Category Archives: Films

2022 Festival Awards

Our fifth annual festival was held last month, in-person here in Toronto and virtually once again across Canada. I’m so grateful to our staff, volunteers, audience, and especially to our filmmakers, and I want to recognize those films awarded by our juries and audience. Thank you to all our jury members for their hard work and for lending us their expertise. Congratulations to these filmmakers but also to all the rest of the filmmakers who allowed us to share their work during the festival. Toronto and Canada enjoyed watching your films and we can’t wait to see what you’re working on next!

Award Winners 2022

Best Narrative Short

Dad's Sneakers [poster]

Dad’s Sneakers
Dir: Olha Zhurba

Best Documentary Short

Freedom Swimmer [poster]

Freedom Swimmer
Dir: Olivia Martin-McGuire

Best Animated Short

Freedom Swimmer [poster]

Freedom Swimmer
Dir: Olivia Martin-McGuire

Best Canadian Short

Homard au coeur [poster]

Homard au coeur
Dir: Jenna Marks

Audience Award

Warsha [poster]

Dir: Dania Bdeir

Congratulations to all the winners and we look forward to seeing what comes our way for the 2023 edition. Submissions will open again on February 1st.

Full 2022 Lineup Revealed

Here’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. I’m delighted to share the full lineup for our 2022 hybrid festival, which will be screened in-person at Innis Town Hall in Toronto from November 18-20, and online all across Canada from November 21-27 on the Eventive Virtual platform. Thanks are in order to our amazing programming team: Linda Taillon, Keith Klegman, Cameron Carpenter, Amanda Clarke, Diana Sernick, Shelagh Rowan-Legg, Isabel Cupryn, Caterina Micci, Ariane Molinatti, Sylvia Zhang, Iris Bagola, Carolyn Dunk, Kyle McCarthy, Brennan Tilley, Hillary Butler, Aashna Thakkar, Lauren Roerick, Trevor Tranter, Felix De Leon, and KJ Tommy. I couldn’t have done it without your help!

Tickets and passes are on sale now, and you can also see the schedule and the film guide at our festival mini-site. Hope you’ll join us in November!

57 films from 22 countries. Narrative films (39), documentaries (8), and animated films (10); something for everyone. Some other facts: 16 Canadian films, 23 films directed by women, 10 student films.

Shorts Not Pants 2022 Festival Poster

36 (Spain, 21 minutes)
Dir: Ana Lambarri Tellaeche

Sara and David are waiting for a visit at home, David’s new bosses come for a drink. Sara prepares herself, an insignificant detail makes David angry and he mistreats her, hits and humiliates her, it is not the first time. After the violence, Sara has to face the social act. Testing the facade that both have created to hide reality.

A DEAD SEA (Israel, 12 minutes)
Dir: Nahd Bashir

Kamel, a Palestinian man in his 50s, suffers from autism and travels with his paralyzed sister to the Dead Sea to receive medical treatment in seawater in the hope that it will help him treat psoriasis that has spread through his body. At the beach, he finds himself in an unpleasant situation. A little girl stole his rubber ball and Kamel tried to return it, the crowd gathers and he has a hard time explaining himself, especially since he does not understand Hebrew and the girl does not understand Arabic. The masses suspect that this is a terrorist who kidnaps a girl and in the end a tragedy that seems to stem from a true story that took place in Jerusalem.

A LATE AUGUST FEELING (Canada, 11 minutes)
Dir: Jeffrey Ulrich

A dead father and ailing mother inspire a filmmaker to explore the relationship between time and personal history. Using contemporary and archive family footage, A Late August Feeling looks at love and loss through two lenses in time.

AIRBORNE (Poland, 8 minutes)
Dir: Andrzej Jobczyk

Airborne is a surreal animation that connects the world of flying machines with the kingdom of flora and fauna. Engrossed in the fight, pilot loses his target which leads to tragedy. The plane crashes into the crown of a tree. The tragedy that seems to be the end opens a new stage in history. In the place of the accident, a new life is awakened and now it has to solve the mystery of its origin. Airborne is a story about passion and its roots, and tells us what we have to lose to be born again.

BAD AT THIS (Canada, 6 minutes)
Dir: Jessie Posthumus

Akash is 27 years old and has just learned to swim. In a culture that habitually rewards perfection and performance, Bad at This is a whimsically poignant story about a young man who sucks at his hobby and finds joy in it anyway. Failure is wrapped up in so much baggage – anxiety, stress, intimidation, and social pressure. This doc short is about embracing failure and unlocking a powerful and innovative tool for supporting mental health – letting go of judgement and sucking at what you love.

BONER BLUES (LA DEBANDADE) (France, 15 minutes)
Dir: Fanny Dussart

Gaétan (age 70) pees in dots and dashes. Max (age 50) can no longer get hard. Félix (age 20) shoots too soon. Three men, three generations, one thing in common: manhood malfunctions…

BOOBS (LOLOS) (Canada, 15 minutes)
Dir: Marie Valade

A surrealist journey through a woman’s love-hate relationship with her breasts, her body, her femininity.

CATCAVE HYSTERIA (Sweden, 20 minutes)
Dir: Angelika Abramovitch

A friendship is at stake when love comes in the way. A hurtful conversation is overheard. Two sisters bond brakes when a bloody secret is revealed. The Girls Bathroom – it’s a place full of conflict that forces the truth to the surface. But is at the same time forgiving and accepting.

CORNERS (Canada, 13 minutes)
Dir: James Brylowski

The government has implemented mandatory corner inspections for buildings where civilians go; grocery stores, malls, furniture stores. When a dedicated, passionate, corner inspector is replaced, it becomes apparent that this is one business where you can’t cut corners.

