Cinema In Brief

Cinema in Brief: Dimentia 5

This month: Bringing short film to the eyes of Torontonians, and an interview with Dave Silverberg, co-founder of Electric Silverberg Productions.

It's a bit of a new twist on the age-old 'tree in the forest' question: if a Canadian filmmaker makes a short film and nobody watches it, does it make an impact?

While I know many people that would argue on both sides of the answer, they all realize that the problem truly lies in the question. While there are many talented filmmakers creating short film in this city, one of the major hurdles they face once they have created their films is getting their work out to an audience.

Granted, there are several short film festivals that take place in Toronto — Worldwide Short Film Festival, Short Cuts Canada as part of the Toronto International Film Festival, Toronto Film Challenge, and Giggleshorts, to name a few — but the average movie-goer in this city doesn't have the same kind of access to short film as they would, for example, to a well-marketed feature film like the upcoming The Golden Compass. After all, it's much more common to see people heading out to the local Cineplex Odeon theatre than it is to find people lining up at the NFB Mediatheque to watch The Danish Poet.

In an effort to find avenues to enjoy short film outside the NFB and the big festivals (and of course, outside the online environment, where short film seems to be thriving), I set out to discover some of the local regular showcases — weekly or monthly — that incorporate short film into their programs. Needless to say, the pickings were slim. While there are the occasional one-off events, selected screenings at filmmaker gatherings, and a few personal screenings hosted by film enthusiasts, it was hard to find any kind of regular series that devoted a significant amount of time to featuring Canadian short film.

I was heartened to see events like Film Jam in existence: events that were centered on the fusion of film with fun. Along with the obvious focus on short film, Film Jam also incorporated music, visual art, and video games, in a night of celebration and partying. While it is clear that Film Jam has lots of potential to grow, it was still difficult to find any showcases that were happening in the city on a more regular basis.

That was, of course, until I came across Dimentia 5. I've written about Dimentia 5, the monthly multimedia series, on blogTO before, but I've usually been looking at it from a spoken-word-centred perspective. What is unique about Dimentia 5 is that it does not confine itself to one kind of medium of expression: every month the showcase features the best in Canadian live music, short film, performance poetry, and general mayhem, all followed by an after-party at a fitness gym. It doesn't get more crazy than that.

Dimentia 5 is one of the few (and if you know of any others, leave a comment, I'd love to check them out) monthly series that is particularly devoted to the development of filmmakers in the city and attempts to bring otherwise-hidden short films to a larger, and more diverse, audience. The organizers (Dave Silverberg and Electric Jon of Electric Silverberg Productions) watch several short films throughout the month in order to decide which ones to feature at the monthly show, focusing on cinema that pushes boundaries and buttons in order to show their audiences the kinds of unconventional ideas and styles that can be presented on screen.

I recently had the chance to talk to Dave Silverberg, one half of Electric Silverberg Productions team that has been producing and hosting the Dimentia 5 monthly multimedia series over the past two seasons. Silverberg is also the host of Toronto Poetry Slam and a staff member of Digital Journal. He took some time to share his thoughts on short film with me:

blogTO: Why is it important for Canada to support our country's short filmmakers? How do Dimentia 5 and other similar series do this?

Dave Silverberg: Any culturally rich nation should support film, and I don't think short film is any different. There are some incredible ideas and subjects being profiled in short films, so Canadian arts lover would only enrich their A&E passions by checking out what the scene has to offer. Canada has talent, but it's not often showcased.

Dimentia 5 aims to screen some of the most intriguing shorts film from Canada, and even abroad. We're primarily interested in finding Canadians filmmakers who have shorts up to 10 minutes, with themes touching on any topic. We tend to screen less linear films and more experimental and funky films that you can't find anywhere. The more obscure the better.

blogTO: Along with short film, Dimentia 5 also features music and spoken word artists: why is it important for short film in Canada to share the stage with the other arts and what are the best ways to do this?

DS: Spoken and short film are similar: both marginalized, both overshadowed by a "bigger brother" (literary poetry and feature films). As art forms that could be considered "electic" for lack of a better word, they exist in the underground, and perhaps that's better rather than worse. People like spoken word because it hasn't been commodified, and the shows aren't being sponsored by Virgin or Molson. It's fresh. And I think the best short films out there are also on par with the best spoken word -- raw, full of untold truths, a palatable form of entertainment that is still intellectually stimulating. The best way to bring two disparate art forms together is to experiment. Give it a shot.

When Electric Jon and I started Dimentia 5 in April 2006, we didn't have an exact blueprint. We just said: "Let's bring the best performance poet and the best indie films together in one night. See what happens." And luckily, the audience has been gobbling it up, and those who know about D5 can't wait to see what artists we've found on any given month.

blogTO: How does short film fit into the larger Canadian art scene? Do you feel that there is enough support for short film in this country right now?

DS: Short film is marginal now, relative to the arts scene in Canada, but with more funding from the feds and more respect from local media, I think it can go far. I know this sounds crazy, but one day I'd like to see short films screened on TV between shows (fuck commercials), and on projectors in random urban spaces. The Worldwide Short Film Festival shouldn't be the main avenue for these filmmmakes; if a few more film festivals dotted the city, featuring short films both mainstream and indie, it would do wonders for the industry.

And the Canadian public should shoulder some responsibility. These films need to be watched, and whether it's an Adam & Dave comedy or an NFB newbie, they deserve our attention. Canadians need to wake up and realize that short films can be as enjoyable (if not more) than a 3-hour Hollywood powerhouse.

This month's Dimentia 5 goes down at the Dominion on Queen (500 Queen East) and kicks off at 8:30pm. The feature film during this month's Dimentia 5 is Madame Tutli-Putli, which I recently called the best short film of the year, and the showcase will also feature music and poetry by C.R. Avery.

Fore more information, check out the Dimentia 5 Facebook event page, or blogTO's event pages as well. Hope to see you there this Thursday.

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.

Previously on Cinema in Brief:
September: TIFF Shorts
October: Toronto Short Film Projects

The title image is a still from Madame Tutli Putli and is provided by TIFFG.

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