Our Favorite Short Films Playing At TIFF 2014

By @cj_prin
Our Favorite Short Films Playing At TIFF 2014

It’s that time of year again. The Toronto International Film Festival is ready to start, and we’re ready to bring as much coverage as we can to our readers. And while people will be talking about the celebrities or any one of the 285 features selected for the festival, there’s another part of TIFF that deserves just as much attention. A whopping 108 short films will play this year, a much higher number compared to previous years. That’s because TIFF used to only have one programme dedicated to Canadian shorts. This year they’ve expanded things out to include international short films as well, a welcome addition to the festival.

We were lucky enough to catch some of the short films in both the Canadian and International programmes before the festival, and have written about some of our personal favourites. If you have the time, you should definitely check out some of the shorts programmes at TIFF. The festival groups films into several back-to-back marathons, each one uniting the selected shorts around an overall theme. It’s a chance to see some really great programming from the festival staff, and it offers the ability to watch some excellent shorts you may otherwise never see in the best possible viewing conditions.

To find out more about Short Cuts Canada, click here, and to find out more about the Short Cuts International programme click here. The Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 4th to 14th in Toronto, Canada.

Canadian Shorts


Playing in Short Cuts Canada Programme 1

CODA short film

Denis Poulin and Martine Époque’s animation/motion capture of the finale of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring demands a viewing on the big screen. Using light, darkness and vivid colours to make their gorgeously abstract animations pop, the two directors create a truly original and exhilarating short film. [C.J.]

Last Night

Playing in Short Cuts Canada Programme 5

Last Night short film

Ever call someone out on a lie, only to see them stubbornly refuse to admit their wrongdoing no matter how much the evidence stacks against them? Last Night is the short for you. When a man accuses his roommate of doing something terrible to him the night before (it’s best to discover the specific accusation for yourself), the roommate refuses to confess. What follows is one absurd development after another, and the way Last Night quickly veers off into absurdist comedy works like gangbusters. [C.J.]


Playing in Short Cuts Canada Programme 4

Entangled short film

A woman tries to find out what science experiment her now-catatonic lover was working on, and what she discovers leads to a fun piece of low-key science fiction.. Tony Elliott’s short may feel quite stuffed for its 15-minute runtime, but that’s a good thing; it has a great concept at its centre, one that feels like it could easily transition to feature-length without a problem. Fans of low budget science fiction like Primer or Coherence, as well as fans of Orphan Black (Elliott is a writer for the show) shouldn’t miss out on this one. [C.J.]

Take Me

Playing in Short Cuts Canada Programme 2

Take Me short film

A hospital worker tasked with helping permanently disabled patients gets pushed to his limits when he has to help a husband and wife in “the intimacy room.” Take Me packs plenty of power in its short runtime. It’s a quiet, human drama bolstered by great performances. [C.J.]


Playing in Short Cuts Canada Programme 5

Intruders short film

A 9-minute short split into 3 different stories, Intruders certainly has ambition. The bookending segments work well as minimalist horror pieces, but it’s the second segment that stands out. A young boy pulls a Rear Window when he uses a telescope to spy on the apartment building across from him, and what he sees is the stuff of nightmares. The way this sequence combines real and surreal images only adds to how terrifying it is, making it one of the short programmes’ highlights. It’s also one of the best-looking short films in the lot too, with plenty of striking cinematography. [C.J.]

The Underground

Playing in Short Cuts Canada Programme 6

The Underground TIFF

Inspired by Rawi Hage’s novel Cockroach, The Underground follows a young Iranian refugee barely scraping by in Canada. Alone and living in poverty, he begins imagining himself as a cockroach while he wanders the streets looking for food and supplies. Director Michelle Latimer’s short has plenty of style, but it never overpowers the heart of the film. It’s an impressive, evocative story anchored by an impressive performance from Omar Hady. [C.J.]

Running Season

Playing in Short Cuts Canada Programme 5

Running Season short film

When his father dies, a man heads off to PEI to try to sell his house for a quick return. The only problem is that severed feet keep washing up on the town’s shore, a grisly piece of news that decreases the value of the house. Running Season is fantastic, the kind of showcase for director/co-writer Grayson Moore and writer Nigel Turgeon-Mannion to help move on to bigger and better things. The way Moore and Turgeon-Mannion strongly establish a character with a single line shows serious talent. The way someone says “Your father was a…consistent man” is all that’s needed to understand what kind of relationship the main character had with his father. The short’s centerpiece, a long conversation and negotiation over the house, is a brilliant piece of writing, starting out friendly before slowly generating a surprising amount of tension. Running Season might not be just the best short at TIFF; it might be one of the best things there, period. [C.J.]

Chamber Drama

Playing in Short Cuts Canada Programme 3

Chamber Drama short

Megan, a young girl with hypersensitive hearing works as an intern at an acoustics lab, trying to impress her boss into letting her stay on instead of hiring a replacement once her internship ends. Chamber Drama is compelling all the way through, with some truly arresting images used to represent Megan’s hypersensitivity to sound. Out of what we’ve seen in the Canadian line-up, it’s definitely one of the programmes’ most assured short films. [C.J.]

A Tomb With a View

Playing in Short Cuts Canada Programme 4

A Tomb With a View

At a scant 7 minutes, A Tomb With a View quickly covers a fascinating topic: the world’s tallest graveyard, a multi-storey necropolis looking more like an average apartment building than a cemetery. Director Ryan J. Noth exploits the disturbing quality of the graveyard before letting an architect explain why it’s such an unsettling sight; seeing the same structure people live most of their life in used as a monument to the dead provides a lot of bothersome associations. With nice cinematography and some brief but effective uses of music, A Tomb With a View benefits from its quick, no frills approach. [C.J.]

