JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Toronto Urban Film Festival - Natural (Guest Judge: Mark McKinney) - September 10, 2008

Toronto Urban Film Festival - Natural

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Urban Natural

33 Revolutions
Dan Sacco
Four and one-half stars
Looking up into a clear blue sky, much foliage circles around the screen: sometimes lush, full leaves from healthy trees; sometimes an incomprehensible “modern” blur. A solitary hand finds its way into the frame: taking or giving? Guaranteed to generate discussion.

Cherry Beach
Denise Duric and Jim Allodi
Four and one-half stars
A quintet of dancers move amongst staid arbours, celebrating life under Nature’s watchful eye. The balance is a marvel even if the execution has moments that lack unanimity. The starkness of glorious black-and-white only adds to the effect. Here’s to a broader canvas for the next project.

Coronation Park
Kim Derko and Su Rynard
Four stars
Another film looking up and into trees—this time in winter. The bare limbs are intercut with passing traffic while the imperative “breathe” lights up the screen in many languages. The mighty trees soak up much of the carbon dioxide belched into the air by the endless streams of traffic; no wonder a few of the Whitman beauties are shown upside down.

Deer … Foraging
Leila Armstrong and Chai Duncan
One star
A deer-costumed human picking through a public trash can in a cemetery. Great premise but falls far short of its potential in the delivery.

Eddie’s Revenge
Arianna Andrei
Five stars
Don’t fuck with Eddie. He’s a successful spider whose World Wide Web provides a buffet of tasty flying insects daily. He’s so successful that a competitor has the audacity to spin into the action. Seems that Eddie loves a parade—especially when he can dump a rival into its midst. Here’s a film with legs of a different kind!

Gayla’s Garden
Stacey Dodge
Two stars
The frantic pace of this horticultural survey robs the screen of any real moment of beauty—only the pig planter is allowed enough time to settle into consciousness. Instead of happiness and joy, we’re left with indigestion of a scrumptious meal too quickly consumed. Perhaps a sparser menu …?

Derek Sookdeo
Four and one-half stars
Man vs. Nature uses a collage of cars and a sidewalk to depict the struggle for life on an ever-increasingly polluted planet. Tellingly—as an animated plant dares to show its colourful plumage through the cracks of a downtown sidewalk (having the “no trucks” street sign in the frame is a subtle touch)—, as soon as the blooms are at their prime they are unwittingly obliterated. Combining both real images and animation makes the point again.

Sewing the City Green
Robert Marks and Audrey Lawson
Five stars
This time, Nature terrorizes the urban jungle and its inhabitants while in its infancy: a caterpillar’s camouflage-green and numerous vine-clinging legs generate fear and resentment. Miraculously bursting into spectacularly coloured wings atop the CN Tower, the newborn butterfly floats down into a park where its beauty is both welcome and revered. Exceptionally well-crafted and conceived.

Stefan Petranek
Three stars
A singular view of a backyard bursting into spring. Great to see a real clothesline put into service.

Tall Grasses
Emily Rosamund
One star
Apparently intending to be at one with the thick grasses that surround them, these synchronized hands fail to reflect the gentle movement of the verdant blades. Nature takes the gold.

The Spit
Lemei Koo
Three stars
This travelogue for the Leslie Spit spends a bit too long on the Lakeshore and would benefit from capturing a few frames of the abundant animal and bird life that could drive home the filmmaker’s point with greater authority. JWR

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