The 9th Annual Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival will take place from August 11th to August 12th. Featuring 53 short films from five distinct programs, the festival has become a vital launch pad for emerging artist looking to share their unique stories with audiences. Aside from the immense talent on display, one of the pleasures of taking in the Toronto Youth Shorts is the effortless way it continually promotes diversity and equality in cinema.
To get you ready for the festival, the fine team at Toronto Youth Shorts were gracious enough to provide us with a glimpse at a few titles that will be screening this year. Here are a small taste of the diverse stories you will find at Toronto Youth Shorts:
Just when you think there is nothing new to say in the ghost story genre along comes Erica Orofino’s refreshing Fantome. The premise revolves around Francoise (Marie-Josée Lefebvre) who is still haunted by the death of her son. Orofino creates a chilling portrait of how grief can consume a person. By playing with the way the information unfolds, she skillfully constructs an eerie psychological character study that will have viewers both questioning Francoise’s mental state and sympathizing with her at the same time.
Our Missing Pieces
Set in the in the bustling metropolis of Tokyo, Japan, Myles Milne’s Our Missing Pieces presents a quiet look at the various aspects of love. Divided into four intimate tales, the film provides glimpses into the anticipation of a sexual encounter; the secrets that can hinder relationships; moments of unrequited love and the longing for a former love. While the stories are universally relatable, and the film is well shot, Milne does not spend enough time with each story to let the characters truly resonate. Much like the notion of love itself, the audience is left wanting more.
A secret agent is only as good as the team assisting them. For Agent Fleming (Brett Donahue), it is his trusty aide Q (Michael Man), who runs point from the office, that helps him track down international mercenaries. Unfortunately, Q’s mother (Jean Yoon), who believes her son is a banker, cannot stop calling during key missions. Taking cues from the James Bond films, Sean Kung’s action-comedy attempts to bring a big budget feel to its compact story. Though the action choreography could have been tighter, Man’s performance effectively sells the comedic beats needed to make this premise work.
But Wait There’s More
How does one even attempt to describe Mike Mildon’s satirical film But Wait There’s More? It is a film that takes comedic aim at modern day consumerism, evangelism, 80s culture and more with equal vigour. The plot involves a young Jehovah’s Witness, Tim Shannon (Jeff Homer), who ends up getting a lesson on being a better sales man from Danny Deals (Richard Gingras), a washed-up infomercial spokesman. Frequently funny, while never been too offensive, Mildon’s film does stumble a bit in tone when it dips into mocumentary territory a little more than it needs to.
Similar to most kids her age, Fatima (Hritika Verma) wants nothing more than to go outside and play with her friends. Unfortunately, her mother doesn’t want her skin to get any darker than it already is. This sets in motion a fascinating study of beauty, culture, and generational social pressures. Directed by Haaris Qadri, the film shows how easily the pressure to fit into an unhealthy standard of beauty, in this case light skinned and thin, can erode generations of young women. Verma’s strong performance effectively helps to convey the isolation and depression that such pressures can cause.
Breathe, Maggie, Breathe
Maggie (Emily Stranges) is a teenager who has been accepted at two of the top teacher colleges in the country. However, she has more pressing things on her mind when she decides to have an abortion without telling her boyfriend. Sofie Uretsky’s drama unfolds at the clinic as Maggie must deal with the weight of her decisions to this point. While an effective tale, her film does wrap things up a little too neatly. Uretsky could have explored the emotions and conflict within both Maggie and her boyfriend a little further than she does.
Returning to the festival once again, after her documentary short Fatherhood played in 2015, Alicia K. Harris gifts as a storyteller have grown immensely. Playing in the fictional realm this time, Love Stinks is an exceptional 80s-inspired coming-of-age tale about three girls, Jay (the charming Katie Lunman), Ro (Talia Neelis) and Nat (Charlotte Lai), who must decide whether the keys to womanhood truly lay within the pages of Playgirl magazine. Finding that perfect blend of drama and humour, and featuring well-rounded characters, Harris captures the awkward period between adolescence and adulthood in an endearing way.
In Richard Dang’s drama No Hentai a writer, Shelvin (Sandeep Singh) is a manga writer in search of an illustrator for a new project he is working on. However, the project is put in jeopardy when Shelvin’s addiction to anime porn becomes more prominent. Though the performance are solid, and Dang tackles a form of addiction rarely covered, his love story never dives deep enough into how Shelvin’s problem impacts the daily facets of his life. As a result, the film feels like it reaches its optimistic ending a little too conveniently.
For the full list of films screening, and to purchase tickets, please visit the Toronto Youth Shorts website.