This year, I’m a media sponsor of the sixth annual Toronto Smart Phone Film Festival, which is entirely focused on filmmakers who use smartphones or tablets to make their creations. I sadly had to miss the first night of the festival on June 15, but I was in attendance for Day 2, which featured a selection of 11 short films. Here is a rundown of the films that played as part of TSFF Day Two.
The Big City (Apple iPhone SE)
The Big City is an experimental short film, which combines visuals of microscopic organisms, with that of a city soundscape. Not entirely sure how this was made with a smartphone, but it is quite fascinating to watch this microscopic world in action.
The Retarded Child (Samsung Galaxy Note 5)
This short uses a surreal animated style to tell a story about an extraordinary child in an ordinary world. However, the film is over before you know it and the story was not able to fully register with me.
Good Day to Die (Apple iPhone 6 Plus)
This is a powerful short documentary, as filmmaker Adrian Jeffs tells the story of his life with depression. In just a few short minutes, Good Day to Die tells a lot about the people suffering from depression, as the wish that people view others for who they are. And then there is the ending.
Express (Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge)
A woman recounts a chance encounter on a train platform and the repercussion of her actions. Thematically, Express is quite similar to Good Day to Die, since it’s heavily suggested that the protagonist is guilty about ignoring a suicidal individual. However, this drama is not as effective as the previous documentary, but still somewhat well done.
Octo (Samsung Galaxy Note 3)
An experimental film featuring rainbow shapes moving to music. The description of Octo says that it is a “poetic expression of finding inner peace is a busy and polluted city.” I did not really see any of that in the film, but it was still somewhat charming to watch.
Hitchhiking (with a .357 Magnum) (Apple iPhone 4S)
In this documentary, Jeremy Bryant decides to hitchhike to his grandfather’s funeral, while also testing Oregon’s open carry laws by seeing if people who pick him up are bothered by the fact that has a .375 Magnum with him. I have a lot to say about Hitchhiking (with a .357 Magnum). For starters, I should probably note that it is next to impossible for me to separate the content of this documentary from my personal support of gun control laws. Apparently, Jeremy Bryant’s goal with this film was to show the inherent kindness of strangers, who don’t really mind that you are carrying a gun in your pocket. However, in doing so, the film gives off a somewhat distorted message, especially since it was edited in such a way to only show the positive encounters. Also, on a technical note, Hichhiking (with a .357 Magnum) is merely a bunch of self-shot video-blogs edited together, making the film look quite amateur hour, especially the fact that Jeremy Bryant shot everything vertically. This is without a doubt my least favourite short of this group.
Stranger in My Bed (Samsung Galaxy Note 3)
Chris comes home to find his girlfriend in bed…with a clone of himself. Stranger in My Bed is a quirky little romantic comedy, which does build to a pretty funny punchline. However, the film did have some notable sound issues and was probably a little too short. However, it’s still fine.
Haris (Moto Z Play)
A boy wants to buy a teddy bear for a girl and runs around town searching for enough change. If you need proof that well-made films could be made with smartphones, Haris is a great example of this. The film is well-shot and features a very engaging story of a young boy on the search of enough money to buy a present. I very much liked this film.
The Fawn (Apple iPhone 4S and 5C)
A young “fawn” runs through a magical world looking for water. A simple description of The Fawn is “fun with Snapchat filters.” Indeed, the film uses the app to create a very fantastical world within a fairly average building. This is a very artistic and cute film.
Cuba Libre (Apple iPhone 5)
A man travels to Cuba and finds himself obsessed with a beautiful woman. Cuba Libre is a romantic comedy with a quirky dialogue-free story and some quite well-shot visuals. In addition to the video footage, this film also seems to utilize the pixilation technique to animate some photos. Overall, this was a well-done film.