TIFF 2021: Our Review of ‘Short Cuts Programme 01’

Posted in TIFF 2021 by - September 10, 2021
TIFF 2021: Our Review of ‘Short Cuts Programme 01’

There are some activists and healers in TIFF 2021’s first short cuts programme. However, it’s less about what these characters do and more about their relationships with one another. That’s a vague unifying theme for this mixed bag, but nonetheless, let’s begin.

Canada makes for a starting point for the programme, beginning with Khadijah Roberts-Abdullah and Araya Mengesha’s DEFUND, where the co-directors star as two young Black siblings who feel frustration during last year’s quarantine and the police brutality going on outside of their homes. There’s the subtlest approach to graphic novel aesthetics here, and I agree with these characters’ sentiments. But the delivery feels lacking.

The storytelling slightly gets better in Diana Cam Van Nguyen’s Love, Dad. I watched the programme seeing the potential with its aesthetic and subject matter. It’s about a Czech-Vietnamese woman retelling the story of her relationship with her father, using animation live action actors. It’s simultaneously meticulous and rough, but the content is relatable for obvious reasons.

Martine (Marie-Evelyn Lessard) and her mother Monique (Mireille Metellus) are Haitian-Canadians who are central to Sandrine Brodeur-Desrosiers and Carmine Pierre-Dufour’s Fanmi. They first have mundane conversations about cooking but as the short progresses, it reveals the problems both face. It’s not as manipulative as most shorts about its subject matter although the cinematography is progressively bothersome.

In turn, Ningiuq Angakkuq (Madeline Ivalu) and her apprentice (Lucy Tulugarjuk) are Inuit Canadians central to The Shaman’s Apprentice, where Ningiuq just brings a piss pot to heal a man but realizes that she needs more. All it takes for me to love an animation short is to see how excellently it depicts fur. Best of the programme, which is probably why it earned that centerpiece placement. This is also my first Zacharias Kunuk, whose films are mandatory viewing for all Canadians. Kunuk made this for television. And it’s nice to see festivals like this that bring material like this to the big screen.

The programme more or less ebbs and flows in quality from Shaman’s to Isabelle Mecattaf’s Beity, which takes a while to get to Roula (Julia Kassar), a Lebanese woman, contemplating her family situation. Camera movements are great though. Mecattaf thanks Todd Solondz and Kasi Lemmons in the credits. Other directors would kill for mentors like that, regardless of the level of help the provided for the short.

Then it gets to Lee Filiposki’s Nula (Zero). It’s about a bickering Serbian couple (Hana Selimovic and Neven Bujic) driving thorough their country’s natural areas. Women like to talk while men don’t? Shorts are short, but 15 minutes should be enough time for any film to expand its characters from archetypes.

Reality and fantasy weave into each other in Olive Nwosu’s Egungun (Masquerade), about a Black British woman who spots a familiar face when she returns to her home country of Nigeria. Its use of filmic aesthetic puts it near the top of the pile.

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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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