9/07/2014

TIFF Review: Short Cuts Canada 3

The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer.
Photo courtesy of TIFF.
The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer (Randall Okita, 10 min.) gets Short Cuts Canada 3 off to such a strong start that this one short film alone is worth the ticket. “You can’t tell someone the truth about their own memory,” the narrator muses with his compelling voiceover that hooks the viewer from the film’s very first frame. The narrator continues the short story of two brothers who take different life paths but are united by trauma, and memory is evoked, alluded to, and imagined using an excellent play on form and meaning. Director Randall Okita creates this moral fable with an amazing collage of still images, live action drama, and animation. The arresting visuals of this exhilarating cautionary tale make The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer one of the standout shorts at the Toronto International Film Festival this year. It’s just the ticket for anyone hoping to see something new and authentic in this year’s shorts corner.


Shorts Cuts Canada 3, however, isn’t quite as strong overall as its opening chapter is, but the play on the elusiveness of memory in The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer provides a current that unites more than just the two brothers. The theme that connects the films of SCC 3 together is the subtlety balance of personal and collective memory. Luk’Luk’I: Mother (Wayne Wapeemukwa, 19 min.), for example, contains a worthy story about a Vancouver mother/sex-worker who goes missing during the 2010 Winter Olympics. The subject is necessary, and the play on sound and image in the film’s final long take is provocative, but the message ultimately loses itself amidst unfocused direction. A few flourishes in the film, like a random bit of associative editing between the Olympic gold medal hockey game and some rambunctious pigs or an unwatchable long take of a karaoke performance, don’t do Luk'Luk'I :Mother any favours.

After Mother comes Father (Jordan Tannahill, 9 min.), which sees a young boy carry an unbearable burden when his father is electrocuted while working in a warehouse. By deftly cutting back and forth and reframing the fateful spark of the accident from a different perspective, Father builds a palpable sense of guilt. Father is a sparse film, but it finds power in understated simplicity.

Alternatively, Indigo (Amanda Strong, 9 min.) finds a thrilling adventure in the high-art world of handcrafted stop-motion animation. This fantastical tale of an elderly woman with a young heart spins an enchanting web with its rich and playful animation. The attention to detail is impressive and Indigo is bound to bring out the child in everyone with its inspired palette of indigo-toned imagination.
Hole. Photo courtesy of TIFF
SCC 3 then takes quite a turn with the provocative drama Hole (Martin Edralin, 15 min.). Hole makes a notable companion piece to Take Me, which plays in Short Cuts Canada 2, as both films depict the intimacy between disabled persons and their caregivers. This bold character study of a disabled man yearning for closeness and connection features an impressive performance by Ken Harrower, who wrestles with Billy’s needs and desires. Hole is frank and explicit, but also a candid portrait of the intimacies we take for granted. Sebastian Deery also gives a fine supporting turn as the caregiver who helps Billy meet his emotional and sexual needs.

SCC 3 closes with the offbeat Chamber Drama (Jeffrey Zablotny, 11 min.), which puts a plucky intern named Megan to the test when the supervisor of her auditory experiments fails to appreciate her commitment. Chamber Drama takes a cue from the world of Divergent and The Hunger Games (not for their dystopian premises, but for their wily heroines) as the plucky Megan undergoes some rigorous tests and strives to set herself apart from the pack. Top marks go to Cassie Williams for her energetic performance and to the intriguing design of Megan’s lab—it’s a weird sci-fi-y torture chamber—and the uneasy tone that underlies Megan’s trials. Chamber Drama creates a peculiar atmosphere for an ordinary world and finishes Short Cuts Canada 3 with another offbeat character study.

Short Cuts Canada screens:
-Sunday, Sept. 7 at 9:45 pm at Scotiabank 14
-Monday, Sept. 8 at 4:15 pm at Scotiabank 9

Please visit www.tiff.net for more information on this year’s festival.

*Please note that Light, which also screens in Short Cuts Canada 3, was not available for advance review.