Organized by the Toronto Youth Short Film Festival, the T24 Project is a competition that challenges filmmakers 18-30 in age to push the limits of their creativity under extreme time constraints. Competing for the coveted Visual Thesis Award, awarded by a jury of industry professionals, eleven teams were tasked with making a film within 24 hours that focused on the theme of “Your Perfect Toronto.” Nine teams were able to complete their films, but only seven did so within the required deadline. As one can imagine, each team brought a rather unique approach, and varying degrees of success, to their exploration of the both the positive and cynical views that come with the notion of a perfect city. Here are our thoughts on the final products:
Playing in competition
Cooper & Cooper
The premise of Jessie Zus’ film involves a bike courier, who has not yet learned how to properly ride a bike, going around the city delivering odd items to random locations. While Alisa Kanda Kovac gives a delightful performance as the courier, and the film features many noted landmarks, it is hard to decipher what Zus’ stance on the theme of the perfect city is. The budding friendship towards the end offers a few hints, but the audience is ultimately left unsure of Zus’ intentions outside of simply trying to entertain, which the film does in spades.
Two students from Singapore (Kevin Koh and Sherilynn Loh) meet unexpectedly and form a bond as they explore the various aspects of the city. Director Bibiana Loh has all the pieces needed for a moving bittersweet tale, unfortunately the film’s technical issues are too glaring to overlook. As the T24 Project took place on one of the windiest weekends of the year, the dialogue is frequently overshadowed by Mother Nature’s forceful presence. Furthermore, the editing choices occasionally hinder the flow of the film. If the technical aspects had been tighter, Loh’s story could have hit that emotional resonance it is striving for.
After winner the Visual Thesis Award last year for his wonderful film Peaches, director Greg Fox is back with another sensational work. In the science fiction fuelled Interceptors, the perfect world exists for those who are able to find it. The narrative revolves around a young man (Hugh Ritchie) who has only 10 minutes to decipher four possible coordinates which unlock the secret portal to a utopian city. Of course each portal only allows for one traveller, so the man must be careful not to cross paths with other “interceptors” seeking the same thing. Portraying a futuristic version of a hopeless Toronto, contaminated by corruption and filth, Fox once again shows he has a gift for cinematic storytelling. Ambitious and riveting all at the same time, Interceptors is proof that a strong concept can rise above even the most stringent creative conditions.
Take Me In
When a young man (Ethan Godel) catches a female robber (Kasi McAuley) in his house, he is determined to hand her over to the police at all costs. Thus sets the course for a journey across the city in which the unlikely duo converse and begin to see each other in a whole new light. Evoking a few familiar indie romance tropes, director Jonny Micay ensures that the nicely shot film never feels too cute for its own good. He adds a tinge of melancholy to the proceedings that helps keep the audience’s attention throughout. Featuring solid performances from Godel and McAuley, Take Me In is a charming look at the lonely individuals who roam Toronto’s streets in search of a connection.
Darik Maurice’s The Other, much like the central card trick within, is all about misdirection. It keeps audiences off-guard, subtly asking them to figure out the sleight of hand before their eyes, while it skillfully weaves an intriguing tale right underneath the their noses. Maurice’s film observes a man who encounters a magician on the street. Meanwhile a young woman finds her night getting increasingly worse. Seamlessly juxtaposing the two seemingly separate threads, Maurice crafts a captivating, and oddly romantic, film that will keep audiences guessing until the very end.
In Rebecca Whitaker’s fantastic film The Sixx, the expansive nature of the city cannot mask the sense of isolation within it. Desperate for human connection Andy (Dillon Taylor) visits The Sixx, a company that offers virtual representations of the customer’s ideal world. While in the program he meets Emily (the charming Gillian Ashton), a woman who embodies everything Andy has been searching for. However, Andy soon learns that one needs to be careful what you wish for. Backed by a smart script and outstanding performances by Taylor and Ashton, The Sixx offers an entertaining, and slightly haunting, cautionary tale about the dangers of longing for an ideal that does not exist.
Toronto the Good
Continuing the trend of 80’s style genre films that focus on sociopaths, Kyle Mackenzie’s dark comedy Toronto the Good walks a very fine line. The film follows a couple (Jordan Boyes and Krista Barzso) as they take vastly different paths towards making the city a better place. While the wife strives to utilize her higher education to achieve her dreams of becoming a city planner, the husband is unable to come to terms with the fact that his hero Rob Ford, the city’s notorious former mayor, is no longer in office. Obsessed with Ford’s brand of politics, the husband sets out to clean up the city through violent means. Aiming his satire at those who blindly follow political figures like Rob Ford and Donald Trump, Mackenzie’s film avoids crossing over into the realm of being offensive. While not all of the satirical punches land the way one would hope, the film does a solid job of maximizing its disturbing and cynical tone.
Playing out of competition
The Balance of Chaos
Blake Garbe’s film often feels like an anarchist version of Training Day, which is not necessarily a bad thing depending on your point of view. It revolves around an anarchist who recruits an unsuspecting young man to conduct a series of violent tasks designed to restore balance in the city. Despite presenting the city as cesspool of dangerous souls, Garbe finds a way to shine an optimistic light into this bleak world. This is achieved thanks in part to the solid performances from his two leads, who help to elevate the dramatic beats in the film.
Toronto: A Personal Story
There is nothing more disheartening in cinema than a filmmaker that does not trust their audience’s intelligence. Prior to the film commencing, director Sahil Lulla offers a public service announcement of sorts to explain his intentions with the film. While this would not be out of place in a post-screening Q&A, Lulla seems worried audiences cannot handle tales that do not follow typical convention. For the record they can. However, once the audience get past the unnecessary introduction, Toronto: A Personal Story reveals itself to be a gorgeous meditation on the love-hate nature many individuals have with the flawed city of Toronto. Though an experimental film, Lulla ensures that his various themes, including the city’s obsession with consumerism, remain clearly at the forefront. It is evident that Lulla is a talented filmmaker who possesses the skill and faith needed to craft such a vibrant film. Hopefully he will show this same faith in his audience the next time around as well.
Tonight, 8 PM, CineCycle
Tickets for the T24 Project can be purchased at either the Toronto Youth Shorts website or at the door.