Author: Katie O'Connor

TIFF 2015 Review: The Sleepwalker

The Sleepwalker is an animated short based on Federico Garcia Lorca’s poem, “Romance Sonambulo.” Directed by Theodore Ushev, the film screens in Short Cuts Programme 6 at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. Director and animator Theodore Ushev is no stranger to TIFF, with shorts such as Gloria Victoria (2013), The Man Who Waiter (2006), Drux Flux (2008), Lipsett Diaries (2010) and Joda (2012) all screening at the festival over the years. Ushev’s latest, The Sleepwalker, is an animated slice of visual poetry using surrealist colours and shapes.. The colours and designs resemble that of a Picasso painting. The warm colours and the textured shapes dance frantically around the screen to a catchy and off kilter score by Balkan beat wave artist, Kottarashky. It is refreshing and exciting to see a director and animator recreate a visual representation of a story, especially in the form Ushev has established. It is a visually stunning film that as it progresses begins to resemble a piece of abstract expressionalist...

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TIFF 2015 Review: Nina

Nina is a short about a sixteen-year-old single mother, Nina (Elizabeth Tremblay) who abandons her baby to go out dancing with her friends. Nina anxiously returns home to her baby and feels like the night out did not give her the escape she was searching for. The directorial debut for Montreal-based filmmaker, Halima Elkhatabi, Nina will have its World Premiere as part of Short Cuts Programme 6 at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. Nina is an unsettling and real take on a young girl’s inability to understand the consequences of neglecting her baby. The film shows great promise as being a narrative, which exposes the hardships of teenage motherhood, however audiences have seen this type of film before. It does not present anything new in terms of depicting young mothers being irresponsible or not having access or the support to raise a child. Throughout the film, Nina makes desperate attempts to try and continue on as a normal teenage girl. It is a nerve-wrecking journey for Nina during her evening out and until she returns...

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TIFF 2015 Review: World Famous Gopher Hole Museum

World Famous Gopher Hole Museum is a short based on the well-known tourist attraction located in Torrington, AB (yes, it’s closer than you think). It’s a museum filled with taxidermied gophers, placed in dioramas, modelled after the history of Torrington and the Canadian Prairies. Directed by Chelsea McMullan and Douglas Nayler, the film will have its world premiere in Short Cuts Programme 4 at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. The filmmakers are careful not to mock this strange yet endearing tourist attraction, but instead shine a light on fading traditions in the small town of Torrington. The manager of the museum, Diane, is a woman passionate about the business, preferring to keep the museum in its original, charming state. Everything from the hours and the cost, she says, “will never change.” This is a work that definitely stands alone from the rest of the efforts in Programme 4 and, it’s safe to say, other programmes as well. It’s a well-done documentary short on the importance of preserving small-town charm and keeping old traditions alive. Although, not in the case of the...

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TIFF 2015 Review: Boxing

Boxing is a short about a woman named Sheila, who returns to her boxing class after a tragic accident. The film flips the narrative of the traditional sports film to the female experience, adding a story based on drum-tight tension with a fitting finale. Directed by Aidan Shipley and Grayson Moore, Boxing will have its world premiere in Short Cuts Programme 3 at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. Boxing is a fascinating effort that plays with various forms of dramatic and thematic elements and subject matter. Shipley and Moore are careful not to give away what happened to Shelia, which lends itself to one of the more effective aspects of the film: the power of suggestion. The feelings of uncomfortable tension and claustrophobia are experienced in the film’s close quarters location of the boxing gym. As the viewer, it’s an intimate and alarming look at how a woman decides to get her life back on track and handle her return to everyday life. The finale proves that during the healing process, the monotony of everyday activity proves to be a good distraction, yet isn’t always an adequate release for pain and...

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TIFF 2015 Review: The Ballad of Immortal Joe

The Ballad of Immortal Joe is a fun yet haunting animated short about a cowboy who was cursed with immortality in order to carry out the wishes of his late beloved. Animator/director Hector Herrera pays tribute to the classic poetry of Robert W. Service, offering an eerie, supernatural twist on the tale. This short is part of a trilogy that includes Typesetter Blues (2012) and Half a Pantaloon (2013). Herrera presents The Ballad of Immortal Joe as an eerie, cool short that has all the elements of a jazzy Western film. It features a lustful, smooth score by the Almighty Sadies, while Canadian actor Kenneth Welsh (Twin Peaks and The Aviator) narrates. This animated short packs in vibrant and beautiful animation during its six-minute duration. This and Bacon and God’s Wrath are the only two short films in Programme 3 that are animated, making for an exciting mix of the mediums. Audiences may feel a hint of the spaghetti western genre; however, Herrera would rather viewers appreciate the supernatural twist on a classic...

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TIFF 2015 Review: Never Steady, Never Still

Never Steady, Never Still is a short about a young man named Jamie (Dylan Playfair) who returns home to his frail mother (Tina Hedman) after some unforeseen circumstances. As mother and son, they must work together to try and lead a happy and normal life, however Jamie is at a crossroads with what he wants. This short will be having its World Premiere in Short Cuts Programme 1. Never Steady, Never Still is the latest short for Kathleen Hepburn. She is a recent graduate of the Writer’s Lab of the Canadian Film Centre. Other work by Hepburn includes Murder in Hecate Strait (which was awarded at the 2014 Vancouver Women in Film Festival) and SIMONA, SIMON. Hepburn presents an insightful yet heartfelt story about a mother and son who have to learn to face their own personal struggles together. The film also gives an interesting portrayal on youth and LGBTQ politics with Jamie’s confusion of his sexual identity. Hepburn beautifully incorporates nature and the natural landscape as a backdrop for the narrative. The short leaves a lot to audience interpretation on how things turn out between Jamie and his...

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TFS Festival Quickie: Caroline Monnet, Director of Mobilize

Mobilize is a short that communicates the relationship between spaces – nature and the urban landscape. The film encapsulates these spaces and their experiences in entirely archival footage and an original soundtrack by Inuk artist, Tanya Taqaq. Director Caroline Monnet talks about the invaluable Indigenous archival footage and how music and sound are an essential sensorial experience for audiences. Mobilize will have its World Premiere at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival in the Short Cuts Canada Programme 1. Check the TIFF website for more information. Describe your film in 10 words or less. Made entirely with archival footage, Mobilize is a fearless adventure from the far north to the urban south. What inspired you to make this film?  The National Film Board of Canada approached me and three other Indigenous artists with the mandate to fashion a short film, no longer than four minutes, that reframed archival imagery in a new light for a contemporary audience. The idea was to explore and portray Indigenous identity. To do this, I focused on a positive representation and explored the idea of moving forward. I used images with movement, people building stuff and showing off their skills. I thought it was interesting to use archival footage to speak about the future, to express an idea of contemporaneity while still honouring the past. I knew I wanted the film to feel like a journey, be...

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