TIFF 2020: Our Review of ‘Short Cuts 2′

TIFF 2020: Our Review of ‘Short Cuts 2′

The selections in Short Cuts 1 and 2 kind of bleed in together. While the first program is about beginnings, the second portrays its characters and subjects undergoing daunting challenges. There’s a tactile quality to these shorts, manifesting ideas like art, justice, work, and decay into the objects surrounding these characters. The festival lists this program under Wavelengths. Judging by the shorts’ use of voice over, or its meditative observations, its violence and its unconventional shot choices, that billing kinda fits.

Sofia Bohdanowicz is a rising star in Canadian cinema, wowing festival audiences with her work Maison du Bonheur. She’s also been pumping out shorts like Veslemoy’s Song, which has literal imagery reminiscent of Alicia Keys’ music video Brooklyn Story. Point and Line to Plane does the exact opposite of Song. And that’s because she picked subjects where the relationship between image and story can never be literal. Those subjects, by the way, are abstract art and loss, and her choices here to go opposite make for better work. She shows details within the works of painters like Wassily Kandinsky and Hilma af Klint.

Bohdanowicz’s muse Deragh Campbell narrates both the canonical understanding of those works as well as her own interpretation on what’s on the canvas. Campbell’s character is also experiencing these artworks while mourning a man whose name I think is Chad. And those of you who read my reviews in Short Cuts 1 know that I’m an easy mark on such subjects. She looks at paintings and museums and mountains and remind herself that Chad’s not there. The same way my mom’s not here when I watch a film or fold my laundry or look at the apartment where she used to live. Poignant, relatable stuff.

The invisible and the visible are also in conflict within Kelly Fyffe-Marshall’s Black Bodies. Here we see a black man’s hands, sometimes his arms and face. We also see a black woman pleading for that man’s life, yelling at someone not to shoot. But the lurking presence here is a booming voice of a cop telling this man to lift his hands up. And of course, the cop disregards his compliance and shoots the man anyway. It’s a familiar story, its simplicity and power making this program a solid watch.

Roman Hodel’s The Game uses the perspective of one of his documentary subjects as a window to something larger. That subject is a man, possible of Turkish background, working as a referee in a Swiss soccer game. He gets no rest, even watching instant replays on a tablet or phone. It also shows us the other people watching those replays on monitors and the audience, like ants, watching it live. Some behind the scenes shorts are never going to as interesting as the main event. But it at least almost makes audiences sympathize with referees.

Sympathy is also key in Pilar, an animation short that three directors including J.J. Epping made. There’s also attention to detail here, as the animators show the pulleys and traps. The young characters here like the titular character need those traps to hunt down the beasts that have cornered them into urban decay. We know where this is going as it leads to a child possibly getting innocent back, or a beast that is not as threatening as Pilar might have feared. But the hand drawn animation is fabulous.

Loose Fish follows the traditions of both coming of age North African films and films about port towns. Both sub genres have young characters like Ismail need to make money to survive. This film knows how to step back, making that pathos come across without being too overbearing. The question here, of course, is whether or not Ismail escapes everyone else’s fate, or how permanent any escape might be. Either way, it earns its ending well.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch 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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