I had a more crude answer to the thing that ties the films at TIFF 2021’s fifth short cuts programme. But a more polite version of that thing involve bodies and spaces. There’s at least a few shorts that involve bodily fluids. Some of those shorts also make its viewers question our perceptions of beauty, benevolence and subvert assumptions on who’s competent or otherwise. The star rating below is the average, but even the ‘worst’ short here is still pretty good.
Paul Shkordoff’s Twelve Hours depicts what looks like a motel room – and the woman (Laara Sadiq) temporarily living there, who basically subsists on ramen noodles. It drops hints subtly that the woman is a healthcare worker. That subtlety confirms my bias towards a short with the subject matter, and I hope they stay strong despite of everything. Shkordorff also directed Benjamin, Benny, Ben.
Maria Valade’s Boobs is about a woman’s relationship with those specific body parts. The animation is collage-y and middle of the road but passable.
A tent in the polar regions is the setting for Ben Pearce’s A Few Miles South, where Toby Jones plays a weakened explorer who can’t help but pick on his increasing amount of wounds. Ivanno Jeremiah plays his companion. It takes a while to get to where it wants to go, but it’s Pythonesque without the corn and the stodginess. Also, because of Toby Jones, this might be the one that goes all the way, regardless of its mixed merits.
Director Renee Zhan brings us Soft Animals, about the mating ritual between two human figures who start out as friend. I write ‘figures’ because of its expressionistic technique. If you’re going to go arty, go all out like this one.
Agustina Munoz plays a theatre actress and director in Lois Patiño, Matías Piñeiro Sycorax, which gets its name from the a character in Shakespeare’s The Tempest whom viewers of that play don’t see. The director announces a cattle call for women to play the role, who all suck, but it reminds me of when my English teacher objected to the portrayal of sexy witches in a local production of Macbeth. The women, by the way, are all ‘normal’ women.
The short questions who has the power to show which characters and in what way. It poses that question about a playwright that some academics paint, validly, as misogynistic. The short connects that play to nature, which feels too esoteric for its own good. But anything Shakespeare is catnip to me. Beautifully shot. The actresses here speak at each other in Spanish and Portuguese, or maybe Galician Spanish, calling on the racial dynamics in The Tempest. Technically the programme’s worst but read me write so much about it anyway.
Both the actors in Kiran Deol’s I Would Never, in opposition to Sycorax, are more attractive. This short is about what happens when one person acts out their baser instinct on someone else (Deol). This action complicates their friendship. They’re also both law school students, which complicates things. The ideas aren’t 100% there, but the actors do have a chemistry. It shows how power dynamics shift between people who are, I guess, not friends anymore. Content warning. And it’s smoother sailing from here on out.
Alfie Barker’s Hanging On shows empty estate houses in the UK, accompanying that visual with narration and interviews of people who live there and are in danger of losing the homes they had for decades. Barker also shows a few actors floating horizontally above the backyards of those houses. This may look gimmicky on another short but it comes off as genuine here.
Jorge Camarotti’s Ousmane shows the titular African laundry worker (Issaka Sawadogo) living in Quebec helping out a woman in his building who turns out to be a hoarder. Perhaps it’s my proximity to the subject but it makes viewers feel senses that cinema normally can’t deliver. The programme saves the best for last.
- Rated: NR
- Genre: Comedy, documentary, Drama, Short
- Release Date: 9/14/2021
- Directed by: Ben Pearce, Jorge Camarotti, Kiran Deol, Lois Patiño, Paul Shkordorff
- Starring: Agustina Muñoz, Dan J. Johnson, Issaka Sawadogo, Laara Sadiq, Toby Jones
- Produced by: Diarmuid Hughes, Jorge Camarotti
- Written by: Jorge Camarotti, Matías Piñeiro
- Studio: Shore Leave Productions, Spira