TIFF 2014: The NFB’s Mixed Bag of Short Cuts


By: Addison Wylie

TIFF’s Canadian roots are more than prominent in the Short Cuts Canada programmes.  Alexander Rogalski and Magali Simard – two of the festival’s programmers – have selected what they feel are the cream of the short form crop.  They’ve included filmmakers with impassioned voices and integral visions, and they’ve even included some touched up classics.

It’s expected that The National Film Board of Canada would be involved in this showcase somehow.  Their contribution to the Canadian film industry has shown how movies can be considered a form of commentary and art.

The shorts they have included in Short Cuts Canada are a real mixed bag quality-wise, but most lean towards greatness.

O Canada (DIR. Evelyn Lambart)

O Canada

The NFB’s Luigi Allemano, Eloi Champagne, and Don McWilliams expertly restore the past in Evelyn Lambart’s proud, ground breaking short O Canada.

Released in 1951, the film’s impact along with the animation still maintains its resonance.  Lambart’s tour of Canadian scenery has movie goers soaring over cutouts that appear more tangible as they fly towards and under the camera.  The filmmaker is sophisticatedly loyal to the subject matter.  Never do we feel like she is singing to the choir about how great her country is.

O Canada is modestly patriotic and pleasantly creative.

Around is Around (DIR. Norman McLaren)


Filmmaker Norman McLaren shows us how wormy geometry can dance.

Around is Around is an exercise in movement that doesn’t add up to a whole lot, but it does provide hallucinatory imagery that dazzles us as a Magic Eye would.

The trippy film leaves an imprint.  However, I can’t help but wonder if McLaren’s artistic vibrato had more staying power if he had cut two minutes off the seven minute duration.  As it stands, Around is Around sends the audience into a dreamy state-of-mind, but a shorter product would’ve made us question if the loopy visuals actually happened, thus, making us want to return for seconds.

Louis Applebaum’s music fits well, and NFB’s expert restoration team (Allemano, Champagne, and McWilliams) hit another home run with this vivid presentation.

CODA (DIR. Denis Poulin and Martine Époque)


The fluency in CODA’s editing is amazing.  A chilly atmosphere can quickly turn into its opposite with nimble subtlety.  It’s too bad everything else about this unfocused short film is a disappointment.

Denis Poulin and Martine Époque use motion capture filmmaking to blend reality in with animated environments, in hopes to make the dance-told narrative that much more enthralling and otherworldly.  Brianna Lombardo, Robert Meilleur, Frédérick Gravel, and Séverine Lombardo are devoted performers, but the character design sinks their storytelling connection with the audience.

CODA certainly has a unique zest to it, but it’s often clouded by the filmmakers’ interpretive choices.  The performers never take on a fully physical form, making the movements have a flash-in-the-pan foggy reaction to what’s going on around them.  The style turns the emotion into a lot of flailing, flopping, and exploding.

The association of Stravinski’s Rite of Spring makes the film invasively loud, mounting itself onto the audience’s confused response.  And, when the shoestring style eventually gives in, CODA adds boredom onto incomprehension.

Me and My Moulton (DIR. Torill Kove)


Me and My Moulton is a likeable delight from Academy Award winner Torill Kove.  The animated short has a crisp display, an adorable innocence to its sense of humour, and successfully captures that phase where siblings see parental eccentricities as embarrassments.

Jealous of their downstairs neighbours, the central family’s middle child intently focuses on and lists off quirky instances about her clan.  Her father’s wandering left eye and cautiously sitting on three legged chairs are a couple of the biggest laughs you’ll have at this year’s festival.  Later on in the film, unexplained matters happening in the home below put everything in perspective for our maturing narrator.

Me and My Moulton is a great film with laughs and heart.  Fleeting animated nudity in a daydream is worth mentioning for families bringing along kids, but the image is utterly harmless.

The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer (DIR. Randall Okita)


There’s a brewing fervour – both heart-stricken and rousing – in Randall Okita’s The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer.  Those feelings truly spill out during the fuming finish, but Okita does a good job at lining his short with emotional balance.

His style rocks too.  The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer is a mixed medium of live action footage, collaged animation, and other effects that alter the world that surrounds these hurt souls.  The presentation doesn’t take on loads that it can’t handle, but it does tastefully tease the audience into double-thinking whether the short is capable of all this heated poignancy.

The impression of the short may have been more sincere if Okita’s stilted narration didn’t constantly sound like he’s riffing on vintage noirs, but his gusto is rich nonetheless.


Around is Around, CODA, and O Canada screen at TIFF on:

Friday, September 5 at 9:15 p.m. @ TIFF Bell Lightbox
Sunday, September 7 at 9:00 a.m. @ TIFF Bell Lightbox

Me and My Moulton screens at TIFF on:

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

The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer screens at TIFF on:

Sunday, September 7 at 9:45 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre
Monday, September 8 at 4:15 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:

National Gallery review

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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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