UTM is a school brimming with cinematic talent, and the UTM Film Festival last Thursday night proved this true. Organized by ICCIT Council, DVS Student Society, DEM Society, UTM/TV, and UTMSU, the film fest showcased 14 student short films of all genres. Located in a lecture hall in the CCT Building, the festival attracted a large audience that came to watch and support films made by friends and peers. Free popcorn was handed out as an added incentive.
Prior to the night of screenings, the judging panel—Brian Price (associate professor of cinema studies); Matthew Stoddard (assistant professor of cinema studies); Christopher Rowe (DVS sessional instructor); and Alison Syme (DVS chair)—nominated films for five different award categories. The awards included “Best Film”, “Best Cinematography”, “Best Editing”, “Best Screenplay”, and “Best Video Art/Animation”. The winners of each category were chosen by the judges before the screening.
Although the panel determined the award winners prior to the event, audience members were encouraged to vote for their favourite film at the end of the night. The Viewers’ Choice Award was then awarded to the most popular film.
Despite the award labels, it’s challenging to narrow down the best films of the night. Nearly all the films screened at the film fest were produced with professionalism and high-quality cinematography. I was pleasantly surprised and even slightly proud that I belong to a school so rich with talent. I obviously can’t discuss every film that inspired me, but to name a few I’d have to settle on Anxiety by Heather Shanahan, Abort Mission by Ifunanya Paulinus, and Golden Mean by Ryan W. Smith.
Anxiety was brief—probably the shortest film of the night. Yet in only a couple of minutes, it left a strong impression. Rather than live actors, Anxiety features cartoonish animation in real-life settings. The film opens with a dark hallway and a cartoon figure standing at the end, spastically changing shape and colour as the music intensifies. Near the end, the camera conveys a first-person perspective of the film’s subject. They walk towards the mirror and their reflection shows an animated blob. Earlier, the camera walks towards the toilet and a downpour of orange cartoon vomit pours into the toilet bowl. I admire this film because it captures the effects of anxiety on the mind and body without using a single actor or voiceover. Rather, the animation does all the talking.
Overall, Abort Mission left the greatest impression on me. Narrated via a lyrically haunting slam poem by Tobi Ogude, Abort Mission is a fragmentary depiction of a teenage man’s decision to either become a father or abort his unborn son.
The scenes cut in and out of moments between the man and his girlfriend and moments that the potential son (shown as an adolescent boy) experiences as a result of their decision to keep him. The boy is seen in the background watching as the teenage couple quarrel or behave intimately and he anticipates their decision to have him or abort him. A recurring prop throughout the film is a picture frame that shows the couple and their son smiling together. In the final scene, the man rolls over in bed, turns off the light, and the candle on his nightstand illuminates the picture—without the boy.
In contrast, Golden Mean provided comedic relief and ultimately had the greatest reaction from the audience. The film depicts a world in which everyone is naked. All the time. This feature of the film seems quite random at first. I assumed it was for a comedic effect until the ending reveals its greater significance. Golden Mean follows a man who becomes jealous of his neighbour’s spinning disco light. The neighbour uses this light to throw parties and lure in women, including the woman the main character is interested in. What results is a hilarious struggle between the man and his neighbour as he attempts to steal the disco light in an effort to reclaim his romantic life. The man ends up ripping the light from the ceiling, smashing his neighbour’s head with it, and running off in naked victory.
The final scene takes a more serious turn, though, when the man holds up the disco light and notices the blood on his hands. He suddenly becomes insecure about his nudity and covers himself, alluding to the original sin.
While these are only three of the films featured last Thursday night, the UTM Film Fest was unquestionably an event that showcased UTM’s cinematic talent.
The award for Best Picture went to Golden Mean; Best Video Art/Animation to Gamediction; Best Editing to Deadline; Best Screenplay to Knots; Best Cinematography to Deadline; and Viewers’ Choice Award to Abort Mission.