TIFF 2015: The Ballad of Immortal Joe

Short Cuts Remix - The Ballad of Immortal Joe

In six glorious minutes Hector Herrera’s The Ballad of Immortal Joe takes viewers to a rustic version of the prairies where men talk in rhyme while swigging bourbon and rye. Although the short film is an homage to the poetic works of Robert W. Service, it is not shy about tipping its cowboy hat to its cinematic influences. Similar to the great Westerns helmed by the likes of Sergio Leone and John Ford, the film focuses on a fearsome gunslinger, named Immortal Joe, who has become weary of his life of endless shootouts.

It would have been easy for Herrera to simply coast on the well-trodden tropes of the genre, but he opts to create something richer. He crafts a tragic tale of a man who is forever haunted by the responsibility he must bear. For all the death that Immortal Joe delivers – like an avenging angel he dispenses those who try to harm the innocent – he is unable to find the death that he so craves. Desperate to be reunited with his ill-fated love, Immortal Joe is the epitome of a man unable to shake the ghosts of the past. He made a promise to his love and must keep it no matter what. In Immortal Joe’s world love is a curse that won’t let go.

While the story of a man forever condemned may not sound upbeat, Herrera ensures that the film is uplifting in a way that respects the audiences’ sensibilities. When the narrator advises the viewers that “no matter what passes, those fellows and lasses, be careful what deathbed words you might be pledgin’” it is not so much a warning, but rather an affirmation. The film clearly wants to remind viewers that, even when they are seemingly at their lowest, life will never be as bad as what Immortal Joe must go through. In an odd way, this is actually quite comforting. In fact the films’ vibrant animation and witty dialogue is so infectious that it is almost impossible not to be in a happy mood by the time the credits role. Backed by a great score by The Sadies, and the smooth narration by Kenneth Welsh, The Ballad of Immortal Joe is a pure delight.

Screens as part of Short Cuts Programme 3:
Saturday, September 12, 7:00 PM, Scotiabank Theatre
Friday, September 18, 9:00 PM, Scotiabank Theatre

Ticket information can be found at the TIFF website.

Screens online as part of Short Cuts Re/Mix
Wednesday, September 16, Online

Ticket information can be found at the TIFF website.