Friday, July 31, 2015

Short takes on a shorts film festival

My evening at Media City’s 21st festival at downtown Windsor’s Capitol Theatre last night consisted of watching three programs - one featuring regional film artists and two international filmmakers...…In the regional category my fave was London’s Josh Romphf’s Void. Here the viewer is sucked into a grid like alternate universe or the emptiness that defines another existence underlying or surrounding our own. There is a metaphysical context, of course, for grids underlying and empowering consciousness and experience. Romphf, including with his grunting otherworldly score, seems to nail it here…..Local and Toronto filmmaker Annie MacDonell’s The Fortune Teller, a depiction of an art restorer reconstructing a broken sculptured hand, is notable for its narrator’s abstracted monotone meticulous description of the sculpture’s damage and requirements for rebuilding, straight out of an art restoration text or like a coroner’s description of a corpse’s wounds. The finished rebuild joins the inanimate object with a real life painted hand and in the end seems to embody it….Windsor filmmaker and musician Scotty Hughes’s The Strait (Le Détroit), a multi-media project where Hughes innovatively plays synth to an 8 mm long lost film of the Windsor riverfront, may surprise and even shock about what the city’s now splendid riverfront used to look like - an industrial scar filled with boxcars about to be loaded on to railway ferries. Nostalgia can be good and bad…..In the first international program, virtually all seven films address landscape and nature in some way, usually in contrast to co-existing human built structures, detritus, or threats. Fern Silva’s Wayward Fronds looks at the peculiar natural and tourist facets of the Everglades subject to human intervention - including touristy Mermaids! - and how nature, with snakes invading a motel room, can reclaim it. Robert Todd’s Falling features rapid fire shots of, well, falling leaves in an urban setting. The beautiful patterns are sometimes marred by the ugliness of things like fast food wrappers. Or as the filmmaker called it, “a beautiful pile of dead leaves but who the hell cares” and “the world is falling around us”.....In Thomas Kneubühler’s Forward Looking Statements the camera moves closely over a vast tract of land in northern Canada with a voice over of a conference call between multinational iron ore company officials and business analysts discussing the area’s huge investment mining potential. The last scene shows an aboriginal with a rifle turning and pointing to the camera with his finger. Regardless of artistic merit (Falling is the best in terms of deft camera work and soundtrack) all three films repeat standard environmentalist credo of which the indie film world is replete…..The second international program was more interesting. Johann Lurf’s Embargo is a slick superrealistic visual survey of an armaments factory at night, with a glistening syncopated soundtrack. Beep from Kim Kyung-man is a send-up of patriotic South Korean lore. Who knew? And while the jingoistic nationalism is over the top it’s ironic that the filmmaker’s mockumentary is of a country juxtaposed with perhaps the world’s most repressive regime…..Basma Alsharif’s O, Persecuted employs grainy historical imagery in the service of the Palestinian cause. Will there be a film putting forward the Israeli view next?.....And John Smith’s Dark Light is a short meditation on visiting Poland during the Solidarity movement and the rise of Thatcherism. Graphically his enlarging dark tunnel is arresting. Smith despises Thatcher and finds the lack of commercialism in the Communist country refreshing, with visits to nondescript shops intriguing, and warns that capitalist liberation isn't all it's cracked up to be. Beats the Red version.

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