8 Short Films Showcasing Diversity At TIFF

Still from “Facing North”, screening at TIFF 2018

We’re only a week out from the annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). This, combined with the already-proceeding Venice Film Festival is usually the signal for awards pundits, movie critics and normal cinema-lovers alike that Oscar season is upon us.

Yet, if this past year has taught the film industry anything it’s that we need real diversity in film production and distribution. What better way to showcase the strides being made by such efforts as the #MeToo Movement than in each and every major film festival around the world reflecting the diversity we so badly want to see represented!

Sure, all of the usual splashy titles and Oscar-buzzy premieres will be taking place in Toronto next week, but, as usual, the most daring and diverse material will be screening the Short Cuts programme.

Here’s 8 stories about diverse backgrounds made by filmmakers from diverse backgrounds.

The Orphan —Dir. Carolina Markowicz

Born and raised in São Paulo, this Brazilian short filmmaker already has some history with TIFF. Two previous TIFF selections of hers includes 2014's Tatuapé Mahal Tower and 2017’s Long Distance Relationship. Last year’s in particular really stuck a chord with viewers, as it was about a topic never explored before: an alien sex phone line. She’s been vocal before about the bold, strong voices we need from women in film, so we’re so glad she’s been asked back to showcase her abilities once more.

The Orphan is the story of a Brazilian boy whose transition out of an orphanage and into a foster family does not go too smooth. Just from the trailer, we get a sense of the risks being taken here, including its Cinéma vérité style and 4:3 framing.

We’re excited to see how form and content meld to make an effective cinematic experience from one of short film’s most consistent voices.

Shadow Cut — Dir. Lucy Suess

While New Zealand in cinema is usually associated with sweeping vistas and epic fantasy filmmaking, director Lucy Suess reminds us that there’s still sleepy wastelands and rusting warehouses there too. Though born in Santa Cruz, California, Suess studied film at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. And from the looks of it, this debut short relies heavily on her experiences there.

This globe-trotting female director offers a unique take on young love, which, from the promos alone, trusts to be a transporting and meditative experience. It’s exhilarating to have a woman’s perspective on the fleeting and melancholy nature of young love, a tradition often dominated by white men in the past.

Little Waves — Dir. Ariane Louis-Seize

This mesmerizing and fantastical teaser evokes another mysterious tonal piece coming out this year, while still very much being its own thing. Little Waves tells the story of burgeoning sexuality, as the main character witnesses her cousin having sexual encounters and suddenly starts to unleash subliminal urges into her dream life. Though described as part comedy and part drama, this film certainly has something to say about human nature and the fuzziness of reality.

Director Ariane Louis-Seize has already been featured at TIFF once before, so we’re excited to see how her sophomore screening will be received. Plus, Louis-Seize and cinematographer Shawn Pavlin opted for an extremely wide shooting ratio that demands big screen viewing.

Caroni — Dir. Ian Harnarine

The TIFF teaser doesn’t give away much, and we’re totally okay with that. The premise alone has us in. A West Indian nanny in New York struggles to keep a living while staying connected to her daughter back in Trinidad.

If the trailer image is any indication, director Ian Harnarine is choosing an elliptical and elusive style to tell this very human drama. Born in TIFF’s home of Toronto, Canada, Harnarine was raised by immigrant parents from Trinidad and Tobago, so this story of displacement and fractured lives is very close to his heart and experience. We’re so glad the immigrant experience is being represented by such a top-notch filmmakers.

He’s already won TIFF’s Best Short once before…can he do it twice?

Brotherhood — Dir. Meryam Joobeaur

Still from “Brotherhood”

Set in rural Tunisia, this short takes on the timeless battle of the generations but through the specific lens of Middle Eastern culture and politics. A son returns home after two years in Syria with a Syrian wife at his side. The father of the house, a hard-working shepherd, has a hard time reconciling his son’s unconventional return…and great drama ensues.

Meryam Joobeaur is one of the more prolific short filmmakers in the festival this year, with over 5 shorts already to her name (and several other productions in the works). No two films of hers are ever alike, so we’re excited to re-discover all over again what this Middle Eastern female director has to say about a very important issue.

Exit — Dir. Claire Edmondson

Another debut short comes our way, but the director is not new to filmmaking. Claire Edmondson has spent most of her professional life so far directing music videos and commercials throughout Los Angeles. Though born in Liverpool, she seems to be bringing a West Coast desert aesthetic to a story about a woman facing the internal ramifications of a life-changing event.

Starring the always excellent Maria Bello and lensed in cool, crisp golden-hour tones by Catherine Lutes, this short looks to bring together influences from the likes of Terrence Malick’s later films and George Miller’s Mad Max franchise for a film of poetic psychological realism.

It may be Edmondson’s first short, but we already hope it’s not her last!

Facing North — Dir. Tukei Muhumuza

One of the lineup’s most unique and intriguing premises come from short film director Tukei Muhumuza. Facing North tells the story of a Ugandan woman going ahead with her wedding day despite the fact that the man she is marrying has, like all the other men in this village, left to Europe for better financial opportunity.

Equal parts sobering and comedic, this short looks to straddle a tough line between the absurd and socio-realistic. Tukei is from East Africa but lives in New York City as a professional director and cinematographer. You can see real play with style and form here, as the trailer already shows a mix of modern cinematic lyricism with a 90s vintage found-footage look.

We’ve got this one at the top of the list just so we can see how it all wraps up!

The Call — Dir. Anca Damian

Perhaps the hardest film to pin down on this list is the animation/live-action hybrid short by Romanian director Anca Damian. The trailer shows us lots of incredible animation we’ve frankly never seen before, but is understandably light on plot. TIFF calls it a dreamworld from the perspective of an elderly woman while bathing, but we have to believe that’s just the surface.

We already love the gritty, down-to-earth feel this film has, particularly in its animated overlays of real-life objects. The visuals and story seem to be evoking an abstract representation of womanhood, female sexuality and the nature of memory all rolled into one. Though Damian’s been making films since the 1990s, after studying film in Bucharest, we believe this could be a new peak from a much-needed female voice.