By: Addison Wylie
As the city of Toronto gears up for its most prestigious film festival, passengers of the city’s TTC subway service will be occupied by various one-minute silent short films while they gaze at platform monitors and await their ride.
TUFF (the Toronto Urban Film Festival) remains the largest film festival for commuters in North America. From September 12th to the 20th, shorts from around the globe will play on TTC’s 290 available screens and set out to entertain and captivate. I’ve caught some of this year’s picks – it’s a real mixed bag. Some of the films will arouse plenty of interest, other projects have trouble overcoming the withdrawal of sound while squeezing a story into a condensed duration.
One of those problematic films is David Djindjikhachvili’s A Family Memoir. The film features two boys enraptured by a bird that keeps flying into the foreground and back out. The film finds easygoing nuance by running the action in slow motion, but the cinematographer is too slow focusing on the objects that are constantly changing position.
I also didn’t know what to make of Patrick Clancy’s Raja. The film frequently and sloppily cuts to black, and then pounces back on the main character carrying out everyday activities. Raja has little clarity and feels like it quadruples its runtime because of that.
Commuters, however, will want to keep their eyes out for Thierry Loa’s A Man and A Woman. The Montreal filmmaker gives viewers a short which is essentially an abridged version of Blue Valentine, but both leads make this film stand up on its own. The primary actors are tremendous portraying highs and lows of a relationship. Even though we’re only with these characters for a minute, we feel attached to them – like we’ve known them for years. Loa’s behaved fly-on-the wall perspectives issue another layer of authenticity to A Man and A Woman.
Another thinker is a submission from Bursa, Turkey. Baturhan Bilgin’s Theory features an older man struggling while descending a flight of stairs as he passes an energetic younger man who has an uncanny appearance. Especially since both gentlemen are carrying the same type of baggage. While the short’s bleak ending may have you distracted and bummed out during the early morning rush hour, the message Bilgin is hinting at sticks long after Theory has finished.
Sharon Switzer, the founder/director of TUFF, has also submitted a film. Her timely titled film #HeardOnTransit writes phrases across the screen that others have been caught saying out loud on various transits. The sepia-toned short keeps a limited style, but the phrases are able to hit some wild reactions with unfiltered poignancy.
Copenhagen filmmaker Sara Koppel creates bittersweet fluency in the amazingly animated Seriously Deadly Silence, while Foligno, Italy’s Hermes Mangialardo surprises audiences with One Day in July where sharp illustrations and a haunting final image sum up a powerful story. Unfortunately, Toronto is partly represented by Darn It!, a meandering film directed by Kathryn Walter and Greg Woodbury that resembles a YouTube instructional video. The quality is on par with those annoying YouTube ads where Tai Lopez brags about his Lamborghini.
TTC riders will be rewarded if they’re patient through TUFF’s mixed bag. It’s a good thing commuters have had practice waiting.