Screen Shot From Short Film Am Routine, 2013 By Renee Perrott

Drawing and Intermedia students represent U of A at TUFF – curious arts

Screen shot from short film - AM Routine, 2013 by Renee Perrott

Renee Perrott and Emilie St. Hilaire’s shorts hit Toronto’s subway film festival

From a fortnight in September the attention – and imaginations – of commuting Torontonians was captured by the screening of the Toronto Urban Film Festival. The 2013 rendition of the festival affectionately known as TUFF included two one-minute films by U of A drawing and intermedia students Renee Perrott and Emilie St. Hilaire. Their short silent films adorned 290 subway platform screens from September 6-16th, 2013 throughout Toronto’s extensive rapid transit system. The origin of Renee and Emilie’s silent films was a class project administered by their UAlberta instructor, Professor Maria Whiteman, who encouraged her Drawing & Intermedia students to submit their works for TUFF 2013.

With an audience in excess of one million, Emilie and Renee’s films joined eighty additional films hailing from twenty countries throughout the world. The call for entries, specifying silent films of no greater duration than 60 seconds, receives record entries every year. As the seventh consecutive year of its operation, 2013 was no exception. With fierce competition and the seasoned judgment of prolific and renowned Canadian Director Bruce McDonald determining TUFF’s 2013 lineup, fans of TUFF were treated to a visual lineup to rivaling 2012’s remarkable success. McDonald got his own break when Roadkill, a film focusing on protagonist Ramona’s encounters with a motley crue of characters in the Canadian wild whilst on a mission to catch up with runaway band members, won Most Outstanding Canadian Film at Toronto’s own Festival of Festivals.

Film Still from Eternity by Emilie St Hilaire.

Film Still from Eternity by Emilie St Hilaire.

Emilie St. Hilaire’s film, titled Eternity and grouped by TUFF as part of a thematic mini-collection The Birds & The Bees exploring themes relating to animals, features a beetle lying upended on a tile floor and absorbs most of the minute of film footage attempting to right itself with various degrees of assisted intervention from the filmmaker. At one point, the beetle is ‘thrown a rope’ in the form of a stem of dried grass. In this manner, a palpable tension, a mini-drama of sorts is enacted in an incredibly confined space, within a confined period, and on a level at which few of us have the opportunity to observe life during the course of our daily routines.

“It’s exciting to know Eternity played at various locations around Toronto during the International Film Festival. Following its success, I’m currently considering submitting a project proposal to Pattison’s other public art projects. I think it’s great to have the opportunity to present creative work in public spaces usually reserved for advertising,” said Emilie St. Hilaire.

Renee Perrott’s AM Routine, grouped with a series of films TUFF collectively titled What Not To Do, features a morning dress routine gone awry, in which the protagonist is encumbered by their garments to a point of near paralysis.

“TUFF hosts a great opportunity for video artists of any level to get their work shown in an interesting and unusual context. The accepted films are viewed by millions of people, which is very exciting,” Renee Perrott.

TUFF’s programming does not end there. Building on the success of 2012, commuters need not be swept from their viewing by surging commuters mid-film. Special ‘Film Zone’ screens located at Bloor, Dundas and St. Andrew subway stations offer an uninterrupted viewing experience. Heading north from Dundas station, TUFF enthusiasts were also greeted by media artist David Clark’s half-dozen short films commissioned by TUFF especially for the largest sky-high media screen in the whole of downtown Toronto, collectively titled Subdivision. Further opportunities to view TUFF’s offerings included an event at The Drake Hotel’s Screening Room in which each of the 85 films (including three not featured on subway station monitors for reasons of censorship) could be viewed on a continuous loop during the festival’s last days of airing.

So captivating were this year’s entries that Toronto Transit Chair (TTC) Chair Karen Stintz has remarked on the phenomena of commuters missing their train after having become absorbed by one or more of TUFF’s offerings. Whilst TUFF 2014 might not help Torontonians get to work on time, it is sure to intrigue and enthrall travelers of all ages. With the recent resurgence of interest in silent film (2011’s The Artist won five 2012l Oscars, including the coveted Best Motion Picture of the Year) we can expect TUFF to continue to inspire new generations of budding filmmakers.

-by Jacques Talbot (University of Alberta MA History candidate)

Photo of Jacques Talbot

Jacques Talbot (Supplied)

Presently an MA candidate in the History of Art, Design and Visual Studies program at the University of Alberta, my research looks to methods and aesthetics of museum display and how these change in light of technological innovations and applications in the arts. Specifically, I am interested in how a critical interpretation of museum display and procedure, and the medium of photography in particular, can inform the manner in which works are framed and received in a particular exhibition environment. I consider both older trends of display and emerging technologies that allow new modes of vision in the unique architectural context of the museum.

You can visit Emilie St. Hilaire’s website at  You can also follow her on Twitter @Emiliest or facebook at

Fans of Toronto Urban Film Festival can befriend TUFF at:

To keep up to date with the latest TUFF news, including TUFF 2014’s call for entries, follow: @tuffest

Feature image is a Film Still from AM Routine by Renee Perrott

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