Cinema In Brief: TIFF Shorts

Cinema in Brief: TIFF Shorts

This month: Short film at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, and a short interview with filmmaker Peter Lynch.

Toronto is a city that has no shortage of film festivals, which is a great boon to the short film industry in Canada. After all, short films do not necessarily get the same kind of exposure and theatrical releases as their longer, feature counterparts, and so filmmakers are often dependent on the festival circuit in order to showcase their work.

Aside from the regular festival fare in the city such as Hot Docs and After Dark, Toronto also plays home to the Worldwide Short Film Festival — a festival completely dedicated to the art of the short. In the end, however, when people think of film festivals in Toronto, the first thing that comes to mind is the highly popular and world-renown Toronto International Film Festival (that just wrapped up a few weeks ago) because of the prestige that it holds in the greater global film community. Luckily for us, TIFF is also a fantastic place to catch Canadian short film.

The heart of TIFF's short film programming is the Short Cuts Canada programme which was launched for the first time at the festival in 2004. According to the Toronto International Film Festival Group, the programme was created in order to "accentuate the tremendous talent bursting out of Canada's short film scene." Since then, almost 150 short films by emerging and established filmmakers in this country have graced the screen at TIFF, with many of them gaining not only critical acclaim, but awards, accolades, and lucrative distribution deals as well.

This year, TIFF went even further to promote their selection of short films and have them viewed by cinephiles and members of the public. As well as programming five separate Short Cuts Canada sets, they also set up private viewing stations at the Drake Hotel and worked in concert with the National Film Board to allow non-festival-goers to experience the cinematic innovation showcased at TIFF.

In addition to that, the TIFF Group also released a selection of shorts on their website, a nod to the growing trend of making good cinema available to the larger public through the internet.

While the short films may not get the kind of exposure and fandom as some of the other films at the festival, anyone who has had the chance to watch any of the shorts will agree that the Canadian short film industry is pushing the edge of innovation in cinema. After one of the Short Cuts Canada screenings, I ran into a volunteer (who wished to remain unnamed) who was happy to share his enthusiasm about short film with me:

"I'm surprised there isn't more hype for short film at the festival. Most of the people I know don't have the attention spans to sit through some of the three-hour movies that usually make it in to TIFF. The great thing with shorts is that you know they're going to be good: all the filmmakers are fighting to not only tell you a story in a few minutes, but to tell it in a way that could never be told in a longer feature."

To end off all this talk about short film and TIFF, I had the chance to ask a few quick questions to renown Toronto-based filmmaker Peter Lynch, whose short with artist Max Dean entitled A Short Film About Falling premiered at TIFF this year. (You can read my brief review of A Short Film About Falling on my TIFF Today post here.)

As many of you know, Lynch has gained critical acclaim for his documentary work, including the highly celebrated and Genie-nominated Project Grizzly (Quentin Tarantino praised the film as one of his favorites in an interview with Charlie Rose) which premiered at TIFF ten years ago. Lynch has also been lauded for his work in short film: his short Arrowhead, starring Don McKellar, was awarded the Genie for Best Short Film in 1994.

I asked Lynch two quick questions about his experience at TIFF this year, and his general thoughts on short film in this country:

What were the highlights of screening your film at the Toronto International Film Festival this year?

There were several highlights of the festival for me, including a great article in the Globe on [Dean and Lynch's short] film and a reception for the film staged by art gallerists Nicolas Metiveir and Edward Burtinsky. Another highlight was getting to know some of the other filmmakers in the programme at some of the dinners held by the festival.

Most importantly, I really appreciated the great response from peers and a wide range of people from the cultural community who had the chance to watch to the film. And of course, I enjoyed finally taking out some time to watch work by other Canadian filmmakers.

Why is it important for Canada to support our country's short filmmakers? What kind of support is available right now?

It is important to support shorts on a number of levels and for a number of reasons. Short film is a diverse and important form of cinematic expression, not unlike the short story in literature. It runs the gamut of film-making: drama, experimental, animation, documentary, etc. Short films are potentially a hot bed for filmmaking in general; they are a chance for people to experiment and expand their craft and vision.

While in Canada there are arts councils — and some broadcasters like Bravo, and for some possibly the NFB — that support short film-making, Canadian shorts are largely made with personal subsidy
from the filmmakers and in-kind donations from the members of the industry, close friends, and other supporters.

Cinema in Brief is a 12-part look at short film in Canada, with a special focus on the people making, supporting, and watching short film in Toronto. It will appear on the final Wednesday of every month until August 2008.

The title image is a still from Peter Lynch and Max Dean's A Short Film About Falling which played in the Short Cuts Canada programme at the Toronto International Film Festival this year.

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