Review: The European Short Film Festival at Carlton Cinema

By Ivonne Flores Kauffman

The European Short Film Festival took place on Jan. 31 at the Imagine Cinemas Carlton Cinema in Downtown Toronto. The festival featured seven short films from six European nations (France, Germany, United Kingdom, Denmark, Czech Republic), each film different from the others.

Mental health, fear, death and hope were some of the central topics of these films. All the material presented at the festival fell into one of two categories: drama or comedy, providing the audience with evoked nostalgia, anger and sadness.

Despite the serious topics addressed in these films, not all of them were well-produced.

Ponožky (Socks) is a Czech dark comedy. Presented at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival and directed by Mike Suchmann, this nine-minute film tells the story of Jidi, a man who is unable to rekindle the flame in his marriage. Sadly, his wife’s love is not the only thing that has vanished from Jidi’s life as the film revolves around his mysteriously disappeared socks, which leads him into having a surreal day.

The short comedy presents an uninterested, bored wife and a poor man whose attempts to recover the love of his life are often ignored. In one of the scenes, Jidi’s wife hosts a dinner party where he realizes she is having an affair with one of the guests. After punching the guest in the face and storming out, Jidi locks himself in the bathroom to masturbate. Soon enough, his wife knocks on the door asking him for the divorce. The last scene shows Jidi ejaculating socks all over his wife.

In my opinion, the film was not only weird but also misogynistic. Its results make it hard to emphasize with a man who does nothing to fix his marriage and would rather spend all day feeling sorry for himself. The last scene of this short film is supposed to be funny, but there was not even a hint of laughter from myself and the rest of the audience. The director’s decision to use socks to simulate Jidi’s ejaculation was confusing and offensive. To me, Suchmann’s comedy was not funny and it made me feel quite uncomfortable from beginning to end.

Ponožky was not the only short film that disappointed.  British project Tea & Coffee failed to deliver a neat production. The film directed by Maaya Modha and Adam Patel has an exciting plot about a young British-Indian woman who struggles to deal with her father’s deteriorating health, all while keeping a secret from him. This bittersweet short film shows the difficulties faced by an interracial marriage and the pain of seeing a loved one battling mental illness. Despite being extremely moving, the quality of the film lacked good shots, the scenes were poorly captured and it almost felt like it was produced by amateur filmmakers.

On the other hand, the short films that captured my attention were produced by the youngest filmmakers featured in the festival. The Boy with the Teddy, a 14-minute German film, follows the story of a kid and his teddy bear as he runs away from his dysfunctional home. After facing strangers’ indifference, the boy meets a young adult who takes care of him. Despite approaching topics such as child abuse and loneliness, this film is extremely heartwarming and full of hope.

A scene from the short film  The Boy with the Teddy  by Alessandro Schuster. (Photo courtesy of Alessandro Schuster)

A scene from the short film The Boy with the Teddy by Alessandro Schuster. (Photo courtesy of Alessandro Schuster)

Director Alessandro Schuster was only 16 years old when The Boy with the Teddy won the Platinum Award for Best Acting Ensemble and Gold Award for Best Young Filmmaker and Best Child/Young Actor at the 2018 Independent Short Awards (ISA).

In an email interview, Schuster explained that the five-day shooting presented two significant challenges. The first was to coordinate all the members of the cast and production before and during the shooting.

“Luckily it all worked great at the end! After all, everyone worked for ‘no-budget’," said Schuster.

The second challenge while filming The Boy with the Teddy came during post-production. Schuster explained that some of the scenes shot for this film were improvised. “In our film much is told through flashbacks…When editing, it was difficult to place them meaningful and good, without being exaggerated,” added the young director.

According to the Independent Shorts Awards website, Schuster, who is also an actor, is currently working on various TV productions, has produced and directed a couple of music videos and is attending school.

Another young filmmaker who presented his work at the European Short Film Festival was Jakob Hardeberg Svensen. His nine-minute production Games We Play, was shot during a Danish spring day. The film follows three 11-year-old friends’ (Johan, Clara and Felix) first encounter with death.

Behind the scenes of the short film  Games We Play.  (Photo courtesy of   Jakob Svensen)

Behind the scenes of the short film Games We Play. (Photo courtesy of Jakob Svensen)

“[Death] doesn’t have a big significance to them. At a certain age they become more interested and develop a morbid fascination for adult rituals such as funerals,” said Svensen in an email interview about his coming-of-age production.

“For me as a director the film wasn’t necessarily a story about death, but more about the memory of a timeless childhood.”  

Svensen’s inspiration to create this film came from his own childhood memories. The film’s aesthetic is composed of a range of grey and green tones, the outdoor and indoor scenes and the lack of dialogue which all work to transport the viewer to their own childhood memories. Games We Play was the most mentally stimulating film presented at the festival.

The European Short Film Festival, an excellent platform for film enthusiasts to enjoy different productions, was made possible by WILDsound. If you are interested in film festivals, check the WILDsound events website.