Reviews of screenings from the 2012 CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival (WSFF), Toronto, Canada.
Screens: Thursday June 7, 9:30 pm @ The Garrison
The Short Take: This selections in this mostly-local showcase mix DIY energy and accomplished professionalism to mostly good results. The screening guide promises an "evening of live comedy" alongside the films, and you can expect a lot of filmmakers to be in attendance, so this should be a fun night out at The Garrison.
Dad Drives: Better Late Than Never (Dir: Daniel Beirne, Canada, 2012, 5 minutes) The programme begins with this sharp jab of painful awkwardness, a father-son talk that no one would ever want to have. Cringe-inducing, but quite hilarious.
Buyer's Market (Dir: Nathan Fielder, Canada, 2012, 5 minutes) Things go awry for a real estate agent showing a home to prospective buyers. (One wonders, though, if the meta-joke here is that this is a bit of a bizarro-world version of our seemingly unending seller's market where single detached houses are priced well beyond most people's affordability. Even with the problems at hand at this viewing, in today's T.O. there'd probably be prospective purchasers ready to shiv each other for a house like this.)
Visionary Times - Episode 1 (Dir: David Dineen-Porter, Canada, 2012, 3 minutes) Telling the shocking truth about ancient kissing technology, this captures the slightly-breathless tone of all of those secrets revealed!-style shows that clog up the schedules of TV channels whose programming is supposed to be educational or edifying. And you'll never look at pyramids the same way again.
SWHD (Dir: Levi MacDougall, Canada/United States, 2012) Repetition can be an awesome comedic weapon if deployed correctly, but too much of it, as is the case in this film, mostly just leads to frustration and curdles the cream.
Sheddies (Dir: Cabot McNenly, Canada, 2012, 5 minutes) The rough-hewn, homemade quality here fits right alongside the general dinginess of this pair of layabouts who are looking for a new roommate to share their shed. This feels almost like it could be a slice of big city real-life, and the dialogue has a winning off-the-cuff quality.
Pixar (Dir: Nathan Fielder, Canada, 2012, 2 minutes) Following one of the less-favoured celebrity impersonators hustling on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a mournful piano score lends a note of comedic pathos to the unloved Pixar.
Dress (Dir: Eyo Peters, United States, 2012, 2 minutes) Katie wants everyone to know that she's got a new dress. The repetition here skirts close to the edge of too-muchness, but its genial jauntiness (well expressed in its naive animation style) and some doubting voices keep it grounded.
Linda/Useful Things (Dir: Kathleen Phillips, Canada, 2012, 3 minutes/2 minutes) The former a found-image collage and the latter a crude animation, these are both imbued with Phillips' sensibility, and united by a sense that the old, the tossed-aside, the chipped and broken things can be tools for something new. Paper doll Linda comes off as a bit too goofy, but the castoffs in Useful Things attain a certain winning dignity.
Old Friends (Dir: Scott Rogowsky, United States, 2011, 4 minutes) Like this programme's SWHD, which also features Levi MacDougall, this depends too much on the simple repetition of a basic premise, but the social interaction at hand here (the awkwardness of running into an acquaintance and saying hello, only to realize how little you remember about them) hits home with a bit more painful accuracy.
Burger John's Breakfast Croissant Sandwich 1/2/3 (Dir: Dan Tahmizian, Canada, 2011, 1 minute/1 minute/1 minute) These three parody adverts were interspersed throughout the programme and managed to convey the audacity of spurious fast-food pitches ("now with five ingredients!") but didn't amp up the underlying goofiness as much as they might have.
Say Yes To The Pants (Dir: Dave Hodgson/Justin T Lee/Kye Fox, Canada, 2012, 3 minutes) A riff, I presume, on a similarly-named reality television program which I haven't seen. (Some basic research implies it must be singularly awful.) This gets by on the premise that men aren't so fussy about the clothing they wear, which might amuse the fashion conscious/TV watching crowd.
