Secrets No Longer: Our Review of Canada’s Top Ten Shorts (2022)

Posted in Retrospective by - January 27, 2023
Secrets No Longer: Our Review of Canada’s Top Ten Shorts (2022)

There hasn’t been a stereotypical Canadian for decades now. You can be a white female artist, an Egyptian born Twitch streamer, or a Black third generation doctor, and still call Canada home. Viewers can find characters like this on Canada’s Top Ten films, just like they do in real life. TIFF’s first programme includes Carol Nguyen’s Nanitic, Lloyd Lee Choi’s Same Old, and Matthew Rankin’s Municipal Relaxation Module. All of these are re-watches for me.

The first short in the programme that’s new to me is Claire Sanford’s Violet Gave Willingly. It’s purposefully disorienting and experimental as Sanford chooses her mother, artist Deborah Dumka, as her subject. The short documentary then pushes one more bold boundary with a shocking sentence. “Bad Boys Rape Our Girls But Violet Gave Willingly”. What proceeds is a revelation that is both shocking and is also a commonplace experience for girls and women even in the developed world. Form and content complement each other in a short that hits the right emotional notes.

The second new to me short in the programme, Aziz Zoromba’s Simo, has the titular character (Basel El Rayes) smiling in his bed after taking over his brother Emad’s (Self El Rayes) Twitch stream. But he says a word during that stream that changes his and his Egyptian-Canadian family’s life forever. Every frame here denotes an unvarnished specificity, showing how much thought Zoromba put in breathing life into these characters. He also includes videogame aesthetics and rap music that hints at a new cinematic language. Some viewers can pick apart some of the plot holes but those nitpicks feel moot. Aladeen Tawfeek from Incendies plays Simo and Emad’s father, and he adds a depth to a man who reveals a secret.

Simo is my favourite of the new to me shorts. I give the ‘new’ disclaimer because the best short is in the second programme. That programme has The Flying Sailor which is good but not the favourite. That designation belongs to  David Findlay’s Lay Me By The Shore. This is worth a re-watch because someone on Letterboxd put this on a LGBTQ+ Shorts list. I don’t know if that inclusion incepted me and made me see queer undertones to the short but it does make for a richer experience. Let’s move on to the second programme’s new watches though.

The first of those is Marilyn Cooke’s No Ghost in the Morgue, about a Black woman, Keity Richardson (Schelby Jean-Baptiste)who’s mother and grandmother are and were doctors but it seems like she can’t cut it. Making matters worse is that she chose to intern as a pathologist because that’s the only way she can get a slot. The editing here feels delightfully flashy. Some of the humour feels broad. The genre mashup also makes it my least favourite of the new to me shorts if I had to pick, but it’s good enough that it doesn’t bring the other discoveries down.

Canada, as I said, has no borders. We can even embrace and empathize with the people who left its lands centuries ago. Guillaume Fournier, Samuel Matteau, and Yannick Nolin go to our prodigal siblings in Belle River. Let’s back up a bit with some history. Centuries ago, some French Canadians refused to swear allegiance to the British King (same) and left Acadia for Louisiana. During the present days, these Louisianians feel another threat in their lives – climate change. The documentary short captures the flooded streets with awe inspiring beauty, treating its subjects as people who have the right to determine their fates. And they do so despite of human and natural aggression.

Canada’s Top Ten Shorts are playing in two separate programmes at the TIFF Bell Lightbox this weekend.

This post was written by
While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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