Still from Ex-Sex.
Much like Canada, short films can get a bad rap compared to their larger, more attention-grabbing full-length cousins. Our nation is often called the loft above the awesome house party that is the U.S. of A. The redheaded stepchild to the blond all-American jock. Like the brown smartie, Al Gore, or Clay Aikin, we’re fine, but still second place behind the bigger, badder feature south of us. But anyone who knows what’s going on north of the border realizes this analogy is about as fitting as Rob Ford at a Spacing editorial board meeting. Similarly, it should come as no surprise that short films can also hold their own, as the Worldwide Short Film Festival demonstrates.
WSFF is North America’s largest short film festival, featuring 275 shorts from 36 countries. Impressive figures, but they do inspire the question: where to begin? Luckily the programmers do much of this work for you, breaking the festival down to Official Selections (or themes) such as Date Night (love!) and Bromance (bro love!). But there are also the spotlights (Tel Aviv, York University, Italy), 8mm features, Sci-Fi Shorts…lost yet? Fair. The best plan of attack is to pick an area of interest and go from there. And since the films are, well, short, it’s still easy to take in plenty.
Julia Stiles in Sexting.
For those who aren’t up on their short film–making auteurs, Celebrity Shorts is an easy entry point to the festival. With recognizable names such as Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Julia Stiles, and Anthony Hopkins, it’s an accessible group. Sexting is a humorous black and white monologue featuring Stiles yelling at the camera/us/her boyfriend’s wife. Save the last dance, indeed. Steve features Firth as something other than Mr. Darcy, as well as Knightley doing an impressive Scottish accent—though the best part may be the dramatic bleeding tea bag opening credits. However, The Thief, Rachel Weisz’s directorial debut, under-utilizes Rosemary DeWitt and falls flat.
Anthony Head in Ella.
If your palette leans to the macabre there is the horror selection: Midnight Mania. (Cynics might see this as a response to TIFF’s Midnight Madness, but really, how much alliteration can marketers be expected to work with?). Buffy fans will be glad to see Anthony Head in Ella, a gloriously messed up Red Riding Hood tale that blends gore with dream like sequences of familial bliss.
The Hipsters Selection’s (does the name ironically mean to distance itself from anyone who might fall into that category?) highlights include Ex-Sex (mumblecore meets soft core—not a bad thing) as well Lumiere dans la nuit (mumblecore meets Quebec).
Still not sure? Let the fest make the decision for you. WSFF plans on interacting with the city using its Shorts Bus (no, this won’t feature Sook Yin Lee naked). Like those marketing listening trucks that seem permanently parked outside of MuchMusic, the Shorts Bus will roam the city giving passersby a chance to jump on and watch. And with content of a decidedly higher artistic value than the latest Hedley album, that’s something we can all support, long or short.
The Worldwide Short Film Festival runs May 31–June 5.
Images from V Kelly & Associates.