Culture & Conversation

Hail To The Up And Comers

Justin Trudeau will open this year’s YoungCuts Film Festival. That’s a measure of how far this festival, showcasing films from young, up and coming auteurs, has come. Trudeau’s talk this afternoon kicks off the 8th annual festival. Here’s some of what you’ll see.

Somehow existential angst is more poignant and palatable in animation. To get your fix of ennui, check out these short films: Orbit and Eclipse. Both explore the human condition through adorable cartoon characters. A more sobering take on the subject is shown in Shade of Grey, a black and white documentary film made in the last year of Bill Beeton’s life. Beeton was an artist who died from emphysema and Shade reveals emotional moments of retrospection.

Retro TV jingles and public service announcements are the subject of two other shorts, Piano Fingers and How to Be More Average. Piano Fingers is the longest film at 25 minutes. Way past their 1950s jingle sell-by dates, May is slowly being consumed by Alzheimer’s while her husband Howard tries his best to reconnect through the music from their commercials. It’s an ambitious film, given the complexity of the subject matter and the fact that Sarah Polley has already covered similar territory in her stellar film Away From Her. While Piano uses retro to signal sad, How to Be Average uses it to poke fun at the social mores that come back to plague every generation anew.

The idea that the mind doesn’t distinguish between what it sees and what it feels (an idea explored at length in the 2004 documentary What the Bleep Do We Know) finds its way into Chroma and Thunderstrike. In the former, a man returns home after the death of his father, a painter. As the man walks through the house he grew up in, his memories are so strong they leave actual physical traces on him. Similarly, in the latter film, a man at a bar fantasizes about a woman who is flirting with him. In the space of a few moments, he lives their entire life together, suffering the emotional effects as if his fantasy were reality.

While life comes in many shades of pain in these short films, others like Rhonda’s Party and Royalty Free strive to look on the bright side. Set in an old folks home, Rhonda’s party turns into something else entirely. But a young, idealistic nurse is determined to make the most of the percussion street band booked for the event. In Royalty Free, rhythm is the backdrop to the story of a deaf adolescent, a breakdance busker who will go the extra mile to get a smile.

One last film that needs mentioning is Marie Pier Ottawa’s, La Tonsure. It’s less than four minutes, but it impacts you like the echo of dark and heavy church bells.

Films and conferences take place at Cinema du Parc, today and tomorrow. For a full schedule, go to their web site.

Elizabeth Johnston teaches at Concordia University.

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