The seven-minute short film, which chronicles the fallout of a toxic polyamorous relationship, took home three of the 2019 festival’s top prizes during an awards ceremony at the Yonge-Dundas Cineplex on Aug. 22 – including Best Director and Best Picture trophies for Yeimy Daza.
“The feeling of tonight, it’s awesome,” the 24-year-old native Colombian said in an interview after her double wins for Poly, which she both wrote and directed.
“To be able to see your movie on the big screen, in a Cineplex, is just an incredible experience and I think that this is just another way to convince myself that this is the right path because I don’t see myself doing anything else. I really want to direct movies.”
In total, 46 different student projects – including short films, documentaries, commercials, PSAs and music videos – were screened over the course of the day-long Festival of Films, which culminated in an evening awards ceremony emceed by Schitt’s Creek Executive Producer Andrew Barnsley.
“This is a night I look forward to every year,” said Barnsley, who’s attended TFsFF for the last three years in his capacity as the school’s Executive Producer in Residence.
“Believe it or not, I’ve watched every film and I have to tell you, every year I’m blown away by the production values and the level of standards that you students are achieving here. It doesn’t look like student films from when I went to school. So, it’s really wonderful that we’re here celebrating your work.”
To judge this year’s slate of TFsFF nominees, Yale Massey said 23 industry professionals were commissioned to help cull more than 130 student submissions down to just 16 winners – including TIFF International Programmer Joanne Schoettle (Best Film) and Private Eyes Producer Alex Jordan (Best Director).
“Most (judges) had nothing to do with the school at all, because we wanted an unbiased approach. But regardless of winners and losers, just having your films played here today was a huge accomplishment,” Massey, co-program director of the TFS’s Film Production Diploma, told the young filmmakers in attendance.
“As an audience, we often just sit back and eat popcorn and watch the films, and we’re not realizing that on several of these sets, there were over 60 people working on the film each day, there were set builds to do, and in one case, there was music to produce before the filming took place. It was just a huge undertaking, so way to go!”
In total, 16 awards were handed out during TFsFF’s two-hour awards ceremony.
“I’ve always liked musicals and I wanted to experience how it is to produce one,” said Falks, who also co-wrote and directed the film, said in an interview after the awards.
“The big challenge was creating the music before the short film, because you have to imagine your film done before it’s been recorded or even before you have the actors there…but it was also very fun. I would love to do it again.”
Natalia Aranguren, who took home the Best Female Performance award for her portrayal of Poly’s title character, said the experience of making the film only served to validate her decision to come to Toronto Film School from Colombia to study Acting for Film, TV and the Theatre.
“It was a really huge change of life and a really big risk that I took,” the 26-year-old said of leaving her family and friends behind to pursue her dreams.
“So, this (award) makes me really proud…I think this is just the next step for me to know that I’m capable to do this.”
Likewise, Michael Abram said his award-winning turn as a potentially murderous teen in Roots was a boost to his self-esteem.
“I think (this award) will definitely help me confidence-wise, and to be able to understand maybe if I do put in hard work that I will be able to give good performances,” said the 21-year-old Best Male Performance award winner, who counts Joaquin Phoenix and Daniel Day-Lewis amongst his acting role models.
“This was my first short film that I’ve ever done, and probably my first real on-set experience, so it was a learning experience. I learned from doing it and ultimately, as a result, I’ll be a better actor for it.”
The full list of winners from the 2019 Toronto Film School Festival of Films is as follows:
– In Memoriam – Dylan Budnieski
Best Female Performance
Best Male Performance
– Roots – Michael Abram
– Cranes – Christine Cortes
– Maria – Welsey “Welly” Woo
Best Visual Effects
– Algorithms – Will Dano
Best Film Editing
– Abra Ka Dabra – Rohit Singh Kathuria
Best Production Design
– Orbit – Jacob Ide & Tatiana Flores
– Big Waters – Yuliya Kornienko
– The Cowboy – Mike Wong
Best Music Video
– Chosen – Kendal Straughn
Motion Design Award
– Sameehan Gadkari
Best Graduating Video Game
– Last Drive – Fall 2018