“Photo taken during production” of Chris Landreth’s The Spine courtesy of the NFB.
The Worldwide Short Film Festival has two things perpetually working against it. One, any feature-length program of short films, in any context, is almost necessarily going to be a mixed bag; there will be one or two works of sustained brilliance, two or three self-satisfied efforts that try your patience despite their limited lengths, and then a handful of other interesting but mostly unremarkable entries. Two, the WSFF—this year running June 16–21—always comes at the end of Toronto’s busy spring festival season, following Images (early April), Sprockets (mid-April), Toronto Jewish (late April), Hot Docs (early May), and Inside Out (mid-May); it’s sometimes received as an afterthought in the scheme of things.
But the WSFF programmers are acutely aware of these challenges and do their best to make the festival friendly and accessible. They know you know you’re taking a leap of faith by buying a ticket, and they do their damndest to load up the event with as many sure things as possible: the usual twin Midnight Mania programs (“Creepy” and “Freaky”), as well as the Scene Not Herd evening of music videos, the Slap ‘n’ Tickle sex-themed shorts, the Sci-Fi: “Out There” pack, and a series of Accidentally Funny vintage films, this year with the theme “Holiday in the Sun.” The truly great stuff, however, tends to find its way into the twelve competition programs of the Official Selection, which forms the bulk of the festival, showcasing new Canadian and international fiction, documentary, animated, and avant-garde shorts, grouped by (loose) theme rather than genre.
Still from Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death courtesy of the WSFF.
The highlights of the fifteenth annual festival include The Spine (showing as part of Official Selection 1), the new film by Chris Landreth, the Academy Award–winning director of Ryan, as well as Spare Change (showing in OS6), the final film by Ryan Larkin, the late subject of the aforementioned eponymous Oscar winner. On-again off-again Torontoister Sarah Lazarovic returns to the festival with the live-action fiction film The Way It Used To Be (OS3), following up on her superb animated documentary Mondo Condo, which played at WSFF two years ago. Also in OS3 are Time, which animates archival photos of a hundred years of Toronto’s history into just four minutes, and Skin, a twenty-seven-minute documentary about an Australian man making arrangements to donate his full-body tattoo to a gallery upon his death.
Few things in world cinema are better bets, however, than Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death (OS1 and the Shorts for Shorties children’s program), the duo’s first new mid-length (twenty-nine-minute) movie since 1995’s Shaun-the-Sheep-introducing A Close Shave. As an animation studio, Aardman is the British Pixar, and thus each new work of theirs is to be celebrated accordingly.
Tickets are on sale now.