Short Cuts: TIFF 2012's Canadian Short Films

by Brad Horvath
August 8, 2012 2:38 PM
1 Comment
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The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) has announced the 44 short films that will make up this year's Short Cuts Canada programme.

Here they are in alphabetical order, along with the trailer for the one I am most excited about—Toronto-based Stephen Dunn's coming-of-age comedy Life Doesn't Frighten Me, which (full disclosure) I had the honour of executive producing.

Life Doesn't Frighten Me from Brad Horvath on Vimeo.

100 Musicians Charles Officer, ON, 8’, World Premiere

100 Musicians is a sensual and intimate film. It is a hazy summer night in Kensington market. Sydney and June are in bed, in the afterglow of making love. The tender moment slowly culminates into a social/political quarrel over what they hear on the radio.

A Pretty Funny Story Evan Morgan, ON, 19’, World Premiere

Bored family-man Rick witnesses a neighbour’s embarrassing act and is eager to report the story back to his office chums. The neighbour though, shamed and maniacal, proceeds to threaten and take action against his bully.

American Sisyphus Frieda Luk, ON, 7’, World Premiere

The modern-day Sisyphean sentence is represented here as punishment for gluttony when a dysfunctional family meets over Sunday brunch. A well-designed commentary on an overindulgent society, American Sisyphus addresses a culture’s insatiable consumption.

Asian Gangs Lewis Bennett and Calum MacLeod, ON, 9’

In 1994, Grade 5 student Lewis Bennett got into a schoolyard fight, resulting in a stern warning from his principal “Change your ways, or you’ll end up in an Asian gang.” Seventeen years later, Bennett (still Caucasian) revisits his past to determine if he took a wrong turn along the way.

Aubade (L’Aubade) Carla Susanto, ON, 2’, World Premiere

Engravings from century-old medical textbooks become an animated backdrop to a man’s loving goodbye during his final moments. The fleeting flicker of the monochromatic images resonates with the narrator’s quickening journey as he transitions from one world to another.

Bardo Light Connor Gaston, BC, 11’, World Premiere

Accused of killing his father, a young man claims the television set was the offender. Referring to the yellow light of the hungry ghosts — the light we cannot resist — Bardo Light takes inspiration from the Tibetan Book of the Dead to create the ethereal tale of a modern creation linking all species to another, transcendent world.

Barefoot Danis Goulet, ON, 11’, World Premiere

This coming-of-age tale follows 16-year-old Alyssa, a young Cree girl whose plans to be a mom are challenged by reality. Assured direction and keen insight deliver a powerful depiction of the pressures youth face in isolated communities and their attempts to take control of their lives.

Broken Heart Syndrome Dusty Mancinelli, ON, 16’, World Premiere

After being dumped by his girlfriend while making love, Russ is diagnosed with a rare disease known as BHS (Broken Heart Syndrome). His romance mocked at by a world that never comes to the rescue, Russ needs to find a cure.

Bydlo Patrick Bouchard, QC, 9’, Toronto Premiere

Inspired by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, Bydlo is a staggering visual rendering of the lumbering wooden Polish ox-cart picture. Technically complex (Bouchard animates plasteline) and artistically fiery, Bydlo depicts the cycles of life, the power of man and beast, and both the beauty and horror of labour.

Canoejacked Jonathan Williams, ON, 6’, World Premiere

Two prisoners escape through the woods while being chased by a policeman. They’re in luck: a canoe is left by the waterside, but its owner, a nudist, wants it back. With no plan — and bullets flying in their direction — the trio must find a way out of what they’ve started.

Crackin’ Down Hard Mike Clattenburg, NS, 10’, World Premiere

Pimpin’ ain’t easy. Nowhere is this more true than in the middle of the desert where a young man looking for some meditation and solitary hiking is confronted with a proposition that might be just too hard to resist. Mike Clattenburg’s irreverent sense of humour is showcased in this cautionary and ludicrously funny tale about succumbing to primal urges and the power of suggestion.

The Dancing Cop Kelvin Redvers, BC, 7’, World Premiere

A musical satire tackling the politics of native people in urban centres, The Dancing Cop defies typical social commentary by mirroring the bubbling civic tension between citizens and the powers at play. When a man is wrongly accused of theft and cornered by an overly zealous cop, the latter performs a frighteningly cheery song and dance.

Dear Scavengers Aaron Phelan, ON, 9’, World Premiere

A no-nonsense used-appliance shop owner is forced to contend with a phalanx of tween girls entering his store during a summer camp scavenger hunt. Hrant Alianak’s performance as the anti-social proprietor Hector hits deadpan comedic perfection in this urban tale about generation gaps and bargain-priced stoves.

Frost Jeremy Ball, ON, 13’, World Premiere

An epic sci-fi thriller, Frost follows Nava, a young arctic hunter determined to prove her skills by embarking on a dangerous search for scarce food. At the edge of the known territory, she makes a discovery that will call for her to win the battle in a new world.

