One of the most interesting aspects of any film festival is the shorts programming. Toronto After Dark’s International Shorts Showcase offers the opportunity to experience the visions of directors from around the world—here are my four highlights:
Eject (2019, Dir. David Yorke, UK)
Eject is a slick little transhumanist sci-fi short with a simple premise: a woman is granted the ability to venture into her brain’s filing room and add or remove files at will, resulting in drastic modifications to her reality. The temptation in this type of situation is almost invariably to give in to greed and grasp for as many improvements as possible, an impulse that our protagonist is unable to resist. Minimalist in its approach and containing very little dialogue, the short wields a cool, synth-driven score and interesting set design to effectively build atmosphere.
La Noria (2019, Dir. Carlos Baena, Spain)
An astonishingly beautiful animated short with strong Del Toro vibes, La Noria boasts some incredible creature design by Dei Gaztelumendi and sound design by Oriol Tarragó. Baena’s poignant meditation on grief focuses on a young boy dealing with the loss of his father, engaging in some very effective dread-building and providing some genuine chills. A lovely original score by Johan Söderqvist accompanies its gorgeously realized climax.
Place (2019, Dir. Jason Gudasz, USA)
Make no mistake—Place is a very weird film. The plot is fairly simple and well-worn: when a family moves to a new home, they find it already inhabited by ghostly residents and must deal with some sinister consequences. What sets Place apart from similar supernatural shorts is its humour—the film is infused throughout with very dark, very absurdist comedy with utterly deadpan delivery. This type of humour may not find purchase with all audiences, but it falls squarely in my sweet spot and elicited more than a few gasp-laughs during my viewing.
Your Last Day On Earth / Tu último día en la Tierra (2019, Dir. Marc Martinez Jordon, Spain)
Surreal, subversive, and droll, Your Last Day on Earth is a twisting tale of time travel tourism set in the near future, as well as a sharp criticism of corporate greed and sociopathy. In a world where an exorbitant amount of money can buy you one hour in the recent past, a man puts his faith in unknown time “hacktivists” in order to undo a personal tragedy—but his well-laid plans go awry when things as are not as remembered them. Startling costume choices and softer colour grading lend the film a mildly hypnogogic air, while its story deftly blends comedy, mystery, and tragedy with a sure hand. This was one of my favourite shorts of the festival, and possibly one of the top ten shorts I’ve seen this year.