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Shorts and Sweet

In case you haven’t heard, one of the world’s most prestigious film festivals is now gracing Toronto. Until the Toronto International Film Festival closes on September 17th, you can watch debut documentaries, dramas, comedies, and more at venues around the city. Don’t forget about the short films. Tightly constructed, they pack a powerful punch with fine, spare storytelling. Plus, the festival’s Short Cuts programming groups multiple films into one viewing time, letting the audience explore themes through many perspectives in the course of a couple hours. We got to hear about it from the Short Cuts composer (and filmmaker herself) Danis Goulet.  

Check out Short Cuts program times here.  

 Describe your process for organizing the Short Cuts program. How do you determine the order of short films in each program, and which should be grouped together?   

For the Short Cuts section, we go through quite a rigorous process of narrowing down the submissions (this year, we received over 4,200). We travel to festivals scouting talent, glue ourselves to our screens for much of the summer, and then eventually make a very long list shorter and shorter. This year, we’re presenting 59 short films from over 30 countries in over 15 languages. We want audiences to find the same strength, range and diversity of work in the shorts section that viewers expect from the whole of TIFF. After we’ve come up with a final list, Short Cuts co-programmer Jason Anderson and I hole up in a room and put the films into eight 90-minute programs. In grouping and ordering the films, we think about how the films speak to each other and also try to create a narrative journey for audiences over the course of each program. Much like editing a film, it’s a process of tweaking and refining until the programs intuitively feel just right.  

List 2-3 new directors you discovered through programming Short Cuts this year, and why they’re ones to watch.  

Bonboné  by Rakan Mayasi is about a Palestinian inmate serving time in an Israeli jail. He receives a visit from his wife who devises a crafty plan to fulfill their secret desires. The film is a smart, sexy and a boldly original take on the political situation in the region. 

Luis De Filippis’s For Nonna Anna is a beautifully moving story about a trans girl who has to care for her Italian grandmother and assumes that her Nonna disapproves of her. The unexpected tenderness that unfolds between the characters leaps off the screen with such raw honesty, making this film an incredible debut from an exciting young Toronto filmmaker.  

In her directorial debut, actress Justine Bateman’s Five Minutes is one of the funniest shorts in the section this year. Each escalation is hilariously outrageous in this razor-sharp comedy about a gathering of progressive-minded parents at their kids’ elementary school. 

Any favorite films about Toronto itself?  

Bickford Park, by the dynamic filmmaking duo Dane Clark and Linsey Stewart, follows a woman who takes up skateboarding lessons from the handsome teen in park to avoid the complications in her marriage. Captured in elegant black and white cinematography, the atmosphere and rich setting of Bickfod Park is as enigmatic and charming as Liane Balaban’s wonderful lead performance.  

Another Toronto film that we are excited about this year is Naledi Jackson’s The Drop In, a story that starts as a quietly mysterious Toronto hair salon drama and deftly morphs into a fierce jaw-dropping sci-fi immigration thriller. A Toronto hair salon story like this has never been seen before! 

You’re a filmmaker yourself. How has living in the city impacted your own work? 

I moved to Toronto from Saskatchewan many years back because I loved film, and Toronto is a film city through and through. As a filmmaker, I draw so much inspiration from the vibrancy of the creative community in Toronto. It’s what keeps me going in my work. The creative community is so engaged and passionate—and I feel so fortunate to be a part of it.