OIFF Review: Short Films


The first short to screen at this year’s Ottawa International Film Festival was Encore (Dir. Jonathan Kischel, 9 min.). Encore played on opening night before the feature presentation Thirteen Downs. The short was one of several entries in this year’s 72-hour video challenge put on by OIFF to help engage and inspire local filmmakers. Encore offers a touching story about fathers and sons through its multigenerational approach to art. Like the tools that the vagabond artist uses to create his lovely works, artistic inspiration might best be achieved through the words “Reduce, reuse, and recycle.” (Watch the film here.)

Also screening on Day 1 was the short One Drink (Dir. ?, 7 min.), which preceded the feature Undercurrent. One Drink, like Undercurrent, is a stylish and violent genre film. However, while Undercurrent works quite well and offers something new with the genre, I’m sorry to say that this entry into the world of torture porn didn’t quite work for me.
A better toast with Canadian Club (a sponsor and key prop in the 72-hour Challenge films) comes in Invention (Dir. Adam Kirkley, 6 min.). This wildly inventive film sees a night of drinking go awry when an oversized Lego man wreaks havoc on a group of partiers and turns them into little block pieces. Very funny and truly original, Invention is an impressive short, especially since it was made under such tight constraints! (Watch the film here.)

Screening with Invention in the shorts package on Day 2 of the festival was The Hold-up (Dir. Martin Forcier, 29 min), which arrived at OIFF shortly after screening at the Hollyshorts festival in Hollywood. Congrats to Martin Forcier (who directed the OIFF feature Undercurrent) and his cast of Rachelle Casseus, Matthew Stefiuk, Charlie Ebbs (who also wrote the short), Henry Kwok et all for representing Ottawa abroad! The Hold-up is a humorous slapstick comedy about a quartet of hyphenated Canadians (one Turkish-Canadian, one Scottish-Canadian, one Trinidadian-Canadian, and one sort-of-French-Canadian). The pals, like many Canucks, are struggling to make ends meet. They’re short on cash and need a plan to get rich quick. Since they can’t seem to make money the legitimate way, Kiara, the Trinidadian-Canadian (played by a very funny Rachelle Casseus, who appeared in last year’s drama The Righteous Tithe), suggests that they do a series of small crimes to make some cash. Small risks equal small jail time, she explains.

Kiara’s proposes that the quartet knock-off the local Chinese restaurant. The tavern is their local hangout, so the friends have spent ample time loitering over bowls of noodles and observed the ins-and-outs of the operation. Additionally, the owner wears a mink coat, so he must be hoarding a big stock of cash. The ensuing heist is pure sketch comedy tomfoolery. Thanks in part to some zany action, muddled accents, and timely humour, The Hold-up is a hilarious send-up of Canadian multiculturalism.

The best short of the fest, however, is the comedy Callbacks (Dir. Nicholaus Hillier, 11 min.). The film gets its title from the stressful trials and auditions an actor must face in search of a career. The actor in this case is Davis (played by Andy Hull). Davis is in his mid-thirties and still searching for a break after odd jobs advertising boner pills. He finds himself at an audition, eager and confident that he is the perfect man for the part. His bubble is burst, though, when the producer and director inform him that he isn’t the right fit for the part.

Size matters in the world of acting, it seems. It turns out the cast agents thought that Davis was a little person. The revelation brings out all sorts of silly debates and scrutiny, not to mention some hilarious material by local sketch comedy artists. Callbacks has a brazen penchant for totally un-PC humour, but the whacky tone and go-for-broke approach of the actors make it work rather cleverly. Callbacks is the pilot for a new series and if this short is any indication of what’s in store, there is a sharp comedy series in the making.