Canada’s Top Ten 2012: Shorts

by James McNally on January 8, 2013 · 1 comment

in Awards,Shorts

If you love short film, I’ll remind you that my next Shorts That Are Not Pants screening will be held on Thursday January 17th at the Carlton Cinemas. We’ll be showing Chloé Robichaud’s very funny Chef de meute from this selec­tion. Advance tickets are on sale already.

On Sunday night, TIFF Bell Lightbox screened all of this year’s shorts named to Canada’s Top Ten. Here are my thoughts on the films (including two I’d seen before, Lingo and Chef de meute).


Lingo (Director: Bahar Noorizadeh, 13 minutes)

Lingo uses a static camera and long shots to sort-of tell the story of a young Afghan boy who inad­vert­ently starts a fire that burns down a neighbour’s house. A mis­un­der­standing lands his non-English-speaking mother an uncom­fort­able inter­view with a police inter­preter. I want to applaud the daring of the film­maker, because some of the tech­niques used are pretty ali­en­ating to the audi­ence, but the end result com­mu­nic­ates a real sense of con­fu­sion and dis­con­nec­tion, even when someone is sup­posedly speaking your language.


Kaspar (Director: Diane Obomsawin, 8 minutes)

Quebec car­toonist Diane Obomsawin anim­ates her 2009 book on the life of Kaspar Hauser, a mys­ter­ious young man found living in a German cave in 1828. The sub­ject of sev­eral films, including one by Werner Herzog, Hauser’s mys­ter­ious ori­gins were never dis­covered, nor were the cir­cum­stances sur­rounding his mys­ter­ious death. Kaspar presents the story in simple clean lines and its char­acter as a trusting inno­cent. Telling the story in the first person gives the tragic tale addi­tional poignancy.


Reflexions (Director: Martin Thibaudeau, 6 minutes)

An attempt to tell a story visu­ally through reflected images is a clever gim­mick, but Thibaudeau’s rather simplistic and heavy-handed por­trayal of the funeral of a man who was not what he seemed was the least sat­is­fying of the ten films for me. An inter­esting concept that needed more subtlety.

Paparmane (Wintergreen)

Paparmane (Wintergreen) (Director: Joëlle Desjardins Paquette, 19 minutes)

Remarkably sim­ilar in tone to Chloé Robichaud’s Chef de meute, but fea­turing a depressed cat instead of an excit­able pug, this film was a delight. A lonely parking attendant is mourning his mother’s death, along with her mel­an­choly pet. Things begin to change when he meets an exuberant tele­gram singer. Filmed near an amuse­ment park closed for the winter, Paparmane uses its set­ting to great effect. I’m also a big fan of the way the film is able to find humour within its poten­tially gloomy situations.


Malody (Director: Phillip Barker, 13 minutes)

Strange things begin to occur inside a diner where a sick girl con­fronts her­self as a little girl. Although visu­ally impressive and full of styl­istic flour­ishes, Malody’s art film opa­city left me unable to con­nect with its characters.

Crackin' Down Hard

Crackin’ Down Hard (Director: Mike Clattenburg, 10 minutes)

Clattenburg explained to the audi­ence that the idea for the film came to him and his co-writer/star Nicholas Wright when they were vis­iting Joshua Tree National Park in California. Conceived, written and filmed a scant two weeks later, Crackin’ Down Hard feels like a comedy sketch you’d expect to see on a show like Kids in the Hall. Terry is a guy who comes to the desert to get away from the hectic life he has in the city. While hiking one day, he’s con­fronted by a strange man who tempts him with hookers. It’s an absurd situ­ation, and all the more hil­arious as Terry gradu­ally suc­cumbs to the pimp’s high-pressure sales tac­tics. The film’s humble ori­gins show in the rather muddy image quality, but the dia­logue and comic payoff more than make up for it.

Old Growth

Old Growth (Director: Tess Girard, 5 minutes)

A man’s rural routine com­prises this simple piece shot without dia­logue. With his wheel­barrow, an old man walks along a windswept road to a forest where he chops fire­wood. Well-shot and with an espe­cially good use of sound design, Old Growth is more of an exper­i­mental piece, since there is almost no focus on the man’s face.

Ne crâne pas sois modeste (Keep a Modest Head)

Ne crâne pas sois mod­este (Keep a Modest Head) (Director: deco dawson, 19 minutes)

Canadian-born Jean Benoit was the last member of the Surrealist group of artists. Using archival audio and film footage, dawson con­structs a series of vign­ettes from the artist’s life using his own sur­real­istic style. Some of these tech­niques work really well (Benoit as a child jumping between houses and peering in rooftop win­dows) and some not as well (an almost end­less series of zoom-ins on a painting), with the end result being a film worthy of admir­a­tion more than love. dawson spoke pas­sion­ately about Benoit at the screening, and I felt dis­ap­pointed that some of the quirk seemed to dis­tract from the filmmaker’s clear love of his subject.


Bydlo (Director: Patrick Bouchard, 9 minutes)

Based on a musical piece by Mussorgsky, Bydlo is an innov­ative anim­ated film that uses images of animals and face­less people to explore the cycles of life, death and labour. The word “bydlo” comes from the Polish word for cattle and is often applied to “the masses” of uneducated, lower-class people. The dra­matic use of the musical source material along with the quite amazing anim­a­tion tech­nique makes this a sobering but fas­cin­ating big pic­ture por­trayal of the seeming futility of life.

Chef de meute (Herd Leader)

Chef de meute (Herd Leader) (Director: Chloé Robichaud, 13 minutes)

In this comedy, the humour is dark indeed. When Clara’s spin­ster aunt dies sud­denly, her family sug­gest she take in the older woman’s pug, since, as a single woman her­self, she has time to take care of it. When even the dog seems to boss her around, she turns to a dog trainer for help. In a hil­arious sendup of The Dog Whisperer, he encour­ages her to be more assertive. It’s a lesson she takes to her pushy family mem­bers. Ève Duranceau plays the put-upon Clara to neur­otic per­fec­tion, and the pug turns in a pretty impressive per­form­ance, too.

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