Short Cuts 2015: Canadian Content

TIFF goers in search of Short Cuts Canada this year can find Canadian content merged into the international shorts section

The competitive Platform section is getting all the attention when festival-watchers talk about changes to TIFF’s programming, but there’s another wrinkle people are only just beginning to notice: the disappearance of Short Cuts Canada.

This year, the festival is folding its Canadian short programming into the larger international mix, with 11 collections screening over the course of the festival.

Homegrown highlights in Programme 1 (Sep 10, 9 pm Scotiabank 14 Sep 18, 11:45 am Scotiabank 11) include Caroline Monnet’s Mobilize, a propulsive journey from the country to the city scored by Tanya Tagaq, and O Negative, an effectively atmospheric creeper written and directed by Steven McCarthy – who also stars in the short with Alyx Melone. (McCarthy can be found elsewhere at TIFF in The Steps, where he gives a terrific performance as Christine Lahti’s burnout rocker son – a feat that’s doubly impressive because the movie is otherwise terrible.)

Programme 2 (Sep 11, 9:45 pm Scotiabank 14 Sep 18, 2:45 pm Scotiabank 11) has Don McKellar’s new short, It’s Not You. This is very nice, because McKellar doesn’t make shorts very often – hardly at all, in fact – and he’s really good at them. Cast with students from the graduating class of the National Theatre School Of Canada, it’s a delicate little roundelay of couples breaking up in various Toronto locations (and one in particular). It’s clever and loose, and the little camera segues between each conversation keep the short from ever feeling too repetitive.

Programme 3 (Sep 12, 7 pm Scotiabank 10 Sep 18, 9 pm Scotiabank 11) features Boxing, a terse character study about a woman barely coping with a personal tragedy. Writer/directors Grayson Moore and Aidan Shipley fill the frame with familiar faces – Kyra Harper, Lara Jean Chorostecki, Martha Burns, Rachel Wilson, Hannah Cheesman – and give them each a chance to create distinct characters in a very short window of time.

Programme 4 (Sep 12, 10 pm Scotiabank 14 Sep 18, 6 pm Scotiabank 11) includes the engagingly goofy Portal To Hell!!!, which stars the late Roddy Piper in a nicely grumpy performance as an apartment superintendent who finds two of his tenants opening the eponymous gateway in the basement of his building. It’s very silly and very goopy, and I was impressed by both director Vivieno Caldinelli’s tongue-in-cheek enthusiasm and screenwriter Matt Watts’s commitment to getting the Lovecraftian chanting just right.

Programme 5 (Sep 13, 7 pm Scotiabank 10 Sep 19, 12:45 pm Scotiabank 11) includes Zack Russell’s remarkable She Stoops To Conquer, which stars co-writer Kayla Lorette as a disguised cabaret performer who meets her doppelganger (Julian Richings) in a club, and just sort of goes with it.

With a minimum of dialogue, the short says a great deal about identity and attraction, and gives the ubiquitous Richings (who pops up elsewhere in the festival in Robert Eggers’s The Witch) a rare chance to show his dramatic range rather than just play Gaunt Creepy Guy for the 78th time.

Programme 10 (Sep 16, 6:45 pm Scotiabank 14 Sep 20, 3:15 pm Scotiabank 11) gives us Quiet Zone, an experimental short about electromagnetic hypersensitivity. Directors David Bryant and Karl Lemieux – whom you may better know as members of the band Godspeed You! Black Emperor – track artfully distressed and degraded film footage with audio recordings of people discussing their symptoms the result is both hypnotic and unsettling.

Programme 11 (Sep 16, 10 pm, Scotiabank 13 Sep 20, 6 pm, Scotiabank 11) includes Howie Shia’s animated Bam, about a young boxer struggling with impulse control, and frequent TIFF guest Barry Avrich’s The Man Who Shot Hollywood, a short documentary about the photographer Jack Pashkovsky, who did indeed capture many of Hollywood’s biggest stars in the 30s and 40s. (Not coincidentally. Pashovsky’s images are on display in the Film Reference Library on the fourth floor of the Lightbox through next spring.)

There’s a lot more, though I have to recuse myself from commenting critically on Mark Slutsky’s Never Happened and Katherine Monk’s Rock The Box, because both filmmakers are personal friends. But if you’re curious about them after checking out the links, you can find both shorts in Programme 7 (Sep 14, 6:45 pm TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 Sep 19, 3:45 pm Scotiabank 11). And please say hi for me.

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