A World Of Shorts at the NFB

As Halloween approaches like a witch on a jet-powered broom, 'tis the season for ghoulish tales. Last night I had the unexpected but chilling pleasure of attending the NFB's A World Of Shorts screening. Once a month the National Film Board and the Canadian Film Centre present a collection of short films from around the world. Amongst last night's offerings were shorts that were frightening, amusing, candidly disturbing, and at least one that was pants-filling material.

Highlights of the program included Ten Steps (Ireland - 10 min) a creepy, atmospheric little tale that begins as one of those well-worn babysitter-in-a-spooky-house anecdotes. But this is no hackneyed retread and the film quickly draws you into depths beyond cliche. As the babysitter descended the ten short steps into the house's basement the hackles on my neck were, well..hackling as if prodded by tiny electric shocks. A chilling start to the night's program!

This is the allure and challenge of the short film - taking an interesting premise or even a well-worn chestnut and tidily presenting it without wasting screen time on unnecessary exposition. In last night's "Fear Factor" series of shorts the audience was able to take a quick bite from the bloody meat of films rather than waste time chomping through unwanted skin and bones.

Another excellent short, Motel (USA - 15 min), is stylish and wickedly funny - it's no wonder this film was the winner for best short in the 2005 Comedy Arts Festival. A man travelling along a dark highway checks into a lonely roadside motel where everything he desires is free of charge. There's only one catch....

Motel's slick visuals combine horror with humour, the result being something like a classic episode of The Twilight Zone but with 21st Century graphics.

The screening ended with The Sailor's Girl (USA - 15 min), a disturbing account of a woman who sets up shop in an abandoned car. For $15 dollars she sings to clients a song that allows them to see and experience their conception and for a mere $5 more will warble a song about their death.

The gritty pictures and washed out colours suggest an environment attached to the world of Se7en or Saw and The Sailor's Girl proves equally disturbing as those features. This short was an official selection of Sundance and you can see it for free on their website. (You have to register first but it's easy and worth it to see this film.)

All-in-all, the night was delightfully disturbing beginning to this year's Halloween celebrations!

Next month's World of Shorts theme is "This Sporting Life" and presents sports shorts from Canada, Australia, USA, Sweden, Bulgaria, and the UK. The screening will be on Thursday, November 17 with shows at 6:30 and 8:30pm at the NFB Mediatheque 150 John Street. December's World of Shorts theme is (tentatively) "Holidays".

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