TIFF Review: Short Cuts Canada 6

Migration. Photo courtesy of TIFF.
Come and see the innovators of Short Cuts Canada 6! This shorts programme offers one of the strongest crops of shorts at the Toronto International Film Festival this year. Inspired, ambitious, and innovative, these flicks are not to be missed.

Take, for example, the buoyantly original Migration (Fluorescent Hill, 6 min.) that opens the programme. This exciting animated work both references and parodies old-school nature flicks that many TIFF-goers probably watched in school. Fluorescent Hill, the animation duo of Mark Lomond and Johanne Ste-Marie, traces the migration pattern of made-up whale creatures that bob and flow like balloons in the air. The funny whale-like creatures that mission through Migration’s voyage are adorable inventions, and the clever animation deftly blends them into a natural landscape, so this amusingly fantastical journey plays itself out with mockumentary-like realism. The film adds to the aesthetic with a film stock that creates the effect of a vintage home-movie. Migration is a technical and creative marvel.
Me and My Moulton. Photo courtesy of TIFF.
Another animated marvel comes to SCC 6 with Me and My Moulton (13 min.) from Academy Award-winning filmmaker Torill Kove (The Danish Poet). This playful fable makes a nice contrast to the technically ambitious Migration as Kove favours a sparser and simpler storybook style. The witty narration is fun and intimate as Me and My Moulton voices a young girl’s farfetched concerns about the larger implications of her dad’s bushy moustache. Kids will be kids, though, and the colourful singsong cadence of Me and My Moulton makes one feel like a kid again.

Family dysfunction continues with the quirky dramedy Godhead (Connor Gaston, 11 min.). Godhead sees a family divided by the loss of a mother heal thanks to the mystical powers of her autistic son. This offbeat film, what with its sailor hats and all, offers a helpful turning point in bringing the programme towards stranger fare like Burnt Grass (Ray Wong, 11 min.). Burnt Grass joins a host of other doppelgänger pics in Short Cuts Canada (see: Entangled, Still) that play on perception, reality, and identity thanks to an unpredictable double. This stylish film spins a peculiar love triangle as Sally (Alex Paxton-Beesley) takes her experiments too far after she and her husband Jack (Christopher Jacot) discover a bizarre portal in their backyard that multiplies organic life. Strong performances by Paxton-Beesley and Jacot further the off-kilter tone of Burnt Grass to make it the best of the SCC films to play on double trouble. Burnt Grass is an eerie metaphysical drama and a sharp black comedy to boot.
The Underground. Photo courtesy of TIFF.
Finally, the grand finale of Short Cuts Canada 6 is the impressive The Underground (Michelle Latimer, 13 min.), which takes inspiration from Rawi Hage’s acclaimed novel Cockroach and scurries in and out different worlds with a daring originality of vision. The film follows a young Iranian man named Araz (Omar Hady), who struggles with poverty and isolation in his new life in North America. Araz fights haunting memories from the past and escapes his present alienation by envisioning himself as a resilient cockroach that has the ability to navigate the underworld and escape extermination. The Underground is inspired and visceral as Latimer creates some powerful point-of-view sequences that envision the world from the cockroach’s perspective as the camera goes low to the ground and hunkers down in the dirt. The bravura cinematography by Guy Godfree creeps around familiar spaces, crawls around refuse, and mimics the cockroaches frenzied survival tactics from a unique perspective. The Underground is a gripping first-person experience, open and tangibly symbolic, as the magical realism of The Underground envisions a familiar world anew. It’s one of the best shorts of the year.

Short Cuts Canada 6 screens:
-Thursday, Sept. 11 at 6:15 pm at Scotiabank 3
-Friday, Sept. 12 at 2:45 pm at Scotiabank 10

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

*Please note that Fire and Barnhouse, which screen in SCC 6, were not available for advance screening.