Tag Archives: Toronto

Toronto Shorts International Film Festival Back For 5th Year

The 5th annual Toronto Shorts International Film Festival is back in this September, taking place from the 21st to the 24th at the AGO Art Gallery of Ontario’s Jackman Hall. As in previous years, the festival proudly showcases some of the most unique and fascinating shorts films from Canada and the world.

Among the shorts that will be screened, 25 of them are Canadian and represent a variety of genres, including sci-fi, comedy, drama and animation.

One Canadian short that will catch your eye is FTL, which was written and directed by Adam Stern and stars Ty Olsson as Commander Kane. Kane gets an opportunity to test a new spacecraft, called ‘Lightspeed’, which was constructed to travel faster than the speed of light. While the ship successfully arrives to an orbit around Mars, its attempt to return back to Earth takes an unexpected and frightening turn for Kane, his cohorts and his family. Watch the trailer for a sneak peek at the film:

 

As a sci-fi short film, FTL is an amazing story about hope and courage when technology goes awry. The drama and suspense are powerful enough to keep the viewer on the edge of his or her seat. The special effects were incredibly detailed and enjoyable to watch. There are some interesting resemblances in FTL to some very famous sci-fi feature films. Kane’s cool attitude in the beginning is reminiscent to Han Solo from Star Wars, while his maddening trip through space will remind viewers of Dave Bowman’s descent to Jupiter in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The ending of the film happened a little too quickly; it would have been interesting to hear what Kane had to say about the whole ordeal. Overall, FTL was a well-acted and well produced short film out of British Columbia. It even has the potential to be made into a full-length feature.

For fans of short film, do not miss out on your chance to visit the Toronto Shorts International Film Festival this year. You will be able to catch more amazing short films such as FTL with a general admission of $14 or with an all-access pass of $40.  To buy tickets and for more information on this year’s lineup, including other Canadian shorts, check out their website at www.TorontoShorts.com and be sure to attend!

Want to share a review or comment on a Canadian short that you saw at the festival? Send them to Short Film Fan via Facebook, Twitter or email. Readers’ thoughts on short films are always welcome.

 

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Short Film Fan’s NFB Pick From This Year’s TIFF

This year’s TIFF is just around the corner and a while back, Short Film Fan listed 29 Canadian short films that will be screened at this year’s festival. For fans of the NFB, three of their animated shorts are also in the mix.  This week, the good folks at the NFB provided SFF a chance to screen these shorts before the festival kicks off on September 7th. The following are the films’ teasers and synopses:

Charles, by Dominic Etienne Simard (2017)

Charles knows he’s not like other kids. Every day at school, he’s reminded that his life isn’t like that of his classmates. Every day at home, he sees that he doesn’t receive the same care as other children in his neighbourhood. To dodge the unfairness and taunts, Charles imagines a peaceful haven peopled by good-hearted little frogs.

 

The Tesla World Light, by Matthew Rankin (2017)

New York, 1905. Visionary inventor Nikola Tesla makes one last appeal to J.P. Morgan, his onetime benefactor.  The Telsa World Light is a tragic fantasy about the father of alternating current, inspired by real events such as the inventor’s run of bad luck as a businessman and his affection for a pet bird, which he loves “like a man loves a woman.” Tesla’s words to the banker form the backdrop of this moving film about the man who blended science and art in his attempts to create the utopia of unlimited energy for all.

 

Threads, by Torill Kove (2017)

In her latest animated short, Academy Award®-winning director Torill Kove explores the beauty and complexity of parental love, the bonds that we form over time, and the ways in which they stretch and shape us.

 

Short Film Fan Pick: The Tesla World Light. This was a fascinating documentary-style short about one of the world’s pioneers of electrical engineering. The story itself is enough to encourage others to want to learn more about Tesla’s career struggles and successes. The film was extremely fast-paced and contained a delightful, eye-catching and impressive mix of animation, photography and live action. Those who have seen Rankin’s previous animated short, Mynarski Death Plummet, will see many similarities in styles and pace between the two films. Without a doubt, The Tesla World Light will prove to be a hit with history buffs and lovers of avant-garde cinema alike.

For more on TIFF, go to http://www.tiff.net/ and to learn more about the NFB, click on https://www.nfb.ca/

Enjoy the shorts and TIFF! If you get a chance to see one or all of these NFB shorts, please leave a comment below. Tell us which one was your favourite and why.

Emotional, Heartfelt ‘Alison’ Looks At Rough Side Of Relationships

At some point when a couple has been dating for a certain amount of time, both partners must decide whether or not to take things to the next level and enter into a committed relationship. Taking that next step gives both partners a sense of excitement and happiness, as they look forward to their life journey together. As the relationship continues, however, life is not always fun and games as each partner eventually reveals the not-so-good side of his or her personality. As a result, bad habits that were once accepted in the beginning become annoying and difficult behaviours that were at first shrugged-off become a worry. After building a life together, is it worth ending a long-term relationship when bad behaviours get to the point of serious intolerability?

The 13-minute dramatic short film Alison (2016) sets out to answer that question as it looks at one couple’s troubling and emotional evening. Written and produced by Jessica Rose and directed by David Lester, Alison stars Jessica Rose as Alison and Kristopher Turner (Saving Hope, This Life) as Jay. Alison and Jay are heading home from an evening out. With Alison under the influence, Jay does his utmost best to get her inside the house and put her to bed. Things don’t go so smoothly for Jay, as Alison’s behaviour becomes hard to manage. Through it all, Jay keeps his cool until he reaches a breaking point. For more on Alison and Jay’s eventful night together, watch the film below:

 Warning: mature content – viewer discretion is advised.

 

Short Film Fan recently got in touch with Jessica to learn more about Alison, including the difficulties faced by the crew in filming the street scene and whether or not the short was a commentary about addiction and mental health issues faced by couples in long-term relationships.

Short Film Fan: Who or what influenced you to make Alison?

