There’s something kind of sad about people not feeling each other’s experiences. People feeling their own pain is hard enough and feeling someone else’s pain is imaginably exponentially worse. But sometimes, we want to know the experiences of the people we love to understand them. It’s a strange way of reaching out into something nearly impossible. I’m probably reaching with this first paragraph of this first piece about this year’s Shorts Not Pants Festival.
If God doesn’t interfere with this mere mortal’s plans, this piece will cover Block 1 and 2. I haven’t seen all of the shorts but I’ve seen three that are coming back to Toronto from TIFF last year. Two of those shorts are in Shorts Block 1 like Ice Merchants (justice for Ice Merchants) and Municipal Relaxation Module (good). Both, in one way or another, touch on the opaqueness that comes with some interpersonal relationships.
One of the shorts in Block 1 that are new to me is actor Conrad Coates’ directorial debut I&I. It’s a documentary that is quite the experience thanks to his booming baritone. Every second I hear his voice I wish he became more famous. Him instead of the incel who plays his son in Degrassi TNG. But this might be his ticket. Here, he touches on as many topics as he can in the short’s 10 minute running time. He wonders what his mother was thinking about moving him from Britain to the whitest part of Ottawa. He also edits in one of the few clips that show Geroge Floyd’s death, clips he showed to his young Black children. Simple, yet he approaches these range of topics with respect.
Unlike I&I, there’s an irreverent tone to Maziyah Khatam’s screenplay in Anya Chirkova’s Baba, which opens Block 2. Here, Khatam does double duty as an actor as he plays Reza, a young Persian-Canadian man intervening with his neuroatypical father’s (Amir Zavosh) eviction. First, I have to talk about what makes this short imperfect. And that thing is that it doesn’t sell me on the titular character’s neuroatypical nature. Yes, I’m being unfair that I’m using my personal experience to measure a filmic version of someone else’s experience.
The short follows film rules that tragedy is close while comedy is wide, but I feel like it would sell the tragic parts of it if it did go wide. Again, this probably displays my own prejudices, but it falls short on character design to sell that aspect of Baba. In relation to that, and I’m trying to be respectful about this, is that there is a Venn diagram where the neurotypical meets features that are well put together, and Zavosh belongs in the second circle. But maybe that plays into a twist in the end. Besides, I always like a short that knows its beats, a loud film that goes quiet just at the right time.
Human beings are so wrong sometimes, but in watchable ways. In Lasse Lyskjær Noer’s Knight of Fortune, Karl Bergstrom (Leif Andrée) is reluctant to see the body of his recently deceased wife. This reluctance eventually gets him to run into another man, Torben, mourning his own wife. He tags along to see Torben’s wife, Jette. They bond over the fact that both men had wives whose favourite song shares the same title of this short, and that both wives couldn’t sing. And then, another family and its patriarch comes along. This lets Karl know that that woman in the coffin’s real name is Lotte and isn’t really Torben’s wife. The tone here is just right, and helping iwth that tone is its use of good cinematography contrasts.
The second block closes out with Shera, which evinces just the right amount of emotions and reminds me of that Indian proverb or story about five blind men and an elephant. The titular character is a leopard haunting a village up in the Indian Himalayas. And the thing is that every villager has seen the leopard but has a different story about her anyway. She follows her own schedule, she rests on the same rock, etc. Two village boys, though, Monu (Sagar Kumar) and Raju, want their own story about Shera. And this need becomes more urgent because Monu and hsi parents are leaving for the city. Every year or so, this fest has an Arun Fulara film and this one is his most restraint, least controversial, and clinically, his best so far.
Watch this year’s first two blocks of Shorts Not Pants on Friday, November 17 at the Carlton.
- Rated: All
- Genre: Adventure, Animation, Drama
- Release Date: 11/17/2023
- Directed by: Anya Chirkova, Arun Fulara, João Gonzalez, Lasse Lyskjær Noer
- Starring: Amir Zavosh, Leif Andrée, Maziyar Khatam, Sagar Kumar
- Produced by: Christian Norlyk, Sharib Khan
- Written by: Anya Chirkova, Arun Fulara, João Gonzalez, Lasse Lyskjær Noer, Maziyar Khatam
- Studio: khan and khumar media, Royal College of Art, TV 2