WSFF: Award Winners From Around the World

Na Wéwé (You Too)
Last night I was the Opening Gala of the Worldwide Short Film Festival. After the usual opening night speeches, which paid special mention to the success of the fest’s “Charlie Bit My Finger” viral marketing campaign, the fest began with a screening of “Award Winners From Around the World.” The screening, held at the Bloor Cinema – it’s like Toronto’s equivalent of the Mayfair Theatre – featured seven shorts that scooped major awards during the past year. (There is even an Oscar winner in the batch!) After the screening, some friends and I made our way to the C Lounge for the after party. Unfortunately, our bus took the milk route to the venue… I don’t know how someone can get lost on his way from one end of Bathurst Street to the other, but it’s possible! I guess we got some free sight-seeing out of it?

Anyways, here is a quick rundown of the shorts screened in “Award Winners From Around the World”:

Bukowski (Daan Bakker, Netherlands)
A young bookworm finds himself in a Dutch hotel for the night and makes some unexpected trouble for one curious custodian. Everything straightens itself, though, when the hard-drinkin’ tyke introduces himself as legendary writer Charles Bukowski, and he soon becomes the special guest of the night staff. Bukowski is the only of the night’s shorts that I didn’t like – I just didn’t buy it; however, it is not without its charms!

West of the Moon
West of the Moon (Brent Bonacorso, United States)
A far stronger take on the wonder of a child’s imagination is West of the Moon. The film is a fun and quirky story of an old man who, after receiving visits from some strange friends, recalls his days in the war, his lost love, and an unfortunate accident in which his heart was replaced with an active grenade. West of the Moon tells the fable with Amélie-esque charm and whimsy. The film also has a magical glow, and it features a beautiful mix of live-action and animation.

Big Bang Big Boom
(Blu, Italy)
Fans of Exit Through the Gift Shop won’t want to miss this! Italian street artist Blu offers a brilliant stop-motion essay on the evolution (and downfall) of both the world and mankind. The wonder of the film is that most of images of shots of Blu’s street art on the sides of buildings: the film must have been incredibly difficult and time-consuming, but the artist’s efforts pay off admirably. This one’s a stunner!

Lipsett Diaries (Theodore Ushev, Canada)
This year’s Genie winner for Best Animated Short, Lipsett Diaries is another strong NFB production. Ushev creates a sepia-toned pastel diary of filmmaker Arthur Lipsett, which also features a voice-over by filmmaker Xavier Dolan (I Killed My Mother). The animation of Lipsett Diaries is truly spectacular; however, being ignorant of both Lipsett’s biography and his work, I don’t think I was able to appreciate the film to its fullest extent. Lipsett Diaries displays some excellent filmmaking nevertheless, and will hopefully encourage more people to explore Lipsett’s own work.

Na Wéwé (You Too) (Ivan Goldschmidt, Belgium/Burundi)
During the amusing opening scene of You Too, I found myself distracted by the opening title card of the film, which simply states, “Burundi, 1994.” “What happened then?” I wondered.
     The scene abruptly cuts to a roadblock, where all of the travellers aboard a small bus are ordered out. “Hutu’s on the left, Tutsi’s on the right,” the militia orders. That’s when I realized the significance of the intertitle. Heavy stuff. 
     Surprisingly, You Too is not very heavy considering its subject matter. After a dizzying and rapidly cut scuffle, the travellers quickly band together to outwit the Hutu militia. As the travellers concoct various excuses to elude classification (and, in turn, death), the film delicately shifts from heart-pounding to hilarious. Much like Roberto Benigni found humour in the Holocaust with Life is Beautiful, You Too takes a dark moment in history and uses laughter to deconstruct the absurdity of it all. It’s a difficult task that Goldschmidt executes beautifully.
The Lost Thing (Andrew Ruhemann, Shaun Tan; Australia)
“Award Winners From Around the World” ends with the winner of the biggest award of all: the Oscar. The Lost Thing certainly is worthy of the kudos. It’s an endearing tale of a boy who finds a strange creature on the beach, and then enjoys the company of “the lost thing” before accompanying it to the island of misfit toys. The Lost Thing highlights the latest in 3D animation, and boasts a fun, family-friendly fable.

Best Short: You Too

“Around Winners From Around the World” screens again on Sunday, June 5 at the ROM at 9:30.