Jessica Rose: David Lester (the director) and I have been together for eleven years, so long term relationships are something I think we understand very well. The film shows a kind of intimacy specific to long term relationships that we hadn’t seen portrayed on screen before in a way that felt authentic to us. When you live with someone you get to see all sides of them that the general public isn’t privy to: all the wonderful cute lovely things you fell in love with and, inevitably, all the baggage that reveals itself when you really trust each other or start to test each other. Sometimes it’s working at it and getting through the hard stuff that makes your love even deeper, but it can be hard to see that when you’re in the thick of it. Also, speaking to the character of Alison specifically, I was going through a challenging time personally and I was probably channeling some of those feelings when creating her.

SFF: What challenges did you face when it was time to film the tinkle scene in the street?

JR: Time! We shot the whole film in one day, and the pee scene was the last thing on the schedule. It was nearly 2 a.m. and getting very cold, all of us had worked hard all day and were exhausted, and we needed to wrap.  We used a “pee rig”, so there were definitely some technical adjustments we had to make to figure it out. David operated the rig, which was big syringe attached to a tube sewn into the pants, and on the first take he put too much pressure into the pump and it came out like a waterfall.  It took some practice to get it to look natural. Luckily it was the middle of the night so there weren’t too many people walking by ready to call the cops.

SFF: Was it a mental health or addiction issue that was behind Alison’s dysfunctional behaviour?

JR: We actually don’t want to say too much about what we intended because it’s been fascinating to learn how people interpret it and project their own relationship experiences onto the film. That being said, I didn’t intend it to be an addiction issue when I initially wrote it. I actually think Alison is a pretty normal girl, and that the situation reflected in the film is more common between young couples than people tend to admit. Relationships have the potential to be very beautiful things, but they do challenge us and teach us a great deal about ourselves. The process can be deeply rewarding, but it’s not necessarily smooth sailing.

SFF: Some people would say that what we witnessed in Jay was relationship co-dependency. Is the film an attempt to bring the issue of codependency out into the open for public discussion?

JR: I wouldn’t say it was a deliberate attempt because I didn’t have that kind of agenda when writing it, but it’s absolutely a conversation in the film and something I think about in my own life. Having been in a relationship for eleven years, David and I really grew up together in our twenties, and when you’re with someone for an extended period of time, unconsciously your needs start to bleed together and you end up making compromises or demands on each other that you don’t even realize you’re making. Developing true independence and self-sufficiency within the relationship was something we had to work extremely hard on. That being said, I wrote the ending the way it is because I really want to make the audience question whether Alison behaves this way all the time or if this is a more isolated event. In healthy relationships, even if both people work hard to be emotionally responsible for themselves, inevitably there are times where you take turns caring for one another. I like that Alison shows up for Jay the next day, and we finally get to see this other side to her that he really loves.

SFF: Alison was named a Vimeo Staff Pick awhile back. What was it like for you and your team when you got the news?

JR: So exciting! Putting it online was a lot of hard work, but seeing it take off and find an audience was the most gratifying, rewarding thing. I was really happy about the traction it was getting online even before we had the Vimeo news — we were amazed at how many people started to share it over social media. It’s vulnerable to put such a personal story on the Internet and it’s really difficult to give a film life online. We had no idea what the response would be, so ultimately the whole experience ended up being so moving to us. I was home alone in my pajamas when I got the Staff Pick e-mail and kind of just burst into tears (in a good way). David was working, so I called him with the news and we both kind of freaked out.

SFF: What lesson or lessons would you like the audience to take away from Alison?

JR: Honestly, I hope that if there are any lessons to be taken from the film that they are very unique to the person watching it. Our favourite thing about film is how it gets people talking, so what we love most is when people start to have dialogue about it after and reflect on what they’ve seen and how it connects to their own life. We’ve had people write to us and share the different ways they relate to the film or how it’s changed their perspective on their past or current relationships, and that part is really the most gratifying.

 

Short Film Fan Review:

Alison was an emotional and heartfelt story about staying dedicated to your mate. While it is easy to run from a relationship at the first sign of trouble, Alison shows us that true love for a partner includes accepting the bad with the good.  The quick scene change from “oh yeah, peanut butter” to vomiting was funny, but you still feel for Alison’s suffering; especially when she broke down in tears in the tub. Jay’s calmness when confronting and coping with Alison’s behaviour showed an amazing strength of character, while his break down reminds us all that a person’s strength can only last for so long. If the film went on for a few minutes longer, perhaps Jay could have revealed his true thoughts, feelings and concerns about Alison and how it was affecting his place in the relationship.

Overall, Alison is an extremely well-written and well-acted serious film that would resonate with couples young or old; married or still in the dating phase. Singles could also benefit from watching Alison, as it would be a great teaching tool on how to manage the relationship stresses and challenges. As Jessica mentioned, Alison has the ability to get people thinking and talking about their own relationship experiences. After watching the film above, how did it affect the way you see relationships past and present? Have you been in a similar situation like Jay was? Have you walked in Alison’s shoes at one point? Let Jessica know how Alison moved you. You can send her a comment at the bottom of the film’s website at https://www.alisonshortfilm.com/ or you can Tweet her at @thejessrose

TIFF Announces 29 Canadian Short Films For September Lineup

Next month, the 42nd annual Toronto International Film Fest (TIFF) will be taking place September 7th to 17th and it promises to satisfy the palates of all sorts of film buffs. From world cinema to documentaries to experimental film, TIFF 2017 is Canada’s, if not the continent’s, largest on-going film festival that features new and seasoned film talent from Canada and around the world.

Of course, no film festival would be complete without short films and TIFF recently announced this year’s shorts line up for its September screening. There will be 29 Canadian shorts at this year’s festival, including 11 directed by women and three by Indigenous filmmakers. 24 shorts are part of the Short Cuts programme and 5 shorts will be shown under the festival’s Wavelength banner.