The Genius from Quintino Johnny Ma, ON, 14’, North American Premiere

Ricardo is a mechanic in a poor suburb near Rio de Janeiro. Known by locals for his uncanny ability to fix anything, his reputation brings a curious young boy with a broken toy to his doorstep. Confronted by a past he doesn’t remember and a child looking for more than a mechanic, Ricardo realizes there may be limits to what he can repair.

Herd Leader (Chef de meute) Chloe Robichaud, QC, 13’, Canadian Premiere

Clara leads a solitary life, much to the chagrin of her meddling family. Her spinster aunt’s untimely passing leads to Clara’s inheritance of a disobedient pug. Learning to live with man’s best friend might teach her a few new tricks.

H’Mong Sisters Jeff Wong, BC, 14’, World Premiere

Teenage sisters living in the mountainous villages of Vietnam take a western backpacker into their care. Their informal relationship exposes its complexities, as they guide him through a traditional way of life that has been threatened and transformed by economic and colonial forces.

Horrible Things (Les choses horrible) Vincent Biron, QC, 12’, World Premiere

Nothing says “I’m sorry” like a thoughtful present. But for Dede, Carole and Steve, their attempts to make amends and assuage their guilt with gift-giving fall comically short. Winner of the Award for Best Canadian Short Film at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, Vincent Biron blends three thematically linked stories with a keen eye for dark comedy and sympathy for deeply flawed characters.

How to be Deadly Nik Sexton, ON, 16’, North American Premiere

Donnie Dumphy is vulgar, harmless, a hoser, an underdog and a loyal friend; but he’s also broken-hearted. On the eve of St. John’s biggest dirt bike competition of the year, he will live a thousand lives.

I’m Beginning to Miss You Sakay Ottawa, ON, 3’, Toronto Premiere

When Pinaskin Ottawa disappeared from Manawan, Quebec, no one saw him leave. His brother struggles to not lose hope; looking for clues and continuing his search. Stark images of a winter landscape scattered with fragments of human existence emphasize this poetic and chilling tale of loss.

Apart Theodore Ushev, QC, 4’, World Premiere

Poetic and political, Theodore Ushev’s latest animated work cultivates his incredible talent to call for the liberation of imprisoned Iranian filmmakers and to focus attention on the plight of Jafar Panahi. Drawing inspiration from raw footage of the Green Wave uprising to compose densely layered rotoscoped images embedded with Farsi text, the result is a powerful piece of activism that is both personal and profound.

Keep a Modest Head (Ne crâne pas sois modeste) Deco Dawson, MB, 20’, World Premiere

Jean Benoît, the last official member of the French Surrealist group, receives Deco Dawson’s signature visual treatment in this biography that fantastically illustrates Benoît’s formative (and highly sexual) childhood memories. Mixing interviews recorded in Benoît’s Parisian studio with surrealist inspired reenactments, Dawson deconstructs documentary conventions to fittingly eulogize a formidable artist.

Let the Daylight into the Swamp Jeffrey St. Jules, ON, 35’, World Premiere

The St. Judes origins in the lumber camps of northern Ontario lead to a splintered family and a spotted history filled with questions and half answers. With a mix of animation, re-enactments and archival evidence, Jeffrey St. Jules assembles a three-part 3-D documentary collage that explores the consequences of parents who make the difficult decision to give up their children.

Life Doesn't Frighten Me (Director Stephen Dunn, Producer Holly O'Brien)

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me Stephen Dunn, ON, 14’, World Premiere

Teenage life for Esther Weary includes her well-intentioned grandpa, friends that suck, and a birthday that couldn’t be more depressing if it tried. She’s insecure about her nose, and puberty makes her think she’s dying. Sharp writing and standout performances by Jade Aspros and Gordon Pinsent highlight this modern coming-of-age comedy.

Lingo Bahar Noorizadeh, BC, 13’, World Premiere

A boy mistakenly starts a fire in a residential neighbourhood. His mother, an Afghan immigrant to Canada, is interrogated by the police. Protective of her son and hindered by a language barrier, she has trouble explaining with certainty what happened.

Lost In Motion Ben Shirinian, ON, 2.5’

A dancer freed from costumes, sets and possibly the laws of gravity takes flight in a solo performance, soaring through the air with grace and power. Choreographed and performed by Guillaume Côté, principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada, every pirouette and jeté showcases his talent in a way that audiences have never seen

Malody Philip Barker, ON, 12’, North American Premiere

As a young infirm woman sits at a quiet diner counter, her surroundings become increasingly unstable. The ensuing chaos of her world literally turning upside down triggers an ominous sequence of events.

Model Dylan Reibling, ON, 4’

Part two of Dylan Reibling's Dead Media trilogy, Model is a playful and ultra-designed look at the threat of obsoletion of a meticulous human workforce.

The Near Future (Le futur proche) Sophie Goyette, QC, 18’, Toronto Premiere

Ethereal aerial images of suburban sprawl, expressways and floating horizons frame this impressionistic portrait of Robin, a pilot who finds solace in his daily routines in order to delay the pain of recent news from his family overseas.

Nostradamos Maxence Bradley, QC, 9’, Toronto Premiere

Playing between the lines of documentary and fiction, Nostradamos follows citizens preparing for the end of the world. The city of Amos, Québec stands as the safest place to survive. Made in 72 hours, Nostradamos is a riveting portrait on the variances of human reactions to potential environmental catastrophes.

