Film School Spotlight: York University Retrospective

Film School Spotlight: York University Retrospective
Having seen many of the shorts that have come from York University throughout the years, I can attest to the fact that this smattering of carefully selected titles doesn't quite represent the sloppy aesthetic and immature angst of the typical student project. It does, however, show a disturbing evolution of style and thematic preoccupation between the '70s and present day.

Throughout this program are multiple snippets of short films from throughout the years, such as a title where Kubla Khan starts up a television variety show and several involving arty dance routines. The first title played in its entirety is Plants out of the Sunlight, which features a mother, not entirely acclimated to Canadian living, working at a factory, when not trying to reach out to her distant, aloof son. Observing cultural barriers and some of the limitations of a land of opportunity, this title captures the anguish of isolation with surprising poise.

Hogtown Blues is slightly less engrossing, having something to do with familial bonds, as a woman tries to reconnect with her father. Of course, this is still more engaging than Fly, which uses squiggles and experimental animation imagery to explore calligraphy, or the flight of a fly, or something.

Documentary inclusion Benediction is somewhat more touching, using still images and recordings to remember a life lost. It's followed up nicely with the standout title of the collection, The School, where the death of plants and animals in an elementary school class leads to a collective premature existential crisis for a group of children. Impressively composed and chock full of witty, dry humour, this short is both the best of this program and one of the best of the fest.