TIFF shorts 2016: what to check out at this year’s fest

The decision last year to combine Canadian.


The decision last year to combine Canadian and international shorts in TIFF’s Short Cuts programmes hasn’t changed much. Each block of shorts – curated this year by Jason Anderson, Danis Goulet and Kathleen McInnis – still offers a range of textures, tones and themes. (Full disclosure: Jason is a fellow film critic and an old friend. He and I did not discuss this piece.)

You’ll discover emerging artists, appreciate some established talent and maybe find something truly revelatory … although that last experience is still pretty rare.

Let’s start with Programme One. Molly McGlynn’s 3-Way (Not Calling) has a really awkward title, but that’s sort of the point: it’s a comedy about a Toronto couple (Fun fact: The Beaverton’s Emma Hunter, Orphan Black’s Kristian Bruun) looking to juice up their sex life with a threesome, and going about it in a fairly clumsy way. Mateusz Rakowicz’s Romantik follows a Polish man (Robert Wieckiewicz) around Paris as he tries to find the perfect lover – and suffers mightily for his efforts. And Caroline Monnet’s Tshiuetin is a rapturous black-and-white train voyage through northern Quebec.

Programme Two offers Rebecca Addelman’s The Smoke, starring Liisa Repo-Martell as a woman trapped at a bat mitzvah with her unbearable family. (There’s a little more to it, of course.) Thyrone Tommy’s Mariner is tense in a far more dramatic way, tracking a naval cadet (Thomas Olajide) stressing out over his final exams. And Axel Danielson and Maximilien Van Aertryck’s Because The World Never Stops, presents itself as the raw camera feed from a (fictional) Swedish news channel, is funny and unexpectedly human.

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Mariner

Programme Three features Late Night Drama, the new short from Patrice Laliberté (winner of last year’s award for best Canadian short at TIFF, for Overpass). Filmed in a single take, it follows a furious young man as he drives through the night in search of a confrontation. Another short in the same block, Elena Brodach’s Next, applies the one-and-done aesthetic in less agitated fashion, the camera slowly tracking through an apartment where a woman stands over a sleeping lover, planning … something.

In Programme Four has some expertly rendered animated storytelling in Marie-Hélène Turcotte’s hand-drawn Red Of The Yew Tree and Terril Calder’s stop-motion Snip, as well as some live-action tension (Kristina Kumric’s Croatian war story Half A Man) and comedy (Ena Sendijarevic’s refugee tale Import).

Programme Five boasts Leo Matsuda’s Inner Workings, which happens to be the new short from Walt Disney Animation. (It’ll accompany Disney’s Moana into theatres in November.) It’s silly and fun, and busy enough that you won’t spend that much time thinking about how weirdly it mirrors Pixar’s Inside Out.

The block also includes Alexandre Dostie’s decidedly more adult Mutants, a Quebec period piece about a kid tasked with coaching his eccentric softball team. Elizabeth Nichols’s Black Head Cow also deals with growing up too fast, as a Maasia girl learns she’s about to be married off to an older villager. And Raphael Ouellet’s multicharacter study Plain And Simple finds drama students grappling with adult problems and impulses.

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  5 Films About Technology

Programme Six swings between the unrestrained goofiness of actor/filmmaker Maxwell McCabe-Lokos’s giddy Ape Sodom – in which McCabe-Lokos (The Husband) casts himself as a scavenger yanked into some highly questionable behaviour by a moneyed sleazebag (Mihaly Szabados) – and the spare chills of Ziga Virc’s A New Home, where a young woman moves into a newly completed high-rise a little ahead of schedule, and slowly comes to believe she’s not the only one in the building.

Programme Seven has some of my favourites: Peter Huang’s snappy comedy 5 Films About Technology, which is better described as a quintet of blackout shorts stuffed with talented Toronto actors Charlotte Regan’s Standby, which follows the partnership of two London police officers in a very witty fashion, and the first episode of Julia Pott’s Cartoon Network series Summer Camp Island, which is a weird delight.

What’s in Programme Eight? Just a sprawling new work from one of the world’s finest filmmakers (Jian Zhang-ke’s The Hedonists) and a disturbing hidden-camera documentary about factory farming, Josh Polon’s Andy Goes In.

Programme Nine offers tales of transformation and discovery, including Wild Skin, a feverish, silent character study from Quebec director Ariane Louis-Seize and Milica Tomovic’s Transition, about which you should know as little as possible. And Ryan Noth and Tess Girard’s documentary The Road To Webequie fits that description as well, looking at the potential impact of a mining company’s incursions into Anishinaabe land. Whatever happens next, lives are going to change.

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Mutants

Programme Ten features François Jaros’s stylish, unsettling Oh What A Wonderful Feeling, which stars the fantastic Karelle Tremblay (a breakout last year in Anne Émond’s Our Loved Ones) as a young woman initiated into a very strange subculture at an ominous truck stop, as well as Hand. Line. Cod., a short documentary about sustainable fishing from Newfoundland filmmaker Justin Simms, and Eden Mallina Awashish’s inventive, cliché-dodging Nothing About Moccasins.

Finally, Programme Eleven is where you’ll find Anna Maguire’s Your Mother And I, which turns a whimsical David Eggers short story into a beautifully performed, just slightly melancholy two-hander for Don McKellar and Julia Sarah Stone. The block also features Bayu Prihantoro Filemon’s On The Origin Of Fear, which explores the legacy of torture in Indonesia through an insidiously clever lens, but I’ll be honest: Your Mother And I stayed with me longer.

By the way, if your schedule is too full to consider catching a Short Cuts program, TIFF’s doing the Short Cuts Re/Mix thing again, making a specially curated selection of this year’s shorts available online for a 24 hour period at some point during the festival’s back end. Keep an eye on the Short Cuts Home Page for details.

normw@nowtoronto.com | @normwilner

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