in embracing its characteristic of escaping reality. The tales told and effects displayed are just so epic, that even those “based off of a true story” feel as if it were filmed in an alternate reality. At times, this isn’t so bad, as the spectacle that happens on the screen immerses you so deeply that it becomes an experience in itself.


Yet, for myself, I can take only so much of this. Sometimes, all I need is just a down-to-earth, thought provoking story. A story I can relate with, something that forces me to think and ask questions.


These sorts of films resonate far longer than a blockbuster can. It’s a matter of leaving a mark on a person, creating a meaning that someone can personally take away from it; which for any art form, is pretty important.


The issue though, for someone interested in these sort of films, is accessibility. You typically won’t see the alternative film productions in the theatre or on Netflix, and with so much out there, where can you actually go to watch ’em?


Besides digging around, I’d say check out a platform like the Canadian National Film Board. A space that shares a mix of under-the-radar films, with curators and playlists to help out with finding the right flicks.


To get the ball rollin’, here are a few films that I found pretty dang good. From animated shorts to documentaries, watching these sorts of films are a great way to counteract the fantastical experience of a blockbuster hit.


Stories We Tell (2012)

For those that love documentaries, this is a great film to check out. It plays with the relationship that documentaries have with storytelling and truth-finding in an unorthodox sort of way. It’s a down-to-earth sort of film, and although different from what I’m used to, it all worked together awesomely.


The Big Snit (1985)

The fact that this short animated film was made so long ago is amazing. Not because of the animation style, which is interesting in of itself, but because of the humour. It has the odd-ball humour and delivery of a show like Rick and Morty, one of today’s most popular adult animated series, yet more impressively made 30 years ago in the 80’s.


Similar to Rick and Morty, through that humour, it’s easy to identify that there’s an underlying meaning to all of it. Whether it’s the pointless quarrels of everyday life or the strange obsessions and natural impulses we as people have (i.e. the sawing), there’s that something else that makes it more than just for laughs.


Universe (1960):

Having watched countless modern documentaries and features on our solar system and the rest of the Universe, it’s interesting to see the perspectives of people from over 50 years ago. This eerie, mysterious and sci-fi filled short documentary puts you in the mind of a 1960’s individual, before the moon-landing, before even the the first person left Earth in 1961. For any space-lovers, check this one out; it really puts into scope how far we’ve gone with the discoveries of the Universe over the past 50 years (even though, arguably not as far as we could’ve).


Have any other recommendations? Let me know in the comments.

You can find more National Film Board films at