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tiff 2011

A scene from "A Yodeling Farmer"

Short films don't get as much buzz as feature films, but the Toronto International Film Festival is hoping to change that by rolling out a roster of 43 "powerful" films in this year's Short Cuts Canada program.

Presented in six programs and two pre-feature selections, the diverse line-up includes animated, documentary and narrative work from filmmakers across the country.

Short Cuts Canada programmers Alex Rogalski and Migali Simard chose the films from over 650 submissions to the festival. The selection process is competitive, and films that stand out push the norms of the genre, says Rogalski.

"It's when a film surprises me or touches me with the unexpected," he says. "It's interesting to see filmmakers who can twist things and adjust things so that it brings a new point-of-view to something that may seem familiar."

Rogalski also emphasizes the importance of treating short film as its own distinct art form, as opposed to "trying to cram a feature film into 10 or 15 minutes." He adds that short films are not as limited by conventions as feature films are, so filmmakers tend to experiment by mixing genres and styles.

"There's a bit of a fallacy that people make short films in order to make feature films. But that's like saying, you know, Stevie Wonder writes five-minute songs because he doesn't know how to write an opera," Rogalski says. "People are making the films that suit the form they want to work with."

Filmmakers who work in the short form are constantly editing and analyzing their work to ensure that every element counts, and that no frame, word or sound is wasted, he adds.

"What's rewarding for me is that I can watch many of these films a dozen times, and they never get boring because there's always something new I'm discovering in them."

The Globe and Mail asked Rogalski to recommend several best bets from this year's Short Cuts Canada program. Here are his top five picks:

A YODELING FARMER

By Mike Maryniuk and John Scoles (Manitoba)

Taking place in a wooden folk-art universe, A Yodeling Farmer is an animated documentary that explores the life and music of Stu Clayton, a yodeling legend from Manitou, Manitoba. "Nowhere else in the world are they getting that piece of cinema, so it reflects a very specific area of the country and a very specific individual. The style of filmmaking is so unique and one-of-a-kind in its approach that I don't think it could come from anywhere else," says Rogalski.

ORA

By Philippe Baylaucq (Quebec)

In this first film to use 3D-thermal imaging, Ora spotlights six dancers choreographed by Montreal-based José Navas. Despite having no clear narrative, Rogalski says Ora takes audiences on a journey that is breathtaking on the big screen: "Visually, it's a mind-blowing piece of cinema. It will change the way people think about 3D."

PATCH TOWN

Craig Goodwill (Ontario)

Starring Toronto-based actress Lisa Ray, Patch Town is a story about how parents respond to their children when they ask, "Where do babies come from?" Told as a Russian fable, it combines elements of musicals, science fiction, comedy, and period films. "It's a really interesting political commentary [that]fuses a lot of film genres," says Rogalski.

THE FUSE: OR HOW I BURNED SIMON BOLIVAR

Igor Drljaca (Ontario)

Set during 1992 in war-torn Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, The Fuse is a documentary created entirely from the filmmaker Igor Drljaca's home videos. The film is told from the point-of-view of a nine-year-old boy who, in wanting to avoid getting a poor grade on a school art assignment, wishes for something that will allow him to miss school. Rogalski describes it as a "really interesting revisioning of history in a documentary form."

THROAT SONG

Miranda de Pencier (Nunavut and Ontario)

Shot in Nunavut, Throat Song details the experience of a young Inuk woman who finds her voice after suffering in an abusive relationship with her alcoholic husband. Throat Song is the debut film by de Pencier (also an actor and producer), who sheds light on these social issues in a "very personal and honest voice," says Rogalski. He adds that it is a "stunning portrayal of redemption and taking control of your life."