The complete list is as follows:

SHORT CUTS PROGRAMME

The Argument (with annotations) Daniel Cockburn, Canada/UK

Bickford Park Linsey Stewart, Dane Clark, Canada

Bird Molly Parker, Canada

Charles Dominic Etienne Simard, Canada/France

Creatura Dada Caroline Monnet, Canada

Crème de menthe Philippe David Gagné, Jean-Marc E. Roy, Canada

The Crying Conch (Le cri du lambi) Vincent Toi, Canada

The Drop In Naledi Jackson, Canada

For Nonna Anna Luis De Filippis, Canada

Grandmother (ʔEtsu) Trevor Mack, Canada

homer_b Milos Mitrovic, Conor Sweeney, Canada

An Imagined Conversation: Kanye West & Stephen Hawking Sol Friedman, Canada

Latched Justin Harding, Rob Brunner, Canada

Lira’s Forest Connor Jessup, Canada

Midnight Confession Maxwell McCabe-Lokos, Canada/USA

Milk Heather Young, Canada

Nuuca Michelle Latimer, Canada

Pre-Drink Marc-Antoine Lemire, Canada

Rupture Yassmina Karajah, Jordan/Canada

Shadow Nettes Phillip Barker, Canada

Stay, I Don’t Want to Be Alone (Reste, je ne veux pas être toute seule) Gabriel Savignac, Canada

The Tesla World Light (Tesla : Lumière Mondiale) Matthew Rankin, Canada

Threads Torill Kove, Canada/Norway

We Forgot to Break Up Chandler Levack, Canada

 

WAVELENGTHS PROGRAMME

Heart of a Mountain Parastoo Anoushahpour, Ryan Ferko, Faraz Anoushahpour, Taiwan/Canada

Palmerston Blvd. Dan Browne, Canada

Scaffold Kazik Radwanski, Canada

some cities Francesco Gagliardi, Canada

Turtles Are Always Home (Sokun Al Sulhufat) Rawane Nassif, Canada/Lebanon/Qatar

 

All 24 Canadian Short Cuts films are eligible for the IWC Short Cuts Award for Best Canadian Short Film. All films in the Short Cuts programme are eligible for the IWC Short Cuts Award for Best Film. For synopses of all shorts, go to tiff.net/sc and tiff.net/wavelengths. For tickets, click tiff.net/tickets or call 416-599-TIFF (toll-free: 1-888-599-8433).

If you will be attending TIFF this year, why not show your support for homegrown short film talent and see this year’s slate of Canadian shorts (many of which are world premieres). If you do happen to see any of them, share your thoughts about what you saw by leaving a message in the comments box below!

 

An 8-Film Preview Of 2017 Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival

If you or anyone you know is a young and aspiring filmmaker living in the Greater Toronto area, the Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival is back. On August 11th and 12th, a total of 53 short films will be featured in five different programs throughout various locations. This festival is your chance to see some of Toronto’s budding filmmakers’ work in a wide variety of genres, including animation, comedy and drama covering a wide variety of topics.

Aleks Tucovic
Short Film Fan had the pleasure in reviewing a sample of what festival goers will expect to see at this year’s festival. The themes, dates and locations of these films are also included below. Thanks to Aleks Tucovic, an avid Short Film Fan reader and subscriber, for contributing four of the reviews in this list:

 

UNDER THE SURFACE – August 11, 7:30pm, Spadina Theatre at Alliance Francaise de Toronto

But Wait, There’s More – directed by Mike Mildon

In this cheeky 14-minute short, Tim goes door to door on a mission to bring people to God. In his travels, he meets the legendary and disgraced TV marketer, Danny Deals, who teaches Tim a thing or two about sales. The film was part mockumentary, part dramatic comedy in which the costumes and props gave the short somewhat of an authentic 1980s look and feel. There are some good lessons to learn at the end, no matter what you are trying to sell. – MK

Erika – directed by Hanna Jovin

During World War II, a Bosnian and German girl find and stoke a friendship that stretches beyond ethnicity. The acting was excellent and the use of German and Bosnian languages made it feel like the short was produced in Europe. Maybe the lesson to be learned in this film is that, while the first casualty of war is truth, the innocence of youth remains intact. This a great short for history buffs who would like to learn more about Bosnia and its people during the war. -MK

 

UNBOUND  – August 12, 1:15pm, Innis College

Happy Face Hill – directed by Samantha Chalmers

When life drives a highway through one’s life, what is one to do? There’s no better opportunity than to put a smile on everyone who is driving that highway of life. “Happy face can’t always be happy,” says the film’s speaker, however. He reminds us to just enjoy the day, the family, friends and the meal on the table. You don’t know what the day will bring, but having watched Happy Face Hill I know it brought an enjoyable film to my day. -AT 

Nana – directed by Ali Kellner

This animation piece is a personal account of experience of a girl from Budapest during World War II. The film flows from the narration. Where the words established the events, the animation filled with imagery of what was directed in those harsh times. The music which was of somber tone bound together the destiny of people swept up by great historical shifts. The film pulled me in into its humble yet powerful reflections. -AT

PROPOSAL – August 12, 3:30pm, Innis College

The Talk – directed by Tyler Boyco

A husband and wife try to come up with the best possible way to talk to their young teenage daughter about the birds and the bees. The resulting heart to heart is far from the scenarios that they come up with in their minds. Although a bit slow paced, this short made an often uncomfortable rite of passage for all parties involved into a lighthearted comedy. After watching this short, teenage viewers may want to tread carefully while at sitting at home between after school and dinner time. -MK

These Familiar Faces – directed by Maximum Brauch and Raine Akiyama-Chen

This was a spooky story of four people in an emotional group session. The music weighed in heavily on the direction of the film. Going back and forth in creative storytelling created its own story deconstruction. The film’s characters left me wondering about what reality was like for those young enough to remember and those not yet old enough to know better. -AT

 

TRANSITIONS – August 12, 6:00pm, Innis College

Ariana – directed by Astrid Harrison

After losing her love in a car accident, young woman hears a particular tune at a wedding that she can’t get out of her mind. She helps the song’s composer by adding lyrics of her own, which in turn helps her with closure. The short was a very heartwarming story about the tragedy of love lost and the hope in moving on. The car accident scene was particularly shocking and has the potential to make viewers flinch in their seats. The music and singing were beautifully written and scored for the film. -MK

Breath, Maggie, Breathe – directed by Sofie Uretsky

Before undergoing a delicate and unconditional procedure, a conversation between sisters sets the tone of the story. The opening shows the main character strongly composed then shows her vulnerability in dialogue. I liked how her deflection of a doctor’s concern leads directly to the next scene’s reflections with her partner. This was an uncomplicated yet important story. -AT

 

For more on this year’s Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival and to buy your tickets, check out http://www.torontoyouthshorts.ca/

If you see any of the shorts featured listed above and want to share your own thoughts about them, leave a comment below!

