Blending live action and stop motion was the way to go at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), where two films that mixed the techniques won significant prizes from the Short Cuts competition.
Daria Kashcheeva’s Electra was the jury’s favorite short – animation or live action. In addition to a CAD $10,000 prize for winning best short film, Electra has now qualified for the 2024 Oscars. Kashcheeva is no stranger to the Academy; her film Daughter was nominated for best animated short in 2020.
Electra had loads of buzz coming off competition screenings at Cannes and Annecy and will screen in competition at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. The film is told from the first-person perspective of its adult titular protagonist, who recalls her 10th birthday and the lasting trauma it caused. Her memories become intertwined with dreams and imagination, represented in the film’s off-kilter mix of animation techniques. Complicated parental relationships are alluded to, and while Electra may be an unreliable narrator regarding the facts of her youth, there is no doubt that her pain is authentic.
According to the TIFF jury:
Singular and accomplished, this sickly-sweet nightmare of a film packs a mighty final punch. Visceral and infinitely textured, it leads us down a contorted rabbit hole with thematic and visual prowess. With great pleasure, the jury presents the Short Cuts Award for Best Short Film to Electra, directed by Daria Kashcheeva. Electra resonates with under-the-skin discomfort long after the film is over.
Electra wasn’t the only mixed-media film to capture the Short Cuts jury’s attention. Renee Zhan’s Shé (Snake) won the Share Her Journey Award at the Canadian festival.
A combination of horror, comedy, and teenage anxiety, Snake unspools as stress mounts on a young violinist in a London youth orchestra, causing her internalized monsters to take on corporeal forms.
Said the jury:
For this film’s incredibly original and surreal creativity, which is matched with beautiful acting, the jury is thrilled to give the Short Cuts Share Her Journey Award to Renee Zhan for Shé (Snake). It’s not common to be bewitched by grotesque creatures in a film, but here, they captured the hearts of the audience thanks to their humor and charm.
In the film’s primarily live-action trailer, we can quickly glimpse one of the charming “grotesque” stop-motion creatures sitting at a dinner table.
Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron, which opened this year’s TIFF, was second runner-up in the feature competition. It will screen next at the San Sebastián Festival on September 22 before its U.S. debut on October 1 at the New York Film Festival.