Screens: Friday June 8, 4:15 pm @ Isabel Bader Theatre; Saturday June 9, 10:15 pm @ Isabel Bader Theatre
The Short Take: These selections come at the idea of dislocation from a variety of different angles, but they all have a sense of loneliness at their heart. This one is recommended.
I Am John Wayne (Dir: Christina Choe, United States, 2012, 18 minutes) Lots of striking imagery in this unexpected story of animal husbandry in the middle of the big city. Unsure of how to mourn for a murdered friend — but quite certain he doesn't want to put on a suit and go to the funeral — Taco (Jamir Daaliya) saddles up his friend's horse and goes for a ride through the desolate streets of Brooklyn and over to Coney Island. The sight of an African-American teenager on horseback in the middle of American urban desolation is a unique image, well captured by cinematographer Andres Karu. Underneath it all, it's a story about growing up and learning hard lessons in a tough environment. Beautiful and moving.
The Immigrant (Dir: Josh Levy, Canada, 2011, 20 minutes) Admittedly, I have a sentimental soft spot for The Kids in the Hall, which drew me this project, co-written and starring Scott Thompson. But it stands on its own as a unique story, following a wetback, er, snowback Canadian, sneaking into L.A. via Mexico, and trying to get one more shot at Hollywood glamour. In a series of celebrity cameos (Michael Cera, Will Forte, Margaret Cho) Thompson's Bob London is reminded of all the bridges he burned while he was successful, and with no one willing to help him, he turns to some new friends who show him how to survive in the underground economy. While hustling for landscaping work, he encounters his old co-star Tim Terry (Dave Foley), leading to hopes of rekindling their partnership. An amusing spin on the Hollywood dream and illegal immigration, Thompson shows a mature restraint here that serves the story very well.
There were no pans at this programme!
La traversée du salon (The Crossing of the Living Room) (Dir: Geneviève Albert, Canada, 2011, 19 minutes) Céline (Micheline Bernard) has gotten herself clean, and has plans for her new, sober life. Now there's finally time to keep in touch with her daughter and to paint — but there are also empty hours to fill. Not flashy, this is a satisfying character study exploring the psychological landscape that someone in recovery has to traverse every day, just to make it across the room.
Odysseus' Gambit (Dir: Àlex Lora, Spain/United States, 2011, 12 minutes) A documentary portrait of Saravuth Inn, who makes his living as a chess player in New York City's Union Square. A Cambodian refugee left separated from the American Dream, he smokes and waits for opponents, all the while sizing up everything around him as part of a greater chess match. Full of the same choppy starts and lurches that mark its protagonist, this film captures its subject, his environment and his passions with a sharp and sympathetic eye.
Der wechselbalg (The Changeling) (Dir: Maria Steinmetz, Germany, 2011, 9 minutes) With a unique animation style that looks like a medieval tapestry come to life, this tells the story of a troll baby adopted by humans to replace their own lost child.
Reinaldo Arenas (Dir: Lucas Leyva, United States, 2011, 4 minutes) "How was that a true story?" asked my friend, invoking this film's subtitle as the impressionistic, experimental images gave way to the credits. A literal fish-out-of-water allegory, the quick-cuts at the outset show us a man holding a small shark while riding a subway, a pretty basic metaphor for dislocation. Then, as news footage runs over the close, we learn at the end that this is indeed drawn from a real-life incident. The visual metaphor is a little obvious, but this concise tale isn't heavy-handed.
Ursus (Dir: Reinis Petersons, Latvia, 2011, 10 minutes) A well-dressed bear sits by a pond, feeding the ducks, and reflects back on his circus days in this hand-drawn animation. Filled with evocative, rough-textured monochrome images, we see the bear's suspension between two worlds: too wild for the circus, yet too civilized for nature. Meditative and a little melancholy, the film muses on the impossibility of going back to the pure, naive state we began at.