SHORT CUTS CANADA – Programme 1 Sep 11, 9:30 pm, Isabel Bader, and Sep 12, 1 pm, Jackman Hall (rating: NNN) Programme 2 Sep 12, 4 pm, Isabel Bader, and Sept 13, 1:15 pm, Jackman Hall (rating: n/a) Programme 3 Sep 13, 9 pm, Sep 14, 3 pm, and Sep 18, 7 pm, all at Jackman Hall (rating: NNNN) Programme 4, Sep 14, 6 pm, and Sep 15, 3 pm, Jackman Hall (rating: NNNNN) Programme 5, Sep 15, 7:15 pm, Bader, and Sep 16, 4 pm, Jackman Hall (rating: NNN). tiff.net.
Shorts are tricky. In a sea of similarly brief presentations, a filmmaker has to deliver the emotional impact of a feature film or a concept that can hold an audience’s increasingly scattered attention.
It’s hard to be distinctive, harder still to avoid clichés. But that’s what’s thrilling about watching shorts in sequence: you never know what’s coming next.
The 33 short films screening under TIFF’s Short Cuts Canada banner are organized into five programs, only two of which have grouped individual entries according to a thematic connection.
Programme 4 is the highlight, a lineup of meditations on death and regret from strong, confident filmmakers. Nicolas Pereda’s grim fictionalized documentary Interview With The Earth Pedro Pires’s striking dance piece Danse Macabre Anne Emond’s muted two-hander Naissances Nikos Theodosakis and Linda Theodosakis’s West Coast drama Smoke Jamie Travis’s suburban mystery The Armoire Ed Gass-Donnelly’s silent Sixty Seconds Of Regret Félix Dufour-Laperrière’s experimental M: every one’s a winner.
The comedies in Programme 3 offer flashes of greatness. Cordell Barker’s animated railroad farce Runaway is an allegory about the dangers of unchecked capitalism (and cows), set to an antic score by Triplets Of Belleville composer Benoît Charest, while Spencer Maybee’s Man V. Minivan puts a nice spin on the old wedding-day trope about the groom with cold feet, and Peter Wellington’s Pointless Film watches as the sale of a used futon escalates into an epic duet of inept haggling.
Programme 1 offers some powerful imagery with Tungijuq, a repurposing of an Inuit myth by Félix Lajeunesse and Paul Raphaël, and a strong turn by actor Marie-Eve Bertrand in Ivan Grbovic’s psychological drama The Fall (La Chute). It also includes Chris Landreth’s The Spine, the animator’s latest production using the CG technique he calls “psycho-realism.”
There’s real emotion in this tale of an older man (voiced by Gordon Pinsent) reflecting on a codependent relationship, but Landreth (Ryan) forces so much narrative into the 11-minute running time that he flirts with incoherence.
Min Sook Lee’s My Toxic Baby has a strong hook, with the director of Tiger Spirit becoming a mother and trying to offset the modern world’s chemical and environmental dangers to her baby – but it’s a mess of incomplete inquiries and half-developed themes.
Programme 2 includes Night Mayor, a new Guy Maddin short that was unavailable for preview at press time. (The clip reel provided by the NFB suggests that it will look just like every other Maddin film.) Among the shorts available, I was impressed with Richard Kerr’s De Mouvement, a surreal repurposing of black-and-white French movie trailers, and Sami Khan’s pleasant but predictable 75 El Camino, about a Sarnia couple coping with the financial downturn.
Programme 5 swings back and forth from strength to weakness. The charm of Dylan Reibling’s economical Record and the formal precision of Emile Proulx-Cloutier’s moody Life Begins clash with overlong works like Lea Nakonechny’s Edge Of The Desert, a bleak prairie tale undone by flat performances, and Ben Bruhmuller’s Vs., a beautifully produced mixed-media animation hobbled by an obvious metaphor.