THE WORLDWIDE SHORT FILM FESTIVAL running today (Thursday, June 7) through Sunday (June 10) at the Cumberland Cinemas (159 Cumberland), the Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen's Park) and the Bloor Cinema (506 Bloor West). Twenty-ticket festival pass $100, six-pack $35, regular screenings $7. Box office 416-598-9345, Rating: NNNN
THE WORLDWIDE SHORT FILM FESTIVAL running today (Thursday, June 7) through Sunday (June 10) at the Cumberland Cinemas (159 Cumberland), the Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen's Park) and the Bloor Cinema (506 Bloor West). Twenty-ticket festival pass $100, six-pack $35, regular screenings $7. Box office 416-598-9345, www.worldwideshortfilmfest.com. Rating: NNNN
it's taken seven years for the it's taken seven years for the
Worldwide Short Film Festival to hit its stride. The Canadian Film Centre has taken it over, bringing organizational talent and much-needed stability to an event that has slowly earned an international reputation as a premier showcase for short films. I once doubted that this festival could come together the way it has, and I'm glad I was wrong.
There are five programs of Canadian works, nine of international films, a midnight mania evening, a spotlight on Iranian films, tributes to animation mavericks the Quay Brothers and to Alfred Hitchcock, and the festival's highlight, the Errol Morris First Person program.
Filmmaker Morris (The Thin Blue Line, Mr. Death) is a documentarian with an interest in the macabre. All his films till now have been about death, whether it's the eventual end of the universe (A Brief History Of Time) or the instruments we invent to take life (Mr. Death), and these 10 new shorts made for TV (Sunday, June 10, 1:45 and 4:15 pm, ROM) are no different.
Morris gets fascinating people to explain their life's work, including a woman who cleans up very messy crime scenes, a writer who's fallen in love with a serial killer, the director of a museum of medical specimens and an autistic college professor who designed a widely used humane system for the slaughter of cattle. Even Morris's annoying, nasal-voiced interruptions can't ruin these tales of lives built around death. Try to see these films on the big screen, but don't worry if you can't make it -- they'll all be aired on Bravo! later this year.
Inspired By Hitchcock (Friday, June 8, 7:15 pm, ROM; Sunday, June 10, 9:30 pm, Cumberland) includes a rare screening of Hitchcock's 1944 short, Bon Voyage, but the remainder of the program is mostly a mediocre mix of experimental and animated takes on Hitch's most famous films. The exception is the excellent 4 Vertigo, consisting of the entire Hitchcock film shown at high speed, in nine minutes total. It's also manipulated so that four mirror images of the film spin and turn into each other like a kaleidoscope.
Each separate program, averaging six shorts each, includes a bona fide treasure, a few gems and some so-so works. If you're looking for sure things, check out International Program 1 (Thursday, June 7, 11:15 am and Saturday, June 9, 7:15 pm, ROM), which includes the super-cool Swedish film Music For One Apartment And Six Drummers. An elderly couple leave their apartment and six drummers walk in, bang on furniture and turn on appliances to create four musical movements in four different rooms.
International Program 4 (Thursday, June 7, 4 pm and Saturday, June 9, 11 am, Cumberland) offers this year's Oscar-winning documentary short, Big Mama, the story of Viola Dees, an 89-year-old grandmother caring for her troubled nine-year-old grandson in South Central Los Angeles. There's also Journey Through The Night, a disturbing British film about a man who shares his overnight train compartment with a cannibal.
The Canadian must-see works include Brian McPhail's Down A Dark Chimney, part of Canadian Program 4 (Friday, June 8, 1:30 pm and Saturday, June 9, 7 pm, Cumberland), an off-kilter animated film set during the second world war that sees Santa Claus shot down and captured by Nazis, and Program 1's (Thursday, June 7, 11 am, Cumberland; and Friday, June 8, 9:45 pm, ROM) well-crafted Requiem Contre Un Plafond (Ceiling Requiem), in which a suicide attempt is interrupted by a noisy upstairs neighbour.
Three of last year's best Toronto International Film Festival shorts are packaged in Program 5 (Friday and Saturday, June 8 and 9, 4 pm, Cumberland). There's Serge Denoncourt's imaginative Via Crucis, about a boy who believes his mother is Jesus Christ, Francine Zuckerman's moving father-and-lesbian-daughter drama Passengers, and Susan Shipton's Hindsight, a quirky look at an office-tower romance, starring Martha Burns and Tom McCamus.