The Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival celebrates its 10-year anniversary with a variety of well-realized works, made by young filmmakers worth keeping watch for. The festival’s whopping total of 47 films are split into four programmes – the kids presentation Sparks (screening on September 21), followed by Forging Our Own Discourse, Moving Forward, and Searching For Belonging (screening, in order, on September 22).
My favourite film of the bunch I saw was a silly short appropriately named Snapchat Kidnap. Screening in the Moving Forward selection, Snapchat Kidnap is both a satire on cop dramas and an absurdist deadpan comedy demonstrating lighthearted modern technology in an escalating crime scene. The film fights (and wins) against its gimmicky appeal with clever jokes, hilarious performances, and whip-smart direction from Mike Mildon. Snapchat Kidnap is a perfect comedy.
Most of the films I saw though were from Forging Our Own Discourse, a carefully curated selection that ties the past to the present. NomNom, a fiercely animated film created by Ruby Xia and Tale Linh Do, has a deep connection through asian cuisine, but only through it’s subtle context and illustrations (the latter also looks influenced by the off-beat humour of Bill Plympton). NomNom’s story is actually more focused on an amusing competition between two chefs who eventually learn how to – wait for to – break bread with each other.
The provocative short Lady Strips, however, is more visual with its connection. Resembling an old-time peep show, the audience observes the film through a narrow opening as model Dorrie Mack plays the role of an undressing, unassuming woman. Adrienne Mountain’s animation is impeccable; she traces Mack’s every move and reveals a secret that is equally horrifying as it is beautiful and poignant. Jevon Boreland’s Stripped, a mini-doc about Torontonian performer Phylicia Carty (aka. MZ Lady Ice), deals with another variation of sexiness. The audience finds out about Carty’s occupation after we learn how confident she is. Using quick interviews with Carty along with fellow colleagues and friends, Boreland builds a likeable repertoire between his subject and his audience, intelligently establishing Carty beyond her stage personality. Once movie goers make it to the stage, the strength in Phylicia’s spirit is apparent through her choreography and how she presents herself as the only female dancer in an all-male performer club.
In Finding Family, director Shivi Silva documents his romantic relationship with his partner Adam in this very emotional short. Initial introductions with Shivi and Adam are adorable and funny as they reminisce about their past and correct each other on their memories, but the short takes a slight shift in tone when the men open up about how their romance has affected their relationship to their family. Although suffering from minor pacing issues, it’s clear that the intent of Silva’s documentary is to centre around the feelings instead of the filmmaking. On that basis, the film is quite moving; it would make a great double-bill with Arshad Khan’s ABU.
Toronto Youth Shorts’ opening night presentation SPARKS screens at the Palmerston Theatre on Friday, September 21 at 12:00pm. The other programs screen at Jackman Hall (AGO) on Saturday, September 22.
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