Randall Okita’s Machine With Wishbone is as deceptive as it is charming.
Just as William Faulkner believed that writing a short story was more difficult than writing a novel, making a short film is in many ways more challenging than making a feature.
First and foremost, the short requires a singular and focused vision and a strong premise to build upon. The comedy short, for example, has to contain one solid joke properly set up and executed.
The short film also allows for more experimentation than feature films. Take Bedroom (Rating: NNNN), one of the best in this year's Short Cuts Canada program.
The premise is simple: a middle-aged couple find themselves confronting boredom in the bedroom. What sets it apart is that Jordan Canning's 16-minute film consists of just one stationary shot of the two in bed as they gradually open up to each other. The strength of the film can be entirely credited to Jody Richardson's incredible script and the two actors, Robert Joy and Megan Jones. It's impossible to imagine any Hollywood film taking such a risk.
Equally out there is Sara St. Onge's Lobotomobile (NNNN), a delightfully deranged musical inspired by real-life lobotomist Dr. Walter Freeman. In a similar Tim Burtonesque bent, Candice Day's 106 (NNN) droll dramedy explores the jealous and murderous impulses provoked by not quite being Ontario's oldest resident.
But all is not sunshine and brain surgery among TIFF's shorts.
Gina Sylvester gives a touching performance in Princess Margaret Blvd. (NNN), about a woman confronting the fears and frustrations of living with Alzheimer's.
How Are You? (NNN) stars Martha Burns as a recently divorced woman continually confronted by the titular question and struck by the fact that those asking don't really care. Like any joke with a good punchline, this one sticks thanks to a surprisingly operatic ending.
Filmmaker Joe Balass plumbs personal history to draw a portrait of the Jewish community in Iraq that he and has family fled in the 70s in Baghdad Twist (NNN); Elizabeth Lazebnik's Belonging (NNN) is a touching slice-of-life documentary about two women raising a child together; and Forty Men For The Yukon (NN) is a vérité doc about a couple of old codgers living in the north.
Of course, Canada has a great reputation for producing exciting and topical animated shorts, and this year's crop is no exception.
Susan Turcot's enviro-conscious Pierce, Crush, Escape (NNN) incorporates digital animation and line drawings to explore boreal deforestation, while Machine With Wishbone (NNNNN) is as deceptive as it is charming. Randall Okita's film uses tiny machines made by sculptor Arthur Ganson that give the impression of animation even though they are quite real.
Pat's First Kiss (NNNN) uses stark childlike images to tell filmmaker Pat Mills's disturbing autobiographical story. That it was shot entirely on a cellphone for last year's Talent Lab makes it all the more remarkable and indicates a possible future direction for short filmmaking.barrett hooper