Tag Archives: TIFF

TIFF 2014 Expands Shorts Programming

As the largest film festival in our city, TIFF really leads the way when it comes to smart programming. So we were happy to hear that for the first time in their history, the festival was adding a programme of international shorts to the their always-excellent Short Cuts Canada selection of Canadian shorts. Magali Simard and Alex Rogalski make the Canadian selections, while Kathleen McInnis (of Palm Springs Shortfest) and Shane Smith join Magali in picking the international slate. Now that both lineups have been announced, here are a few highlights:

Still from An Apartment

Directors: Sarah Galea-Davis | Canada 2014 | 17:00

After a long bout of unemployment, 55-year-old Paul is forced to move in with his brother. As he faces a job market that has no time for him, the life he is trying to reclaim keeps receding. An incisive and merciless character study of a man in transition. What his life will become is uncertain and a happy outcome isn’t guaranteed.

Still from Day 40

DAY 40
Director: Sol Friedman | Canada 2014 | 6:00

In this animated retelling of the Noah’s Ark story, various unholy activities fill the great ship, as the animals discover the darker side of their nature. Sol Friedman’s previous short Beasts of the Real World (2013) was also selected to show at TIFF, while Junko’s Shamisen (2010) picked up awards at both Toronto After Dark and Reel Asian. Check out the naughty trailer!

Still from Mynarski Death Plummet

Directors: Matthew Rankin | Canada 2014 | 8:00

Reminiscent of Guy Maddin’s The Heart of the World in its use of early propaganda film techniques, Mynarski Death Plummet portrays the final moments of World War II airman Andrew Mynarksi, whose bomber is shot down in 1944. TIFF calls it “a heritage minute on acid.” Check out the trailer.

Still from A Tomb with a View

Director: Ryan Noth | Canada 2014 | 7:00

Santos, Brazil is the home of the world’s tallest vertical cemetery. The superintendent of this high-rise is Pepe Altuistut, who shows us that since our way of living has changed, so must the way we house those no longer living.

Still from Boogaloo and Graham

Director: Michael Lennox | UK (Northern Ireland) 2014 | 14:00

In 1970s Belfast, Jamesy and Malachy are over the moon when their soft-hearted Dad presents them with two baby chicks to care for, but the two boys are in for a shock when their parents announce that big changes are coming to the family.

Still from everything & everything & everything

Director: Alberto Roldan | USA 2014 | 15:00

The oppressively vapid life of Morgan is forever transformed when a mystical blue pyramid — that inexplicably produces doorknobs — appears in his apartment. What follows is a Charlie Kaufman-esque tale of greed and loss as Morgan builds an impossible, absurd corporate empire of doorknobs. See the trailer.

Still from Seven Boats

Director: Hlynur Pálmason | Denmark/Iceland 2014 | 10:00

In a single, black-and-white 360-degree shot that traverses seven boats surrounding a man lost at sea, director Hlynur Pálmason crafts a simple yet potent statement about mankind’s struggle to survive.

Still from Tatuapé Mahal Tower

Directors: Carolina Markowicz, Fernanda Salloum | Brazil 2014 | 10:00

An existential drama set in a scale model-sized São Paulo, this animated short follows Javier Juarez Garcia, who abandons his tiresome job with a residential tower developer and makes a life-changing decision — but even the new possibilities he discovers are not enough to wipe out his desire for revenge against those who have betrayed him. The teaser looks fascinating.

Of course, these are just a handful of the selections. Check out the full Short Cuts Canada and Short Cuts International programmes on the TIFF site. And a big thank you to TIFF for permission to use all of the images from the films. Since our next screening isn’t until October, why not show the big film festival in town that you support short films and short filmmakers!

TIFF 2012 Shorts: A (Generous) Selection

(cross-posted from my other blog Toronto Screen Shots)

One of the more unique aspects of the Toronto International Film Festival is that its shorts programme is all-Canadian. And it’s a great showcase for young Canadian talent. Some of these filmmakers may go on to make features, but as a lover of the short film format, I urge you to appreciate these films for what they are, tiny stories that can only be told in this way.

I’ve been able to watch a good selection from this year’s six programmes and my notes follow:


Lingo (Director: Bahar Noorizadeh, 13 minutes)

Lingo uses a static camera and long shots to sort-of tell the story of a young Afghan boy who inadvertently starts a fire that burns down a neighbour’s house. A misunderstanding lands his non-English-speaking mother an uncomfortable interview with a police interpreter. I want to applaud the daring of the filmmaker, because some of the techniques used are pretty alienating to the audience, but the end result communicates a real sense of confusion and disconnection, even when someone is supposedly speaking your language.

