The Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival is a terrific way for young filmmakers to enter the scene. It’s a festival run by responsible believers who maintain faith in future generations of storytellers.
The film festival has also given hard-working individuals a deserving premiere in an appreciated Toronto-bound theatrical venue. The awards ceremony is an added bonus to those seeking genuine recognition, as well as constructive criticism by a panel of educated peers.
This year, movie goers will be treated to three programs: Questions and Discovery, Personal Portraits, and The Bonds That Bind Us. While the festival has been known to give hefty riddles to those participating in film challenges, these programs are thematically straightforward. Expect some neat post-screening Q&A’s as well.
Combining all three programs, the upcoming Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival features 36 short films. Here are a few of those:
Antelope Richards (DIR. Gary Ye)
Long time admirers of Animaniacs will notice some familiarities between the show’s conspicuous Chicken Boo and Gary Ye’s Antelope Richards. Everyone treats Richards’ miraculous presence with normality. Whether this nostalgic connection was intentional or not, this cleverly strange animated short stands on its own.
Ye’s animation “pops”, subtlety adapting an angular style to the story and wisely choosing not to aggressively shove jagged images in our faces. Richards makes for a funny lead, and the lack of explanation as to why everyone is so accepting of the moaning antelope makes matters pleasingly absurd.
The one downfall: Charlie Richards’ forced wise guy narration. While I appreciate the cheesy puns, the voice is needy for giggles and distracts from what’s going on in Antelope Richards.
Hit Me (DIR. Alex Chung)
It’s a shame Chung’s Hit Me is almost an exact copycat of Fight Club’s final showdown. The likeable film provides oodles of enjoyment, but it’s never clear whether replicating David Fincher’s violent drama was the filmmaker’s point. These curiosities end up holding Hit Me back from being a wholly original work.
However, I’d rather focus on the film’s amazing ingredient: Alex Chung’s on-screen stunt work. Chung not only stars as the lead and directs the film, but he also edited the project, and choreographed the crucial brawl.
Festival regulars will recognize Chung from his Heroic Melon Collective roles. I’m more than familiar with his comedic chops from HMC’s Awkward Compilation. But, we haven’t seen the actor this agile before. The flips and tumbles he has himself do are an astounding treat to watch. His marvellous choreography is worth the watch alone.
Little Night Adventure (DIR. Cecilia (Shi Yun) Zeng)
This brief short from Cecila (shi Yun) Zeng is a really cute lil’ thing. It plays itself as Toy Story-lite, but also manages to be at the same level – if not better than – as some current television shows aimed at children.
The cushy animation will have you wanting to reach out to pinch it, and it effortlessly strides with an adorable charm. The story offers up some innocent laughs and a climactic sight gag that’s either going to make you laugh or – if you’re a cat lover – serve as a momentary bummer.
It’s all in good fun though, and Little Night Adventure certainly provides lots of bubbly amusement.
The One (DIR. Jonah Haber)
Speedy shorts are usually found in the Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival, and it’s easy to label them as satisfactory transitions to beefier flicks. However, these fleeting shorts should garner the same respect a much longer film can generate.
Take The One, for example. It has blink-or-you’ll-miss-it greatness, but it’s able to meet all of its goals without breaking a sweat and also send you off with a smile.
Haber’s quirky stop-motion animation is tough to define at first. It chisels away at any fluent activity, adding a jittery style to everyday activity. But, that’s what gives The One its resonance. The presentation reflects the shyness of its lead lover boy.
There’s a couple of cool tricks Haber executes with his short, and it’s a giggly watch. The ending is a smidgen anti-climactic, but is reasonable in retrospect.
To the Moon and Back (DIR. Kalia Lenaghan)
I couldn’t identify with Kalia Lenaghan’s To the Moon and Back. But, then again, I don’t think it was necessarily supposed to speak to me.
Despite the wooden writing and the lack of eye contact through the more dramatic pieces, this was a short that had me excited to see where Lenaghan will end up in her budding film career.
With To the Moon and Back, the filmmaker shows she can direct actors, allowing them the ideal amount of leeway a performer needs to be creative. Her two showcased actresses play very convincing, sweet friends who have a relationship that moves rapidly.
There’s also some fetching cinematography that captures simple moments of intimacy, and its brisk pace helps propel the film forward while sustaining our attention.
I would love to see what Lenaghan could do with a horror film. I was watching the short and constantly thinking of female driven films like GInger Snaps and Teeth. To the Moon and Back may have not worked for me on an emotional level, but I don’t want Kalia to stop making movies.
The Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival screens on Saturday, September 27 at the CN Tower Maple Leaf Cinema. The awards gala takes place on Sunday, September 28 at Toronto Metro Hall.
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