The Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival continues today, Saturday August 12th. In this preview, I take a look at a few films from the UNBOUND program. Some of these films draw from the boundaries of societal expectations – of what counts as beautiful, of whose voices should be heard, of who belongs in what spaces. Other films focus on the limits of the body, asking us to recast our understanding of ideas like ability and disability.
Ronan – Rating 3.5/5
Directed by Akil McKenize
Produced by Emily Rennie
After losing his vision in the boxing ring, Ronan trains to fight under his new circumstances.
McKenize’s film focuses on what Ronan does after he loses his sight in the ring. Soon after the accident, Ronan realises his other senses are heightened, and he aims to use this to his advantage in order to box again. Ronan is determined to return to the ring… to face the man whose responsible for him losing his sight.
Although aspects of the story are slightly cliché, the film plot works. I found myself rooting for Ronan, of course. Kudos to Julian Monardo for his role as the relentless and dedicated Ronan. From a technical standpoint, the cinematography, editing, and sound design work well together. The length of the film also works; not too short and not too long that one loses interest. The score by Daniela Pinto is a little much for my personal taste, but it complements the film for the most part. Overall, an engaging short drama film.
A heartwarming short film about individuals who find a way to engage with music and with each other through dancing — through a group called Wheel Dance. The idea that using a wheelchair limits one’s ability to enjoy life is dismantled in this film.
Ye and team introduce us to a group of people who spend Wednesday nights dancing. There are couples who reconnect through dance. There are individuals who realise their love of competitive dancing. There is fun to be had for everyone. There is also the warmth experience of physical touch that releases powerful endorphins.
Great to see a short documentary film that is uplifting. It is nice to see how dancing empowers the people who attend this group. As well as how dancing shows the various possibilities open to individuals with some limitations in their daily lives. Nice execution by Ye and team; technically sound and also interesting.
The idea of visiting a zoo seems harmless, since most of us have been raised to believe animals living in zoos are cared for by staff. We have also grown up thinking that we can learn about the many animals by visiting a zoo.
These ideas are clearly confounded and inaccurate. This is where this short documentary by Harrison and team shed more light on — the notion that animals in zoos are not safe, and are more like prisoners than we’d like to admit. Through the film, we learn that since the 18th century zoos opened up for people to go see animals of different species… as an exhibition, if you will. From there, the spaces occupied by zoos has grown and more and more animals from across the globe were purchased to showcase in these spaces.
In the film we also learn about Zoocheck; an animal advocacy organization which helps relocate animals from zoos into safe environments like sanctuaries. One of the Zoocheck staff talks about how even the vegetation in zoo settings is there primarily for aesthetic reasons. In many cases, however, it is used to hide electric fences. Harrison and team also talk to people attending a zoo, who comment about how the conditions in which the animals live are not entirely safe nor nurturing to the animals’ well-being.
Kudos to the film team for a thought-provoking short film. It is technically also well produced, but it’s message is what most resonates for me. Perhaps it is time for us to dissociate from the idea that we need zoos to learn about animals. It has been shown that many animals that are sent to sanctuary spaces live longer, safer lives.
The UNBOUND program screeens today, August 12 at 1:15pm at Innis College. For full festival info, and ticket information, please visit torontoyouthshorts.ca.
Photos courtesy of Toronto Youth Shorts.