Lingo plays in Short Cuts Canada Programme 1

Life Doesn't Frighten Me

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me (Director: Stephen Dunn, 14 minutes)

The biggest achievement of this film might just be getting both Gordon Pinsent and Sufjan Stevens on board. Pinsent plays the grandfather of Esther, a 13-year-old girl who is mercilessly picked on, even by her “friends.” As her only caregiver, he’s not particularly good at expressing himself, especially when there are “girl things” to be discussed. Though the film began in the key of twee (all the characters dressed in Hallowe’en costumes), it quickly won me over with its relentless toughness, from the absurd cruelty of kids to the harsh advice Esther receives from Grandpa. I love that the end titles are accompanied by a Sufjan Stevens song, too.

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me plays in Short Cuts Canada Programme 2

Asian Gangs

Asian Gangs (Directors: Lewis Bennett and Calum MacLeod, 9 minutes)

Co-director Lewis Bennett revisits an incident from Grade 5, when after a schoolyard fight, his principal warned him to change his ways or he’d “end up in an Asian gang.” Years later, Bennett, as Caucasian as ever, tries to figure out the meaning of the warning. This type of non-fiction “storytelling” short film is very difficult to pull off, and Bennett struggles with the tone, veering from out and out humour to almost public service announcement territory. Re-enacting the fight with his actual opponent is inspired, but talking to a youth worker and a former police officer about gangs bursts the bubble a bit.

Asian Gangs plays in Short Cuts Canada Programme 2


Frost (Director: Jeremy Ball, 13 minutes)

A young Artic hunter sets out on her own to provide food for her family, but when she goes beyond a boundary, she finds herself in a post-apocalyptic city where everything is unfamiliar. Does food come in packages? Is the whirring and buzzing creature she meets predator or prey? Some very slick visual effects, but this felt somewhat light on story and characterization. That being said, I would welcome a longer version and perhaps a grittier visual style where the artic landscape doesn’t look so much like a well-lit soundstage.

Frost plays in Short Cuts Canada Programme 4

When You Sleep

When You Sleep (Director: Ashley McKenzie, 12 minutes)

While I thought Ashley McKenzie’s last short film, Rhonda’s Party, was well-made, I found the story sentimental and slight. Finally directing her own script, McKenzie has made a very different film. Jessie is pregnant and lives joylessly with Sam in a run-down, rodent-infested apartment. The pregnancy is the thinnest thread keeping them together, and when a rat becomes caught in a trap, there’s a power struggle to see who will “take care of it.” Despite the grim subject matter, I found this quite powerful and I liked the rather horrifying shots of rats scuttling around at night. It’s a powerful image of the darkness that the couple can’t seem to face in the daylight.

When You Sleep plays in Short Cuts Canada Programme 4

The Tape

The Tape (Director: Matt Austin Sadowski, 6 minutes)

The casting of Julian Richings (Hard Core Logo) led me to believe that this tale of a man searching for a VCR to play an old VHS tape would be much darker. Instead, the humour of technological obsolescence isn’t really enough to sustain it and the mawkish ending didn’t really work for me, either. But it’s well-made and it is a refreshing change to see Richings with a smile on his face, even if it is somewhat bittersweet.

The Tape plays in Short Cuts Canada Programme 5

Dear Scavengers

Dear Scavengers (Director: Aaron Phelan, 9 minutes)

Pitch perfect casting and just the right amount of sympathy for its cantankerous main character make this one a winner. Hrant Alianak (Pontypool) plays Hector, the owner of a used-appliance store who’s used to a certain amount of solitude. When a seemingly unending stream of tween girls enter his shop in search of a clue for their scavenger hunt, it leads to a hilarious clash of generations and personalities.

Dear Scavengers plays in Short Cuts Canada Programme 6

Chef de meute (Herd Leader)

Chef de meute (Herd Leader) (Director: Chloe Robichaud, 13 minutes)

In this comedy, the humour is dark indeed. When Clara’s spinster aunt dies suddenly, her family suggest she take in the older woman’s pug, since, as a single woman herself, she has time to take care of it. When even the dog seems to boss her around, she turns to a dog trainer for help. In a hilarious sendup of “The Dog Whisperer,” he encourages her to be more assertive. It’s a lesson she takes to her pushy family members. Ève Duranceau plays the put-upon Clara to neurotic perfection, and the pug turns in a pretty impressive performance, too.

Chef de meute (Herd Leader) plays in Short Cuts Canada Programme 6