Sunday, October 29, 2023

Toronto After Dark 2023 Review: CANADIAN SHORT FILMS COLLECTION (Part 1)

Reviewed by: Josh "The Merc" Raynor

When it comes to the world of films, features typically get the vast majority of attention from the general audience. But what most people don't realize is that it's the short films that can really blow you away. Taking a story or an idea and giving it straight to you, with no filler, is an art form in itself, but being able to captivate the audience and leave an impression on them after such a small amount of time is something completely different. 

At this year's Toronto After Dark Film Festival, there were several short films that did just that, so join me as I shine a spotlight on some of my favorites from TADFF's 2023 collection of Canadian short films. 


Synopsis: Lauren takes a job pet-sitting Diane’s parrot. However, within the shroud of darkness and beneath a suspiciously placed sheet, Lauren finds Reggie, an African grey parrot, who longs for freedom and has a mouth like a sailor! Striking up a friendship, Lauren and Reggie hatch a plan for his escape.

I wasn't sure what I was getting into with this one when I started it, as I hadn't read the synopsis prior to my viewing. So, when Reggie appeared on screen, I was like "what the f@&#??" but in a totally good way. The puppetry on this bird was fantastic and took me back to the heyday of the Jim Henson Company and movies like Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. And the topper to this whole thing was hearing Jay Baruchel as the voice of Reggie the bird. He was a perfect choice for this foul-mouthed fowl.


Synopsis: A woman struggles to take care of her ailing, blood-addicted father while carving out a life for herself.

This was a fascinating take on a vampire story, but at its center, it was a beautifully heartfelt tale about the love of family and the sacrifices people make for the ones they love. It had some amazing effects, and the decision to use a metal straw as a focal point for a lot of it was genius to me.



Synopsis: After festival rejections, a director revises his intensely personal short film about trauma, suicide, and the Holocaust, and transforms it into a painful, blunt and funny dissection of the film and his life.

I absolutely loved the structure of this short film. It played as a documentary with a commentary overlay, and that gave the film a great sense of emotional connection, hearing about the story from the filmmaker himself. He did a wonderful job of building tension toward a specific scene, to the point that once that scene came, I was on the edge of my seat. It was a great insight into the world of a Jewish person who grew up hearing all of these horror stories about the Holocaust and how that sort of casual storytelling can affect someone, but also just how important it is for those stories to be told to every generation that comes along.




Synopsis: Seasoned campers Ajahnis and Mr. Sandiford grill Alex about his very first camping trip. To their horror, an oblivious Alex recounts a tale less about campfires and marshmallows, and more akin to crop circles and probes.

Night Drives is a series of sketch comedy shorts that I had never heard of before, but am now very fascinated to check out more of. This specific short was really interesting to watch, as I had no idea where it was going at first. It's a simple, yet wild story, with snappy dialogue and really unique and interesting animation. I'll definitely be checking out more of these short episodes.



Synopsis: A surrealist exploration of dissociative identity disorder (DID) based on the lived experience of a Black, nonbinary, disabled artist and former sex worker.

I absolutely loved this short film. It's a wonderful exploration of what it is to live with DID, and breaks it down for people who have no idea what it really is, or for those who may have some misconception about it. Kitoko opens up to the audience, sharing a major part of themself, which is something that can be extremely difficult for many to do. I also love that it's set during a zombie apocalypse, but it's just in the background and isn't focused on at all. It's just another part of their life.

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