Short films are a weird format: they pass you by, ending abruptly just when you start to get invested in the story. But it’s also kind of fun to watch movie after movie after movie, and not feel like a bleary-eyed, sun-fearing cinephile.
This year’s Student Film Showcase, screening at TIFF Bell Lightbox, offers you, the viewer, ten of the best short student films our country has to offer. “˜Best’ is a tough thing to quantify in art – these films vary wildly in style, substance and purpose. But even the fact that someone out there called each little gem in this showcase “˜number one’ makes them worth checking out.
There’s some good stuff in this showcase, from young “˜auteur’ bids to whimsical animations. In a student phase, you can definitely spot influence and inspiration. I don’t want to pigeonhole anybody, but Lingo , an austere film about race and language in Canada, by UBC’s Bahar Noorizadeh, feels like it’s speaking to Michael Haneke’s notorious film Cache . Bleak, subtle and aware of film’s inherent limits, Lingo shows the strife of an Afghan woman and her son without trying to butt in and explain. It’s good.
Another standout, Life Doesn’t Frighten Me , by Stephen Dunn of Ryerson University, plays nothing like Lingo . Here, in a story of a 13-year old girl learning about ugliness and beauty, we get that Spike Jonze naivete: warmth, nostalgia and rich visuals. Life Doesn’t Frighten Me hits that sweet spot between superb style and emotional poignancy. Also good.
Again, the subject matter and tone here is all over the board. Yet, although some films in this lineup have gimicky concepts and sometimes weak writing, production values and post-production really stand out throughout. Keeping in mind the “˜student’ component of this showcase, it’s impressive to clearly see the hard work and love that went into all 10 films. Untold efforts – blood, sweat and tears, no doubt – have gone into these five-to-ten-minute films. And variety, in such concise spasms of creativity, makes for an entertaining cinematic experience.
Who watches short films? Not all that many people. Why? Well, they’re not commercially viable. You might pay 12 bucks for two hours of entertainment, but the equation doesn’t really reduce properly; the consumer won’t consistently pay a dollar for a few minutes of film fun, especially with the likes of YouTube out there. So, since short films rarely make it to a cushy theatre like TIFF Bell Lightbox, you should be extra-motivated to attend showcases like this one. Support the students!