Sunday, August 21, 2016

Shorts to Watch out for at #TIFF16

Patrice Laliberté's Drame de fin de soirée
(Late Night Drama)
The short film. The old clichés about good things coming in small packages finds new meaning when it comes to film. This summer, TIFF's one-minute film festival in collaboration with Instagram made that incredibly clear (see link): these often brilliant narratives, or just plain meditations on being, showed us entire worlds in the breath of sixty seconds, and often took my own breath away. Shorts are often hard to understand as a format, because length can vary so dramatically: a sixty minute film might still be called a short. This is a very abundant year at TIFF in so many ways, and my annual feature films blog post is coming soon. But two of the richest programs this year have been Wavelengths and Short Cuts, which between them present all the short films of the festival, perhaps revealing the ingenuity that can be born of a sensibility bred in media: is this the generation that perfects the brief form? I spent more time culling down these numbers than I did the features, so use the links to look beyond my choices.

As will be true with the features blogs, the list is alphabetical. The first letters after a title indicate World Premiere, North American Premiere, International Premiere or Canadian Premiere. The second set of letters are the short forms for the TIFF programme that the movie is slotted into. French and Indigenous language titles are alphabetized in their first language. In nearly all cases, images are taken from the TIFF page linked for each film. Wade in the waters of these offerings - there are iridescent pearls on these festival sands.

350 MYA - WP - Wave
Terra Long

This investigation by Canadian Terra Long of how sand, wind and history shape desert forms, intrigues me. The beautiful programme note captures it best: "a sheet whips before the camera, shaped by the same wind that forms the rigid, undulating lines of sand below it as the film conjures the continued presence of the now vanished Rheic Ocean in the Tafilalt region of the arid Sahara Desert." This is possibly the most promising Wavelengths year (both shorts and features) that I have previewed in recent memory. More Wavelengths shorts below. TIFF page.

L'Air de Vent (The Whispering Breeze)
Jonathan Tremblay
This first film from Tremblay played in the Shorts Corner at Cannes this year. Evocatively shot in black and white, it promises to emotionally reflect on what it means to be in exile from a home you long for, even as you live in a place you also are comforted by, in this case represented an old woman living on the edge of a sea. I don't know more than this but I'm intrigued to find out. TIFF Page.

Andy Goes In - WP - SC
Josh Polon
As an animal-welfare advocate, it is impossible for me not to include any film which seeks to serve to enlighten others. I once asked a friend and animal activist what creature had the worst existence in North American factory farms, and she replied "the chicken". Josh Polon has made a short documentary about "a very unconventional activist" who goes undercover in a chicken farm. I'm sure not for the faint of heart to watch -- but imagine you are the chickens! TIFF page.

Anna - NAP - SC
Or Sinai
This twenty-five minute short follows a woman whose yearning for human connection and sexuality takes her out into the Israeli desert. The film won the Cinéfondation First Prize at Cannes, in a jury headed up by Naomi Kawase, which means that Sinai can look forward to her first feature being automatically programmed into Cannes in the future. Sinai made the film while still a student in Israel. TIFF page.

Bargain - IP - SC
Lee Chung-hyun
I am grateful that when I do submit to watching a trailer, there is an actual slice of the movie instead of edited scenes. I liked what I saw of this quirky short by Korean Lee Chung-hyun, made all in one take, which appears to be about an encounter in a hotel between a school girl and a man who are strangers. The programme note promises things aren't just what they seem. And I believe them.TIFF page.

Black Head Cow - WP - SC
Elizabeth Nichols
One of the most remarkable things about this short by Elizabeth Nichols, about a smart young girl who discovers a planned marriage is in her imminent future, is that it was written entirely by the students, families and community of Orkeeswa Village in Tanzania. The script, just from the trailer, appears to be sharp! TIFF Page.

Drame de fin de soirée (Late Night Drama) - WP - SC
Patrice Laliberté
Last year, I omitted Patrice Laliberté's Viaduc (Overpass) because the one-line description that was all I had at the time had not drawn me in. When I finally saw that short as a screener at the press video library, I could not believe I had almost missed it. (And indeed it went on to win the Short Cuts Award for Best Canadian Short Film.) His beautiful film about a young man's unique means of grieving promised so much of its director. I then had the opportunity to work alongside Patrice on a panel this past winter and he described for me in detail the short which he was about to shoot. This is that film. The chaos of the young heart is a theme Patrice excels at. All I can say is, I cannot wait. Nor should you. TIFF Page.