Have fun at the festival, everyone!

Trusted Values Connect, Contrast, Confront & Clash In ‘Static’ (2016)

Holding on or letting go. It can be a challenging decision that is usually influenced by the values we hold.  For example, if a device that you have cherished for years no longer worked properly, do you keep it and get it repaired or do you throw it away and get a new one? What about when a loved one dies? Do you live in the past or are you able to move on with your life? The decision to act one way or the other is sometimes not so easy to make, though. Memories, experiences and even our mental health can factor in heavily when making that next step.

The 2016 short film Static is a dramatic and intense look at this common life struggle, as it takes you into the eye of a family drama hurricane between an older man and his son as they clash over the fate of a broken TV set. Produced and written by Tanya Lemke and based on the short story of the same name by Robert Shearman, Static stars Eric Peterson as Ernest and Yannick Bisson as his son, Billy. Ernest is a widower living alone with an old TV set. It drips blood (in his mind) and wants it repaired. Billy, on the other hand, has different designs. He wants to replace his dad’s old TV set with a new one. With angry opposition, and with memories of his deceased wife, Ernest makes an attempt to save the one thing left in his life from its demise.

Click on CBC’s Canadian Reflections link below to watch the whole short:

http://watch.cbc.ca/canadian-reflections/season-2016/static/38e815a-00c1237ab0f

Short Film Fan spoke with Tanya to learn more about Static, including the many ways you could interpret Ernest’s behavior and mindset throughout the film:

Short Film Fan:  Why did you decide to write and produce Static?

Tanya Lemke: My first short film Happy Pills was about to be released. I was high on that experience and my newfound love of directing, and I wanted to get going on another film as soon as possible. I also make my living in production which cuts into a lot of development time. So, aside from my own writing I was looking around for something to adapt. I had the chance to meet my now good friend Robert Shearman around that time and read a bunch of his stuff, which I loved! His story ‘Static’ jumped out at me because it illustrated so clearly a theme that I’m still fascinated with: the things we don’t say and don’t say and don’t say, until the façade inevitably cracks and the corrosive truth starts to leak out. That’s powerful stuff. Fortunately Rob liked my work too, and when I asked him if I could adapt ‘Static’ I was thrilled when he said yes. The script I wrote from that story then won the Screenplay Giveaway from the last-ever CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival, and we were a go.

SFF: What was it like working with Eric Peterson and Yannick Bisson, two powerhouse Canadian actors?

Yannick Bisson as ‘Billy’

TL: I’d been lucky enough to work with Yannick on Murdoch Mysteries for a while so I already knew him when I approached him with this script. But, I was still absolutely floored when he agreed to join in, especially considering his exhausting schedule on Murdoch. He’s an absolute megawatt star in every way and I’ll be forever grateful for his support. The search for our Ernest was tougher; I had never met Eric Peterson before and I admit I was a bit intimidated to send him the material. He’s a legend! But he loved the script and was so gracious and generous with his time and energy. He came to our set utterly prepared with reams of his own notes on his character and backstory despite also being in the middle of shooting a major Canadian production (Best Laid Plans for CBC). Really, working with both of these guys was the best experience I could hope for.

SFF:  We can see that Ernest strongly believes in the value of fixing and keeping things rather than throwing them out quickly. But, are we witnessing a much stronger feeling of survivor guilt or an inability to let go?

Eric Peterson as ‘Ernest’

TL:  Absolutely. All of those things and more – how they contrast and how they connect. One of the reasons I was so drawn to the story of Static’ was its layers upon layers of meaning under an almost placid façade. Ernest is old-fashioned. He subscribes to the idea that “they just don’t make things the way they used to”: electronics, wives…  There is love and grief and terrible guilt, but also denial. There’s resentment for being left behind, and resentment towards the ones who are left. There is the idea that by constantly replacing flawed things with new; we sanitize them, avoiding the messiness of death and decay. It speaks to our more and more obvious inability to deal.  Then there’s the external vs. the internal world; what’s real and what isn’t – is it grief, is it dementia, is it madness? I love the story’s contrasts; it’s a bit funny, painfully poignant and also horrifying in a way. It’s also hopeful despite being super dark. Even the title has multiple meanings:  “static” speaks to Ernest’s frozen emotional state and inability to move forward, as well as the static on the TV’s screen, which again indicates that nothing is black and white but many tones of grey (and red).

SFF:  What has the audience reaction been like to the film?

TLStatic has been so well received at all the festivals it’s played at so far, as well as its Canadian broadcast on CBC, and I can’t wait to bring it to more audiences worldwide. I was actually a bit surprised by how warmly the horror/genre community in particular embraced it. I guess it was because of all the blood (but what mainstream love story wouldn’t benefit from a little blood spurt, I ask you?). It’s wonderful to hear all of the feedback and support from fellow filmmakers as well as fans. I particularly love to hear from these hardcore horror fans: things like “moving”, “tear-jerking”, “heart-wrenching”. There’s a bit of a cool contrast going on there too and it’s awesome.

SFF: What message would you like the audience to take away from Static?

TL: Making Static ended up being cathartic for me on a whole bunch of levels. I think one of its messages is that everything and everyone is complex and that’s as it should be. It doesn’t have to be pretty. Accept everything, even (especially) the darkness. Feel what you need to feel.

