I’m always willing to throw support towards the Toronto Youth Shorts for good reason. The festival offers an accessible platform for aspiring filmmakers to screen their work, and to engage the audience through a stimulating Q&A.
Toronto Youth Shorts stands out as an exceptional film festival because it rarely hits rough patches. Then again, it’s to no surprise, considering that the selection process and the overall festival presentation are handled with coordinated grace, courtesy of festival director Henry Wong and his staff – all of whom are equally as passionate to screen inspired work and give hopeful voices a new opportunity to be heard.
In the past, I’ve offered pre-coverage and reflections on the festival, and I’ve often admitted that I’m inclined to remove my critic hat because I become so enwrapped in what I’m watching. The same case can be made for the selections I’ve watched this year out of the 30 titles from the Greater Toronto Area and Southern Ontario.
Toronto Youth Shorts usually hosts some documentaries. It’s no different this time around. I was enlightened and exhilarated by Pauline Beal and Lindsay Fontaine’s “A New Reflection.” The delicate doc primarily focuses on Katie Atkinson – a student with multiple facial differences – and her recollection of how she learned to use her vibrant personality to overcome critical and nosy comments. Atkinson is an inspiration, but the scenes featuring her optimistic and curious mother – who also shares some of her daughter’s traits – are evenly enriching.
Then there’s Steven Czikk’s “A Woman Departed,” which tugged at my heartstrings and caused a lump in my throat. Czikk showcases how love can both empower and exhaust, as a grippingly emotional interviewee explains. A forlorn man pours his heart out about his relationship to his wife which has now become similar to that between a caregiver and a patient. The documentarian respects his subject, and gives viewers a bittersweet intimate film.
Of the films that that I screened, Abdul Malik’s “Blue Eyed Drunks” presented the strongest scripted narrative and an impressive style. Malik’s coming-of-age short is akin to Danny Boyle directing “Superbad” – under all of the flash are concrete characters who we can empathize with. Two high-school students discuss the struggle to keep their original Pakistani grassroots alive in their new, western-civilization living conditions. It’s gripping, smart, and a very attractive film.
Animation fans will be whisked away by Annie Amaya’s lovely “Tanabata.” A parental epiphany is explained in Alicia Harris’ “Fatherhood.” And confident women steal the show in Dan Laera’s exciting wrestling doc “Pretty Dangerous” and in Joy Webster’s poignant “In the Weeds.”
If these selections represent the quality of this year’s Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival, then we have a hit on our hands. Moviegoers have a bright future ahead of them if these featured filmmakers decide to further carry out their craft.
The seventh annual Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival takes place on August 8, 2015 at Innis Town Hall. For tickets and more information, hop on over to the Toronto Youth Shorts’ website.