CRADLE (Romania, 4 minutes)
Dir: Paul Muresan

People tend to hurt each other, leaving long lasting wounds, and this is no different amongst families.

DAD’S SNEAKERS (Ukraine, 19 minutes)
Dir: Olha Zhurba

An immersive insight into the last hours of 13-year-old Sasha’s life in a boarding school for children deprived of parental care. He is one of the luckiest – an American family finally adopted him. Today he will move to another country forever but there’s something that won’t let him go.

DEEP BLUE (FOND BLEU) (Canada, 11 minutes)
Dir: Franie-Éléonore Bernier

A hotel phone rings. A woman answers. It is the sea calling.

DRIBBLE (Iran, 15 minutes)
Dirs: Ali Lavarimonfared, Nazafarin Hassanpour

Passion in soccer causes affection between brothers.

DUO EN SOUS-SOL (Belgium, 12 minutes)
Dir: Vinciane Le Men

A close interrogation in a police station. A detective grills a psychoanalyst suspected of homicide on one of her patients. The exchanges are tough and leave no doubt as to the guilt of the suspect. Manipulation, power grab, game of seduction… but what is the true stake of this investigation?

FOR THE BEES (USA, 16 minutes)
Dir: Chloë Fitzmaurice

Khaled came from war-torn Yemen to Oakland, California to pursue beekeeping and a better life. But with an increasing number of uncertainties, life’s not always as sweet as honey.

FREE FALL (France, 19 minutes)
Dir: Emmanuel Tenenbaum

Tom is a young trader in a London bank, whose recent performance has put his job on the line. When the first plane hits the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11th 2001, Tom jumps into the biggest trade of his life. Inspired by a true story.

FREEDOM SWIMMER (UK, 15 minutes)
Dir: Olivia Martin-McGuire

The story of a grandfather’s perilous swim from China to Hong Kong that parallels his granddaughter’s own quest for a new freedom.

Dir: Elisabeth Silveiro

Sasha (Fanny Ardant) goes to a Parisian bar to drown her lonely sorrows, as she does every night. But this time, she meets Paolo, an attractive man who strikes up a conversation.

GWENDOLINE (France,22 minutes)
Dir: Joaquim Bayle

Roaming the streets on their tandem bike, young french post-punk musicians Micka and Pierre are filled with despair as they desperately search for a crowd to play to.

HEART VALLEY (UK, 19 minutes)
Dir: Christian Cargill

Heart Valley follows a day in the life of Wilf Davies, a shepherd from the small village of Cellan in Wales. Kind and inquisitive, the film looks at the world through Wilf’s eyes, asking questions about what it is we should truly value.

HOLD UP (USA, 15 minutes)
Dir: Alex Rollins Berg

Graham is in a rush to get home. But when Hashim, a homeless East African man, approaches him on the subway platform, his night takes an unexpected turn.

HOMARD AU COEUR (Canada, 2 minutes)
Dir: Jenna Marks

A quirky and lovable fisherman fights to keep his livelihood through years of illness.

Dir: Luis Fernando Puente

Maria Luisa is ready to escape immigration limbo, but when her green card interview takes an unexpected turn, she faces the anxiety of losing the life she had planned.

I LIVE WITH THE DEVIL (UK, 21 minutes)
Dir: Mark J. Blackman

Following the death of a resident, a young care home worker, battling with crippling anxiety, must confront her greatest nemesis, herself.

IDENTIBYE (Iran, 15 minutes)
Dir: Sajjad Shahhatami

The protagonist of the story faces a dilemma of choosing between sense and sensibility regarding one’s innermost feelings. He has been judged from the very beginning by the ones closest to him. The fear of these never-ending judgments fills him with doubt and he has to work against the clock to achieve his goal as he knows that one’s true identity is what matters most to them.

IF YOU WERE ME (Canada, 14 minutes)
Dir: Ingrid Veninger

Intimate, awkward, anxious and uncertain, a young couple ask each other questions with the hopes of becoming closer.

IN UTERO (France, 20 minutes)
Dir: Yann Tivrier

“It’s our child I’m carrying, it’s not a disease”. Alice’s pregnancy is not going as planned. Leo, on the other hand, does not wonder anymore about the father he could have become. After a last appointment, the couple decides to isolate themselves for one evening. Alice desperately hopes to find Leo’s support.

INSIDE MY HEART (Canada, 2 minutes)
Dir: Elisa Escalera Aguilera

Inside My Heart centres on a baby girl who is in gestation. She might not be growing inside a belly, but she is growing inside a heart that already dreams of her arrival.

JAAGRAN (India, 19 minutes)
Dirs: Hardik Sadhwani, Ritviq Joshi

Desperate and frustrated by the stale monotony of his life, Rameshwar, a naive auto rickshaw driver, decides to trade in a good night’s sleep for a chance to earn a quick buck, while his family’s future hangs in the balance.

JACKSON (UK, 17 minutes)
Dir: Emma Miranda Moore

Teenager Amira avoids a haunted house visit using her unique imagination. ‘Jackson’ is a rainbow-hued onion of memory and invented story – the layers of which are revealed by someone who wouldn’t have thought of telling you anything is wrong.

KAYAK (France, 6 minutes)
Dirs: Solène Bosseboeuf, Flore Dechorgnat, Tiphaine Klein, Auguste Lefort, Antoine Rossi

A father and his baby’s kayak outing along a peaceful river turns out to be a real family adventure.

