Women in Film and Television Toronto (or WIFT-T) returns to the city’s legendary Royal Theatre on Wednesday, March 23 to honour various talents within the WIFT-T family through a selection of short films ranging from traditional narratives to documentaries.
My favourite film of the bunch was Simone Stock’s mysterious Iris, a wonderful film about how someone with Asperger’s Syndrome sees the world around her. Nothing is quite as it seems in Stock’s whimsical drama, but that’s the point. The feelings Iris reveals towards her boyfriend Marshall are truthful, as well as her desires to dive into a hidden realm only she can fathom. But, the fantasy elements have the audience guessing up until the very end if these outer fragments do, in fact, exist.
Bea Santos (who is currently shining in Coconut Hero) is terrific as the film’s title character, while Atticus Mitchell competently portrays his role as the patient yet sometimes insensitive boytoy who learns a tough lesson in love.
We Make Stories Out of Totem Poles is also lovely. Co-directed by Patricia Marcoccia and Sean Stiller, the documentary allows movie goers to peak in on an honest slice of sanctuary in Fort Rupert, BC. Charles Joseph and other artists show a deep appreciation for their cultural roots as they work. Watching them carve becomes a meditative activity for the viewer. Our heartstrings are pulled as well when Joseph starts tearing up over how gracious he is for his craft after years of creative depravation and prejudice towards the First Nation population.
The more traditional shorts were captivating, but struggled with select performances. I thought Jennifer Walden’s Painted Girl was rather touching with its story of a berated housewife finding an escape from her troubled marriage by creating art. However, Jesse Wheeler’s portrayal as a demanding, cheerless lover is played too heavy-handedly. Wheeler builds an uncomfortable atmosphere, but the untamed brash chauvinism gives Painted Girl the appearance of an after school special.
Lizz Hodgson’s cute yet unapologetic film Eligible also suffers from over-rehearsed performances and dialogue, but finds a way to state an opinion about modern socializing and apathetic attitudes towards others who appear different. Janelle Hanna is initially sweet as a single girl who’s ben stood up, but Russell Winkelaar is the real charmer in Eligible. He makes the ending all the more heartbreaking.
Horror fans are even thrown a bone with Vivian Lin’s And They Watched. I liked Lin’s creepy flick a lot more than fellow critic Shahbaz Khayambashi (who disliked it at last year’s Blood in the Snow Film Festival), but I understand his disappointment with its undercooked message. Vivian Lin nails all the proper tactics to give movie goers the heebie-jeebies, but she doesn’t give herself enough time to make a full-fledged morality statement. Next time, she needs to leave herself a bit more room to make a compelling argument.
Last year’s WIFT-T showcase left a substantial impression and presented movie goers with exciting filmmakers (Renuka Jeyapalan, Molly McGlynn, and Amy Jo Johnson). The films this year don’t stand out as much, but still, WIFT-T has chosen a solid group of films to represent noble, opinionated storytellers.
The 2016 WIFT-T Showcase screens at Toronto’s Royal Cinema on Wednesday, March 23 from 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm. Tickets cost $25 each, however WIFT-T members earn 25% off admission.
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