With the debut edition of the Toronto True Crime Film Festival kicking off at the Royal Cinema this coming Friday and Saturday, we thought we’d take a look at all the short films chose to screen before every feature because short films need love to. If you want to find out more about these and all the films playing at the TTCFF you can visit them right here.
Maybe if it was a Nice Room
Dir. Alicia K. Harris
After tackling parental responsibilities and the awkwardness of youth, in her short films Fatherhood and Love Stinks respectively, director Alicia K. Harris touches on much darker territory in Maybe if It was a Nice Room. In a scant running time, the short is only a minute and a half, Harris captures the pain, guilt, anger and questions that many sexual assault survivors often must deal with. Showing the various items in a posh family estate, while the narrator poetically questions whether a nice room would have prevented the unnamed assailant from raping her, the film is a darkly beautiful and unsettling work.
Maybe if it was a Nice Room screens with Abducted in Plain Sight on Friday June 8th at 7 PM at The Royal Cinema
Dir. Kate Davis
Three years ago, 26-year-old school teacher Breaion King, who is African-American, was stopped for speeding in Austin, Texas. What should have been a routine traffic stop escalated into a violent encounter which resulted in King being repeatedly slammed to the asphalt by the arresting officer Bryan Richter. Through dashcam footage, and King’s account of the incident, director Kate Davis constructs an intriguing portrait of police brutality that has become all too familiar. While it would have been nice if Davis had delved more into the legal side of things – King has a lawsuit still pending – Traffic Stop is more concerned with showing King’s life before and after the arrest. In doing so the film highlights not only the trauma that many African-Americans endure at the hands of the police, but also the inherent misconceptions and fears that are often placed on people for simply having black skin.
Traffic Stop screens with My Name is Myeisha on Friday June 8th at 9:30 PM at The Royal Cinema
A doctor’s responsibility to preserve life is outlined in the Hippocratic Oath. In Lauren Knapp’s documentary short The Sandman, that oath is put to the test when it comes to a doctor’s role in relation to the death penalty. Of the 31 states that practice capital punishment, 17 require a physician present at lethal injections. Though medical organizations oppose this, individuals like Dr. Carlo Musso often assist in secret. Sharing why he feels it is important to ensure the death is as humane as possible, Musso cannot deny the moral and professional conflict he wrestles with. This is especially true when Knapp hints at the underlying tension between Musso and his wife over his refusal to walk a way from this line of work. While Musso is a fascinating character on his own, the film also raises some eye-opening points about the secrecy and lack of ethical practices, covered up by recently enacted Georgia laws, that are making it even harder to keep checks and balances in place when it comes to lethal injections. The Sandman does not offer easy answers for the questions it raises, but it effectively provides plenty to think about.
The Sandman screens with the 15th Anniversary screening of Patty Jenkin’s Monster on Saturday June 9th at 4 PM at The Royal Cinema
Dir. Jill Gevargizian
Jill Gervargizian’s thriller 42 Counts plays like a horror movie, with the scariest thing being that it is based on a true story. The story unfolds rather quickly as two women, Alicia (Najarra Townsend) and Ava (Andrea Dover), are sitting in an apartment talking about the men in their lives when one notices something is not quite right about the smoke detector. Uncovering a hidden camera, the first of several, the women go on search to figure out who might be watching them. Running at a brief seven minutes, Gervargizian does not offer much in terms of character depth, which would have made the chilling premise more resonating. Hopefully Gervargizian will explore these themes in more detail in a feature length work at some point in the future.
42 Counts screens with The Stranger on Saturday June 9th at 7 PM at The Royal Cinema
If there is one short that demands a feature length adaptation it is Pete Lee’s drama Don’t be a Hero. Missi Pyle delivers a wonderfully nuanced performance as Lizzy Jo, a lonely middle-age woman who tries to bring some excitement to her life by committing robberies on her lunch break. Things get particularly complicated when Lizzy runs into a bank clerk, Samantha (Ashley Spiller), she robbed earlier in the day at a local bar. Featuring a perfect blend of humour, melancholy and drama, Lee’s film is both engaging and endlessly fascinating. It will have audiences craving to follow Lizzy Jo on her search for that next adrenalin rush.
Don’t be a Hero screens with Hostages on Saturday June 9th at 9:30 PM at The Royal Cinema