By: Trevor Jeffery
The Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival screens at the Innis College Cinema on Saturday, August 8, and I’ll be co-judging the event along with other selected online journalists. However, I was lucky enough to be given a sneak peek at some of the submissions.
A New Reflection
A New Reflection is a documentary about character of heart.
Kate Atkinson is a typical teen. She likes making collages, dancing and hanging out with friends. Kate also has Treacher Collins Syndrome, and because of it, has a facial difference.
The theme of collages is an anchor point for the film, and it’s represented well in the doc’s style – each individual talking head tells a little about her, and when put together, shows who she is in her heart.
The film’s score is notably fantastic, fitting the tone of each segment as well as being pleasing to listen to. A few technical rough-spots could use some sanding, but overall A New Reflection is a well-crafted doc; appropriately paced and filmed to tell the story of Kate Atkinson.
Crimson Guardian makes a fair assessment – that if cats were 15 times larger, they would make effective night watch guards.
The animation is smooth and clean, but the drawing factor is the clever and comical story of a stone Chinese sentry coming to life to fiercely protect its home from an intruder, only to play around with him like a kitty with a ball of yarn. The dynamic angles and perspective play well against the comedic twist. While the short is scored nicely, the sound design could be tighter; object interaction make noises that aren’t well suited.
Overall, the visuals are strong – the story is simply and articulately conveyed in a beautifully designed and colourful setting. But in a dialogue-less feature, a few misused sound effects stand out.
The death of their parents leaves Kelly as the only one to care for her older brother, Jesse, who is severely autistic. As Kelly tries to live the life of a typical 20-something in the city, her love and responsibility for Jesse force her to realize that: a) she can’t do that, and b) that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Jesse is a wonderfully crafted film. The camera moves and is used specifically and deliberately without being gaudy: the de-saturated picture quality, the constant refocusing and the hand-held style of shooting all build upon each other to contribute to the overall tone of uncertainty and bittersweet melancholy the film has. The heart of the film is the emotion, brought to life by the film’s skilled lead actors Hannah Anderson (Kelly) and Jake Epstein (Jesse). Jesse is a moving story that will break your heart a few times over before warming it right back up; as though it’s assuring you that everything’s going to be okay.
Mia’s Milky Misadventures
Mia’s Milky Misadventures suggests that perhaps there is use crying over spilled milk, because a good enough friend will quest to replace it for you.
The story is about a kind-hearted girl, Mia, and her quest to replace Michael’s spilled milk. She treks through forest, water and hills to find a fabled cow that produces the creamiest, most delicious chocolate milk, and returns with a bottle for her friend Michael.
The stop-motion short makes clever use of green screen effects, though technical glitches such as a shaky camera and the backgrounds appearing on the puppet’s wardrobe as though it were invisible distract from the ingenuity. The simple and cute plot is well portrayed and narrated, and should leave a smile on the most stoic of faces. Albeit visually choppy at times, Mia’s Milky Misadventures reminds how much fun stop-motion animation can be.
Phoebe’s Declassified Guide to Unwanted Pickups
Obnoxious jerks: stop doing obnoxious things.
This PSA/comedy sketch hybrid portrays humourous defence methods for women being verbally, physically and socially harassed by awareness-impaired pick-up “artists” (a word, in this case, used very loosely). Phoebe returns a little give to the take, shaming her assaulters enough so that they hopefully “get it”.
The lo-tech nature of the short adds to the in-and-out, 4th wall “Zack Morris” narrative style, as though it’s a personal message to the viewer. The balance of humour–to-seriousness of the issue makes it a supportive film for constantly hit-on women, and an enjoyable film for all others.
Not since Beauty and the Beast have beverage receptacles had such meaningful lives.
Straw shows a clever mixture of stop-motion and traditional animation, giving real objects cartoon faces. The object animation is clean and the cartoon faces are expressive, in that you know what the cups are thinking and feeling in the dialogue-free short. Though the camera is noticeably jittery at times, the shots and transitions cleanly weave the story together.
Behind the simple-yet-captivating setting and animation is a rather poignant and apt coming-of-age story, from sippy-bottle to pint glass, as well as a comment on the boredom of adulthood, and that impossibility to recapture childhood. Straw shows us we can connect, beyond age, through the inner child in us all.
The Crocodile and the Capybara
Sometimes, you need to be reminded that some people are jerks, and you should love them anyway.
After they fled civil unrest in Venezuela, brothers Ramón and José settle in Toronto. There isn’t safety in their relationship, as Ramón, the eldest, abuses José. José seeks hope in a card reader, who tells him Ramón will never love him, but José’s strength of character disregards the advice, knowing that it’s important to do what’s right, even if the act will go without appreciation.
Firstly, the awe-striking, visually gorgeous opening animation is a masterpiece on its own – the kind of thing that’s so stunning, it’s almost a shame because the film attached to it has a tough act to follow. But follow it does; with bells on. The live-action part – the real meat of the short – is a superb empathetic story that resonates with your nurturing side for José. It’s an overall great example of dynamic visual storytelling, as the filmmaker seamlessly pulls suspense and action from a previously down-played film.
Click here for more festival details and to buy tickets.
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Trevor Jeffery: @TrevorSJeffery