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Worldwide Short Film Festival (6/3-8/03).

THE ADS FOR the Worldwide Short Film Festival (WSFF) claimed, "Long Is Bad, Short Is Good," and yet there was no evident animosity against the longer-form films at this festival. The slogan simply emphasized the pride the filmmakers and festival programmers hold in the shorter form that isn't seen as much by mainstream audiences. But as actor Eric McCormack said at the screening of his film Pirates, making a short can be a stepping stone on the way to becoming a feature director. McCormack himself is in the process of writing the screenplay for his feature-directing debut as a result of the impression he made with his short.

Other films that were screened at this year's festival have pushed their filmmakers on to full-time director status. A year ago, Jonathan Hayes was one of four finalists wing for recognition in WSFF's pitch session. He won the session and though there was no monetary award, it created momentum that led him to a grant from Bravo!Fact. And from there the ball just kept rolling. His bright and hilarious film The School was screened at this year's festival. Based on a short story of the same name by American author Donald Barthelme and adapted by Hayes, The School is the story of a teacher who is diligently trying to teach his students how to be responsible when taking care of living things in the classroom; with sad yet intensely funny results. It won the Audience Award.

Brad Peyton who, after showing his 2002 film Evelyn: The Cutest Evil Dead Girl at a number of different festivals, has been asked to write and direct his first feature, The Spider and the Fly, for "Tom Hanks's company, Playtone. Evelyn, the story of an undead girl looking to make living friends, felt like an Edgar Allen Poe tale as told by Vincent Price and directed by Tim Burton. I half expected to see Johnny Depp show up and start pruning trees with his clipperhands. Evelyn got an honourable mention in WSFF'S Best Canadian Short category.

While they may help up-and-coming directors get their feet in the door, short films aren't simply tools to take directors to the big time. That's why this festival is about celebrating the short film, not as a stepping stone but as an art form in its own right. Established in 1994 and run for the past three years under the banner of the Canadian Film Centre, this year's WSFF screened many premieres of short films from around the world. Since all the films were less than 32-minutes long, six or seven films were screened together to avoid crowds constantly filing in and out of the theatres, and to give the festival-goers their money's worth.

One popular program was the Animator's Perspective on Aardman Animation, the company behind Chicken Run and the Wallace and Gromit shorts. After viewing classic stop-motion creations as well as Wallace and Gronfit's new Cracking Contraptions, the audience was given the opportunity to speak to Merlin Crossingham, a key Aardman animator who attended the festival to lead a symposium on its style of stop-motion animation. Another highly anticipated program was the Matrix-inspired animated collection, The Animatrix, which was repeated a second time due to popular demand.

The opening gala featured films that were worthy of the hype they may have received. Kicking off the festival was the stunning Canadian stop-motion film The Stone of Folly from Jesse Rosensweet, which left one awestruck by the well-crafted characters and settings. Reminiscent of the work of the Quay Brothers (whose films have been featured at this festival in past years) and more stunning than the Tool music videos, The Stone of Folly is a virtually silent look at an ancient mental ward and the removal of a stone from one patient's head. Alastair Dickson, the designer of all the models and sets for Folly, also designed the awards given out for the the WSFF's best films.

Whereas some festivals announce the winners after the last film is shown, leaving attendees thinking "I wish I had seen that movie," a clever and much welcomed concept at the WSFF was to announce the award winners before the end of the festival and to close with a screening of the winning films. The $25,000 prize for Best Canadian Short went to Dale Heslip's The Truth about Head, which stars Bruce Hunter, one of Canada's most recognizable ad actors, as Ed. Ed is just a head who feels that he needs a body to make him whole. But, as this 12-minute, brightly coloured comedy warns, sometimes what makes others whole is precisely the thing that makes us incomplete. Unsurprisingly, Heslip is now pitching a feature-length script.
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Title Annotation:festival wraps
Author:Gibb, Lindsay
Publication:Take One
Date:Sep 1, 2003
Previous Article:Yorkton Short Film and Video Festival (5/22-25/03).
Next Article:Banff Television Festival (6/8-13/03).

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