 

Short Film Fan Review:

Static was a moving tale of generational divides and value clashes. Ernest’s remark of “Stop tossing things out when they get broken and try to fix them for a change.” sounded like a stinging warning against and rebuke of the throw-away society that we currently live in. For fans of Canadian television programs, casting Eric Peterson and Yannick Bisson was a treat. They played their characters quite well and looked like a real-life father and son duo. You could even hear a bit of Oscar from the hit TV show’s Corner Gas coming from Eric in some of the scenes, especially during the answering machine argument. The dripping blood gave Static that horror short film feel and it added to the film’s tense drama. It was hard to watch Ernest go through the pain of reliving his dog’s and wife’s death. But, of course, it was important to include those scenes as it gave important context to his obsession to “stop tossing things out”. In the last scene, it would have been a fitting twist to see the image of his wife’s face in the TV set as Ernest was driving madly away in the car, rather than the trees. Finally, Static was well-acted, well-written and reminds us that it can be hard to let go as well as to hold on; sometimes the situation we are in does not make the decision-making process any easier.

Give Static a follow on Twitter @StaticTheMovie to see if it is playing at a film festival near you. All the best to Tanya in her future short film endeavors!

 

Guest Post: Seek Out Healthy Human Connections With ‘The Girl Next Door’ (2015)

It is always a pleasure to receive guest articles from Short Film Fan readers. This week’s article was submitted by Wayne Rowley from Winnipeg, MB. Wayne is an avid musician and a devoted dad who loves short films. Wayne’s article is a review of a short film that examines the importance of making healthy human connections.

 

The Desire For Connectivity

This world we live in is moving at such a fast pace that it is getting more challenging every day to keep up. We are so inundated with smartphones, internet, news, social media, apps, and gadgets.  Yet with all this “connectivity”, there are an alarming number of people who are feeling more separated and alone than ever before.  We are staring into the eyes of our iPhone.  We are spending a quiet night/weekend/series with Netflix and Facebook.

The Girl Next Door is an eerie and dark examination of one woman’s desire for connection while living under a cloud of separation and isolation. Starring Lara Jean Chorostecki and produced by Lauren MacKinlay, Peter Mabrucco and Farah Merani, the film begins when Evette (Chorostecki) finds herself alone in an apartment after being released from some from type of hospital (possibly due to an addiction, mental illness or some other issue). Her only contact is from Joy (a therapist or probation officer) via her phone. She has no other human contact and is in virtual isolation until she hears a couple next door. Through the walls she becomes obsessed with their lives due to her need for contact and sheer loneliness. Watch the film below:

Short Film Fan recently reached out to Lauren and Peter to learn more about why they produced The Girl Next Door, including what lessons could be learned from the film.

 

Short Film Fan: What motivated or influenced you to produce The Girl Next Door?

Lauren MacKinlay:  Peter and I had just finished an awesome working experience together on Vincenzo Natali’s short film for “The ABCs of Death 2” and knew we wanted to do another project together soon. Peter showed me this script that Greg Carere had so beautifully crafted and there were several elements that attracted me immediately: the “one woman show” nature of the piece (I’m a huge advocate for female-driven stories), the themes of isolation and connectivity, and the striking visuals that the content laid out.  We instantly knew this was the script to do and the only person we could see playing Evette was Lara Jean Chorostecki, and with the addition of my longtime producing partner, Farah Merani, our little team was born.

SFF: What particular challenge or challenges did you face when making this short?

Peter Mabrucco :  The biggest challenge in directing this piece was figuring how to make shooting in one room not be stale – which isn’t as scary when you have an actor like Lara Jean who has such an incredible presence. While we specifically set out to shoot a script that was contained in one location for budgetary reasons, we also knew it was going to be a challenge when we started this project – which added to the excitement! We figured if you’re not challenging yourself and aren’t in some way scared of what you’re shooting, you’re not doing it right.

SFF: Why was it significant for Evette to cut pictures out from magazines and tape them on her wall?

LM & PM: For Evette, social interaction is a challenge. As Evette listens in on the lives of Beth and James, cutting up and placing pictures on the wall is a way to help her visualize the life they lead. As she fills in the calendar of their lives on the wall, she may place images representing the various aspects: a map showing locations of where they go, images of buildings they frequent, or activities they enjoy, as a way to fill in the gaps.  It’s a way for her to connect with them, to create a relationship, all the while staying safely within the confines of her home; a visual manifestation of her simultaneous longing for and fear of connection.

SFF: What has the audience reception towards the film been like since its release?

LM & PM: We have had incredible reception for the film and have been fortunate to be selected for several great film festivals. We even took home the Prodigy Auteur Prize from the Amsterdam Festival, which was a big day for Team GND! The best take-away is that everyone gets something different from it. Some people think Beth and James are real people and truly her neighbours, others think it’s all in Evette’s head. To hear the debate between the two thoughts is amazing to see/hear.

SFF: What message or messages did you want to get across to the audience with The Girl Next Door?

LM & PM: With technology in today’s world, accessibility and connection are supposed to be improved – yet the opposite seems to have happened. While it was supposed to make connection with others easier – which it has on a macro, global scale – on the micro side, the intimate connections between people have been lost in the foray. We live in a world of projected lives through the filters of social media. All Evette wants is a human connection, and she’s unsure of how to get it. The Girl Next Door can be seen as a cautionary tale of what a life will look like without being able to connect to others.

 

Short Film Fan Review

Lara Jean does a magnificent job of becoming her character and you really feel her loneliness and desire for contact. When things change and the woman next-door tells her partner that she’s moving to Paris, it is devastating for Evette. She then becomes extremely desperate and agitated when she no longer hears the couple through the walls. This eventually leads her to leave the apartment (in spite of feeling terrified) in a last-ditch effort for contact.

It is very easy to lose yourself in the film as it is very well acted, directed and edited. The subtle music and sound effects (voices in her head that gradually get louder) are very effective in adding to the emotional tension that is building in the mind of Evette.

The highlight of the film occurs when Evette is listening through headphones during a romantic dinner the couple is having and is transported into their apartment via her imagination and has a seat at their table. It was a real creative touch that allows us to peak into the window of her mind.

One interesting observation is the shirt that Evette is wearing has a picture of a motorcycle on it. This is can be seen as juxtaposition to the freedom that she doesn’t have.

As an afterthought, perhaps Evette could have looked increasingly more disheveled throughout the film in order to mirror the inner turmoil that she is experiencing.

Overall, The Girl Next Door is a very well-done film and is worth seeing several times. Congratulations to all that were involved in making this film!

