JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Toronto Urban Film Festival - Secrets (Guest Judge: Mark McKinney) - September 11, 2008

Toronto Urban Film Festival - Secrets

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Urban Secrets

77 Dunfield
Barbara Staulus
Four stars
What once was a street filled with single-unit housing has become another concoction of condo/apartment and office buildings. The one house left standing (already boarded up, preparing to meet its date with the wrecking ball) is a compelling symbol for urban “progress” everywhere. Point well made, another secret told.

City Revenge
Faisal Anwar
One star
This blurry ride through a crowded marketplace on motorbikes has as much trouble trying to make its point as reading the text from the cellphone, more than living up to its caption, “Where are we buddy”

Aubrey Reeves
Two and one-half stars
An ode to early-morning skating on a deserted public rink has much promise. The ink drawings are faithfully captured, yet the narrative is barely reinforced by the visual result. Less words, more detail could lift this personal secret to a higher plane.

I Could Never Forget You
Midi Onodera
One star
This personal fade-to-white from the point-of-view of a balcony barely fills its allotted frames, much less reveals its intent to anyone but the filmmaker.

Leonard’s City
Nadia Tan
Four and one-half stars
Now mature, puppet-man Leonard recalls how his initial discomfort with Toronto was gradually replaced by a marvellous feeling of being alive. His various destinations and favourite activities are marvellously drawn out of an antique office desk, slipping into our consciousness as easily as his engaging personality. Here’s a talent to nurture.

Outside the Box
Nick Fox-Gieg and Nicole Stamp
Four and one-half stars
This “Found in Translation” is a clever take on a lover’s spat that ends in one woman stomping out and the other—seemingly just helping others understand the proceedings—landing her man in what is most certainly a sign of the times. Fun at every turn.

Requiem for Coney Island
Lisa Platt
Four stars
An old-fashioned amusement park is in its last summer of fun, screams and cotton candy. Images from a black cat to empty thrill rides fulfill the promise of the title. Failing to reinvent a long-standing tradition has paved the way for demolition and a new megabuck resort. Just in case, better send a copy to the powers that be at the CNE.

Arlin Schaffel
Five stars
Commuter/actor Jason Chan uses his TTC pass for more than just transportation. What fun to see him descending the stairs, awaiting the next train and failing to get aboard. He knows the secret pleasure of a mighty blue spark that lights up the tracks and his eyes with inner joy that can’t fail to make anyone grin. Terrific idea, most professionally realized.

Corwyn Lund
Four and one-half stars
“He floats through the air with the greatest of ease”: no trapeze in this instance but a daring young man who scales the bricks of two very close buildings then unfurls an industrial strength swing and pumps away in a secret ecstasy of forbidden movement (the swing has since been removed). It’s a fantastic ride that the camera seems to enjoy as much as its owner.

The City Tells
Steve Reinke
Three stars
Decades-old footage of city planners at work largely forms the backdrop to the near-continuous banner (rather like single-engine airplane advertising) with the frequently repeated notion/warning that “the city tells you what to dream.” The only danger in using this archival set-up is viewers may not connect with the similar reality of today’s civic leaders, their generously compensated bureaucrats and their campaign-supporting developers.

The Old Crick
Sonia Edworthy
Four stars
Halifax is the setting for this wee bit of history. The life and death of an old creek that’s been covered over by the city but still lives on somewhat vicariously through a footpath far above. Stay tuned for the revenge of the sink holes! JWR

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