The Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival has always been a reliable and reassuring venue for up-and-coming filmmakers and animators to showcase their passion projects for a wider audience; establishing an early imprint in their career. In its ninth year, the festival continues to succeed by screening solid work.
This year’s festival – taking place on Friday, August 11 and Saturday, August 12 – features 53 films, divided up into five programs. The selected shorts I’ve seen were mini-docs and delightful animations – the festival’s bread and butter.
For the documentaries, Toronto Youth Shorts maintains its acceptance for budding storytellers learning the ropes of the genre. Gayle Ye’s On Wednesdays We Dance is a traditional example of this brand of beginner filmmaking. The film quietly floats around during classes at Wheel Dance, a non-profit organization that provides ballroom and latin dance classes to wheelchair-bound performers. Ye skims the surface with this encouraging documentary, but the documentarian receives wonderful and comfortable interviews from various dancers.
A doc that won my heart was Fiona Cleary’s Breath of Life, which will definitely have the audience inspired and misty-eyed by the end credits. The film tells Helene Campbell’s personal story of being diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and anticipating a lung donor. Through touching interviews and a skilled perception of optimism during times of uncertainty, Fiona Cleary proves herself as a respectable filmmaker.
The animated line-up includes Callahan Bracken’s Madoka, a gorgeous albeit hollow-sounding film about piano teacher Madoka Murata, and Annie Amaya’s Why Do Flowers Die?, which has lifelike qualities but, unfortunately, falters due to an underwhelming script. The selection rebounds with Blindsided, an entertaining short about a jewel robbery-gone-wrong featuring amusing slapstick humour, crafty editing, and a strong vocal performance by Mackenzie Markowski.
Jerry Shu’s SAD IM receives an encore after its phenomenal screening at this year’s ZOOM Student Film Festival. Shu, who also performed the music in the film, proposes an alternate take on the classic “Midas touch” tale that’s both emotionally satisfying and funny. SAD IM was one of my favourite films at ZOOM, and it continues to win my affection at Toronto Youth Shorts.
Toronto Youth Shorts’ opening night presentation screens at the Spadina Theatre at Alliance Francaise de Toronto on August 11 at 7:30pm. The other programs screen at Donwood Public School and the University of Toronto’s Innis College on August 11 and August 12. $10 per program if you purchase online, $12 at the door – the SPARKS showcase is FREE.
Click here for more details and to purchase tickets!