 

Closing Thoughts

If you’re a keen TV viewer, you probably recognized Lara Jean from such programs as Hannibal, Designated Survivor and X-Company. We hope to see her in more short films in the future.

Lauren and Peter are very excited to announce that The Girl Next Door has been picked up by the video on-demand platform, Seed & Spark. If viewers  want to see the short in its entirety, as well as many other exquisite projects curated by a team that devotedly supports independent filmmakers, they should sign up for an account and stream it today.

The ability to connect with others is very important for one’s physical, mental and spiritual well-being. The Girl Next Door is certainly a chilling reminder of the consequences that can befall someone when he or she fails to connect properly with other human beings. Thanks to Lauren and Peter for reaching out to Short Film Fan with The Girl Next Door and good luck with your future short film projects. Give them a follow on Twitter @GNDfilm to see what they are up to next!

Get Your Fix Of Canadian and World Shorts Year-Round At TIFF Short Cuts

Toronto is home to many film festivals, and the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is by far the city’s best known. Film buffs from around the world descend upon TIFF each year to watch and enjoy features and shorts from Canada and around the globe. If you’re lucky, you even get a chance to see some of Hollywood’s finest actors as they make their appearance to TIFF. Over the years, TIFF has become a huge cultural event that puts the film spotlight directly on Canada.

For film fans, and for short film fans in particular, you’ll be pleased to know that you can experience TIFF outside of its annual fall programming by way of TIFF Short Cuts. Shown at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in downtown Toronto, TIFF Short Cuts screens a variety of Canadian and world-wide short films. If you’re unable to visit Toronto for any reason and would like to experience TIFF Short Cuts, have no fear. TIFF’s outreach program, TIFF Film Circuit, makes its appearance in many Canadian communities each year.

Short Film Fan reached out to Laura Good, programmer of TIFF Short Cuts and TIFF Film Circuit, to get a better understanding of what Short Cuts is all about and what is planned for Short Cuts programming this year.

A scene from Robin Joseph's 'Fox and the Whale' to be screened at TIFF Short Cuts
A scene from Robin Joseph’s ‘Fox and the Whale’ to be screened at TIFF Short Cuts

 

Short Film Fan: What is TIFF Short Cuts?

Laura Good: TIFF Short Cuts is a programming stream dedicated to showcasing short film. The year round Short Cuts series is named as an extension of the Short Cuts section at the Toronto International Film Festival. We host monthly screenings that feature the best of international short film, spanning all genres, sensibilities and styles with a focus on innovation, originality, representation and impact.

Short Cuts allows audiences to sample cinema from all over the globe, in one sitting, and in my opinion, it is some of the most important filmmaking in the world. Short film is a birthplace of innovation and is often the first place we see global trends emerge in terms of both content and form. Since the format is able to be nimble and reactive, it is often the most accurate reflection of our current zeitgeist, as well.

SFF: What is your role with Short Cuts?

LG: I program and host the series, so I get to assemble programs of some of the most incredible short filmmaking in the world and present them to Toronto audiences. There are, generally speaking, far less constraints on short filmmakers than on feature filmmakers, so they have more flexibility and creative freedom. I would argue that the same freedom is inherent to short film programming.

Our recent Misfits program celebrated stories about characters who live beyond the artistic, cultural and existential status quo. It’s a beautiful thing be able to explore something like nonconformity through a diverse pack of female skateboarders who resist the patriarchy (Jennifer Reeder’s Crystal Lake), a contemporary ghost story (Connor Jessup’s Boy), and a woman who transforms into a cloud as a defense mechanism (Mark Katz’ aptly named, People Are Becoming Clouds), all in one screening slot. I feel very lucky to get to showcase such boundary-pushing work from the filmmakers who will determine the future of cinema.

I also bring in short film packages of short format work from fellow festivals and organisations. Past collaborations have included the Sundance Shorts Tour, featuring award winners from their festival, curated by Sundance’s own Mike Plante, and The Prism Prize Top Ten, featuring nominees for the prestigious award, which recognizes excellence in Canadian music videos.

SFF: How long has TIFF Short Cuts been going on for?

LG: The year round Short Cuts series has only been taking place since the opening of TIFF Bell Lightbox in 2010, but it has an old soul. TIFF programmer Magali Simard programmed the series for many years and passed the baton on to me last year.

SFF: Where in Toronto can short film fans check out Short Cuts?

LG: You can check out the Short Cuts series at the aforementioned TIFF Bell Lightbox, year-round home of the Toronto International Film Festival and hub for film lovers from Toronto and around the world. Keep an eye on the schedule here: http://www.tiff.net/#short-cuts

SFF: What kind of short films do you typically screen at Short Cuts?

LG: We show the best of world cinema including favourites from the Toronto International Film Festival, such as the hypnotizing documentary montage on the resilience of indigenous peoples across time and space – Mobilize (dir. Caroline Monnet), and the recipient of the Best Short Film award at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, depicting a Senegalese family living in Paris, who find themselves at a crossroads – Maman(s) (dir. Maïmouna Doucouré). We also feature award winners from around the world, such as the Winner of the Horizons Award at the 2015 Venice Film Festival – Belladona (dir. Dubravka Turic), a remarkable Croatian film about perception and female to female empathy, and hidden gems such as the incredibly timely and impeccably cast look at the African American experience After The Storm (dir. Jessica Oyelowo).

SFF: Do you screen only Canadian shorts at Short Cuts, or do you also feature shorts from other countries?

LG: We screen short films from around the globe. Countries represented in the past year include: Iraq, Germany, Argentina, Australia, Chile, Croatia, France, The United Kingdom, Hungary, Norway, Sweden, U.S.A., Israel and Jordan, to name a few.

It is also a priority to support the incredible filmmaking happening here at home. Every program has Canadian representation. A few Canadian films that we have recently featured include: The Grandfather Drum (dir. Michelle Derosier), Mobilize (dir. Caroline Monnet), Bacon and God’s Wrath (dir. Sol Friedman), Boy (dir. Connor Jessup), Dredger (dir. Phillip Barker), Her Friend Adam (dir. Ben Petrie), Benjamin (dir. Sherren Lee), and World Famous Gopher Hole Museum (dir. by Chelsea Mcmullan and Douglas Nayler).

