I saw the second screening of Short Cuts Canada Programme 4 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on Wednesday, September 11!
It presented 6 Canadian short films by these directors:
Paradise Falls – Fantavious Fritz
Yellowhead – Kevan Funk
A Time is a Terrible Thing to Waste – Leslie Supnet
Relax, I’m From the Future – Luke Higginson
Sam’s Formalwear – Yael Staav
Nous Avions/Time Flies – Stéphane Moukarzel
Paradise Falls – 3.5/5
A coming-of-age story about two boys who visit a haunted house in the suburbs Paradise Falls. Sonny and Dirk find themselves entranced by the house and discover that an old inhabitant is keeping them there…
The first half of the story sets up like a classic horror and uses the house’s cavernous rooms to create a very suspenseful atmosphere typical of horrors and ghost stories. But, the ghost turns out to be a “friendly” ghost that ends up teaching the two boys the bohemian way of life that she was raised with.
My Thoughts: (HERE BE SPOILERS)
I usually do like a good twist in stories, but I felt that the execution for Paradise Falls fell short. When the camera pans around the corner after Dirk slowly makes his way through the dark house with just a flashlight to reveal Elanor the ghost, it just shows a bowler hat on the floor next to Sonny, who’s sleeping.
The bowler hat had no significance in the story so far. I couldn’t connect the hat to Elanor at all until they abruptly show a flashback of Elanor with the hat on. It was too disconnected and led to a complete and, frankly, boring ending to the story.
I won’t spoil it too much, but the narration ended up overwhelming all three characters’ personalities.
(HERE ENDS SPOILERS)
Fantavious (loving that name!) chose to film with actual film instead of a digital camera and it really gave a mysterious, almost drowsy vintage feel to the entire film. Despite its shortcomings, it held a very charming story with great use of props and looked more expensive than it probably cost.
Yellowhead – 2/5
A middle-aged safety inspector is always busy with his inspections across Alberta and BC, leaving him to try and deal with his marital problems and his increasingly failing health. His travels show how his stubbornness drives him towards irreversible damage, much like the industrial effect on the land.
Um… I’ll come right out and say it. I didn’t like it. (Sorry, Kevan!)
Each scene was long and focused on something like the car’s antenna for about 30 seconds for, as far as I can tell, no good reason at all aside from showing how monotonous and boring long road trips are. We get it, he’s bored out of his mind. One set of scenes like that is enough, not 20 minutes of it!
Even though the lack of narrative structure left me wanting a lot more, I loved the camera work and how Kevan didn’t show the faces of most of the people in the short, except for the safety inspector. It did force us to focus on the safety inspector and think about what he’s going through and notice its reflection to the industrial world.
Bonus points for that burn victim.
A Time is a Terrible Thing to Waste – 4.5/5
Norman the squirrel wonders what time it is when he wakes up. It may or may not be 4am, so he stays in bed to contemplate his day, including working with too many nuts.
Clocking in at a mere 3 minutes, this short was brilliantly executed and adorably animated! Everyone’s had that feeling of dread while lying in bed and thinking about the upcoming work day. At the same time, everyone’s woken up in the middle of the night (super early morning?) and mentally debated about going back to sleep.
Leslie and Glen Johnson, the writer, brought us such an endearing story through simple watercolour and Norman the squirrel with a almost-too-soothing narrator that 3 minutes told everything that needed to be said and nothing more.
Relax, I’m From the Future – 5/5
A time traveller from the future interrupts a suicidal man’s attempt to off himself, wanting just to talk.
Perhaps the most contemporary short in the programme, Luke delivers a fast-paced, exciting and absolutely hilarious bit that’s only 5 minutes long. Both Zachary Bennett and Rick Roberts were impeccable at their respective roles and in the semi-legal rooftop with Luke at the helm.
I found everything to be perfect in this little short from the single rooftop setting, to the character designs, their portrayals, the punchy script and especially the ending with the time traveller’s reaction to (SPOILERS!) probably breaking the time-space continuum.
Sam’s Formalwear – 4/5
Still living in the ’70s past where he reigned as prom king, Sam suffers from a comedic mid-life crisis when his ungracefully aged tuxedo-rental business goes bust and his daughter goes to prom.
Oh, where do I start with this delightfully awkward short? Everyone’s seen better days, but it’s always so awkwardly hilarious to watch anyone suffer a mid-life crisis this bad in front of his teenage daughter.
Judah Katz gave an incredibly accurate stereotypical portrayal of Sam, down to his almost delusional belief that he fits into the modern world. He seemed perfectly comfortable playing in Sam’s Italian leather shoes and oily comb-over, down to the last details of his too-cluttered car, gargling down whiskey while chatting with a fellow washed-up salesman and trying to persuade his ex-wife that he’s not a complete loser.
Although it only ran 15 minutes, I felt that some scenes could have been better handled, like the scene in the back of the police cruiser and the conversation between Sam and his daughter in his car. I loved this short, but I did feel that some parts like that felt like overkill and I unfortunately thought that Sofie’s acting was very flat.
But, I noticed that Yael’s set dresser brought a TON of wonderful detail into the short. My favourite was the license plate of the police cruiser after Sam leaves the police station that read, “AWKS 15.” I giggled and the guy sitting next to me probably thought that I was crazy but that’s okay.
Nous Avions/Time Flies – 5/5
An aviation-crazed Pakistani family makes its weekly Sunday trip to the outskirts of the Montreal airport. This time, they’re waiting for the Concorde to make its debut in the city, but seventeen-year-old Akram yearns to leave his family to fly to France and his love. Propelled by Khalil Gibran’s poetic work The Prophet, Nous Avions explores generational culture gaps and unconditional family love.
This was by far my favourite short in the programme. Somehow, Stéphane managed to show a simple, everyday concept of a surly teenager wanting to break free of old traditions with his family in a profoundly genuine way.
Maybe it was the way he had the dialogue switch from Urdu to French to English depending on the different characters. The older, immigrated generation spoke primarily in Urdu and a little English while Akram and his siblings spoke in French to each other while speaking in Urdu to their parents.
Or maybe I fell in love with the way it showed an immigrated family trying to endure the generation changes from living in Pakistan to living in Canada. Backed up by the fantastic recitation of Gibran’s poetry about children being part of a family yet still being themselves, it truly emphasized Akram’s split between him and his father.
Or maybe it’s because I related the most to this story because my family immigrated here when I was still a baby, as well. I have a good idea of what Akram’s feeling and thinking while living between the cultures.
But, it’s probably because I can tell that this is the most truly Canadian story in this programme. It shows the true heart of Canadian multiculturalism and how unconditional family love is the essence of who and what Canadian life is about.
I still have two more movies to watch at TIFF: Blind Detective by Johnny To (a Hong Kong production) and The Wind Rises by Hayao Miyazaki (a Japanese production).
Hope to see you all soon!