WORLDWIDE SHORT FILM FESTIVALopening gala Tuesday (June 13) at 7 pm, Bloor Cinema. See Indie & Rep Film, page 119, for complete listings. www.worldwideshortfilmfest.com. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
Does size matter? After watching the opening-night gala program of the Worldwide Short Film Festival, I'd have to say no. What matters is what you do with the length you've got.
The program, which kicks off the six-day fest Tuesday (June 13), collects eight of the most acclaimed shorts of the last year. It's an eclectic grouping that ranges all over the geographical and genre map.
The most memorable film is also the simplest. Before Dawn begins with a quiet wheat-field landscape that could be anywhere, caught in that bluish light before the sun rises. A truck enters the bucolic scene, perhaps to drop off farmhands? Nope. A horn sounds, and suddenly people pop out of the field, bags in hand, and head for the vehicle, which eventually motors away.
What happens then is unexpected. The camera stays distant, so we watch what unfolds with an objective eye. There's not a trace of sentimentality. If anything, we look to the landscape to see if it's been affected by the dramatic comings and goings, and of course it hasn't. The effect is haunting.
The program opener, by contrast, doesn't leave much of an effect. A boy named Lucky has lost his mother to AIDS and goes to live with his uncle in Durban. There, alone and lonely, he strikes up an unlikely relationship with a neighbouring Indian woman who doesn't like Zulus. The formulaic, sentimental script seems even worse thanks to amateurish acting.
A terrific visual style informs several of the films, including Chris Hinton 's playfully suggestive cNote , City Paradise , an amusing fish-out-of-water story, and Terra Incognita , an otherwise tedious documentary (or is it a mockumentary?) about a pataphysicist.
The final two films are both beautifully timed filmic jokes. Jellybaby involves a sleep-deprived new father who switches his screaming infant for an identical-looking child who just happens to be placid.
And The Surprise more than earns its title with a look at a dumped man who tries to win back a woman by creating an intimate dinner for two. The film must have been a nightmare to shoot and edit. But like all good jokes, the end result seems effortless.