Gala: Award Winners From Around the World

Gala: Award Winners From Around the World
One of the safer bets at this year's festival (much like every other year) is the gala presentation of award-winning short films from around the world. While prestige and recognition aren't always an indicator of quality in the mainstream, the world of short film enthusiasts tends to be somewhat more discerning, typically acknowledging superlative titles, despite the occasional slip-up with pious political fare and dreadfully abstract art films.

Opening this year's program is Dutch short Bukowski, wherein a 12-year-old boy channels the hard drinking, no nonsense Charles Bukowski at an upscale hotel, resultantly delighting a much alarmed night staff. Light in tone and satisfyingly pithy, this short blends well with the somewhat more surrealist and imaginative short American film, West of the Moon. With ideas taken from the dreams of children, this impressive melding of live action and animation finds an older man repeatedly failing to find human connection, settling for a card-playing robot with a disastrous design flaw.

Having an environmental, evolutionist theme, Big Bang Big Boom uses stop-motion animation to detail the expansive, elaborate and somewhat confounding outdoor artistic renderings of Blu, who uses buildings, walls and water towers to paint a continuous flow of animal and technological imagery. It's far more compelling than Lipsett Diaries, which uses charcoal animation to explore the life and psychology of filmmaker Arthur Lipsett. It's narrated by Montreal hipster extraordinaire Xavier Dolan, so you can only imagine how sincere it is.

Na Wewe (You Too) covers the political contingent, tackling the Burundi Civil War, as a group of soldiers attempts to divide a minivan full of passengers into groups of either Hutus or Tutsis, which inevitably proves problematic. While the overall message is sincere and warm-hearted, finding the one thing that unifies all people regardless of race, colour or creed, it's also overly simplistic and patronizing.

Faring more successfully is Australian animated short The Lost Thing, wherein a boy discovers the titular "thing" and has to decide what to do with it in a world of labels and assimilation. This exceedingly clever and touching short stands out in the program, speaking human truths about the reality of the supposedly culturally purported value of individuality.