Are you concerned that the teeming volume of content on the internet has fractured your attention span, leaving you unable to consume video material longer than just a few minutes? Fear not: the Worldwide Short Film Festival is packed to the brim with cutting-edge work, suitable for those with the concentration abilities of a gnat. Now in its 19th year, the annual six-day event brings some of the world’s best micro-cinema experiences to Toronto.
Though there’s no queer-specific program, works by queer artists are sprinkled throughout the calendar. The Slap ’N’ Tickle program features a bevy of quirky, sexy works, many with a comedic edge.
“It’s just as funny as the comedy-specific programs we have,” says festival programmer Andrew McIntosh. “The act of sex can be inherently ridiculous, and this program looks at it from that angle. I like to think of it as works that will tickle your funny boner.”
Cougar Lesbians Go to College, one of a selection of shorts created by Second City Chicago, is a tongue-in-cheek how-to guide for middle-aged dykes hoping to bed nubile college girls; waiting for them to stop puking before you go in for the kiss is key.
In a totally different tone is Norwegian director Vebjørn Guttormsgaard Møllber’s dreamy Anti-Reproductive Mating Ritual, which features Scandinavian skater boys rubbing their dicks together in an icy setting.
Though it’s not specifically queer, 030, a music video for Danish rockers The Good The Bad, features an underwear-clad groupie getting it on with an electric guitar.
Also on the bill is Toronto up-and-comer Adam Garnet Jones’s new short, Liar. A hit at this year’s SXSW film program, the dense and complex work follows a teenaged girl who decides to get revenge on her ex-boyfriend after he breaks up with her because he’s gay.
“Her friend convinces her he’s just lying to get out of the relationship,” McIntosh says. “We often think of teenagers as being comparably simple in how they operate. But this work shows the complex power plays that come up when teens and sex collide.”
If you like a bit of international scandal mixed in with your flick, Bradley Manning Had Secrets is for you. Based on transcripts of the online chats between the young soldier and the WikiLeaks hacktivist who identified him, the work explores the lesser-known part of Manning’s story: his desire to transition from male to female while serving in the US military.
“It tells two parallel stories of his desire to be honest with the world about who he is and reveal the secrets his government is hiding,” McIntosh says. “It’s a part of his story that’s been lost since all the focus has gone to his choice to out his government’s shady activities.”
Though casual filmgoers don’t often consider shorts as staples of their cinema diet, McIntosh says that may be changing.
“There’s been a lot of talk in the last few years about the feature film being in decline,” he says. “But shorts have this incredible creativity and vitality, partly because it’s often artists who are at the beginnings of their careers. These works restore my faith in the art of cinema.”