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The 2010 Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival concluded Friday night with a selection of 10 short films called “Personal Journeys”. After two days of more experimental films at the festival, this program focused on more traditional story structures and narratives dealing with personal struggles and how to overcome difficulties.   Overall this program was the strongest of the festival.

The Keeper’s Wife ““ A social worker visits a man whose wife has been injured in a car accident, and makes a disturbing discovery. Director Caine Chow has obviously been studying Alfred Hitchcock’s methods closely to great effect. His excellent use of cinematic montage keeps the suspense intense.

Memories ““ As a boy, dealing with the death of his mother, sits in a park, a young girl joins him to talk to him about his loss. The boy dismisses her gestures not realizing that this girl will have more of an impact on his life than he can imagine.

Pressures of Perfection ““ The short story of family dealing with the loss of the oldest brother in the military. The story revolves around two remaining brothers and their difficult and demanding mother. The mother favors the youngest boy and wants him to go to college, but he wants to travel to Tibet. The middle brother is considered the “black sheep” of the family by the troubled mother, so she pins all her hopes on the future to her youngest. The film is an interesting character study with some good performances.

Uprooted ““ A documentary about the struggles of a farmer and his family dealing with the modern realities of tobacco farming in the 21st Century. The film focuses more on the struggles of the changes the family goes through, rather than the possible moral implications of being a tobacco farmer. It is unusual for a documentary to have such strong art direction. Director Andrew Moir does a superb job of not falling into the usual traps of “documentary style” filmmaking by making use of stark black and white photography and unusual composition.

Straight and Narrow ““ Roman and Julia live in an reversed world were homosexual couples are the norm and heterosexual couples are on the fringes of society. They are secret lovers until their parents discover their love affair. The premise of the film also draws heavily from Romeo and Juliet in its portrayal of forbidden love. This was a fascinating film that really only scratched the surface as a short film. Here is hoping it is made into a feature film.

Abby the Python ““ A paper cut-out animated film of a child and its pet snake. A cute little story that plays out like a “fractured fairy tale.” Its basic animation actually makes it more fun to watch and is in keeping the tone of the tale.

BFF ““ Two friends, a girl and a human-sized owl are best friends forever, but when the girl finds a boyfriend, the owl feel rejected. This is a very funny short film which has a nice surreal quality to it.

Wade’s World ““ Dan and Wade are roommates and when Dan meets the new neighbour and falls for her, Wade feels rejected. Very ambitious for such a simple storyline, the film is actually a musical and has quite a few musical numbers in a very short time frame. The challenge of short films is that you have a very limited time to explain the characters and the world they live in and to add musical numbers into that time frame has the potential to make a simple story more confusing than it actually is. Having said that, the film was still a pleasure to watch and had some great musical performances.

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