KEEPERS (Italy, 7 minutes)
Dir: Massimo Garavini

In a land wild and out of time, a curious lonely girl finds some strange yellow objects. Connecting with them and the surroundings, she will develop her own identity. Keepers is a suggestive representation about recognising and preserve the concept of beauty.

KHADIGA (Egypt, 20 minutes)
Dir: Morad Mostafa

Khadiga, a young 16 year-old mother, lives alone with her baby after her husband leaves to work in a remote city; in an ordinary day she makes her way through the hustle of Cairo streets to do some visits where she feels uncomfortable with the surroundings.

KOWALSKY (Luxembourg, 14 minutes)
Dir: Émile V. Schlesser

Once a wealthy family, the Kowalskys’ fortune is gradually falling apart. When the only son comes begging his widowed mother for help, an ugly row escalates between the two; one that forces both of them to absurd choices and cruel deeds. A darkly twisted satire about the toxic masquerade between a mother and her son.

LUW (Netherlands, 8 minutes)
Dir: Jos van Meerveld

Bram is a father and husband of a loving wife, living in the Bible Belt. One afternoon, he goes into the woods to have sex with another man. Afterwards, Bram notices that he’s being watched by the eight year old Tess. Later that night Tess shows up at the front door to pick up her sports bag. Bram proposes to drive her, even though secretly he has ulterior motives.

MAMMA (Norway, 15 minutes)
Dir: Aslak Danbolt

It’s Christmas Eve, and Synnøve is searching for her drug-addicted daughter Michelle in an almost desolated city. (Synnøve and Michelle are mother and daughter in real life and play versions of themselves in a story that is very close to their own lives.)

MURDER TONGUE (Pakistan, 18 minutes)
Dir: Ali Sohail Jaura

It is May of 1992. The state sanctioned “Operation” has put the city of Karachi in constant unrest. Abdul Aziz Ansari wakes up at night and is informed by his daughter-in-law Naseema that his son hasn’t returned home. As a knock on their door later at night summons them to the hospital, what they witness along the way is known today as the most brutal chapter of the city’s history, a sentiment of hatred towards their race, deep rooted beneath the system.

ON THE SURFACE (Iceland, 4 minutes)
Dir: Fan Sissoko

A young Black woman goes swimming in the Icelandic sea and reflects on her experience of raising a child in a country that feels nothing like home. As she enters the freezing water, she relives her traumatic pregnancy. Being in the wild and facing her fears is helping her heal.

Dir: Manon Testud

They meet in the dark of the night. Women, sisters, friends: a feminist group gathering to leave writings on the walls of Montreal. Their challenge: raise awareness to end systemic violence endured by women and minorities. Plain collages for a strong message: feminicides must stop!

OPÉRATION CARCAJOU (Canada, 18 minutes)
Dir: Nicolas Krief

A police search disturbs the peace and quiet of a suburban family and arouses suspicions in Nicolas about his father Sylvain, a secret man with suspicious activities.

PISCINE PRO (Canada, 8 minutes)
Dir: Alec Pronovost

Freshly graduated from his bachelor’s degree in history and civilization, Charles-Olivier struggles to find a job in his field and must fall back on accepting a position as a clerk in a pool shop. Feeling down, he navigates his new profession as best he can.

RUMINATION (Canada, 3 minutes)
Dir: Ashleigh Vaillancourt

At night, a woman’s mind wanders as she chops firewood.

SCARING WOMEN AT NIGHT (Canada, 11 minutes)
Dir: Karimah Zakia Issa

Two strangers are scared on a late walk home. As they try to escape one another, their worlds collide at an intersection forcing them to question who they’re afraid of and why.

SEULE TOD (USA, 9 minutes)
Dir: Jim Middleton

A disgruntled man finds that a shave will not make him gruntled, and even our own demons must obey the first law of thermodynamics. Destinations are arbitrary – it is always about the journey.

SHE KEEPS ME (Canada, 16 minutes)
Dir: Erica Orofino

The strained relationship between two sisters reaches a dangerous climax in this exploration of family ties, mental illness, and self sacrifice.

SHORELINE SOCIALITES (Canada, 10 minutes)
Dir: Inder Nirwan

Cormorants have long been maligned and killed based on misleading and inaccurate claims by extremist angling organizations. Thousands of beautiful birds are maimed and killed needlessly every year. This film is part of a larger advocacy campaign and was developed to dispel the myths about these beautiful birds and help the audience gain a new understanding and appreciation of why cormorants belong in our Great Lakes ecosystem and should be celebrated rather than killed.

SIDERAL (France, 15 minutes)
Dir: Carlos Segundo

In Natal, in northeast Brazil, the country is preparing to launch its first manned spaceship. A couple lives with their two children near the space centre; the husband is a mechanic while the wife is a cleaning lady, who dreams of other horizons.

Dir: Jessie Posthumus

Izzy is a queer writer from Toronto. After quitting hockey as an embarrassed pre-teen, they tell the story of joining a women’s community league to gain confidence and access to a community they deeply value. In a culture that habitually rewards perfection and performance, Small Congratulations is a whimsically poignant story about a young person who sucks at their hobby – hockey – and finds joy in it anyway. Failure is wrapped up in so much baggage – anxiety, stress, intimidation, and social pressure. This doc short is about embracing failure and unlocking a powerful and innovative tool for supporting mental health – letting go of judgement and sucking at what you love.

STAGNANT (Poland, 18 minutes)
Dir: Konrad Kultys

Tough skinhead Adam ignores his disability; despite it he tries to dominate his loved ones. A decision by his caring brother to change jobs pushes Adam to reconsider his situation and to face up to his own limitations.

