Third annual Toronto Youth Shorts Festival runs June 19

Toronto Youth ShortsHot on the heels of the CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival, the Toronto area has another film festival coming up designed to showcase some of the best short films from emerging talents. The third annual Toronto Youth Shorts Festival runs Sunday, June 19 at Innis Town Hall (2 Sussex Avenue, on the University of Toronto campus) and features some of the finest work from local GTA filmmakers aged 18-24 who often make films with no money, a moderate level of experience, and a whole lot of creativity.

The fest has been a labour of love for festival director Henry Wong, himself an aspiring filmmaker. Wong spoke with Criticize This! briefly during a press conference for the festival to talk about what Youth Shorts means to him and the film community at large.

“When I was in university I started a campus film festival at the University of Toronto in Scarborough. The genesis of this festival kind of stemmed from there. After I finished university I did a postgrad at Centennial College in event management and for the final project we had to each come up with an event. I really wanted to go that short film screening route again because I really enjoy seeing the work of local emerging artists. You just get a certain vibe and a certain aura from watching such pieces that you just don’t get from other festivals. I essentially thought about what I needed to do to make the Scarborough festival bigger and more encompassing of the city as a whole. Then after months of planning the first festival was held. It was a modest festival where we ended up screening 20 out of 21 total submissions. We have increased our line-up to almost six times that amount this year after only three years. I’m really happy to have created this forum for the voices of young artists looking to ease themselves into the festival circuit and give them the necessary experience. I really just integrated all the passions and things I liked into something I loved doing.”

Films will be screened in four categories starting at 1:30 p.m. with the Borders and Barriers program in which people, things, and in the case of the animated Catnimation, a feline, collide with various facets of society or their own environment. This program features an extended version of the film Oil and Water, which recently won the audience award at the One Minute Film Festival. Other highlights of this program include the documentary Sarah, about a young queer woman haunted by the suicide of a young woman, and Hope, a science fiction film about a man and a woman racing to escape Earth only moments before it is destroyed once and for all.

The Blurred Realities program is exactly what it sounds like: skewed looks at what is, what was, and what hasn’t yet come to pass. Included in this program is the animated Thot, an animated look at a young child using his imagination to combat illness, and Marianne, a time travel drama about a young woman who panics after getting a glimpse at a grim future.

Nerve Endings acts as the genre and horror section of the festival with films designed to make you think as your skin crawls. The dark comedy Leaving a Pretty Corpse surrounds a young man who wants to kill himself but is too afraid off all the individual circumstances to go through with it. Inkling is the low key and chilling tale of a man with bad intentions trying to pick up a broken hearted woman at a grocery store. Out of every program, however, the film that seems to be generating the most buzz is The Murdered Innocence, a tale about a teenage girl driven to extremes to get her mother’s attention that has a twist that left several festival organizers talking about it long after they screened it.

The closing program, The Ups and Downs of Human Interaction, opens with the latest from Karen Forhan and Ashley Bowes, who won awards in the festival’s inaugural year. Their film, Flashes, focuses on a 75-year-old woman looking back on the defining moments of her life. My Brother’s Keeper is a documentary about Jermaine Hamilton from the band Nights and Weekends talking about his troubled childhood and his rise to becoming a community leader. Unwind is the animated story of a man going through the seven stages of grief at his thankless video store job.

Just like any festival, there is a giant awards gala at the end of it all where winners will receive practical prizes and awards (such as professional studio and editing bay time). Awards will be handed out for direction (both fiction and nonfiction), screenwriting, editing, cultural relevancy, and the always popular audience award. What makes this gala special is a live adjudication from the three member jury which allows filmmakers useful on-the-spot feedback. This event will be held at the Tranzac (292 Brunswick Avenue, $25 tickets in advance only) at 8:30 p.m. the same evening.

Tickets for individual programs are $8 in advance or $10 at the door. A full festival pass can be purchased in advance for $20. For tickets and more information, visit And remember, every great filmmaker has to get their start somewhere.

Andrew Parker

About Andrew Parker

Andrew Parker writes for numerous blogs and publications, including Notes From the Toronto Underground and his more personal pop-culture blog, I Can't Get Laid in This Town. He is also the curator of the Defending the Indefensible series of films at the Toronto Underground Cinema.