Whether it’s pure poetry on celluloid or one-gag clunkers, attending a short film festival is inevitably hit and miss. That’s the fun of it. Yet Toronto’s Worldwide Short Film Festival, running Tuesday to Sunday, has a few examples of the very best in short-filmmaking – works which beautifully open elaborate worlds in only a brief few minutes. Here are some of the ones to watch for.
The Hounds (Les meutes) Manuel Schapira (France) The night streets, particularly Europe’s streets (at least judging by this year’s collection of shorts), are a very dangerous place, especially when the violence takes place in a very starkly defined way. Three young men in this 15-minute film by French director Manuel Schapira are en route to a house-warming party in a slightly dicey neighborhood (presumably in Paris). This is a hip and trendy crowd. The party is loud, stylish and rocking. In the hallway outside the apartment, the men encounter what seem like two seemingly harmless, thuggish kids trying to talk their way into the party. What transpires is sudden, brilliantly directed violence – brilliant because Schapira keeps it so simple, and effectively turns the audience into innocent bystanders.
Meaning of Style
The Meaning of Style Phil Collins (Malaysia) One of the finest pieces of film art at the festival, English artist and Turner Prize-nominee Phil Collins’s work shows a group of Malaysian boys who have adopted skinhead clothes and culture. They are filmed watching a film about themselves. There is no story or overt political subtext to the short. Instead, it focuses on the boys’ exacting compliance with the British skinhead look, yet with an exotically Malaysian edge, as when one opens a box full of butterflies which flutter around the young men.
Odysseus’ Gambit Alex Lora (USA) This 12-minute documentary focuses on the daily interactions Saravuth Inn has with fellow New Yorkers in Union Square Park. Inn is a Cambodian refugee, “rescued” by the U.S. military and brought Stateside as a child. Now middle aged, he sees it much differently. In his view, he was stolen from his homeland and is now a displaced man, homeless and unable to work. He spends his days as one of the regulars who set up makeshift chess tables in the park, accepting any money and food that people in the neighbourhood offer him. Told from Inn’s point of view, director Alex Lora’s doc fills the screen with luminous light and allows Inn to present his story in a wonderfully non-linear way, just as if you were meeting him yourself.
Unravel Meghna Gupta (U.K./India) Another brilliant documentary short. Meghna Gupta’s 14-minute film looks at what happens to shiploads of discarded clothes from the West. Much of it ends up in India to be recycled into yarn. Yet the film is really about the workers (mainly women) who have to handle the discarded clothing and what impressions the items (obscenely wide pants, a white wedding gown) give them about Westerners. One woman believes clothing must be ridiculously cheap: Why else would rich countries throw so much away? One comments about the fake pearls and buttons sewn onto fancy underwear, believing that someone very unfortunate must have had to wear such a ludicrous item. Here, the power of the short is in its uncomplicated premise.