As we continue our look at the upcoming Toronto After Dark Film Festival, it would be a detriment on my part if I didn’t talk about the spotlight that the festival gives to short films. Each of the 19 films screening at the fest are accompanied by a Canadian short which plays before. They run the gamut of genre topics and tastes and are programed to compliment the feature attraction. On top of this, the afternoon screening on the Saturday of the festival (October 18th) is dedicated to international shorts and this year there is an underlying theme of companionship throughout. That’s not to say this is a necessarily uplifting look at coupling. Shorts Programmer (and former Geek Hard Guest) Peter Kuplowsky describes the collection of films as the perfect first date if you never wanted to go on a date with this person again. After checking out the shorts in their entirety, I can see what he means. Each takes a very unconventional look at relationships in their own way.
From Japan comes Dynamic Venus, and animated film written and directed by Kachi Sato. DV is about an alien who has come to earth to protect its people as a super hero. You know, kind of like Superman. Except instead of harnessing the powers of the sun to gain her strength, Dynamic Venus gains her abilities by being beaten by her husband. The short’s message is “violence begets violence” and demonstrates this both through domestic abuse and a very grotesque battle between our hero and a Chiwawa kaiju. Not uncommon in Japanese cinema, the film is very “in your face” with it’s depictions of graphic violence and is bound to offend some. The key is to remember that this animated short is trying to convey the dangers of violence by depicted it at it’s most uncomfortable and surreal.
In Everything & everything & everything (Directed by Alberto Roldan) we’re introduced to Morgan, a man whose dull existence is forever changed when a magical glowing pyramid appears in his living room and begins to to produce doorknobs. This strange occurrence is not questioned but instead embraced as Morgan starts a business from his own apartment and soon finds himself atop his own doorknob selling empire. But all empires fall. Using absurdest humour and a fantastical premise, Roldan explores the highs and lows of capitalism and the depletion of natural resources. A surprisingly enjoyable story.
Happy B-Day is a film of German origin and is a fine example of bad luck if I ever saw it. Written and directed by Holger Frick, what starts as a supposed fun surprise for a man on his birthday during his morning run perpetrated by his girlfriend leads to a freak accident which in turns leads to a very painful series of events that reaches its end thanks to teamwork on the part of the couple. Does this bring them closer together? That’s for the audience to decide.
A planned home invasion on thanksgiving goes awry in Invaders, written and directed by Jason Kupfer. This short takes a comic look at two would be attackers as they go through a series of setbacks that are equally horrendous and hilarious. Over the top moments of shock violence set off a number of gags. Holiday fun is guaranteed with this one.
One of the more interesting films of the whole program would have to be He Took His Skin Off For Me, directed by Ben Aston. Based on a short story by Maria Hummer, this a story where a man literally removes his skin at the request of his partner and both of them see how that might not be the best of things. An interesting look at coupling when one partner is completely exposed to the other and how an uneven relationship can occur. What amazes me is that the visual of a man without skin is quite grotesque, yet the film is very laid back in it’s approach. I didn’t find it to be the best film of the group but I’m sure this will be the one everyone ends up talking about.
The oddest film of the bunch (and that’s saying a lot) would have to be Liquid. Another entry from Japan, Liquid is about a woman who takes her lying, cheating husband who is dying of an illness to an unconventional healer who can can only cure males of whatever ails them. The method of healing involves more acts of betrayal and the results are a rebirth/second chance of sorts.
Strange Thing, written, directed, produced and edited by Alrik Bursell, focuses on a newly married couple who find a hidden door in their apartment that takes them to another realm. What they find there is strange indeed but not as strange as what happens to them. I can’t really tell you more than that as to explain anything else would give the film away (it is a short after all). The plot for this film is rather vague but the performances by Hali Lula Hudson and David O’Donnell really sell the bizarre and frightening moments of this little picture.
Finishing off the program, we have Swordfights, a Greek film from writer/director Nasos Gatzoulis. An argument between two “deflowers” – men who take the virginity of young girls – gives way to the two men settling their differences with a swordfight….yes, that kind of swordfight. That’s all I have to say about that one.
So these are the shorts that are waiting for you this Saturday, October 18th, at the Scotiabank Theatre at 4:15pm as part of the Toronto After Dark Film Fest. I really enjoyed most of the films (Swordfights and Dynamic Venus were a little too much for me) and can’t wait to see them on the big screen. Tickets are still available for this screening but don’t wait. Buy your tickets now and come out to see what great genre shorts the world has to offer! See you After Dark (during the day!).
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!