Countdown to CIFF: #1. So many short films

For the 10 days leading up to CIFF’s opening gala, I’ll be posting a quick write-up per day on some of my favourite movies at the fest. I’m not exactly unbiased — CIFF does give me a paycheque, after all — but these posts are my own opinions and not those of the festival.

And here’s where I throw out any notion of objectivity. Let’s not mince words: I have a vested interest in you going out and watching all the shorts programs. But I also picked these shorts because I think they’re pretty darn good. So if I’m being honest about the things I think people should check out, the fact is that I can, in good conscience, recommend each and every package. Here’s why:

Animated Worlds: The reason I’d give most people is that we have last year’s Oscar winner for best animated short, but that’d be ignoring things like Bon Voyage, a Swiss short that’s somewhere between a doodle and a powerful political statement. And Luminaris, which is my favourite example of pixilation since Norman McLaren’s Neighbours. Plus, I swear it’s less depressing than last year’s package.

Crime Wave: Well, first off, there’s Michael Fassbender in Pitch Black Heist, which is probably enough right there. But there’s also a brutal Italian revenge short, a really counterintuitive art theft and a Tarantino-esque comedy to break up the mood.

Date Night: Last year I called this package Love, Sex and the Whole Darned Thing, but this time there’s less sex, so that wouldn’t really work. But Rhinos is one of the sweetest shorts I’ve seen all year, definitely up there in overall favourites at this year’s fest. It’s hard to predict what’ll actually work well as a date night, but I think this program actually has a shot–just the right amount of sweetness and bite.

End of Days: Admittedly, some of these are kind of stretching the “end of the world” theme, but that’s really just a hat to hang over the program — I still think they work together well. The last movie, Armadingen, is another heart-warmer which’ll make it stand out a bit from the rest, but seriously, I defy you to dislike that movie. And the others include some of the spookiest and funniest things in the fest. Plus, Martin Freeman.

Short, Fast and Funny: Probably the most self-explanatory package, and also consistently the hardest to book. I try to look beyond my own sense of humor, since it’s pretty suspect. At the same time, I always have to throw in a few for people like me, so there’s another BriTANicK short (those guys are seriously brilliant) and bad board game jokes.

Square Pegs: This was originally going to be called “Odds ‘n’ Sods” since it was shorts that didn’t fit anywhere else but were too good not to book. But then my boss noticed that there sort of was a theme, which is that each protagonist is an outcast in their own way. Scott Thompson continues his self-effacing comeback with The Immigrant, and it’s also got a short that Shia LaBeouf directed (and if that’s making you wince, Jim Gaffigan stars in it so I bet you’re feeling pretty conflicted now), an amazing documentary, and Will Oldham. Seriously. Good stuff.

Survival of the Weirdest: If you’ve known me for any length of time, you can probably guess that this is my baby. CUFF fans, this is the program for you. Monsters and nightmares and deadpan comedy and super-charming animation and babies and dancing. I’m not going to single out any one program as my favourite but I am going to let this sentence trail off…

Alberta Spirit and YYC Galas: For the Alberta Spirit packages, let me put it this way: I actively pushed to double the length of that program this year because I didn’t want to leave any of these films out. And I’m not one to push something like that unless there’s good reason. And for our YYC youth competition, there are more than a few shorts in there that made me laugh out loud, which is something that a lot of experienced filmmakers don’t manage. I’ll just say, they bode well for Alberta’s film scene in the next few years.

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