There is no shortage of Canadian short films. Just ask TIFF Short Cuts programmers Lisa Haller and Jason Anderson. The duo sifted through the 789 Canadian titles with runtimes of 49 minutes or less in order to discover the 20 Canuck titles included in this year’s Short Cuts lineup.

In all 56 films – 20 Canadian titles and 36 international titles – will be featured in the Short Cuts program. The showcase is comprised of stories told in short form in various styles and genres including narrative, documentary, comedy and thriller.

It’s an exciting lineup that even caught the attention of Hollywood. Fox Searchlight has acquired two titles in the program: “Feathers” (a world premiere at TIFF, pictured above), directed by A.V. Rockwell, and “Birdie,” from Shelly Lauman. (an international premiere). “It’s largely unprecedented for a studio to venture into the shorts world like this and see this as an opportunity to support emerging filmmakers so we’re hugely excited,” Anderson said,

Despite separate announcements for selected Canadian and international shorts, Anderson says that determining what to include in the program is the same for natives and non-natives.

“Lisa and I have a big variety of objectives when we’re putting together Short Cuts,” says Anderson. “But first and foremost we’re looking for films that feel fresh and surprising. How the films themselves actually achieve that can be very different but the ones that tend to make the cut all boast a new kind of voice, approach or perspective. And like all great short films, the ones we choose for Short Cuts have to be so ruthlessly concise, they don’t let a single moment go wasted.”

Up until the 2013 TIFF’s Short Cuts program consisted of Canuck titles only. (Canadian films are films that were directed by a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada and list Canada as one of the countries of production. All other films are considered international films.) While there had been a long history of playing experimental shorts in the fest’s Wavelengths program, it wasn’t until 2014 that TIFF programmers decided to add international shorts to the slate. That same year short films were divided into two separate programs –  Short Cuts Canada and Short Cuts International. In 2015, the two sections were combined to become one short film showcase.

This year’s two dozen Canadian shorts showcase films that tell stories of complex human relationships and introduce a range of characters facing challenges from coming to terms with one’s own identity to understanding the importance of heritage, family, and the fragility of friendships.

“The Short Cuts program (in its entirety) shares a quality of boldness and an eagerness to break conventions,” Anderson says. “Amongst the Canadian selections, we’ve got a great balance of alumni filmmakers and discoveries.”

In all, 15 Canadian TIFF alumni are featured in this years Short Cuts program including Galen Johnson, Evan Johnson, and Guy Maddin. The directing trio are responsible for “Accidence,” a 10 minute action packed narrative making its North American premiere. Fellow returning Canuck filmmakers in Short Cuts include Caroline Monnet and Amanda Strong. Monnet’s nine minute short documentary “Emptying the Tank” follows a Chippewa female mixed martial artist while Strong’s 19 minute stop-motion animation film “Biidaaban (The Dawn Comes)” weaves together multiple worlds through time and space.

Monnet and Strong are not only festival alumni but they also make up two of the 15 Canadian female filmmakers featured in this year’s program. (Of the 56 films in the entire Short Cuts program this year, 30 films are directed or co-directed by female filmmakers.) The duo are joined by Alison Snowden (“Animal Behaviour,” co-directed with David Fine); Claire Edmondson (“Exit”) and artist, Roney (“Glitter’s Wild Women”). Both Edmondson and Roney will make their short film debuts at the fest.

Edmondson, who directed music videos and commercials prior to making “Exit,” says she knew that “making a short was a great calling card to get my foot in the door.”

Starring Maria Bello, “Exit” captures a single day in the life of a woman confronting the consequences of an irreversible decision.

“I’m already seeing the benefits of my film being selected to premiere at TIFF.” helmer says. “I have producers and agents reaching out to me who saw the film on industry tracking boards, plus I am in talks to turn the short into a feature.”

Anderson points to short form films as a way in for not only emerging filmmakers like Edmondson and Roney, but also established directors.

“Short films allow for a kind of risk taking and daring that may not be possible elsewhere in the film world,” says Anderson. “The opportunities of the form are as valuable to emerging filmmakers as they are to seasoned TIFF regulars like Guy Maddin. In other words, short films are where new filmmakers find their voices and veterans get a chance to do some valuable R and D (research and development). All that means a big payoff for short film viewers, especially if they want to stay ahead of the cinematic curve.”