A Selection of the Short Film of Toronto True Crime Film Festival [Toronto True Crime Film Festival 2018]

Don’t Be a Hero (USA) (2018)
In this short film by writer/director Pete Lee, Missy Pile plays Lizzi Jo a middle-aged woman living with her mother, working a dead-end job, who robs bank to break her monotonous life every once in a while. In this inspired by a true story film, the storytelling is strong and the acting is on point. The costumes are fun and the way this is all shot is fantastic. The film starts off with synthwave which feels annoying at first, but then becomes a big part of the film and of what helps it feel complete. It’s a short that is potent on emotions and filled with talented people in all positions.

Traffic Stop (USA) (2017)
After the video of a woman being the victim of excessive force while being arrested after a simple traffic violation went viral, Breaion King reels from the events and what transpired that day. Here she is shown learning to deal with the situation and its aftermath. She is not taking this by standing down, but by trying to make things change and be the change in her community. This short film by director Kate Davis shows the other side of the viral video, the human side of it and of police brutality. As is shown in the film and the video, this was an arrest that escalated way past where it needed to go. It also shows how this one woman decides to be stronger than this and overcome it in her own way. The main subject is one that is very timely and very important; the angle taken is a change from what most get to see in the media and on social media, making it an important film for many to see.

The Sandman (USA) (2016)
This documentary tackles what happens after the crime and conviction, when a person is sentenced to death and sent to their final resting place by professionals. This film talks about both sides of the debate, but is mostly about one man, one of the professionals in the death chamber, Dr. Musso, a man grappling with his own choices and his career, a man trying to justify, to himself mostly, why he does what he does, a man trying to connect his moral and beliefs with his work and what led him to do this work. It’s an interesting take on this situation, a take that is not often viewed as most documentaries about the death penalty are either about the convicted people, their crimes that led there, or the battle to eradicate it. Here director Lauren Knapp takes a different approach and humanizes the people working in the field, the people constantly justifying their work to the world and to themselves. This leads to a documentary without judgment, a documentary that brings one rarely seen side of the subject.

42 Counts (USA) (2018)
In the visually strongest short film of this ground, writer/director Jill Gevargizian teams back up with her The Stylist star Najarra Townsend to create another film that is chilling in a whole different way. In this true story inspired short, two friends played by Townsend and Andrea Dover discover hidden cameras in the latter’s apartment, leading them to finding out a peeping tom who has been watching them. This case is but one of the 42 counts this peeping tom has been charged with following his arrest, something that is both crazy because of sheer number and spine tingling in the worst way possible in how easily he was able to pull these, so many of these, off.

The short film here is short as a regular horror film, but the true crime source is horrific enough in and off its own. The cinematography by Jordan Rioux is carefully done, showing just the right things in frame while keeping the right things out, it’s creates effective images and sequences that heighten the film’s creep factor. As has been a regular occurrence with Gevargizian’s work, the film is very well shot with images that stick with the viewer long after the film is over, good writing, great directing, and strong performances. This is one of those films that could easily become a feature, but may very well be better suited to be a short film as it leaves a lot of questions unanswered, making it all the scarier for its unknown factors.

Maybe If It Were a Nice Room (Canada) (2016)
This short film by Alicia K. Harris is a visual spoken word piece. Her words on the images of nice rooms and not so nice rooms show how powerful these can be separately and together. Here the pairing of the images and the words hits home, hits hard. It’s a very short film, yet it packs a punch stronger than most feature films. It’s a must see if only to get some of the feelings victims, of what seems to be rape here, feels, how some might view it, how judgment can be done with the simplest of things, on the simplest of things. The film hits hard, is powerful, and is something all should see.