To start, Johnny Ma's highly cinematic and tragic tale of sacrifice, A Grand Canal, tells the story of a shipping boat captain on Gaoyou's canals. Though it initially presents as a straightforward tale of a man living through a less than ideal existence, Ma slowly tips his hand to show that there's far more to a person than initial glances might allow us to see, eventually revealing a sacrificial decision that, given the context of this short film, had generational ripples. It's decidedly more serious than Sol Friedman's deliberately idiosyncratic treatise on sushi and sword-wielding hotdogs, Beasts in the Real World.
More clear in its intentions, as simplistic as they might be, is Eva Cvijanovic's Seasick, which uses traditional animation to capture a fantastical experience in the ocean aside an expansive beach. The general cuteness of this short is juxtaposed nicely with the harshness of Ian Lagarde's nihilistic short, Daybreak, which follows a group of preteens through a series of unfortunate events, destroying absolutely everything in their path and even dabbling with suffocation.
Here, Lagarde captures that divide between adult responsibility and youthful indulgence, using Xavier, a boy more observant than actively violent, to observe the anarchic sensibilities of children starting to appreciate the lies their parents told them.
Daybreak inspires more thought than Walter Woodman and Patrick Cederberg's Noah, which takes the Thomas in Love approach to computer screen perspective, tackling the tired subject of Internet as mode of isolation. Toggling between porn, YouTube videos and Facebook chat, the titular Noah decides to hack his girlfriend's Facebook account to see if she's cheating, over-reacting to emoticons and turns of phrase before getting facts. It's a testament to the lack of clarity that limiting human interaction allows, but mostly it's just a regurgitation of status quo observations.
Even less witty is Jeremy Lalonde's Out, which focuses on a young man returning home with a girl to announce to his family that he's a vampire. The unspoken metaphor is that of coming out as a homosexual, which is even less amusing than a mother slitting her wrist to feed her vampire son blood.
Young Wonder rounds out the program, basically trying to capture the fantasies of boys before they become obnoxious bloggers, imagining their landscape as a crappy Sci-Fi movie with bad visual effects. It seems more like an experimental sounding board for experimental visual effects than an actual short film.