THE DIAMOND (Sweden, 14 minutes)
Dir: Vedran Rupic

Stefan is lonely with a blinding ambition to make friends. One day he stumbles upon a diamond in the woods. Unable to reach it, the solution presents itself in the form of an even smaller man.

Dir: Mat Sheldon

Years after giving up her newborn son for adoption, a woman confronts her trauma and memories of the man she calls ‘my monster’.

THE FURNITURE (LE MOBILIER) (Belgium, 16 minutes)
Dir: Mehdi Pierret

A contemporary art gallery organizes an exhibition presenting several art performances. The cleaning lady Ilidia has trouble understanding the aim of such performances and gets irritated by the visitors’ behaviours.The evening could end badly.

THE MOLT (LA MUE) (France, 15 minutes)
Dir: Willy Orr

Ashille and Steve lost their dad recently. They have to sell his house. Yet Ashille lives in his father’s place, lost in his grief. He doesn’t clean anything and smokes joints in front of childish cartoons. Yet, he will discover that he is not alone in this house. Some bedbugs are in his mattress. They start to persecute him. He’ll soon need his brother’s help to go over this difficult situation.

THE NIGHT WATCH (RONDE DE NUIT) (Belgium, 12 minutes)
Dir: Julien Regnard

A couple rushes out of a glamorous party. On their way home, an argument leads to a brutal car accident. When George regains consciousness, Christina has disappeared. He will then experience a real descent into hell.

THE PAINTING (LE TABLEAU) (Switzerland, 14 minutes)
Dir: Ludo Jaccard

On a Sunday afternoon, a father convene his wife and their two children in the living room. They need to make an important decision: Where to hang the painting he just bought? Facing both his family’s lack of interest and the technical issues related to the hanging, the father will find himself swept away by an existential crisis.

THE SEA CALLS FOR ME (Indonesia, 17 minutes)
Dir: Tumpal Tampubolon

Sura lives alone in the fishing village, waiting for his father to return home. When one day he finds an inflatable sex doll, he finds a companion and a surrogate parent. But this companionship is threatened by Argo, who wants to take it away from Sura.

WARSHA (France, 16 minutes)
Dir: Dania Bdeir

Mohammad is a crane operator working in Beirut. One morning he volunteers to take on one of the tallest and notoriously most dangerous cranes in Lebanon. Away from everyone’s eyes, he is able to live out his secret passion and find freedom.

2021 Festival Awards

Our fourth annual festival was held last month, virtually once again across Canada. I’m so grateful to our staff, volunteers, audience, and especially to our filmmakers, and I want to recognize those films awarded by our juries and audience. Thank you to all our jury members for their hard work and for lending us their expertise. Congratulations to these filmmakers but also to all the rest of the filmmakers who allowed us to share their work during the festival. Toronto Canada enjoyed watching your films and we can’t wait to see what you’re working on next!

Award Winners 2021

Best Narrative Short


Dir: Tomasz Wolski

Jury statement: “The jury was really impressed by the film’s skilful execution, authentic performances, and ability to bring something fresh to the single-take format by emphasizing the interwoven nature of our lives. By bookending the narrative with a child’s innocent view of these events, the film generates unexpected layers of complexity. It sparks audience conversations by shining a light on how thes characters are wrapped up in their own perspectives and unable to acknowledge what connects them.”

Best Documentary Short

Since You Arrived My Heart Stopped Belonging To Me

Since You Arrived My Heart Stopped Belonging To Me
Dir: Erin Semine Kökdil

Jury statement: “The jury’s decision for the winning film is testament to Mothers’ enduring love as well as their unwavering and unselfish strength. Emotional and heartbreaking, this documentary gives insight into Latin America’s socio-political corridors that have ramifications for families of the most vulnerable.”

Special Mention Joe Buffalo
Dir: Amar Chebib

Jury statement: “The documentary that the jury unanimously feels exemplifies Gandhi’s axiom of being the change one wants to see in society. Topical and heartwarming all at once, it speaks of not just overcoming your personal traumas, but being a beacon of learning and self preservation for future generations.”

Best Animated Short

Love Is Just A Death Away

Love Is Just A Death Away
Dir: Bára Anna Stejskalová

Jury statement: “For being so unique and innovative and imaginative, and also gross, but beautiful at the same time. We’re so excited to see what this filmmaker does next.”

Special Mention: To The Last Drop
Dir: Simon Schnellman

Jury statement: “For telling such a deep and powerful story in such a simple and entertaining way.”

Best Canadian Short

Joe Buffalo

Joe Buffalo
Dir: Amar Chebib

Festival Director statement: “This award is given in memory of Anthony Turk McCourt. Tony was a close family friend of mine while I was growing up, and I’m pleased to have his memory associated with excellence in Canadian filmmaking. Joe Buffalo is a devastating but hopeful portrait of an indigenous man who suffered through the trauma of the residential school system, but who emerged from years of addiction and homelessness through his dedication to skateboarding and the community he found there.”

Audience Award


Dir: Pablo de la Chica

Festival Director statement: “This wonderful film shines a light on the work of the brave and compassionate Mama Zawaldi and her colleagues at the Lwiro Primates Rehabilitation Centre in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her loving and tireless service helping baby chimpanzees recover from trauma made a strong impression on all of us who saw the film.”

Full 2021 Lineup Revealed

Here’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. I’m delighted to share the full lineup for our 2021 (virtual) festival, which will be screened online all across Canada from November 19-28 on the Eventive Virtual platform. Thanks are in order to our amazing programming team: Linda Taillon, Keith Klegman, Cameron Carpenter, Amanda Clarke, Diana Sernick, Shelagh Rowan-Legg, Isabel Cupryn, Caterina Micci, KJ Tommy, Ariane Molinatti, Sylvia Zhang, Iris Bagola, Carolyn Dunk, Kyle McCarthy, Brennan Tilley, Hillary Butler, Romina Garcia, Alessandro Romano, and Alan McLane. I couldn’t have done it without your help!

