Between the celebrity fandom and Oscar hopefuls at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, there was a smaller, less recognizable group of filmmakers exercising their imagination through Short Cuts Canada, a program that allows Canadian filmmakers to showcase their talents through short films. Said imagination was in abundance in Programme 2 (of six), which premiered at the festival on September 8. It featured a roster of varied styles and scope, and put another nail in the coffin of the myth that Canadian cinema has nothing to offer.
One of the more subdued shorts was Jeremy Lolonde’s Out, which chronicles a family dinner between a father, a mother, a daughter, a son, and the son’s “friend”. We are led to suspect that the son, Geoff, has decided to reveal his homosexuality—but we are taken aback when he reveals he is a vampire instead. Lolonde, an experienced filmmaker, plays on the taboo of homosexuality in a domestic setting. It will be funny to some and offensive to others, but it intends to be light-hearted and simple, and offers an alternative to the more complex and intricate shorts of the program.
The most intricate of these was Sol Friedman’s Beasts in the Real World. Part documentary, part science fiction, part animation, Friedman lets the camera roll as it wanders through a sushi restaurant, a chef’s kitchen, and a forest. We see a rocky relationship between coworkers, the final living moments of a mysterious creature, and a cartoon war between hot dogs and hamburgers. With its visual effects and dark comedy, the film takes us on a journey through a genre-bending world that differs from those depicted in conventional filmmaking.
We are brought back down to earth with Daybreak, Ian Lagarde’s look at pre-adolescence in open rebellion. The short opens with a young boy, Xavier, looking at himself in a mirror, entertained by his own reflection. From here, we see him and his friends navigate the suburbs of Montreal without direction and without regret. Lagarde’s camera dissects the actions of children with sharp imagery and minimal dialogue, and its broken narrative style challenges our need for flow in a chaotic world.
The most immersive and innovative of shorts showcased at TIFF was the cyber-journey Noah. The film, seen entirely through a teenager’s computer screen, explores relationships between people and their technology in the digital age. Most impressive about Noah is that it is the directorial debut of Ryerson grads Walter Woodman and Patrick Cederberg; they expertly crafted an original concept that never becomes gimmicky or excessive. Instead, we are given something relevant, honest, and fresh. Noah is a highlight of Short Cuts, demonstrating the importance of giving opportunities to emerging filmmakers in a country brimming with talent.
These shorts, among others from Short Cuts Canada, are currently streamed on the Official TIFF YouTube page.