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Our Guide to the Short Films of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival

Written by on September 14, 2015 

[Programme 1] [Programme 2] [Programme 3] [Programme 4]
[Programme 5] [Programme 6] [Programme 7] [Programme 8]
[Programme 9] [Programme 10] [Programme 11]

Programme 10
Premiering Wednesday, September 16th at 6:45pm | Scotiabank Theatre

Quiet Zone, dir. David Bryant, Karl Lemieux, 14 min. – Canada

This is the type of experimental movie I can get behind because it doesn’t specifically hinge on form and form alone. What David Bryant and Karl Lemieux have done is distort their film with contextual purpose (not that others don’t, it’s just not merely abstract here). The over-exposed fields and darkened waves of burned celluloid trap us inside the head of Ondes et silence’s [Quiet Zone] narrators Nicols Fox and Katherine Peacock. Both women suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity—think Michael McKean‘s character on Better Call Saul—where the power of electromagnetic fields literally makes them ill. As Katherine states at the beginning, she believed the sound of airplanes in youth was the sun moving through the sky. And Nichols: she had to leave her house of twenty-two years once a neighbor installed wifi next-door.

Their tales are descriptive, but those of us who don’t know first-hand what they’re going through on a daily basis would still be lost without Bryant and Lemieux’s aesthetic choice to visually recreate the experience. Bright yellows and reds permeate the frame until we cannot make out exactly what we’re looking at; high contrast black and white create shadowy figures amidst lost imagery outlined in the dark. Coupled with the dull drone of white noise and buzz of electronics, you feel warmer and uncomfortable. Everything in front of us slowly and imperceptibly burning from invisible radiation becomes magnified as though underneath a microscope. The danger surrounding us is suddenly unavoidable, creeping ever so close to consume. It’s so unhinged that even sprocket holes make an appearance from time to time.

So while it conjures thoughts of experimental artists utilizing rotoscoping effects or treated film—as it should—Quiet Zone is literal catharsis for our empathy along with being a formal one. We not only feel something on a base level of beauty and emotion, but also towards the plight of two souls we’d be quick to dismiss as crackpots or hypochondriacs. On the contrary, this syndrome is legitimate and we all experience it on an infinitely smaller scale. Nicols and Katherine simply endure it on a level those like you and me would compare to sensory depravation torture. They live in a world where it’s impossible to escape this electromagnetic pull. Even in the titular “quiet zone” advertised as “radio silent” pulsates to make their skin crawl as yours does watching through their eyes.

B+

Clouds of Autumn, dir. Trevor Mack, Matthew Taylor Blais, 15 min. – Canada
Nulla Nulla, dir. Dylan River, 6 min. – Australia
Hide & Seek, dir. Kimie Tanaka, 22 min. – France/Japan/Singapore

There are no easy answers when it comes to psychological and emotional conditions. What a “normal” person believes to be so easy could very well prove impossible for another no matter how mundane or seemingly harmless the task might appear. Kimie Tanaka‘s short Hide & Seek depicts this struggle via a young man named Kotaro (Kuniaki Nakamura) who hasn’t left his home in over a decade. Shut-in his room except to use the bathroom, he even waits until his mother (Sachiko Matsuura‘s Mitsuko) leaves the hallway before opening the door to acquire the meal try she’s left behind. He’ll escape to the kitchen for a snack sometimes as well and it’s on one such journey that he discovers his mother unconscious on the floor.

Parallel to the domestic underpinnings of this dynamic, Kotaro’s brother Shoichi (Masaki Miura) is also introduced in Tokyo where he works as a nurse. More or less going through the motions at this point, he sleepwalks through the night shift helping an elderly woman use the bathroom—lying about not hearing her from the other side of the door for the sake of keeping her dignity intact and allowing the task to be completed. Shoichi is frustrated by his family back home, especially his mother for catering to Kotaro and refusing to see a doctor because it would mean leaving him alone. So set in believing the phantom ailment his brother suffers from as unnecessarily childish, he wouldn’t think twice about committing him if push came to shove.

The opportunity soon arrives and Tanaka’s message about hypocrisy and selfishness shines as a result. She carefully mirrors Shoichi’s personal and professional lives, showing how quick he’ll give a patient whatever she desires and still refuse to attempt understanding what’s troubling his brother. The woman he walks to the bathroom each night could feasibly be forced to wear a catheter yet he carries on regardless. But Kotaro—now without either parent and obviously full of fear towards the outside world—can’t merit the benefit of the doubt because it’ll be inconvenient to do so. Words are exchanged in error and we’re exposed to how broken Kotaro is and how unsympathetic Shoichi continues to be towards him. While we’re often too close to cogently measure certain situations, we hopefully acknowledge such before it’s too late.

B


Tuesday, dir. Ziya Demirel, 12 min. – Turkey/France
Oslo’s Rose, dir. The Sporadic Film Collective, 7 min. – Norway
A Tale of Love, Madness and Death, dir. Mijael Bustos Gutiérrez, 22 min. – Chile


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