Tickets and passes are on sale now, and you can also see the schedule and the film guide at our festival mini-site. Hope you’ll join us in November!

70 films from 33 countries. Narrative films (43), documentaries (14), and animated films (13); something for everyone. Some other facts: 15 Canadian films, 34 films directed by women, 11 student films.

2021 Festival Poster (Red/Blue)

1-800-D-DIRECT (UK, 11 minutes)
Dir: Clare Macdonald

Joyce and Frances work at 1-800-D-Direct, the latest and greatest dishwasher sales company in 1960s Manhattan. But when a customer is given the wrong data, the women must navigate her out of a life or death situation.

2019 (France, 3 minutes)
Dir: Julie Boutteville

“Imagination is what tends to become real.” – André Breton

AL-SIT (Sudan, 20 minutes)
Dir: Suzannah Mirghani

In a cotton-farming village in Sudan, 15-year-old Nafisa has a crush on Babiker, but her parents have arranged her marriage to Nadir, a young Sudanese businessman living abroad. Nafisa’s grandmother Al-Sit, the powerful village matriarch, has her own plans for Nafisa’s future. But can Nafisa choose for herself?

AMISSA ANIMA (Australia, 15 minutes)
Dir: Tatiana Doroshenko

Four boys survive on the night streets of St Kilda in the 1980s, turning tricks for a feed and drugs. The fragile balance is broken when an act of betrayal pushes them to perform an unspeakable act. Based on true events.

APOSTASY, OR UNTITLED FILM #1 (Brazil, 10 minutes)
Dir: Marcelo Mattina

Dante, a young man who has just lost his father, tries to convince his friend Angela that they are both characters in a movie and that his Dad’s funeral is nothing more than a cinematic fabrication.

ARABACCIU (France, 20 minutes)
Dir: Alexandre Oppecini

One night, in a bar in Corsica, Stella drowns her loneliness in red wine. She helps Hakim, young Moroccan immigrant worker accused of stealing a phone. An unexpected and poetic encounter, getting her out of her difficult reality.

ARKA (Croatia, 15 minutes)
Dir: Natko Stipanicev

A grandiose transoceanic cruise ship sailing the seas.

BABLINGA (Burkina Faso/France, 15 minutes)
Dir: Fabien Dao

Moktar always said that when he shuts his bar Bablinga down, he will return to Burkina. The day has arrived, but he’s not really ready to leave. Despite himself, ghosts invite themselves to celebrate a last evening.

BAD SEEDS (MAUVAISES HERBES) (Canada, 6 minutes)
Dir: Claude Cloutier

Bad Seeds takes us to a bizarre world populated by carnivorous plants that can change shapes the way a chameleon changes colours. The veteran director of Carface deftly connects growth with rivalry and evolution with competition, crafting an increasingly shocking duel that’s peppered with allusions to the western, the Cold War, board games, and much more.

Dir: Michael Basta

Bernard checks himself into a motel for yet another one of his business trips. When he accidentally stumbles into the wrong motel room, he meets a couple with a mischievous proposition. What at first seems enticing soon becomes fraught with tension as simmering conflicts between the lovers flare up, leaving Bernard to play unwitting mediator to their messy drama.

Dir: Henning Backhaus

Ingbert, the sock, applies for a position as double bass player at the Vienna State Orchestra. Bad idea.

THE BEYOND (L’AU-DELÀ) (Switzerland, 10 minutes)
Dir: Daniel Maurer

The second wave of Covid significantly increased mortality in hospitals. What does this mean for the work of Mathieu, employed in the morgue of a regional hospital center? How does he relate to these people whose souls have recently left their bodies?

THE BLACK VEIL (Qatar, 17 minutes)
Dir: A.J. Al-Thani

Reem, a young Iraqi woman, escapes her home in the middle of the night. She lives in Mosul after being forced to marry an ISIS soldier. Reem finds help in a taxi driver named Ahmed to help her escape Mosul and find her family again.

BLUE BISON (USA, 18 minutes)
Dirs: Camrus Johnson, Stefano Pennisi

A group of vigilantes abducts wrongdoers and coerces them into confessions, forcing them back on the straight and narrow. Tonight their attempt at justice has unexpected consequences.

BRIDGING THE GAP (UK, 7 minutes)
Dirs: Nina Ross, Meg Barrett

Age 18 Meg started hearing a voice. She tried ignoring it, didn’t tell a soul, yet the voice grew. More abusive, more delusional and often completely out of her control. Eventually, her paranoia wore her down. She experienced “an explosion of mental health,” followed by years of medical intervention and institutions.

Bridging the Gap offers a snapshot of Meg’s world as she grapples with the boundaries between her internal delusions and her everyday life. This film will challenge your perspective on hearing voices, open your eyes on medicalization, and beg the question “what even is reality?”

THE BRIGHT FIRE (China, 15 minutes)
Dir: Zoe Zou

Two young cousins find a wonderland outside of their unstable families, without knowing the friendship they have will eventually come to an end.

DON’T BE SUCH A WUSS (FAIS PA TA VICTIME) (France, 14 minutes)
Dir: Julian Sarica Polo

Hugo is a frail young boy who is being harrassed by a gang of older teenagers. On the first day of school vacation, one of his bullies shows up at his house unannounced.

