It is an unfortunate reality that amidst the hype and glamour surrounding many big budget films during TIFF 2013, smaller gems become ignored or forgotten. Independent films (those not produced by large production companies) and short films (those running forty minutes or less) can often provide a movie-watching experience that matches that of a film costing millions to make or running for hours on end. Here are a few independent and short films to watch for this year.
Starring established actors Ralph Fiennes and Felicity Jones, The Invisible Woman is an independent film nonetheless, telling the little-known but much-speculated-upon story of the affair of Charles Dickens. Fiennes also directs this sweeping period piece that is based on Claire Tomalin’s biography of the Dicken’s teenage mistress Nelly Ternan. The film promises to reveal a side of the great author of which many are not aware amidst the lush and detailed sets and costumes of the nineteenth century.
David Morse and Cory Monteith star in this characteristically tense and gritty independent action-drama from director Josh C. Waller. The dark secrets of aging cop Eugene “Mack” McCanick (Morse) are slowly revealed as he embarks on a relentless search to track down a young male criminal whom he helped convict years prior (Monteith). The tragedy of the film is augmented by the knowledge that this marks the young, late Monteith’s final film role.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes his feature directorial debut with the racy independent comedy Don Jon, which he also wrote and in which he stars as womanizer and Internet porn addict Jon Martello Jr. Although seemingly fixed in his ways, the potential for change presents itself to Martello along with new woman Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), who may be able to rescue him from his self-destructive spiral. Gordon-Levitt is already firmly established as a dynamic acting force, it will be interesting to see if critics and audiences react to his directing with similar enthusiasm.
This film appears in this year’s “Short Cuts Canada” program, which features short films from established as well as up-and-coming Canadian filmmakers. In Anatomy of Assistance, director Cory Bowles crafts the story of a rebellious fifteen-year-old girl who sets off a chain of events when she is forced to accept financial assistance to aid in her education. This performance marks the debut of young Torontonian actress Keeya King, who is definitely one to watch.
We Wanted More, also appears in the “Short Cuts Canada” program, and chronicles a young singer’s descent into madness after she loses her voice on the night of her debut world-tour performance. Crafting a satisfactory psychological thriller in only fifteen minutes will certainly present a challenge, and watching Dunn’s response should prove to be a fascinating, and hopefully gripping, experience.
A final short film from the “Short Cuts Canada” program is Out, directed by feature-film director Jeremy Lalonde, which offers a comical twist on the traditional coming-out-of-the-closet storyline. Instead of having his protagonist admit that he is gay, Lalonde plays with another hot theme of the moment and has him claim vampirism instead. This short promises to provide laughs as well as reveal truths about family dynamics and the importance of remaining true to oneself.
Photo Credits: Toronto International Film Festival