SFF: Have any filmmakers come to any of your Short Cuts screenings as guest speakers?

LG: Yes! We aim to have a filmmaker or special guest in attendance at each screening.

Director Phillip Barker and lead actress Alex Paxton-Beasley (known for Dirty Singles and TV’s Murdoch Mysteries) attended the screening of his visually arresting, fourth wall breaking short, Dredger, which was a part of our Summer Fever program, to talk about experimental filmmaking, sexuality and character.  They also spoke about their last collaboration, Malody, and hinted at another to come.

Ben Petrie, who directed the glorious and unforgettable meltdown that is Sundance Award winner and Canada’s Top Ten selection, Her Friend Adam, also joined us to talk about his process and working with TIFF Rising Star Grace Glowicki, for our screening of the Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour.  

Connor Jessup, director of the Ozu-inspired and poetically supernatural Boy attended the Misfits program. You may know him as an alumnus of the TIFF Rising Stars program which recognizes talent in front of the camera, such as his performances in Closet Monster and TV’s American Crime. The producer of Boy Ashley Shields-Muir (who also collaborated with Jessup on Little Coffins) joined us as well. They told us all about their influence and gave us a sneak peek into their next short, Lira’s Forest, which they described as having the sensibility of a live action studio Ghibli film!

Sherren Lee, director of Benjamin (a film that tackles LGBTQ adoption and surrogacy), was in attendance for an Intro and Q&A following the screening along with her lead actor Jean-Michel Le Gal to talk about feminism in film and representation in all its forms.

SFF: Many short film fans don’t live in Toronto, and therefore aren’t able to attend Short Cuts easily. Are there ways that they can experience a Short Cuts screening in their own hometown?

LG: TIFF’s national film outreach program, TIFF Film Circuit, brings the best of both short and long format filmmaking to film series’ and film festivals across Canada. Film Circuit works with 170 locations in over 150 communities spanning from Prince Rupert, B.C. to Charlottetown, P.E.I.

I program many of the Canadian shorts that we play at the Short Cuts series at TIFF Film Circuit locations across the country. Some locations show short film packages and others pair short films with features. TIFF’s Canada’s Top Ten program travels to many of our locations and the Oscar-nominated Canadian short film Blind Vaysha (which was also an official selection of the Toronto International Film Festival and Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival), is currently prefacing many feature film screenings.  Find out if there is a Film Circuit location near you, here: www.tiff.net/filmcircuit/locations

SFF: How has the audience reception been to Short Cuts?

LG: The audiences have been really engaged. One of our highest attended recent screenings was the Emerging Female Voices Spotlight – a collection of short films from some of the world’s most promising emerging female filmmakers. We used the screening as an opportunity to vocalize our commitment to gender parity and intersectional feminism. The gender gap grows dramatically in the space that typically exists between short and feature filmmaking so it’s a vital place to have that conversation. We also used the program as an entry point to a much larger conversation about inclusion, representation and empathic intelligence, and the Toronto short film community rallied!

SFF: Can we get a sneak peek into what you have planned for Short Cuts in 2017?

LG: Absolutely! Our next program – Canada, Animated – focuses on home-grown talent. It takes place on Sunday, March 5th at 1pm and explores what makes the Canadian viewpoint so unique through the work of some of our most exciting new animators. It will include Alisi Telengut’s Nutag – Homeland, a poignant, hand-painted ode to the pain of the displaced Kalmyk people of the Soviet Union, following WWII. Also feature filmmaker Robin Joseph’s Fox and the Whale, an atmospheric tale of curiosity about a fox who is drawn to the sea. Joseph will be in attendance to introduce the film and will be present for a Q&A with the audience, following the program. Take a look at the full program details for Canada, Animated here: http://www.tiff.net/events/canadian-animation

Also upcoming is Spotlight: Clermont Ferrand, a selection of recent favourites from the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival curated by Laurent Guerrier, screening Thursday, April 6th at 9pm. Highlights include  Shio Chen Quesck’s Guang, an affecting Malaysian film about a young man who struggles with social interaction but finds comfort in a secret passion and Emma de Swaef and Marc Roels’ fabric based stop motion animation Oh Willy, an absurdist Nordic film about a nudist in mourning, who ventures into the woods to find solace. Take a look at the full program details for Spotlight: Clermont Ferrand here: http://www.tiff.net/events/spotlight-clermont-ferrand

Stay tuned for more programs, to be announced on a seasonal basis, throughout 2017!

 

Sounds like it’s going to be an excellent year of shorts programming this year at Short Cuts. A big ‘thanks’ goes to Laura and everyone at TIFF for making Canadian shorts accessible via Short Cuts, Film Circuit and TIFF itself. If you happen to catch any of the Canadian shorts at these screenings, be sure to let them know via Twitter @TIFFShortCuts @FilmCircuitTIFF and @TIFF_Net. Don’t forget to include Short Film Fan @shortfilmfan or leave a comment below. Follow TIFF on Facebook, too: https://www.facebook.com/TIFF

Happy watching!

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Award Finalists Announced For 10th Annual Air Canada enRoute Film Festival

This past July, the Air Canada enRoute Film Festival began its 10th anniversary with a free screening of 20 Canadian short films in Vancouver. This followed with screenings in other select Canadian cities, as well as on Air Canada flights around the world. These shorts also competed for a number of awards, including Best Short Film, Achievement in Direction, Achievement in Cinematography, Achievement in Animation, and Achievement in Documentary.

Five finalists have now been selected for these awards and are as follows:

  • Clouds of Autumn– Trevor Mack and Matthew Taylor Blais, BC
  • The Constant Refugee– Derrick O’Toole, PC Barfoot and Leila Almaway, ON
  • Feathers– Hands on Deck, ON
  • French Kiss at the Sugar Shack– Emmanuelle Lacombe, QC
  • Robeth– Kevin T. Landry, QC

Air Canada enRoute Film Festival

A free public screening of these nominated short films will take place in Montreal on Monday, November 14 at the Phi Centre at 7:30 p.m. and in Toronto on Thursday, November 17 at Scotiabank Theatre Toronto at 7 p.m.

