Official Selection 1: Behind Closed Doors

Official Selection 1: Behind Closed Doors
The first program of Official Selections pivots on the promise of revealing secret lives not typically seen. And, indeed, this grouping of shorts mostly takes place behind the doors of the sedentary or secretive, aside from a couple of playful animations and some preachy political pap. Regardless, the final and longest film in this collection, Ella, is easily worth the price of admission on its own.

Setting things into motion is What Light (Through Yonder Window Breaks), a short stop-motion animated film about the sunlight and its quest for form in a small bedroom, dancing on the walls and exploring its environment. While brief, this entry cleanses the palate for a slightly more challenging dramatic entry about perception and self-involvement titled Envy. This one enters the home of a recently deceased matriarch to show her daughters arguing over whose childhood was the bigger struggle while sifting through belongings looking for things they want to keep.

If that mostly engaging title suffers from a little laboured irony in its final act, Revolving Doors more than reaffirms realism with its candid, disturbing vérité look at Vancouver's Downtown East Side, where drugs and disease run rampant.

The black and white animation of Dust Kid shows a woman meticulously cleaning her home, only to find mini-versions of herself wherever dirt hides. Initially washing them away, she gradually becomes increasingly curious and compassionate towards them.

Sticking with animation, I Know What You Are Saying (a short also featured in the "onedotzero" program) ponders the future of deaf children with a heavy hand. It's brief, however, allowing Stanka Goes Home to take more of the focus, documenting an elderly woman carrying bags up nine flights of stairs due to a broken elevator.

It's a subdued and affecting piece, which is the complete opposite of Zeitress, which is one of those overly stylized and pretentious student film entries about domestic abuse. It starts out looking like Kirk's film with Mary-Lynn Rajskub and winds up akin to something one of those Lynch obsessed horror boys would think was "artistic."

Of course, we can't forget the utterly fantastic Ella, a short film about a rambunctious and difficult old woman that likes to give her homecare workers a hard time in any way possible. As a portrait of damaged people finding ground, it stirs, and as a comedy of absurd antics, it amuses. Before watching this, I could honestly say that I'd never seen a 70-year-old woman stand on a coffee table in front of three grown men and urinate in a vodka bottle. Now that's something I didn't see on Murder She Wrote.