Every year Inside Out has a collection of shorts they call Local Heroes. These shorts promise the best Toronto has to offer. They are more of a mixed bag. That said, they do their best to capture what it’s like to live in this city as LGBTI people.
The program has a shaky start with Joseph Amenta’s Haus. It’s about two young black gay men (Mark-Che Devonish and James Bailey) in the local ballroom scene. Devonish is great here, carving out a character replaying his traumas to complete strangers, but Amenta is overtly reliant on the short’s soundtrack. Other shorts switch between scenes without dialogue to scenes with it, but that structure eventually loses momentum here.
Things do get better with Brendan Prost’s Loretta’s Flowers. It’s about a South Asian woman with the same name (Harveen Sandhu) navigating three different relationships with two women and one man. It’s more glorious and vibrant on the big screen than it was on the small screen. It shows Toronto as a melting pot and a refuge for all Canadians and the problems that people face when they’re trying to find love.
Next up is Sabina Lambert’s Queen, about a young man, Alex, (Trevor Gray) who wants to be a drag queen. This short is very 2019, a time when information about queer culture is more accessible to young people like Alex. The first step, whether that be a Google search or a lipstick, is always the hardest, but he takes it anyway, bravely. I’m also a sucker for bisexual lighting and the surprising warmth that it delivers.
Then the quality dips with three straights shorts that are all duds. Ben Edelberg borrows from Brakhage way too obviously in his documentary short My Fuzzy Valentine. It’s about a female artist making art installations about vaginas. Despite vaginal art being an old concept, selling it is still an uphill climb. Edelberg doesn’t give the artist here any favors, making her seem insipid than she has any business being.
Then there’s is Justine Stevens’ Soft Spot, about a woman, Jess (Erin Marguerite Carter, also the short’s writer), who finds out on Facebook that her ex-fiancée died. She eventually tells this news to her girlfriend, Kris (Alison Louder), who warps the news and wonders why Jess hasn’t proposed to her. Some narcissistic characters are unwatchable on screen, especially in a short that doesn’t deliver a sense of time and space.
The last and worst of these duds is writer-director Matt Landry’s War Movie. It’s about two young men (Landry and Jordan Gavaris) who walk out of a, well, war movie. Landry’s character then explains why he hates the genre. Great. So Landry, while writing this script, didn’t ask why he would be in that theatre in the first place. His character also goes on a tirade about a movie he never wanted to watch, which, why?
This downward slump finally ends with Emily Jenkins and Justin Black’s Terminally in Love. This short reminds me of Darren Aronofsky’s Mother in a time of my life when, despite reservations, I finally understand Mother. This is a stream of consciousness, POV short that gets clearer from one scene or thought into another, as Veronica (Ellie Moon), regrets her breakup with her ex girlfriend Allie (Sharon Belle).
The program saves the best for last with Daniel Sterlin-Altman’s Do You Even Carrot All? This is irreverent and short and sweet, about an animated carrot losing its freshness, languishing on a plate. It sits on a dark room, listening to voice messages of people trying to reach out to it. It goes from funny to sad seamlessly, showing the effects of shutting out the people who love you. A poignant final message for a program despite the mess that preceded it.
- Genre: Animation, Drama, Experimental, Romance, Short
- Release Date: 5/30/2019
- Directed by: Ben Edelberg, Brendan Prost, Daniel Sterlin-Altman, Emily Jenkins, Joseph Amenta, Justin Black, Justine Stevens, Matt Landry, Sabina Lambert
- Starring: Ellie Moon, Erin Marguerite Carter, Harveen Sandhu, Mark-Che Devonish, Matt Landry, Trevor Gray
- Produced by: Ali Mashayekhi, Brendan Prost, Emily Jenkins, Harry Cherniak, Joseph Amenta, Sabina Lambert
- Written by: Brendan Prost, Emily Jenkins, Erin Marguerite Carter, Joseph Amenta, Matt Landry, Tara Rea
- Studio: Glass Eye Pictures