ELECTRIC BODIES (France, 15 minutes)
Dir: Antoine Janot

In a future where human memory is recorded on cards and biomechanical bodies are replaced by biological ones, anyone can change appearance following their mood, as long as they can afford it. But people who can not continue to rent their expensive bodies are forced to abandon them. This is what threatens Emma Beaufort.

EMPTY SEATS (Germany, 3 minutes)
Dir: Anne Rietmeijer

An empty seat in an empty theatre decides to go and search for people.

EXCLUDED BY DESIGN (Canada, 4 minutes)
Dirs: Simon Madore, Gabriel Tougas

Writer and community organizer Dave Meslin thinks that bad public notices are hurting our democracy – and he’s calling on graphic designers to show us what we’re missing.

The film was produced by Hot Docs through the Citizen Minutes initiative.

FALL OF THE IBIS KING (Ireland, 10 minutes)
Dirs: Mikai Geronimo, Josh O’Caoimh

The antagonist of a dark opera becomes increasingly unsettled following the unlikely return of the former lead actor.

FORGET ME NOT (USA, 7 minutes)
Dirs: Courtney LeBlanc, Saige Guevara

In an attempt to preserve her legacy, a cartoon classic wages war on her rebooted counterpart.

GET OUT OF MY HEAD (Canada, 11 minutes)
Dir: Pamela Fuller

A short film about a girl who needs to learn that in order to be understood and truly liked she needs to “get out of her head” and be herself.

THE HANDYMAN (Australia, 15 minutes)
Dir: Nicholas Clifford

Alone at her country estate, Evelyn attempts to end her life but is interrupted by the arrival of an awkward but endearing handyman. Evelyn’s desire to make him leave collides with his need of a job and Evelyn discovers the Handyman has problems of his own.

HIT THE ROAD, EGG! (Germany, 1 minute)
Dir: Sabine Redlich

What happens after ovulation? I mean, really! This animated short invites you to see the journey of an ovum in a rather fantastic way.

HOME (Netherlands, 13 minutes)
Dir: Guust Mulder

A black comedy about Dirk, a man who buys gadgets to fill his boring life. On a typical evening, he finds out that the relationship of trust with his AI devices is not as reliable as he thought. Can he fix his worsening situation? Or has he already exposed too much of himself to his devices?

HOMEBIRD (UK, 10 minutes)
Dir: Ewa Smyk

Struggling to make it in a big city, a young artist finds herself retreating into the rose-tinted memories of the village she left behind.

HOMESTEAD (Canada, 9 minutes)
Dir: DC Dzoja

A man looks back on his life in an intimate interview with his granddaughter.

HOUSE OF FORTUNE (Iran, 16 minutes)
Dir: Adel Mashoori

Rahil Mohajer was buried alive by her husband and her father on her wedding night because they thought she wasn’t a virgin.

HYPERSTITION (France, 6 minutes)
Dir: Stéphane Chis, Maxime Chuchana

Two superstitious people, two parallel lives and a strange day where one’s little games have the power to change fate. What if it was enough to walk on the tiles without touching the lines to make our wishes come true?

I AM AFRAID TO FORGET YOUR FACE (Egypt/France, 15 minutes)
Dir: Sameh Alaa

After being separated for 82 days, Adam travels down a rough road to be reunited with the one he loves, whatever it takes.

J’AI LE CAFARD (Kuwait, 14 minutes)
Dir: Maysaa Almumin

A woman in a downhearted mood struggles to keep up appearances in front of her chirpy and driven office colleagues. An encounter with a dying cockroach in the office toilet develops into an absurd friendship, becoming the comforting companionship she needs until she realizes its destructive effects on her life.

JOE BUFFALO (Canada, 16 minutes)
Dir: Amar Chebib

Joe Buffalo is an Indigenous skateboard legend. He’s also a survivor of Canada’s notorious Indian Residential School system. Following a traumatic childhood and decades of addiction, Joe must face his inner demons to realize his dream of turning pro.

Dir: David Le Meur

In his small cinema full of posters of X-rated movies and 35mm reels from the 1970s to the 2000s, Maurice Laroche evolves like a guardian from another time. The “Beverley,” the last pornographic cinema in Paris, will definitely close its doors. It’s an opportunity for Maurice to get lost in his memories, to think about his customers he has known for forty years, and finally to prepare for the fateful moment.

Dir: Annie St-Pierre

December 24, 1983, 10:50PM; Julie and her cousins have eaten too much sugar, Santa Claus is late and Denis, alone in his car, is anxious at the idea of setting foot in his ex-in-law’s house to pick up his children. The film is an early coming-of-age that is as awkward as it is poetic.

THE LITTLE DEATH (Canada, 12 minutes)
Dir: Antoine Rail

Leo goes out on a date not knowing that he is walking directly into a trap.

THE LOAD (IL FAGOTTO) (Italy, 15 minutes)
Dir: Giulia Giapponesi

The low birth rate is making one town disappear. The government is imposing measures, and not just psychological ones. Females who don’t contribute to the demographic future of the country are seen as a problem to resolve, thus every year they are called to declare to a government office the reason why they haven’t had any babies in the last twelve months. In an out of time world, that reminds us more with every passing day, Bianca and Vittoria are at the opposite ends of their fertility time. Their acquaintance forces them to choose in an instant the direction of their future: any choice will result in a radical change of their destiny.

LONG DISTANCE (Israel, 20 minutes)
Dir: Or Sinai

Rachel is losing her sight to the point she can’t even manage doing the smallest daily functions, like dialing the phone. She opens her door to passing strangers, on a tiny but significant journey, to reach out to her daughter, on the other side of the world.

LOVE IS JUST A DEATH AWAY (Czech Republic, 12 minutes)
Dir: Bára Anna Stejskalová

A tender story about finding love even amid utter decay.

