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The Old College Try

Yes, I know, the phrase “student film” sends a shudder down my spine too. The term instantly conjures images of blood-stained bathroom mirrors accompanied by maudlin adolescent poetry. But to those going out to the movies tonight and not too sure they really want to subject themselves to Tom Hanks and his Symbolist mullet, the Student Film Showcase at the Cumberland will at least let you know whose Canadian first feature you want to steer clear of two years from now.

The Student Film Showcase is presented by the Toronto International Film Festival Group, with the participation of the Film School Consortium (which now comprises 14 schools from across the country). Established in 2004, the SFS promises to have siphoned out the freshman dreck and found the 12 most inventive and engaging student shorts of the year. The program offers a diverse array of stuff— everything from live-action narrative fiction to documentary, animation and “experimental” film (which I think is now just an umbrella term for everything that doesn’t fall in the former three categories).

The night looks something like this: Approx. 3 min – Felix Chan, OCAD (Mini DV, 4’) Baby Fodder – Karl Leuschen & Mariam Bokhari, Queen’s University (Mini DV, 3’) Colourbars – Tim Moore, Ryerson University (2’) Kaka’win – Leah Nelson, Emily Carr Institute (Mini DV, 17’) Methods in Good Breeding – Jason Albrecht, Langara College (Mini DV, 15’) One Man’s Garbage – Jesse Beecher & Jack Mauch, University of Toronto (Mini DV, 10’) Pinch – Jody Kramer, Emily Carr Institute (DV Cam, 5’) Plant – Bruce Clement, Confederation College (Betacam SP, 10’) Scattering Eden – Nimisha Mukerji, University of British Columbia (Digital Betacam, 12’) Shred-All – Arda Uysal, Sheridan College (Betacam SP, 2’) Thud! – Derek Losier, Humber College (Betacam SP, 6’) We’re On Our Way – Lindsay Mackay, York University (Mini DV, 11’)

Yes, it’s a tragedy that everyone is shooting digital, but what do you expect?

I obviously can’t promise anything, as I’ll be seeing the films for the first time too, but past winners have gone on to have their shorts shown around the world. My current Assistant Producer and lighting designer, Carl Elster, was the DP on a short that showed at SFS in 2004. Though his film, Hugh Gibson’s Hogtown Blues, didn’t win the Grand Jury Prize, it did end up in festivals as far away as Spain and the Czech Republic. While it’s true that that year’s crop also featured a film called Exponent Fuck Parade, where naked men juggled Slinkies as they trudged across an icy expanse, the beauty of the SFS is that everything’s, well, short. If one thing sucks, you can move swiftly on to another.

If there’s a genius currently working in the basement of one of Canada’s film schools, there’s a good chance their film is showing tonight—if, of course, you trust the TIFFG’s judgment. That’s why I’m going. If one of these kids shows promise, I want to be there to snap him or her up quick. There’s nothing like having a genius bring you your on-set coffee.

The 2006 Student Film Showcase takes place at 7:00 PM, Wednesday May 24, 2006 at the Cumberland, 159 Cumberland Ave.

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