Thursday, September 24, 2009

News Article (YCFF) It's the young one

Artice by Bill Brownstein, Montreal Gazette
Profiles the Festival, Meltdown and Emergency Exit
Also made me sound a lot more coherent and eloquent than I feel right now.

They used our poster! With the logo. WOO! + HOO!

YoungCuts Film Festival - It's the young one

MONTREAL - Inquiring minds just might want to know how the YoungCuts Film Festival is different from the other 385 or so film fests that play Montreal annually.

YoungCuts director Michael Ryan has a ready response: “It’s probably the largest film festival in the world for filmmakers 25 years old and younger. Plus, it’s our mandate not only to give these filmmakers a platform, but also to find them work after.”

That works for me. And that should work for the rest of you, too. All the more so since YoungCuts offers patrons more creative bang for their bucks than almost any entertainment spectacle anywhere.

The 7th YoungCuts fest will showcase 100 films – of all lengths and from all genres known to man as well as a few genres not yet known – from 12 countries, beginning tomorrow and running until Oct. 1 at the Cinéma du Parc. Tickets for screenings are a steal at $7.50 each and even more of a steal if you buy a booklet of 10 for $50.

If you are not blown away by many of these mostly no-budget flicks, you may have to check yourself for a pulse. Okay, no-budget may be a bit of an overstatement. Budgets for the films run anywhere from $50 to $5,000.

“If you totalled the budgets of all 100 films, the amount still wouldn’t cover the catering cost for Transformers 2. Nor would that sum cover more than one second of screen time on Transformers 2,” Ryan muses. “But it’s hard to quantify in dollar figures the blood, sweat and tears these filmmakers put into their work for no salary at all.”

Which explains why Ryan and festival chairman Jay Moulton feel a responsibility to land these filmmakers some work. Through the Canadian Heritage Information Network, Ryan and Moulton have arranged for a group of YoungCuts grads to shoot 80 shorts on Canadian museums and to get paid for their efforts. Over the years, YoungCuts alumni have also shot commercials for the likes of Pepsi, Air Canada and Astral Media.

Oh yeah, and for Montrealers looking for additional incentive to attend, YoungCuts is one of the few to reverse that annoying trend and to move east here along the 401. That’s right, we snagged this one from Toronto.

It began in 2001 as the Toronto International Teen Film Festival, but moved here as YoungCuts in 2006. “We wanted more of an international flavour to the festival and just felt that Montreal would afford us that opportunity,” Ryan says.

“And it has paid off. We now have more films from more countries than ever being submitted.”

Ryan and his team had to sift through some 1,000 fictional, documentary and animated offerings (and combos thereof) from 25 countries to arrive at the top 100. Then they had to go through that batch of 100 to arrive at the “Top 10 Plus 1,” which will screen closing night on Oct. 1.

Among the represented countries are Canada, the U.S., Britain, the Czech Republic, the Philippines, France, Argentina, Egypt, Singapore, India and the first ever entry from Norway.

The Norwegian entry, Emergency Exit, is a riveting short drama about two men entering a bank for opposite reasons. One is dying and decides to empty his account so that he can go out with a bang. The other is a destitute widower and seeks to rob the bank in order to provide for his young daughter. In the chaos following the aborted heist, the thief takes the dying dude hostage. But they soon establish an unusual bond: the Stockholm Syndrome in Oslo, if you will.

“What strikes me most about these films is the passion and the ingenuity of the filmmakers, and then to get these films done on minimal amounts is amazing,” Ryan says. “It all bodes well for the future of filmmaking.”

One of the most dazzling works in this year’s collection is The Meltdown by American director David Green. Part live-action, part computer-generated animation, the short – which will be featured in the Top 10 Plus 1 screening Oct. 1 – looks like it came out of Pixar or Disney or the NFB, for such is its sophistication and brilliance of its premise. Difference is that its budget was in the hundreds.

The Meltdown action takes place in a fridge that’s gone on the fritz. Conditions are sub-polar inside. An orange has perished from the frost. The ham, mayo, butter, spaghetti and leftover Chinese food now fear for their lives. Unbeknownst to humans, these food products can talk and move their parts and get most agitated.

But they have come up with a plan. They conscript a celery stick to try to turn up the temperature in the refrigerator. It’s do or die. Will the celery stick buckle under the pressure? Will the ever-limp spaghetti noodle have to tighten itself up and come to the rescue?

Best check for yourselves. Don’t want to spoil the suspense.

The YoungCuts Film Festival kicks off Friday night and runs until Oct. 1 at the Cinéma du Parc, 3575 Park Ave. Tickets are $7.50 per screening; or 10 tickets for $50. For tickets and information, call 514-285-4591 or go to

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