The T24 Project, presented by the Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival and hosted by Henry Wong on March 1, 2012, featured 12 short films produced by students. Given 24 hours to write, shoot, edit, and submit their pieces, participants in the competition used “ideology”’ as the backbone with which they structured their works. The festival’s program notes that ideology — ideas that frame how we see our surroundings — is an investigation of power. Participants were asked to use cinema to portray modernity and confront issues such as multiculturalism and expansion in Toronto. Much like the places and cultures of this city, each film approached Toronto from a varied and unique perspective.
Jan. 31 – Andrew Milani
A silent, poignant look at a simple winter morning, Milani’s short film is simple and effective. Though screened out of competition, it certainly showed the most heart. Framing a man and woman’s morning routines, the contrast between lovers illustrates how different yet similar we are in this city.
Appetizers – Philbert Lui
A top-3 finalist, Appetizers shows three friends come to terms with their differences over dinner. Evocatively framed and smartly scripted, Lui proves that good friends and a little improvisation are all you need to discuss what makes us Torontonians.
T.O. Connection – Brandon Carvalho
Though director Carvalho admits he and his crew ran into a number of technical difficulties, Connection still shows wonderful promise. Set in a short time period, we follow four characters and have a little slice of their lives. The film suffers from its use of soft focus, but its insistence on framing cultural centres like Kensington Market and Christie Pits show the city in its splendor.
Face the Strain – Alex Kingsmill
T24′s competition winner, Strain focuses on the relationship between a 27-year-old slacker and his younger sister. Their conversations – focusing on the age of her sexual partner, his lack of a job, and how Toronto is a place where “people live to work” – charmingly explore how our ways of looking at things can change for the better. Kingsmill allows us to see that, based on his character’s experiences, our city’s diverse ideologies can and do overlap in wonderful ways.
The Ivory Giants – Jamie McMillan
“Toronto is a city of many secrets,” Ivory Giants’ program notes state, and this picture is one of them. An unfinished film with a number of issues, of which its incoherent plot is most frustrating, I am at a loss for words. Though the feature’s focus on the ‘ivory elephant’ found in Conn Smythe’s time capsule beneath Maple Leaf Gardens is essentially Torontonian, the rest of the picture just doesn’t add up.
Penny For Your Thoughts – Joy Webster
A festival favourite, Webster’s think piece features a drifter as he makes his way through the Yonge-Dundas area. Crisply shot, well edited and fantastically scripted, the amount of work that went into this one is astonishing. Having lost one crewmember to frostbite (!), their extra work has paid off. Didactic but not pedantic, the drifter’s monologue questions and reflects upon Toronto’s stereotypically charitable nature: “if a stranger offered you a penny for your thoughts, would you accept?”
T.wo Girls O.ne Bar – Ryan Kirkpatrick
It’s a shame the crew for this piece was missing, for I am curious as to how the “Two Girls One ____” phenomenon has gotten this popular. Two girls go out for a night on the town, only to find themselves alone at the Bovine Sex Club drinking beer during a snowstorm. They walk home and talk about the CN Tower. Somewhere during this course, however, whatever the film has to say about ideology or “the myths of an evolving cityscape” is misconstrued.
Trinity (Spadina) – Andrew Lee
Three distinct tales, differentiated by colour filters, focal lengths, tone and subject matter, show Toronto from the perspective of three separate subway stations. From a gloomy segment shot in black and white to a mockumentary interview with an accountant as he makes his way home from work, the movie simultaneously pins how different each individual experience of Toronto is as it deftly explores power relations between ethnicity, class, and our perception of others.
Born in Bomb Shelter – Chris Laxton
A case of style over substance, director Laxton explained that his short film-cum-music video Born in Bomb Shelter intended to show how physical violence stems from a mystical source. He films a woman getting asphyxiated with a plastic bag, an elderly man getting beaten by thugs, and a woman sodomizing a man with a hammer. He occasionally cuts to a man in a mask performing an occult ritual. I’m not sure how it relates to power struggles, ideology, or Toronto, but what do I know?
A. Way. – Yoong Siang Lee
A. Way. chronicles a young woman’s memories as she reflects on her experiences in Toronto. Director Lee joked that most of the budget was spent on getting the cast and crew into the flashy CN Tower restaurant, but he makes up for this with imaginative flashbacks. Though some of the framing is forced, what this picture lacks in flair it makes up for in playfulness. It manages to show a whole lot about Toronto without ever lensing its prominent landmarks.
Metro – S. Jeysan and Adithya Addageethala
Jeysan and Addageethala follow four characters of various ethnicities. A Caucasian man fears and is intimidated by characters with darker skin, an Indian man must come to terms with his school/career/family, and an interracial couple of European and Asian descent find their cultural differences too difficult to manage. Framing their encounters on a single TTC ride across the city, it’s a shame the creators of this Audience Choice Award winner submitted their film too late to be considered for competition. I really hope they turn this into a longer standalone piece.
Wake Up – Roop Gill
The night ended on a playful note with this short documentary. Focusing upon Toronto’s coffee giants – Tim Horton’s and Starbucks – and how our love for their product stems from just one, “tiny brown bean,” the film asks its audience to consider the city in relation to these companies. Why are Tim’s and Starbucks mimicking each other to gain support from each other’s clientele? In the same way, why is Toronto trying to mimic other cities? Why can’t we stick to our guns and define our city based on our assortment of individual flavours? It is a thought-provoking set of questions.