COMMFFEST Rating: NNN
There are more exciting and better-programmed film festivals than the Global Community Film Festival, aka Commffest, but few with as much heart or grassroots gumption.
Spread out over three days at the Rainbow Cinemas, the eclectic slate consists of a mix of shorts (there's maybe one feature-length film), most of which use a tiny budget and take on underexplored themes.
Of the films I pre-screened, the strongest is Alison Duke's Hear The Story, which focuses on Toronto's Youth Documentary Training Project. Duke's 30-minute work centres on three "at risk" youths - a phrase some of the participants find questionable - as they approach adulthood and try to build some kind of responsible life.
Ingrid, Steve and John live in different neighbourhoods and come from different ethnic backgrounds. But they face similar challenges: employment, housing and pressure not just from police but from their own family and friends.
The subjects candidly air their hopes and frustrations, mostly because the filmmakers - this is a collective work - are also their peers. Let's hope this film gets wider distribution after the festival. It needs to be seen.
Less successful but still informative is Belonging, director Tariq Nasir's hour-long documentary about the displacement of his Palestinian-American family. Through interviews with family members and an abundance of historical facts, Nasir pieces together a tragic history of loss and survival.
Those themes also crop up in two other shorts. In Memoirs Of A Smoker, Hezekiah Lewis examines the life of Deantre Conner, a man who's been addicted to crack for two decades. The shapeless film hits the same note repeatedly. And in Ladies And Gentlemen: Ann Hart, director Norman Hart gives us a somewhat rambling and inconsequential look at the life of his mother, an actor who succumbed to Alzheimer's disease.
Worthy issues, questionable execution.
Commffest opens at St. Lawrence Market North September 27 and runs September 28 to 30 at the Rainbow Cinemas, Market Square.