The winners will be awarded at a private ceremony, hosted by Etalk Reporter Liz Trinnear, at The Fifth Social Club on 225 Richmond Street West after the public screening in Toronto. Achievement Award winners will receive an all-inclusive trip for two to the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival in Germany, courtesy of Air Canada. The winner of Best Short Film will also receive a $5,000 cash prize courtesy of presenting sponsor, Cineplex Entertainment.

“This year marks the festival’s 10th anniversary and what makes it so exceptional is that for the first time we’ve taken the festival truly coast to coast adding more cities and helping to boost awareness of our incredibly talented emerging Canadian filmmakers,” said Andrew Shibata, Managing Director, Brand at Air Canada. “I look forward to a continued growth of the festival and discovering new ways we can help highlight Canadian content creators.”

The Air Canada enRoute Film Festival supporters include Cineplex Entertainment, TELUS Optik Local/STORYHIVE, Sterling Wines, CTV’s Etalk, Spafax, Entertainment One, VICELAND, Telefilm Canada, Directors Guild of Canada, William F. White International Inc., National Film Board of Canada and Hot Docs.

Congratulations to all the finalists. A big thank you goes to Air Canada and to all of the supporters of the film festival and of Canadian short films. Fans of Canadian shorts definitely are grateful for chance to access and watch these films, whether at a festival or in the sky. Thanks also for the continued support of Canadian filmmakers and for fostering Canadian content.

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Canadian & Worldwide Shorts Waiting For You At Toronto International Short Film Festival

As a short film fan, have you ever attended a film festival and wondered if there was one out there specifically dedicated to short films? Given the uniqueness and, of course, the length of shorts, could an actual festival geared completely to short films be made into a reality? Can such a film festival even be found in Canada?

Short film fans can wonder no more, as they will be especially pleased to know that they can have all of their short film desires satisfied at the Toronto International Short Film Festival (TISFF). TISFF is back for its fourth year of showcasing some of the most outstanding shorts and their filmmakers from Canada and around the world. This year’s TISFF is taking place from November 9th to 11th at Carlton Cinema.

Short Film Fan reached out to Francesca Fromang, Director of Operations at TISFF, to learn more about the festival, including why it was established, its Canadian content, and where short film fans can catch these films.

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Short Film Fan: Whose idea was it to launch the Toronto International Short Film Festival (TISFF) and why was it started?

Francesca Fromang: Our incredible festival founder, Robert Arentz, is the founder and creator of the Toronto Shorts Fest. It was created to provide a showcase for the best short-form cinema and its creators in the world. He felt that short form cinema and its creators should have their own premier film festival in Toronto, deserving similar recognition given to the feature film and its creators. The heart of the festival will be our quality and scope of extraordinary film programming. Toronto Shorts Fest is where films from a wide spectrum intersect. Animations, documentaries, comedies, narrative, genre, and graduation short films come from some of the finest film schools.

SFF: How many Canadian shorts will be screened at this year’s fest?

FF: Out of the 67 films being screened, 36 are Canadian.

SFF: What parts of Canada do most of your short films come from?

FF: This year’s program consists of films from 11 different countries. The majority of Canadian films will be coming from right here in Toronto, though we are also featuring films from Vancouver, Calgary, Hamilton, Montreal, and Newfoundland.

torontologoSFF: Are the featured filmmakers more seasoned or up-and-coming, or a mix of both?

FF: This year, we have the perfect blend of both. Our goal is to screen films that display excellence, both technically and creatively. We have some incredible films made by students from schools such as Humber, York University, Sheridan and University of Toronto.  However, we also have a plethora of seasoned artists who choose to premiere their films here as well. This year we are screening a documentary made by the Disney Animation Team (Disney Cartoon Camera), films produced by huge production companies such as The Mill and Indie passion projects produced by Denzell Washington. We have films starring Jennifer Hudson, (Shame) John Malkovich (Hell), Lindsay Lohan (Till Human Voices Wake) and Enrico Colantoni (Recital). And we have everything in between!

SFF: Will any of the Canadian filmmakers be available to answer questions at any Q & A sessions?

FF: Yes! After each program screens, we will have the filmmakers from that specific program conduct a Q&A session.  In addition to our Q&As, we will also have an industry session panel each day. It will be a chance to hear some of the industry’s most experienced professionals focusing on topics such as “creating branded content without selling your soul” and “meeting the film festivals” which is a panel of some of the most well-known festival programmers around the country discussing what makes them pick a film.

SFF: Can you briefly highlight some of the Canadian shorts that will be featured this year?

FF: We’re pretty excited about all our films! Some that stand out off the top of my head are:

  • Luvvie directed, written and starring Annie Briggs, which will screen during Program 3 on November 9th at 9:55 p.m.
  • The Head Vanishes (an animated film brought to us by the Canadian Film Centre) which premieres in Program 7 on November 11th at 5:30 p.m.
  • Prison Fight, directed by Robert Pilichowski screening during Program 5 on November 10th at 7:45 p.m.
  • Shame starring Tyrese Gibson and Jennifer Hudson, directed by Paul Hunter in Program 1 on November 9th at 5:00 p.m.

SFF: Where is Toronto International Short Film Festival taking place and how can short film toronto-graphic-0001fans buy their tickets?

FF: TISFF will be taking place at the lovely Carlton Cinema in downtown Toronto this year. All film programs and Industry sessions are $14, and an all-access pass for the entire fest is on sale now for $40!

 

For fans of short film, this is definitely an event you don’t want to miss. For more on this year’s lineup, check out the schedule on their website. For those not familiar with Toronto, Carlton Cinemas is located on 20 Carlton Street, east of Younge Street. If you are taking the subway, the closest stop to the cinema is College Station.

If you happen to really like one of the Canadian shorts at the festival, and want to share a review or comment with the rest of us, drop Short Film Fan a line on Twitter or email.

Good luck to Francesca, Robert and all the crew at Toronto International Short Film Festival for a successful event! Follow the festival on Twitter and like them on Facebook.

Happy watching, everyone!

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