When I went to the UTM Film Festival two years ago, technical difficulties failed to impress the crowd of about 10. This time around, a little less than half of the massive IB 120 was filled, perhaps because the event was a bigger collaboration between DVSSS, UTMSU, UTM/TV, and the ICCIT Council.

Friday night began with ICCIT member Ray Khan and UTMSU board member Amir Moazzami as hosts who would walk the audience through each film.

The first film was called The Mistake by Mike Dopsa and Maria Magovskaia, which is about a girlfriend who has just revealed to her boyfriend that she cheated on him. The film goes through various hypothetical post-breakup scenarios set to sombre music. The audience is then brought back to the main scene in which the girlfriend asks the boyfriend if he is okay. After a small pause he says, “Are you?” and walks out as the credits roll.

The acting wasn’t the best and neither was the plot. Filled with cliché scenes like the boyfriend stalking his girlfriend while she’s on a date and fantasizing about a rebound, this movie didn’t push any new boundaries.

The next film was Knifemaker, a documentary about Peter Lorimer and his dying craft. Directed by Pierre Roquet and Arthur Chen, the film is short but to the point and includes interesting segments about Lorimer’s work and his thoughts on it. It was fresh and exciting to delve into such an overlooked craft. The only detractor was the audio—Lorimer’s heavy accent coupled with background noise made him incomprehensible at times.

That piece was followed by I Wish by Sherry Yu. This was one of my favourites of the evening. Blessed with great acting and a well-told story, the plot revolves around a young man who celebrates his 17th birthday alone, all the while believing his sister, who died in an accident with their parents, is there to celebrate with him.

The concept isn’t completely original but I appreciated the little details in the film that made it stand out. Some photos on the boy’s camera at the end and the wish he makes before blowing out his candle made the film beautiful.

The next piece was the comedy Lone Wolf by Jordan Goddard, a stop-motion film using Lego minifigs. A man faces his enemy and triumphs in battle. I loved the idea of filming this in stop motion. The sound effects are funny and well-chosen.

Dry on a Sunday by Adeel Shamsi played next. I’ve written an in-depth review for this before, so we already know how much I love this film, but I’ll say it again: I love this film.

Shamsi’s film led the audience into intermission where we were served drinks and snacks. During this small break, video art played inside and outside the class.

Coming back from intermission, we were shown Reciprocity by Ben Lee and Ameet Kang. The story follows a young man who kidnaps and beats his girlfriend and her lover after catching them at a coffee shop together.

In a short amount of time, the film manages to show all the little insights into the main character; he follows her around and stays quiet in the back so he can watch her, and he sits outside the room where he keeps them prisoner and contemplates his choices. There is a great shot that shows him going to open the door to beat the lover, and then it cuts into a scene of his girlfriend opening the door to the coffee shop. I only wish this film had been a little longer so I could have more insight into their relationship before it all went to hell.

The Story of Bill by Sina Dolati came next. The story follows a young woman’s journey after she runs away from home. The story is told from the perspective of a dollar bill.  It was an interesting take on a runaway story. I loved hearing a speech from money that was oddly relatable.

There are little things I would have liked to see done a little better, such as the main character battling the cold weather or even being more unkempt after living on the street for an undisclosed period of time.

The next film was Kinsey Zhang’s Mama, a wonderful documentary about her mother as she goes through bits and pieces of her daily routine and talks about her family. This film had such potential to be great—her mother is so funny and interesting and such a great choice for an interviewee. In the end the direction was too undefined. It seemed to be torn between a documentary and a scripted film. Regardless, I loved the content, and it was easily one of my favourites of the evening.

Blood Brothers by Tyrell Subban followed. A tribute to fallen soldiers, this animated film tells the story of two friends who have each other’s backs both in and out of wartime. It is a beautiful story about the impact of war and how everyone, even the “enemy”, is affected. The only thing that took away from it was the subpar animation, though I can commend Subban for taking the risk of going down that route.

The next film was The Recipient by Emad Arshad. Through scenes similar to The Matrix and Inception, it tells the story of a device that can transfer one person’s time left on Earth to another. The only catch for the protagonist is that he’s dying and needs to find a way to sucker someone into exchanging their time with his.

This film had the best cinematography of the evening and was loaded with incredible actors. Everything about it worked and there was never a dull moment.

The following film was Gentle Giant, which was directed by Faten AlFaraj and produced by Tanya Hoshi. This story follows the lives of a family left devastated after the husband and father commits suicide. It begins with narration as the wife writes a letter to her husband and then transitions into interviews with the family. They discuss the rollercoaster of emotions, and how the children weren’t told right away what had happened for fear they wouldn’t be able to handle it. The film ends with them visiting his grave as his wife finishes reading her letter.

This was another one of my favourites. The story was well-told and well-captured. I loved the private moment of the letter intertwined with the interviews of the family. It was a heartbreaking documentary.

The festival was concluded with Cold Day for Summer by Corey Belford and Matthew Household. This comedy tells the tale of two convincing stories used to con people out of money. The plot was interesting and humorous and—though this may just be for me because I have seen the actors on campus and in my classes before—I believed in the story, which made it much more enjoyable.

The audience was escorted to the Blind Duck for the awards ceremony. Eight awards were distributed. Best Animation went to Blood Brothers and Best Audio to Reciprocity, while 1980 by Lucille Kim took home the award for Best Video Art. Dry on a Sunday went home with Viewers’ Choice and Best Documentary went to Knifemaker. Best Screenplay was awarded to Cold Day for Summer and The Recipient cleaned up nicely after taking home both Best Cinematography and Best Film. All in all, I think this festival is going somewhere.

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