Five Films About Technology - WP - SC
Peter Huang
The teaser for this five minute short about our over-dependence on our devices hints at the humour, and the message we don't seem to want to hear may actually get through this time. TIFF Page.

Half A Man - WP -SC
Kristina Kumric
It has probably become clear from this list that I am compelled by stories about children - most of these selections feature children. Kumric's story, set in Croatia, hints at the issue of PTSD in combat veterans, as perceived by the children who have loved and missed the serving father, while he was away. Their imaginative anticipation of what he might be like is an innocent preamble to the challenges that await. TIFF Page.

Hand. Line. Cod - WP - SC
Justin Simms
Whether you are vegan, vegetarian or pescetarian, or none of the above (and I am one of these), this film seeks to respect traditions that harvest meat in a way that is both traditional, easier on the environment, and more directly connected to the creature being harvested. I am drawn to the simplicity of the storytelling here about handline cod fisherman off Fogo Island and, in an age when our First Nations communities are struggling to reclaim waters overtaken by fish farms, I am willing to hear the stories of those who do what they do differently. It also looks like filmmaking that seeks to be with its subjects more than narrate its realities, increasingly what I am drawn to. TIFF Page.

If ou le rouge perdu (Red of the Yew Tree) - NAP - SC
Marie-Hélène Turcotte
Line drawing and the specific use of the colour red draw my eye to this short by Turcotte whose beautiful La formation des nuages I remember from years gone by. (You can watch it entirely on the NFB website.) There is a spiritual sensibility present in the ephemeral, or that is the impression given from the few frames available for this film. TIFF Page.

Import - NAP - SC
Ena Sendijarevic I allow myself trailers for short films because the more limited write-ups make it hard to gauge what is being offered. I really loved the humour in the trailer for this film, which juxtaposes girls and cookies and a man positioning a satellite on a roof. The narrative progresses in soft leaps and I am curious to see how that works across this short film about a family of Bosnian refugees who are trying to make their new life work in The Netherlands. TIFF Page.

Nutag - Homeland - NAP - SC
Alisi Telengut
Montreal-based filmmaker and Concordia graduate student Telengut has already received much attention for this hand-painted short film that attempts to express the lament of peoples forcibly moved, in this case the Kalmyk peoples made to live in Siberia during the second world war. Nutag showed at Cannes and her previous films are astonishingly beautiful. I'm quite eager to see this. TIFF Page.

Oh What a Wonderful Feeling
Francois Jaros
I don't know Francois Jaros but I am intrigued by the images I find for this film, and for any film which is wanting to explore a 'realm of mystery'. Rather than intrigue, I think it is a feeling of being in an unknown world, which can be experienced in any environment but in this case is the world of a woman at a truck stop at night. TIFF Page.

The Road to Webequie - WP - SC
Ryan North and Tess Girard
Webequie First Nation is an Ojibway commmunity some five hundred kilometres due north of Thunder Bay, Ontario. North and Girard have each made very thoughtful films which I have seen in previous TIFFs and I expect the same from their latest jointly directed project that looks at how three different youth respond to the opportunities being offered by a mining company. First Nations and Indigenous youth have captured our attention especially this year in the wake of tragedies like Attawapiskat and Webequie has had its share of the same. It is important that we listen to the voices of our First Nations youth as they work out how to find a future that is life-giving. TIFF Page.

Submarine - NAP - SC
Mounia Akl
Another short which was screened at Cannes this year, I am very intrigued to see this exploration of one young woman's defiance of an evacuation edict, ordered in protection from Lebanon's garbage crisis and acid rain fallout, symbols, a situation which, this filmmaker tells us, acts as a "microcosm of a country that has lots its glory." Akl's Indiegogo campaign to make the film is still available to read further. TIFF Page.

Tshiuetin (North Wind) - WP - SC
Caroline Monnet
Black and white has been a preferred métier for filmmakers this year, and in this poetic profile of the Indigenous-owned railway that cuts through Northern Québec, I sense that Monnet has created a rare look at how technology and landscape intersect with age-old cultures and traditions. A beautiful trailer, that reminds me in many ways of the evocative 2014 Estonian film In the Crosswind, though there is no relationship except in my own mind! TIFF Page.

Ten Mornings, Ten Evenings and One Horizon - WP - Wave
Tomonari Nishikawa
Besides the lovely title, this Wavelengths short beguiles me with its available images, and with its promise of a series of portraits of bridges over the Yahagi River in Japan. Meditative shorts are often among my most favourite, where an image gets to linger in our minds long after it has also told us something about ourselves.

Stay tuned for the features blog!

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