Last Friday, students, guests, and filmmakers filed into the Instructional Building for the annual UTM Film Festival. DVSS, ICCIT, UTMTV, and UTMSU hosted the event this year. They arranged tables in front of Lecture Hall 110, along with a photo booth and bags of free popcorn.

Founded in 2013, the UTM Film Festival features short films written and produced by students. In total, 18 short films were screened this year and competed for five awards categories: Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Sound, Best Short, and Viewers’ Choice.

The judges included Brian Price, associate professor and director of VCC and Cinema Studies; Alison Cooley, curatorial assistant and collections archivist at Blackwood Gallery; Alison Syme, associate professor and chair of Art and Art History; Arnold Koroshegyi of Sheridan’s Photography, Intermedia, and Installation department; and Matthew Stoddard, associate professor and director of VCC and Cinema Studies.

I was skeptical at first about the four-hour event, but there wasn’t an idle moment.

Among the 18 films, there are a few that stood out to me. Declan, in particular, had the audience laughing the whole way through. The film was about an artificial intelligence robot learning how to act human. Declan was a light-hearted comedy filmed in a deliberately amateurish style. It catered to our generation’s kind of humour, with its comic sans, awkwardly-paced dialogue, and token pair of Yeezy shoes.

Right as Rain was a whimsical piece about two women fighting over an abandoned umbrella in a cafe. As the pink umbrella catches their eyes, the film delves into flashbacks of the women in their youth—we see one as a ballerina and the other as a tap dancer. They begin to barter everything in their purses for the umbrella, until the woman who left it behind returns to the café to reclaim it. The arrival of the umbrella’s owner spurs a touching apology between the two strangers, which leads to their friendship. The film was beautifully crafted, with the ballerina flashback evoking the tone and lighting of Stanley Kubrick’s Killer’s Kiss.

Another film that especially stood out to me was Missing Piece, which focused on Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID). Filmed in a documentary style, Missing Piece follows subjects who suffer from BIID—a disorder where healthy individuals feel like they’re meant to be disabled. One man in the film longs to be “hands-free.” He shows us how he envelops his hands in latex gloves to “get rid” of them.

The screenings ended with an unassuming apocalyptic film, Arecibo. A digital personal assistant, like Amazon’s Alexa, narrates the morning of one person. The helper makes a fresh cup of coffee, starts the shower, and prints out their client’s agenda, all of which are shown in tight close-up shots. However, as the camera pans out, it reveals an abandoned apartment, with dozens of printed itineraries littering the floor alongside dirty clothes. Shots of stagnant, empty streets are shown, only to culminate in a landscape shot of the sky, which harbours an extraterrestrial ship.

The award for Best Editing went to Arecibo; Best Cinematography to Thanos; Best Sound to Arecibo; Best Short to Bad Kids; and Viewer’s Choice Award to 12 Years Later.

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