By: Addison Wylie
Toronto Youth Shorts’ T24 challenges filmmakers to create, finish, and submit a short film to the festival’s committee within 24-hours. Before heading out to plan their production, each team is given a page-long mission statement for the challenge documenting the themes that their works should fulfill.
This year, festival director Henry Wong and his team were inspired by recent, humbling articles complimenting the GTA. The Toronto Youth Shorts committee state the long and short of what they hope filmmaking teams will capture, “the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Toronto as the fourth most livable place in the world, and Metropolis magazine placed it at number one. But, whose Toronto are they talking about?” In the past, these layouts have been open-ended, but this approach may be the most subjective theme to date.
Bibiana Loh’s Empty Places is a light example in a showcase populated by strong opinions. In Empty Places, we watch two Singaporean students meet and continue to form their friendship while drinking in the Toronto sights and sounds. Unfortunately, the sights are not necessarily on display, and the sounds drown out the dialogue between the actors – making Empty Places borderline incomprehensible. That said, the muffled expressions these green actors perform are able to tell a broad story of companionship. Loh should’ve caught on to her faulty audio and opted to make a silent film instead.
Speaking of the city’s sights and sounds, Sahil Lulla’s Toronto: A Personal Story shows movie goers how those elements (among others) can be overwhelming to an outsider. After a tacked-on introduction by the director, the audience is exposed to different vignettes that illustrate what some may deem as “unpopular” thoughts towards metropolitan manners. Whether you agree with the film or not, Lulla and his team have made an unapologetic experimental hodgepodge that doesn’t sulk as it leaves an immense impact. Ironically, that introduction (which I believe was buying time for the filmmakers) is nothing but an apology explaining itself. Instead of sheepishly addressing the film, Lulla needs to own the moment. That sort of feebleness only invites scrutiny from critical viewers. Toronto: A Personal Story is a good movie, and everyone who made it should be proud of themselves.
Another favourite of mine was Cooper & Cooper, Jessie Zus’ comedy about a courier who struggles from stop to stop, but takes pride in her work anyways. Zus and her crew don’t exactly utilize the T24 mission statement to its fullest degree, but they distract our attention by making us laugh. Alisa Kanda Kovac has a fantastic sunny smile, and she uses it to sell us her character’s happiness – it works phenomenally. Even when frustrations are revealed about the courier, a friendly ending shows us that perfection exists in Toronto’s empathy.
It was interesting to see so many filmmakers rely on technology for Toronto to strive towards blissfulness. Greg Fox’s Interceptors shows the audience a near-future situation which promises key Torontonians a chance to live in a “New Toronto”, one that’s less chaotic and dramatic. Fox is able to use lots of familiar locations, but his unique futuristic perspective spin these hot spots into a convincing, alternate reality.
Same goes for Blake Garbe’s The Balance of Chaos, although the short’s script is too heavy and on the nose for its own good. One anarchist convinces a timid pedestrian that they have the power to reset the city, and clean up the bad eggs through violence. A quick, anti-climactic turnaround towards the end solidifies that Garbe and his team don’t actually think this is the right answer. Phew!
The filmmakers are competing to win Toronto Youth Shorts’ Visual Thesis Award, and will be judged by a jury (Sundance Channel Canada’s Inga Diev, T24 alumni Alex Kingsmill and CBC’s Karen Tsang). Cooper & Cooper, being the crowd-pleaser that it is, could take home that top prize. However, Rebecca Whitaker’s The Sixx is a chilling film that amuses and entertains while taking full advantage of the challenge’s thematic requirements.
Whitaker and Andres Salazar take notes from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and build a virtual reality getaway for Torontonians whom are feeling left out from the world around them. It’s an interesting take on the endless pleaders who are always looking for more in their existence – those who can never be content with where they are in life. I see The Sixx being a cathartic experience for anyone who has thought similarly in Ontario’s gargantuan city. A scene where our anti-social lead is relieved to have had a face-to-face interaction with someone will be a telling sign. Look to your right; you may see a fellow movie goer sighing.
Watch the 7th annual Toronto Youth Shorts T24 Challenge finalists on Wednesday, October 7 at 8:00 p.m. at CineCycle. Admission is $8, and tickets can be purchased either at the door or online.
Visit the Toronto Youth Shorts T24 website!
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