The Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival is still going strong with a total of 44 locally produced films screening over a two-day period (August 5 and 6).
I always enjoy supporting the festival because it gives aspiring filmmakers learning experience and a professional platform to connect with an audience. Festival director Henry Wong and his team of hard workers have an admirable understanding of filmmaking and storytelling, as well as a keen eye for creativity. An example that represents the staff’s wisdom is the inclusion of Jacqueline Levitan’s Zou Bisou Bisou, a funny award-winner that caught my eye at this year’s ZOOM Student Film Festival. I’m guessing Levitan and producer Kassy Gascho may have been inspired by the “alternate timeline” plot on TV’s Community, but the film features an intriguing twist on “Seven Minutes in Heaven” and charming performances by the whip-smart cast.
Documentaries are usually on point in Toronto Youth Shorts, but this selection features a bit of a struggle for the genre. With some of these short-form docs, the filmmaker(s) simply establish their subjects only to leave audiences hanging as the credits roll. Such is the case for Carly Howcroft’s How to Pick Up Girls, a film that introduces the audience to a few aerobics-happy male cheerleaders and then ends before expanding on its concept.
The same issue happened with Leah Lalich’s Filter. Mind you, Filter does successfully catapult the audience into a community of online thinkers, and explains how these social media users are recruited to be Social Media Influencers. The downside: the Influencers are living life on a different wavelength that Lalich has difficulty tapping into. Instead, the audience watches interviews that tiptoe closely to self-parody.
Bums! is a film that correctly uses the structure of a documentary; although, it took me a couple of viewings to realize this. Filmmaker Robert Stroud gives photographer Katie Budd a vulnerable opportunity to discuss her artistic methods, leading Budd to discuss her latest project – a series of posterior photographs. Stroud’s film is intimate and isn’t afraid to be caught with its trousers down – literally and figuratively.
Cartoons can steal the show at Toronto Youth Shorts, and this year is no different. Brendan Lindsay’s Say Cheese! and Sara Mota’s Wing It are clever takes on paranormal activity, and both are memorably twisted in their own ways. Young ones attending the “Aspire to Inspire” programme will get a kick out of Pierre Wanderweerd’s Ember, a lighthearted and lightning-fast film about a lively salamander and a cheeky dragonfly.
There are also surefire contenders for the Toronto Youth Shorts audience award. Haaris Qadri’s docudrama Through This Lens has a decent shot at winning. The audio mix is unbalanced and the leading performances by Shivam Sharma and Satyam Sharma are a little stiff, but the chemistry between the actors is contagiously heartwarming. Then again, if audiences choose to lean towards absurdity, Scout & Cash (directed/produced by Arms Up Comedy’s Caitlin English, Jacqueline Costa, Chris Boyle, and Eric Frank) could take home the prize. The troupe’s hipster comedy hits low and easy targets, but the film’s strange romance between a slacker and her crokinole board could be enough to swoon movie goers.
Toronto Youth Shorts’ opening presentation screens at the Hollywood Theatre in the Hospital for Sick Children on August 5 at 2:00pm (admission is free). The other programmes screen at the University of Toronto’s Innis College on August 6 at 2:00pm ($10 per programme or $20 for a festival pass).
Click here for more details and to purchase tickets!