TIFF 2019: Our Look at Short Cuts Programmes 5, 6 & 8

TIFF 2019: Our Look at Short Cuts Programmes 5, 6 & 8

Short Cuts Programme 05
Whether caught up in situations that are comic, tragic, or a little scary, the characters in these films respond to challenges in love and friendships in ways that surprise even themselves.

Karen Moore
CANADA | 2019 | English
World Premiere | 10 minutes
After returning from a dream vacation with her boyfriend, Hannah (Hannah Cheesman) goes to a kitschy tiki bar to catch up with her bud Jess (Jess Salgueiro). At first, it’s like they’re on two different wavelengths: one gushing over her perfect lover, and the other carrying on about the lack of progress in her love-life. A spark of animosity slowly builds to an emotional eruption that will bring the two closer together or tear them apart.

Volcano tells a relatable tale about friendship, empathy, and communication. And at ten-minutes long, the story peaks just before the scene gets stale. Gaudy production design and woozy lighting create an inviting visual dreamscape, awash in soft purples and deep blues that keep your attention locked on the static scene.

Volcano — Directed by Karen Moore

Nada Riyadh
EGYPT, GERMANY | 2019 | Arabic
North American Premiere | 21 minutes
A couple’s romantic getaway takes a turn when it’s revealed that the young woman wants out of the relationship. But a toxic power dynamic makes ending things a risky decision.

Director Nada Riyadh does an excellent job making viewers feel the full weight of the story. The Trap’s washed-out colour palette, ramshackle settings, and tight camera angles put viewers in the protagonist Aya’s (Shaza Moharam) shoes. You can practically taste the dust in the air and feel the claustrophobia setting in as Aya, and her lover makes their way down narrow, fog-filled alleyways.

The Trap tells a powerful story that explores themes of isolation, oppression, and the strength it takes to escape an intimidating situation.

Nicole Delaney
USA | 2019 | English
World Premiere | 12 minutes
Thirsty shows us how love finds us when we least expect it, often in ways we can’t anticipate.

I don’t agree with the reductive fairy-tale romanticism at the heart of this picture – you don’t instantly fall deeply in love because someone wants you bad enough. But the film feels sweet as sugar, none the less. Mostly due to the wonderful voice work of Maya Rudolph as a lovelorn mosquito.

Although the film’s conceit is silly, it’s earnest message intentions will win you over.

Beautiful drone shots and slick production values make this modest short look like an HBO sitcom.

Short Cuts Programme 06
Breaking conventions and shattering expectations, these  films are as bold as the unforgettable characters they portray… and the startling images they display.

Oracle — Directed by Aaron Poole

Anna Maguire
World Premiere | 16 minutes
We all live in fear of making poor decisions, but oddly enough, we often end up digging ourselves into a deep hole of despair.

The wrong thing to do is often the easier thing to do, and we must battle the voice in our head tempting us towards precarious situations. Director Anna Maguire literalizes both the voice in our head and the insufferable hole, pairing a bleak visual metaphor with the story of a young graduate’s inner struggles.

Chintis Lundgren
CROATIA, ESTONIA, FRANCE | 2019 | English, French
North American Premiere | 18 minutes
This bonkers animated short follows an ultra-sexy anthropomorphic wolf. He has a pregnant wife and two kids at home but loses his job after his boss sexually harasses him. With no alternative, he leverages his massive sex-appeal into a business opportunity.

Director Chintis Lundgren’s short uses a minimalistic art style, where every hand-drawn line pulsates with kinetic sexually charged energy. The low-fi art aesthetic is awash in rose pinks and hot reds and looks like what spilled out of a shaken-up box of Valentine’s candies.

The result is a quirky short that questions society’s desire to bury our most primal urges.

EXAM (Emtehan)
Sonia K. Hadad
IRAN | 2019 | Persian
World Premiere | 15 minutes
A father interrupts his daughter Sadaf (Sadaf Asgari) before school on the morning of an exam. He demands that she stops studying – and risks being late – and run a package of cocaine to a man for a large sum of cash.

Exam makes for an intense 15-minute watch. Part of this is the close quarters cinematography, where the shaky camera hangs close behind Sadaf as she makes her way through the dreary streets. We know a confrontation is inevitable and Asgari’s large, fearful eyes help sell every moment of tension.

Exam uses drug-running to tell a story about patriarchal oppression, and a woman’s lack of agency. The film gives us a literal example of the risks and sacrifices a young woman must make to support a toxic male agenda.

Daniel Cockburn
World Premiere | 5 minutes
Director Daniel Cockburn takes a five-minute plunge into the murky world of dream logic. He pulls clips from anxiety-inducing films such as Halloween and After Hours to create a strange visual collage with an unsettling Lynchian vibe.

Aaron Poole
CANADA | 2019 | English
World Premiere | 9 minutes
Aaron Poole’s short Oracle borrows liberally from the Kubrick school of mind-f#cking. They both trigger your fight or flight response right from the opening frame and then keep preying on your frayed nerves. Poole somehow packs a feature’s worth of nightmare fuel into a 9-minute short. Be warned…

Short Cuts Programme 08

These incredible films all portray characters who must contend with changing times, cultural shifts, and pressures from inside and outside themselves.

I’ll End Up in Jail — Directed by Alexandre Dostie

Carol Nguyen
CANADA | 2019 | Vietnamese, English
World Premiere | 16 minutes
Are we ever truly finished mourning the people we loved and lost? Carol Nguyen tackles that question and delivers some of the most raw and intimate work at this year’s festival in this tender portrait of three aching souls.

Nguyen’s filmmaking style is simple but effective. She points the camera at her mother, father, and sister and allows a lifetime’s worth of buried feelings to rise to the surface. In less than 20-minutes, this heavy-hearted short will leave audiences teary-eyed.

Manon Nammour
LEBANON | 2019 | Lebanese
World Premiere | 14 minutes
After years away from Beirut, a grandfather returns to his homeland for his grandson’s wedding. The two bond as they run errands, but things go awry when they can’t find a shoe store named Barakat. A pleasant afternoon turns into a frustrating exercise as the maze-like city engulfs the two men in its narrow twisting streets.

Barakat offers a wistful take on ageing and losing our ties to the past. But even at a svelte 14-minutes long, the story feels bloated.

I’LL END UP IN JAIL (Je finirai en prison)
Alexandre Dostie
CANADA | 2019 | French
North American Premiere | 23 minutes
I’ll End Up in Jail is the story of a stay-at-home mom on the brink of a breakdown who takes ownership of her sad-sack life. Between her disrespectful son and insensitive husband, we get why Sam (Marine Johnson) packs her bags and leaves. Unfortunately for Sam, fate won’t let her get escape.

Alexandre Dostie’s short is a cold-blooded crime flick full of unnerving twists and turns. Bold cinematography, compelling performances, and an icy tone make I’ll End Up in Jail a gripping 20-minute watch.

This post was written by
Victor Stiff is a Toronto-based freelance writer and pop culture curator. Victor currently contributes insights, criticisms, and reviews to several online publications where he has extended coverage to the Toronto International Film Festival, Hot Docs, Toronto After Dark, Toronto ComiCon, and Fan Expo Canada. Victor has a soft spot in his heart for Tim Burton movies and his two poorly behaved beagles (but not in that order).
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