By: Addison Wylie
Before another year of moviegoing goes into full swing, TIFF respectively collects a list of features and short films that astounded audiences and erupted conversation within the past year.
TIFF’s annual Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival began on January 2 with Sturla Gunnarsson’s documentary Monsoon, and continues with other Canadian favourites such as Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Susan Avingaq’s doc Sol, as well as Xavier Dolan’s Mommy, which sparked buzz after the Québécois filmmaker won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film festival.
Also, included in the feature film bunch is David Cronenberg’s audience splitter Maps to the Stars (which has garnered a Golden Globe nomination for Julianne Moore’s performance), and Albert Shin’s captivating character study In Her Place.
Aside from the feature films is the showcase of short films that cover imaginative subjects and biopics. I caught two of the selections at this past year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Randall Lloyd Okita’s The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer is a richly ferocious piece, but Slater Jewell-Kemker’s Still was a flakey letdown.
Since then, I’ve been fortunate to have seen some of the other short films featured at this year’s Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival. Take a look:
Cutaway (DIR. Kazik Radwanski)
Cutaway reunites audiences with Kazik Radwanski, a filmmaker who made a name for himself through shorts and followed through with his feature film debut Tower. Tower is a jarring flick that truly grew on me. But, even I’ll still admit that Radwanski’s tight cinematography – while justified – was difficult to grasp.
With Cutaway, the filmmaker has taken that similar style of close-up shooting and added a context that’s supremely moving. The film focuses on a faceless construction worker, and all moviegoers see are his hands.
Cutaway – like Tower – is a tough act to get into at first, but as the story starts to unfold and we soon identify with this flawed male character, the film has our attention. Cutaway has been composed in an upright manner that shows the filmmaker’s maturity. He, as well as the subtle lead – can handle the sombreness with rare skill.
Cutaway is brilliantly realized and executed. It’s a short film you won’t forget anytime soon.
Day 40 (DIR. Sol Friedman)
While Day 40 isn’t obnoxiously crude or sassy, someone is bound to be offended by Sol Friedman’s saucy retelling of Noah’s Ark. I hope those sensitive patrons can have fun with this harmlessly hilarious short.
If you asked a weird tenth-grader with an unapologetic imagination to revision the bible, they would hand over something like Day 40. Maybe Friedman (who also gave audiences the equally cracked-out Beasts of the Real World) was that kid at one point. The animation fittingly looks as if it has been lifted out of a teenager’s notepad, which gives Day 40 that extra guiltlessness when it’s so very wrong.
The sharp humour is ripe with lots of funny visual gags and twisted twists. And, Friedman always finds a way to make his audience giggle. Day 40 is a definite highlight at this year’s showcase.
Bihttoš (Rebel) (DIR. Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers)
The most personal short at the festival is Bihttoš, an experimental documentary from Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers. Bihttoš offers insight from an onlooking sibling as they watch their parents grow up and grow apart.
Tailfeathers has chosen to illustrate different time periods using a variety of animations and photos. The styles work best when paired with each other. When the rigid cartoons are set by themselves, the amateur scrappiness shows during sequences that end up being a rough watch. That said, when the whimsical motions accompany the filmmaker’s family photos, they add a nice energy to Bihttoš’ pace.
I especially liked the demonstrations executed through live action tableau. These moments look as if they’ve been lit by a spotlight. A risky aesthetic if there ever was one, but this successfully transports the viewer into that specific memory.
Bihttoš’ main objective, however, is to tell a story and for Tailfeathers to document her Mother and Father’s important lives. In that sense, she’s succeeded tremendously.
Mynarski Death Plummet (DIR. Matthew Rankin)
Writer/director Rankin attacks the audience’s sense with Mynarski Death Plummet, an admirable feat with impressive integration between actors and hand coloured animation. The filmmaker pulls out all the stops to manoeuvre through his historical story while imitating the chaos of a downward plunge.
Mynarski Death Plummet documents the last minutes of WWII hero Andrew Mynarski as he exits his bomber jet and meets his demise. Rankin’s vision of this story is gripping and perceptive, giving his audience an idea of the sort of tenseness and morale decisions one must face when in danger.
Rankin lets the last few minutes of his short trail as he shows off how creatively gifted his film is. While he respects Mynarski’s legacy and veers away from pretentious artistic choices, these wilder moments of Mynarski Death Plummet could’ve been trimmed by a hair.
Nonetheless, Rankin’s film is going to look stupendous on the big screen. Audiences are in for a visual treat.
Catch these short films plus more at the Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox on Friday, January 9 at 9:00 pm.
Click here to purchase tickets!