International Shorts

everything & everything & everything

Playing in Short Cuts International Programme 1

everything and everything and everything short film

Take a Charlie Kaufman-esque premise, throw in some David Fincher and Paul Thomas Anderson and you might get an idea of what everything & everything & everything is like. An isolated man (Shane Carruth, Upstream Color) suddenly finds a glowing blue pyramid in his apartment. The only thing the pyramid does is generate a doorknob on command, something the man sees as a business opportunity. Director Alberto Roldan shows off major talent in this short, using montage and long takes in seriously impressive ways. Here’s hoping we don’t hear the last of him. [C.J.]

130919 • A Portrait Of Marina Abramović

Playing in Short Cuts International Programme 5

130919 short film

It’s tough to judge a 2D version of a 3D project, but if Matthu Placek’s 130919 has me excited about it in 2D, I can only imagine how amplified it will be on the big screen in 3D. Shot on location in a desolate warehouse (though “space-ground” is a term that comes more readily to mind), which will later turn into the Marina Abramović Institute in New York, this film is a single 6-minute swooping take of the embodiment of human body within space. If you’re not familiar with Abramović and her provocative post-modern performance pieces, do yourself a big favor and watch Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present. But whether you’re familiar with the artist or not, Placek’s portrait, with its haunting score and clenched sense of empowerment, will beguile you. [Nik]

Growing Pains

Playing in Short Cuts International Programme 2

Growing Pains short film

The one that stuck out to me the most from the second programme in the International Short Cuts was Tor Fruergaard’s Growing Pains. It’s a horrific and fantastical sort of coming-of-age story, perfectly conceptualized for an animated world. When the opening sequence of the film is a young boy jacking off to a porn mag, you know you’re not watching a Pixar short. Watching stuff like this reminds me how Lars Von Trier put Denmark on the map, because his spirit is certainly felt; one close-up in particular will have all the men in the audience heave a collecting sigh of relief that this is, after all, just a cartoon. Of course, even when Felicia enters the picture and the story takes a curve into horror-fantasy, Growing Pains is much, much more than just a cartoon. [Nik]


Playing in Short Cuts International Programme 4

Null short film

Unlikely to be outsmarted or outstyled in its programme, (NULL) is pure invention and in four short minutes provides probably the most exhilarating ride I’ve been on in terms of International Shorts appearing at TIFF. Directed by David Gesslbauer and Michael Lange, the film is reminiscent of an old-school Prodigy music video; the rabid, kinetic energy of a woman’s life as captured through a circular aspect ratio, with every manageable object (cups, fans, make-up, glasses, disco-balls, rolled-up dollar bills, washing machines, etc.) engulfing the edges and taking the “vicious circle” concept to literal and lively levels. Good news is; it all comes full circle in the end. (Couldn’t resist.) It’s placed alongside more formal shorts that deal with personal, political, and economic problems, but don’t be surprised if (NULL) ends up spinning the wheels in your head the most. [Nik]

The Warren

Playing in Short Cuts International Programme 1

The Warren short film

James Adolphus makes his directing debut with his short film The Warren, which gets its World Premiere in TIFF’s new International Short Cuts programme. Together with his DP Guy Godfree, and editors Jarod Shannon and Bret Bachman, Adolphus successfully captures the pulsating anxiety and escalating fear of a midnight raid by the Israeli Defense Forces. During 11 gritty minutes, the viewer is paralyzed in the uncomfortable moments of a disturbing reality faced by thousands of refugees who have forgotten what safety feels like. The buildup concludes with a hair-raising moment of silence between oppressor and oppressed that will stay with the viewer for some time to come. [Nik]

Tricycle Thief

Playing in Short Cuts International Programme 3

Tricycle Thief

A man is struggling to make ends meet as a tricycle cabbie in Macau, living in poverty and on the verge of getting his family evicted. Then, one night, a rejected customer steals his tricycle and the internal conflict of baser characteristics that are found in desperate men starts to bubble up. Maxim Bessmertnyi directs this mini odyssey set in the illuminated and rainy streets of a Macau night, and what struck my fancy the most with Tricycle Thief is the cinematography from Jordan Lavi Quellman (no doubt channeling some Wong Kar-Wai and Ming-liang Tsai imagery,) complimenting Bessmertnyi’s controlled pace so well. It makes for an absorbing watch, and the way that finale plays out with the wife, the sarcastic chuckle, and that music; it’s a positive sign that Maxim Bessmertnyi has a bright future ahead of him in the arthouse field of cinema if he keeps this up. [Nik]


Playing in Short Cuts International Programme 5

Listen short film

A Muslim woman comes to the police begging them to arrest her abusive husband, hoping they can put him away before he makes good on his promise to kill her and their son. The woman can’t speak Danish, making the police rely on a translator who purposely provides an incorrect translation of the woman’s pleas (“We’ll contact the imam. He’ll find a solution,” the translator tells the woman). Listen is deliberately frustrating, but its impact is undeniably powerful. [C.J.]

A Single Life

Playing in Short Cuts International Programme 2

A Single Life short film

In 2 minutes, directors Job, Joris & Marieke go through one woman’s entire life, no small feat for something no longer than your average commercial break. A woman finds a vinyl outside her apartment, and when she starts playing it she notices the record has a special power: time can go forwards or backwards depending on the position of the needle. It’s a cute animated short with a catchy song at the centre of it. And the ending provides a nice, morbidly funny touch to it all. [C.J.]

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