TIFF 2014: Short Cuts with Sorrow

The Underground cover

By: Addison Wylie

We return to the Short Cuts Canada programmes to take a look at a few films that aren’t afraid to get “real”. Well, “real” in surreal surroundings and under crazy circumstances.

These three shorts may be tales out of a book (certainly in the case of The Underground), but the emotion conveyed is what makes these stories come alive. They hit and miss various points, but the risks these filmmakers take are nothing short of impressive.

On to the shorts!

What Doesn’t Kill You (DIR. Rob Grant)


Filmmaker Rob Grant shows a lot of potential in What Doesn’t Kill You.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up turning this ambitious short film into a feature-length project.

The entertaining, bleak short about a trio of bullied friends who try and survive the aftermath of a car crash is successfully performed with the help of competent actors.  Their reactions do not ring false, and the fear in their voices is greatly effective.

At the moment, What Doesn’t Kill You is a little too vague for its own good, leaving a lot to the imagination and letting the science fiction atmosphere do most of the talking.  But with a longer format, Grant and his co-writer Stu Marks would be able to further explain the origin, the consequences of re-spawning, and the possibility of maxing out extra lives.

As it stands, What Doesn’t Kill You is a mildly satisfying tease.  I would love to know more about this chilly story.

Still (DIR. Slater Jewell-Kemker)


An abusive beau and a withering belle get lost in the woods and seek direction in Slater Jewell-Kemker’s flakey Still.

Kemker shows dedication to the film’s handling of sexism, as well as Piggford’s self-journey to discover her inner courage.  However, too many motivations and decisions are not fully established, and will only evoke shallow emotional responses from the audience.  Upsetting things happen, but Still comes up short justifying any of it.

The film may be unmotivated to a fault, but there’s no denying Emily Piggford and Giacomo Gianniotti are powerful in these stereotypes.  If anything, these talented actors have received some solid footage to add to their demo reels.

If you want to see an idea sort of like this carried out with originality and intelligence, I urge you to see The One I Love.  It’s one of the best films of the year, whereas Still will have a hard time staying relevant five minutes after you’ve watched it.

The Underground (DIR. Michelle Latimer)


Without some background, The Underground is a film that’s difficult to tag along with.  For those finding the short film hard to interpret, it’s a good thing for you director Michelle Latimer has attached an eye-catching style to her short.  The “cockroach cam” is pretty darn neat, combining Gasper Noé’s Enter The Void with a commercial for Raid.

Actor Omar Hady takes Latimer’s script, and does what he can with what limited explanation the filmmaker has provided.  What results is an intriguing performance of someone who skittishly observes life rather than live it.  He has his reasons.

The Underground remains sturdy throughout its duration, and finds all sorts of ways to keep us involved.  It’s important to note that the film has been inspired by Rawi Hage’s novel Cockroach, so I imagine there’s more detail in the original work to fill in most of the film’s blanks.


What Doesn’t Kill You screens at TIFF on:

Monday, September 8 at 6:15 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre
Tuesday, September 9 at 9:15 a.m. @ TIFF Bell Lightbox

Still screens at TIFF on:

Wednesday, September 10 at 9:30 p.m. @ TIFF Bell Lightbox
Thursday, September 11 at 9:15 a.m. @ TIFF Bell Lightbox

The Underground screens at TIFF on:

Thursday, September 11 at 6:15 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre
Friday, September 12 at 2:45 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre

Realted Links:

For more information on the festival, visit the official TIFF webpage here.

Check out the Short Cuts Canada TIFF page here.

Buy tickets here.

More TIFF coverage:

Wet Bum review
In Her Place

Short Cuts Canada

National Gallery 


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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