By Will Lofsky
The Short Films screening at Buffer Festival moved audiences with messages about mental health, pursuing dreams, transparency, love, and women’s leadership. During the 8 p.m. screening held at Buffer Festival last Saturday, 18 YouTube filmmakers came to share their short films and success stories to supportive fans and family.
To kick off the event, filmmaker and comedian Anna Akana debuted her stop-motion animation dolor. The film is a beautifully painted piece that depicts Akana running after an old woman and a little girl as they delve beneath a grave and end up in an alternate universe. It concludes with Akana standing over the grave, crying, as the scene fades. During the question and answer period, Akana revealed that the film was dedicated to her sister that passed away. The emotional piece earned Akana the Excellence in Production award at the festival.
“I started creating [dolor] in 2012 in my bed room,” said Akana. “I think that intuitively understanding what time is right to work on a project is a really important part of being a creative.”
Among the other filmmakers was JR Alli, a Toronto based creator who featured his short film Japanese Dream, a sci-fi infused piece about his dream to travel to Japan, which he was able to make a reality for his motion picture. The film captures Alli’s explorations through downtown Tokyo and rural Japan in a sea of lights, day and night sequences, and effects on par with the visuals of artists such as A$AP Rocky and Travis Scott.
Alli is renowned for his series on YouTube documenting fast-paced, narrated, dream-like sequences in popular cities including Toronto, New York City, and Brussels. What sets Alli’s work apart from other filmmakers is his careful attention to sound design, alluring visuals, and a true-to-self approach to storytelling.
Spankie Valentine, a beauty, fashion and fitness creator, shared a deeply personal film about panic attacks, self-doubt and depression in the hopes that others would get the courage to open up about their own struggles. The film, narrated by Valentine, uses visual metaphors to show pain and her anxiety through darkness, drowning and dance.
“I realized that so much of what I had created before was actually a defence mechanism for those darker feelings that I experience so often,” said Valentine. “I need to make sure that I’m laying it all out on the table.”
Jonah Green, a filmmaker and comedian shared his painted puppeteer exploration Lions Don’t Swim which portrays a lion drowning and experiencing a period of self-realization, eventually emerging to the top of the water as a triumphant sea lion, surpassing all it’s fears along the way.
The film illustrates the universal lesson of fighting through your fear and achieving the impossible despite the judgement of others.
“I think there’s a really cool thing happening where people are starting to re-define vulnerability as not a weakness, but as a strength,” said Green. “Hopefully we can inspire other people to do that.”
Director, filmmaker, and writer Hazel Hayes moved the audience with her film Anxiety, which takes an adventurous and dark turn through the mind of a sufferer full of self-doubt and fear that she would never beat her mental illness. Hayes also took the time to acknowledge the growing influence of female leadership in the film scene, congratulating all nine of the women that took part in the screening at Buffer Festival.
“I’m sitting here tonight watching these other incredible ladies really representing females everywhere, and it has just been wonderful,” said Hayes.
Tim Hautekiet, a director and comedian, chose to take a different swing from his previous work with a charming silent film called The Receipt. The film follows a lonely man’s pursuit of romance as he happens upon a piece of paper inscribed with a girl’s phone number, only for it to be swept away from him in a gust of wind. The man decides to pursue the possibility of love as he chases after the paper but is met with countless obstacles along the way. The story is depicted through both live action and animated imagery, consisting entirely of silhouettes, and was edited in greyscale.
“[The Receipt] came from my dad saying, ‘make something completely universal’, and it reminds you that all film was nothing but [visuals] before they had sound,” said Hautekiet.