Published Sep 08, 2013Performance, whether it is one of identity or that of an artistic endeavour, is the focus of the third collection of Canadian short films to screen at the Toronto International Film Festival. Amidst this array of (mostly) powerful films, the idea of performance, one in which we seek external validation, is examined from a variety of perspectives, leaving something to consider long after the final short has ended.
Starting out the program is Candy, which, despite being the weakest of the entire grouping by far, does initially hold some intrigue, featuring a prostitute taking various tricks out behind a club before hopping in a limousine to go home to her girlfriend. Presumably, this undergraduate nod to outdated feminist concepts—whoredom as an empowering mode of exploiting men—held a bit of power on paper, but its amateurish staging and lame, reductionist gender theory doesn't sit very well or inspire a great deal of thought.
On the other hand, Kays Mejri's gorgeously photographed dance short, Der Untermensch is as captivating as it is disturbing. Even if the heavy subtext of homosexuals being persecuted during WWII is a little too broad for an interpretive, rather creative, dance routine, the stark visuals and haunting minimalist score are quite magnetic.
Similarly magnetic is the documentary subject, Jimbo, whose struggles with Asperger's and Schizophrenia hinder his desire to become the next blockbuster film director. As framed by Ryan Flowers, who involves himself in his own documentary, helping Jimbo write scripts and pitch them, it's subtly comic despite ultimately being quite tragic, drawing a portrait of someone with immense ambition that simply can't fulfill it based on an omnipresent illness.
The other documentary included with this program, In Guns We Trust, features some astounding photography—being a photographic essay—despite ultimately being a bit of a cliché, remarking on a law in Kenneswa, Georgia where its citizens are obligated to own firearms. The moral vanity is palpable, as is the terrifyingly simplistic ideology of many of the subjects interviewed.
Randall Okita's Portrait of a Random Act of Violence, which depicts a violent act and turns it into an impressive, almost incomprensible thing of beauty, is as impressive as the acting from Shawn Doyle is in the short film, Method, wherein an actor struggles to find the intensity of a scene filled with mealy exposition. Both shorts are cleverly rendered and engaging to watch, in a performative sense, much like Stephen Dunn's We Wanted More.
This short film captures the ubiquitous feminine inner-battle between family and career with a supernatural slant. A singer, about to embark on a tour, starts to lose her voice and discovers that ginger in hot water probably won't cure this particular psychological ailment. Though professionally filmed and well-assembled, We Wanted More is never quite able to transcend the outdated limitations of its subject.