Several truly creative gems stand out in the Short Cuts Canada programmes at this year's Toronto International Film Festival. Here is our top six picks worth seeing.
A good short film is like a delicious snack: it satisfies you just enough to make you content. Not too much, not too little. At this year's TIFF, you'll find a nice buffet of those kinds of tasty films, whether you like dreamy bio-pics or smart takes on relationships.
Director: Deco Dawson; 19 min
If there's any film that stands out from the pack at Short Cuts Canada, it's this look at French surrealist artist Jean Benoît. Dawson brings a trippy visual approach to his interview with Benoît, who displays a crass charm you have to see to truly appreciate.
A still from Keep a Modest Head, a short film about surrealist Jean Benoit
Dawson plays with light and angles in order to make us look at his subject in an unusual way. Much like the surrealist art Benoît is known for, the film itself is a brilliant piece of creative expression that remains with you long after the credits.
Part of Programme 1. Screening September 7 at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 7:15 PM; September 8 at TIFF Bell Lightbox 4 1:15 PM
Director: Sophie Dupuis; 24 min
The tension Dupuis creates in this family drama is so thick, you'll need a table saw to cut it. Struggle tells us the story of Ariane as she's about to get a fresh start in Montreal, leaving behind her brother and mother. What begins as gentle ribbing between the two siblings soon escalates into something much deeper and surprising. Let's just say the ending will indeed shock complacent viewers, while those on the prowl for plot cues will see where the story is heading.
Impressive performances by actors Noémi Lira and Antoine Paquin make this a hit for TIFF fans who don't mind being uncomfortable while watching drama slowly unfold between two siblings.
Part of Programme 2. Screening September 8 at TIFF Bell Lightbox 4 6:15 PM; September 9 at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 9:00 AM
In five minutes, a lot is said in the almost-silent film Reflexions. In this short, the camera lingers on images we don't see at the usual funeral, revealing disturbing details on the man in the coffin. The mom and daughters might all be dressed in black, but they aren't necessarily mourning.
The camera work and emotional resonance of this film make Relfexions a must-see. It's worth checking out the entire Programme 3 just to see Thibaudeau's sharp view on skeletons buried in our closets.
Part of Programme 3. Screening September 10 at TIFF Bell Lightbox 4 6:45 PM; September 11 at TIFF Bell Lightbox 4 12:15 PM
A bustling woman is on her way to a job interview and gets stuck in traffic. So begins Lucy's fateful day where she connects with a stranger and manages to make some unusual decisions you don't see coming.
The dialogue is pitch-perfect, the pace picks up nicely mid-way and Judith Baribeau convinces us of Lucy's at-wits-end personality. Definitely a great short to see if you've ever wanted to make a quick detour of life's routine path.
Part of Programme 4. Screening September 11 at TIFF Bell Lightbox 4 6:30 PM; September 12 at TIFF Bell Lightbox 4 4:45 PM
Haunting. Compelling. Memorable. These all apply to The Genius From Quintino, about a man who can fix any gadget and is confronted by a boy who arrives at his doorstep with a broken toy. But there's only so much one man can fix, as we soon learn in this fantastic drama.
We aren't given much background to this genius's story, only deepening the mystery behind his motivations. Some scenes linger on too long, but overall this short delivers on practically every account, even giving us a fine performance by young actor Pedro Henrique Nery.
Part of Programme 5. Screening September 12 at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 6:00 PM; September 13 at TIFF Bell Lightbox 4 2:00 PM
Eve Duranceau as Clara makes this film a true winner. She exquisitely captures the angst of a woman beset on all sides by parents and brothers who hope she settles down with a man soon. The story gets bizarre at one point but Duranceau keeps it cool and there's something seething under her complacent look that hooks the viewer till the end.
A dog enters her life and Clara isn't ready for commitment, mirroring her own relationship blahs. The interactions between the two are sweetly funny. My main gripe is with the whiplash-shocker of an ending, a bit of a sucker punch I don't find too palatable. But Herd Leader is a keeper thanks to Duranceau's A+ performance and the lingering questions you're left with at the end.
Part of Programme 6. Screening September 13 at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 6:15 PM; September 14 at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 9:30 AM