MAMA (Spain, 30 minutes)
Dir: Pablo de la Chica

At the the Lwiro Primates Rehabilitation Centre (CRPL) in the Democratic Republic of Congo for traumatized baby chimpanzees, Mama Zawaldi embodies the healing power of love. “The bond of love is key to everything,” Mama Zawaldi insists, in this hauntingly beautiful landscape with its shadow of horror.

MAMA (Canada, 10 minutes)
Dir: John Edwards

A mother and son struggle to survive in a vast wilderness, exploring the divine connection between motherhood and Mother Earth.

A Spanish language short film, starring a real life mother and son, written and directed by their husband and father. Filmed off the coast of Vancouver Island, Canada. Created by Canadian, Colombian and Maltese filmmakers.

MOON (LUNE) (Canada, 15 minutes)
Dir: Zoé Pelchat

Babz Dubreuil, a lonely ex-convict, works as a cook in a brunch restaurant. Encouraged by a colleague, she asks an attractive customer on a date. It might be the beginning of redemption.

MUSTACHIO (SNORRIE) (Netherlands, 12 minutes)
Dir: Victoria Warmerdam

An absurd tragicomedy about thirty-something Freek, who is reuniting with his imaginary friend from the past, who is looking for closure.

MY MOTHER’S GIRLFRIEND (India, 15 minutes)
Dir: Arun Fulara

Renuka and Sadiya, two working-class women in love with each other, enjoy their day out celebrating Renuka’s birthday. After a fun-filled day, they head home to spend the night together. But unknown to them, Renuka’s son, Mangesh, is around.

Dir: Nina Doré

In an orphanage lost in the middle of the mountains, little girls have never known the outside world. Anna, a ten-year-old girl, wants to be free.

PAIN (New Zealand, 9 minutes)
Dir: Anna Rose Duckworth

A young girl has an earth-shattering realization that her father is not invincible, after a cricket accident exposes his vulnerability.

PERSONALS (Canada, 13 minutes)
Dir: Sasha Argirov

When an encounter at a glory hole sparks an unexpected connection, two socially anxious loners must risk vulnerability to find the intimacy they yearn for.

PIMENTO! (USA, 6 minutes)
Dir: Caleb Carl Nelson

Pimento! follows a tiny goblin’s misadventures as she’s sent out on a special errand: stealing from the sprawling human-populated metropolis Ballyhoo! Only time will tell if she’s enough of a monster to commit heinous crimes, or if her moral compass will stand in her way!

THE PIRANHAS (LAS PIRAÑAS) (Colombia, 14 minutes)
Dir: Anderson Ascanio

Juan Pablo (16) lives with a dysfunctional family feeling very distant from them. His parents work in a weird business for which he must deliver packages. Richard, his sister’s boyfriend, invites him to join a garage band that Juan Pablo cannot stand anymore, so he decides to run away.

THE PRATT IN THE HAT (USA, 15 minutes)
Dir: Susan Hillary

Beneath the brims of hundreds of colourful hats is a woman who shares her wisdom, humour, and personal experiences about being black in America, then and now. Frances Pratt’s hats make a bold statement as do her Southern charm and pithy expressions which she gathered from a lifetime of service to her community fighting for racial equality, voting rights and education.

PROBLEM (Poland, 15 minutes)
Dir: Tomasz Wolski

A seemingly normal afternoon in the city gets disrupted as passers-by are temporarily unhinged from their daily business. A man lying on the pavement becomes a problem not only for the local tenants, but also medical services and the police.

REMANENT (RÉMANENTE) (Canada, 10 minutes)
Dir: Alexandre Mullen

After environmental collapse confines people indoors, survivors cling on to the past through a digital recreation of the cities of yesterday. Every day, Zack chases the same elusive jogger, a programmed background character modeled after a woman he used to know.

ROBERTO (Spain, 9 minutes)
Dir: Carmen Córdoba González

Fifteen years have passed and Roberto is still in love with his neighbour, but she prefers to hide, ashamed of her body. With his art and an old clothesline as the only means of communication, Roberto has a plan to push his beloved to face her monsters at last.

ROSA (Canada, 19 minutes)
Dirs: Jean-Michel Gervais, Gabriel J. Lemay

After being touched by a patient’s story, a psychiatrist learns the hard way that appearances are sometimes deceptive.

SCARS (Canada, 10 minutes)
Dir: Alex Anna

Alex Anna’s body is a canvas : her scars come to life to tell a new story of self-harming. Live action and animation intertwine in this short and poetic documentary, both intimate and universal.

THE SCHOOL BELL (Canada, 4 minutes)
Dir: Delaram Majdzadeh

Based on a true story (kind of…). A young girl goes to an all-girls’ middle school in Iran while secretly bringing in her manga with her. One day her friend finds out and chaos ensues.

THE SCHOOL BUS (SERVIS) (Turkey, 14 minutes)
Dir: Ramazan Kılıç

Nebahat, a teacher in her 20s, has just been appointed to a rural village school in Anatolia. She realizes that her students are struggling to arrive at school, hitchhiking on tractors, using whatever means they can find. She asks the Ministry of Education for a shuttle, but without a driver, the vehicle is useless. So, she decides to be the bus driver for her students, but she does not know how to drive!

Dir: Erin Semine Kökdil

Central American mothers journey by bus through Mexico, searching for their children who migrated north towards the United States but disappeared en route.

