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After a three-year hiatus, the Canadian Film Fest returns from March 28–31 at the Royal Cinema. Featuring a homegrown lineup of 9 features and 10 shorts, this year’s edition is a welcome return for festival director Bern Euler. “I am overjoyed to be back on the festival circuit,” said Euler. “Torontonians’ appetite for cinema has grown and become even more sophisticated over the past four years.”
Despite the presence of some fairly high-profile features (including festival opener Cloudburst from director Thom Fitzgerald), I’ve decided to focus my attention on a few of the short films. You can see these films as part of the shorts program on Saturday March 31st at 1pm, with one exception. Sci-fi short My Loss, Your Gain will screen ahead of the feature Below Zero on Thursday March 29th at 9:55pm. You can check out trailers for some of the films on the festival’s YouTube channel.
Long Branch (Directors: Dane Clark and Linsey Stewart, 14 minutes)
On a cold winter’s night, Lynn’s quest for a one-night stand is complicated when the guy she goes home with lives two hours away via public transit. A potential one-note comedy turns out to be unexpectedly tender, as well as lovingly shot. My favourite of the shorts by a long way.
Onion Skin (Director: Joseph Procopio, 11 minutes)
A high school student turns heads when he decides to avoid text-messaging a girl in this comedy-turned-romance about the power of letter writing. Directed by 16-year-old Joseph Procopio, the film certainly bears witness to a precocious talent, but I found the high-concept premise a bit hard to swallow. It strains credibility when the girl’s friends are actively hostile to the idea of receiving love notes on paper, like the film was set in 2111 rather than 2011, but by the end, Procopia and his young leads manage to create a genuine sense of romantic discovery.
Everybody Wing Chun Tonight (Director: Karen Suzuki, 3 minutes)
Legend has it that Wing Chun Kung Fu was developed by a woman in China during the Ming Dynasty. Though it does not rely on strength, it can be brutal in its efficiency. The instincts that are developed through its study gives great confidence to its practitioners to the point that fighting may not be necessary. It becomes a way of being. A short but highly-choreographed action film that impresses technically but has no real characters or story.
Rosie Takes the Train (Director: Stephen Scott, 10 minutes)
In 1930, a young girl named Rosie boards a train and befriends a kind yet mysterious conductor. What unfolds is the journey of a lifetime as Rosie speeds toward an unknown destination experiencing love, loss, fear and ultimate courage along the way. Impressively cast (Linda Kash and Patrick McKenna will be familiar to many Canadians) and with an eye for period detail, this crowd-pleasing fable about our “journey through life” lays the metaphors on a little thick for me.
My Loss, Your Gain (Director: Elli Raynai, 4 minutes)
A scientist’s obsession with experimentation leads him to the edge of madness as one of his aborted failures pushes him past the limits of his own imagination. Stylish but narratively confusing, with an ending that left me scratching my head.
The Perfect Vacuum (Director: Alana Cymerman, 6 minutes)
Opera singer Mona left her war-torn homeland and vowed never to sing again. Now she is visited by her lonely neighbours who seek an intimate connection in regular “vacuum dances.” From the punny title to the heavy-handed voiceover, this left me a bit cold, despite the presence of song and dance.
Sonata for Christian (Director: Stéphane Oystryck, 8 minutes)
Christian is a young suburban boy who learns more about himself than he expects when a risky relationship between him and his piano teacher begins to bloom. Despite clumsy dialogue, this short film is able to create a tangible mood of sexual longing between its main characters.