Old Growth Tess Girard, ON, 5’, World Premiere

In the frigid isolation of winter, an elderly man braves the elements to hew his cord with nothing but an axe and a wheelbarrow. What first appears as a landscape study soon becomes an elegy for nature’s sacrifice to fuel man’s existence.

The Pool Date Patrick Sisam, ON, 7’, World Premiere

Straight, white and Canadian, Nigel (Mike Beaver) is on a sunny vacation in South America. Hanging by a pool surrounded by sexy young people, his physique clashes — but Nigel remains unfazed. When Rio takes his chair (and possibly his cocktail), he is determined to get it back. A quiet territorial battle opens questions of sexual desire and invitation.

Reflexions Martin Thibaudeau, QC, 5’, World Premiere

A graveside funeral service sets the scene for what becomes an increasingly disturbing and fascinating piece of storytelling where looking beyond the surface of things reveals the deceased’s life before death.

Safe Room Elizabeth Lazebnik, ON, 11’, World Premiere

This semi-autobiographical film is about a young woman living in Canada who remembers her experiences of sitting in the safe room with her family in Israel during the Gulf War.

Shit Girls Say Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey, ON, 2’, World Premiere

Toronto actors, filmmakers and internet phenomenons Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey premiere their new Shit Girls Say episode on the big screen. Their original film-turned-YouTube sensation produced an onslaught of playful gender and/or culturally specific behaviour “Shit (insert gender+culture) Say” videos from all corners of the world and web.

Struggle (Faillir) Sophie Dupuis, QC, 24’, World Premiere

As Ariane prepares to leave Val-d'Or — and everything else — behind for the big city, her attempts to say goodbye to her brother are complicated by the ever present sexual tension that exists between them.

Sullivan’s Applicant Jeanne Leblanc, QC, 11’, North American Premiere

On her way to a job interview in downtown Montreal, Lucy is bogged down by clogged cars, a nagging mother and a potential life crisis. Yet, amidst the oppressive traffic and pushy city pulse, she makes a connection with a perfect stranger.

The Tape Matt Austin, ON, 5’, World Premiere

When a Toronto man (Julian Richings) digs through his attic for a VHS, he encounters a 21st century problem: how does he play it? If technology is quickly discarded and upgraded, a memory cannot be allowed to get the same treatment.

Their Feast (Waleematehom) Reem Morsi, BC, 20’, World Premiere

Following the Egyptian revolution of 2011, a mother and her children prepare a celebratory meal for the return of the eldest son who is being released from a National Security prison.

Tuesday Fantavious Fritz, ON, 14’, World Premiere

Inspired by a hypothetical grown-up version of Holden Caulfield’s little sister Phoebe, Fantavious Fritz creates a character who is relatable and endearing, while embracing the awkward, irresponsible and defining moments of being a 20-something.

Vive la Canadienne Joe Cobden, QC, 4’, World Premiere

A lovely afternoon stroll in the park becomes a dynamic dancing duel of quick steps and high kicks between burly men and a joyful mademoiselle. With nary a word, and channeling Buster Keaton’s cinematic style, Joe Cobden brings a modern perspective to a classic Canadian folk chanson.

When You Sleep Ashley McKenzie, NS, 12’, World Premiere

An unwanted pregnancy is holding together an unstable teen couple. When You Sleep is an assured, fearless account of youth heading straight for a life where they feel trapped.

With Jeff (Avec Jeff, à moto) Marie-Eve Juste, QC, 14’, North American Premiere

Nyduia is a Haitian Montreal teenager who spends her time going to school, hip-hop dancing, tending to the house and secretly reading poetry. Wanting to shake up her life, she accepts a date invitation from Jeff, a notorious player.

The Worst Day Ever Sophie Jarvis, BC, 11’, World Premiere

Bernard can't quite seem to get it right today. Although he tries his hardest, he never fails to disappoint those around him — causing accidents left, right and centre.

The 37th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 6 to 16, 2012. The complete list of films at this year’s festival can be found here.

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1 Comment

  • K Ciesla | February 14, 2013 8:33 AMReply

    I'd like to comment on Bydlo listed above. I fear that in the era of WEB 2.0 and Wikipedia we live lives of part-truths and build new ideas on weak foundations.
    By posting your description of Mussogorsky's Bydlo you show some level of ignorance and lack of understanding of a certain context the quoted piece has. Bydlo forms part of a widely known collection of Mussogorski's piano pieces called Pictures at an Exhibition. Mussogorsky's part-erased notes suggest that in the case of Bydlo however, there was no actual picture that inspired the the composer. Bydlo in Polish means cattle but could also refer in compassionate terms to Poles who, being oppressed by the tsarist regime, were treated like cattle. For political reasons it wasn't possible for him to state it openly, but the fortissimo in the second half of the piece symbolises a pssionate Polish rebellion being cruelly put down by the Russians.
    I haven't seen Patrick Bouchard's work but I fear it could be based on a misunderstanding and have a weak contextual foundation.

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