What The Film Festival aims to fill a gap in Toronto’s dense film festival landscape, showcasing outlier and outsider films that intersect definitions of both genre and avant-garde cinema and operate outside the traditional parameters of taste and convention. As a taste for what the festival offers, here are a few selections from the fest.
Dir. Mike Olenick
Precedes BLOODY MUSCLE BODY BUILDER IN HELL at 4:30pm
Described as a sci-fi soap opera, this oddly engaging film focuses on Linda who returns home to comfort her mother, as her father is on the brink of death. Her time at her childhood home causes some traumatic memories to resurface. Meanwhile, her boyfriend decides to have fun with a stranger.
Cat cut-outs, photos from a time past, and aliens all collide in this story. Never too sure what is going to happen next, Olenick creates a short film that will leave audiences scratching their heads… in a good way.
Dirs. Kentucker Audley, Albert Birney
Screening at 7:00pm
Sylvio Bernardi (Albert Birney) finds himself trapped in a dead-end job as a debt collector. When he is sent to collect a debt at a house which is the set of a public-access television show, he is mistaken for a guest and becomes an overnight celebrity after he trips and inadvertently smashes up the set. Recognizing the audience’s hunger for destruction, the show’s producer and host (Kentucker Audley) invites him to be a regular guest.
Sylvio accepts hoping being on the show will allow him to show the world his true passion: performing short narratives with a hand-puppet of a balding middle-aged man named Herbert Herpels. By the way, Sylvio is a gorilla that wears sunglasses. Yes, he is!
The film is based on a popular VINE channel that chronicled Sylvio’s struggle as a working-class primate across 814 six-second clips. The film has been described as an idiosyncratic character study, to which this writer will agree. Although silent for the entire film, the title character is engaging and charming, if I can say that much. Audley’s acting is complementary to Birney’s — they create a believable friendship. The film is a funny and endearing story. It boasts excellent design production and a good soundtrack. Sylvio is a genuinely heartwarming satire.
SHE’S ALLERGIC TO CATS
Dir. Michael Reich
Screening at 9:30pm
Michael, a lonely dog groomer (Mike Pinkey) searches for love but his true passion is making weird video art that nobody understands. His big dream is to raise financing for an all-cat remake of the film Carrie. While at work, he meets Cora — the girl of his dreams (Sonja Kinski, granddaughter of Klaus). Michael takes a chance and asks Cora out. To his surprise, he accepts. He then starts to panic at the thought of inviting her over to his rat infested apartment. His anxiety leads him to illicitly procure a cat to help rid his apartment of this pest, but wait… this girl is actually allergic to cats!
The film takes us deep into Michael’s psyche, his struggles as a niche filmmaker, and of course, the perils of dating. Reich creates a relatable story albeit they exist in a bizarre narrative. The look and feel of the film may seem strange and confusing to some audience, but I encourage you to sit with it.
Reich funded the film partly by working as a body double for one of the Daft Punk robots, and through a Kickstarter campaign. Although shot with a digital camera, Reich employs a VHS aesthetic throughout the film to evoke a level of nostalgia while compliment Michael’s inner working. With interesting takes and shout outs to films like Howard The Duck, the film will make you sit in contemplation and confusing. As a closing film to the fest, She’s Allergic to Cats will leave audience with plenty to think and talk about.
All features are preceded by strange and surreal short films from around the world. The festival will culminate with a post-fest party at The Monarch Tavern.
All festival screenings take place at The Royal Cinema on Saturday, June 24th. Tickets to individual screenings are $10 at the door.