SQUISH (SPRÖTCH) (Belgium, 20 minutes)
Dir: Xavier Seron

Flo has to go to Marrakech for work. Tom takes care of Sam, their five-year-old son. When he forgets about Sam’s guitar lesson, Flo calls to blame him about it. Tom hates to be caught. He takes Sam with him and drives out of the garage at full speed. “Sprötch”… Tom has just run over something.

Dir: Daniel Rodríguez Risco

In the square and tidy universe of an unconventional family, Mother is the guardian of order and Junior the distorting agent. A house where everything that doesn’t fit, goes to waste.

STILL PROCESSING (Canada, 17 minutes)
Dir: Sophy Romvari

A box of stunning family photos awakens grief and lost memories as they are viewed for the first time on camera. Filmmaker Sophy Romvari documents her first-hand experience as an exploration into cinema as therapy in this nonfiction short.

SUNGURA (RABBIT) (Kenya, 20 minutes)
Dir: Lydia Matata

A woman with a disability wants to buy a vibrator from a traditional sexologist, or senga during a friend’s bridal shower; but she must confront other women at the party who believe that she is non-sexual because she uses a wheelchair, so shouldn’t need a vibrator in the first place.

TIME TO VOTE (VOTAMOS) (Spain, 14 minutes)
Dir: Santiago Requejo Lopez-Mateos

What begins as an ordinary board meeting in a traditional apartment building to vote to repair the elevator turns into an unexpected debate about the limits of peaceful coexistence.

Dir: Simon Schnellmann

In the rhythm of the dripping chemo, an IV-pole fights for the life of a cancer patient.

Dir: Hüseyin Aydin Gürsoy

Due to unpaid wages, Elif and her husband are deep in debt. Elif’s husband wants to return to Turkey, but she believes there’s a better future for her son in France.

WAR AND HONEY (Ukraine, 7 minutes)
Dir: Matthew Ritenour

Soldiers returning from the frontlines in eastern Ukraine are facing many difficulties reintegrating into society. Thousands have lost their jobs, their family members or their homes. Many are struggling with mental health issues and social stigmas. With a grant from the IFRC, Pavlograd Legion has taken a unique approach in supporting veterans to get back on their feet.

WASHING MACHINE (Czech Republic, 5 minutes)
Dir: Alexandra Májová

Wash and love.

WE HAVE ONE HEART (Poland, 11 minutes)
Dir: Katarzyna Warzecha

After his mother dies, Adam comes across some letters his parents exchanged years ago. This is an opportunity for him to find out more about his father, who he never knew. The juxtaposition of animated drawings and archival material takes us back forty years and enables us to uncover an extraordinary family secret.

WE STAY IN THE HOUSE (USA, 15 minutes)
Dir: Kiyoko McCrae

We Stay In the House provides an intimate portrait of four mothers in New Orleans as they struggle to care for their families and themselves throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Between taking care of their children, finding time to work, and coping with personal loss and health crises, these women’s stories represent the lived realities of millions of mothers in America.

WORLD CUP (Iran, 18 minutes)
Dir: Maryam Khodabaksh

On the night of a couple’s migration, the child of their friend who has been entrusted to them gets lost, and then a secret is revealed.

2020 Festival Awards

Our third annual festival was held last month, virtually across Canada, and once more exceeded my expectations. I’m grateful to our staff, volunteers, audience, and especially to our filmmakers, and I want to recognize those films awarded by our juries and audience. Thank you to all our jury members for their hard work and for lending us their expertise. Congratulations to these filmmakers but also to all the rest of the filmmakers who allowed us to share their work during the festival. Toronto Canada enjoyed watching your films and we can’t wait to see what you’re working on next!

Award Winners 2020

Best Narrative Film

El tamaño de las cosas [poster image]

The Size of Things (El tamaño de las cosas) (Dir: Carlos Felipe Montoya)

Jury statement: A child’s world is often filled with the unexpected and unexplained. The winning work immerses us in the beautiful Colombian countryside, into the loving home shared by an indigenous father and his young son. The director has crafted a memorable film whose stunning production design and incredible camerawork enhances its deeply original story that is in equal measures tender, prosaic, and magical. It reminds us of the power and possibility embedded in every child.

Best Documentary Film

Huntsville Station [poster image]

Huntsville Station (Dirs: Chris Filippone, Jamie Meltzer)

Jury statement: For its humane, compassionate approach, intimate storytelling and patient craft in capturing a moment of freedom and the uncertain future that awaits, the Best Short Documentary award goes to Huntsville Station.

Best Animated Film

Freeze Frame [poster image]

Freeze Frame (Dir: Soetkin Verstegen)

Jury statement: With stunning cinematography and haunting sound design, this film expresses the beauty, fragility, and impermanence of not only ice, but life itself. It’s difficult to imagine a more unforgiving medium for animation than one that is in constant danger of melting into nothingness. This short film is not only a remarkable achievement in its own right, but with its nods to the pioneering work of Eadweard Muybridge, it is also a fitting celebration of animation itself and of film’s ability to capture and preserve motion.

Audience Award

The Vasectomy Doctor [poster image]

The Vasectomy Doctor (Dir: Paul Webster)

There was also a jury special mention in one category:

  • Special Mention (Narrative): Idols Never Die (Dir: Jerome Yoo)

Jury statement: It is rare, especially now, to find a short that is so breezy, smart, and full of pop sensibility, one that appeals to our nostalgia and yet feels incredibly fresh. Jerome Yoo’s Idols Never Die manages to do all those things with the potentially dark, pulled-from-the-headlines subject of tragic K-Pop idols and their devoted uber-fans. Its energetic cinematography and performances made for an exciting and stylish watch, complemented by a screenplay that goes to the mushy heart of the heightened emotions and complex hierarchies of teen friendship.