It’s that time of year again, or at least it was when I started writing this in February, the Glasgow Film Festival was upon us and with it came the Short Film Festival. Either way, for once I’m not posting about all the interesting shorts I’d like to be watching but am not. (Though last year I did manage to see some Gaelic short films – which given the lack of excited email from FilmG I presume didn’t run this year.) This year I was prepared – ok, actually I was just paying attention when @glasgowfilmfest tweeted that tickets were selling out fast for the Frightfest strand. Having discovered that a high percentage of the programmes had a screening on a Saturday, most of them in the same screen at the CCA (no danger of making over-lapping bookings) I decided to embark on an epic day of short film watching.
It would actually be possible to see 6 of the short film programmes in one day – but you’d probably either need to bring your own sandwiches or be very good at eating very hot soup, very fast. Good sense, thankfully prevailed, I only booked for and I scheduled in time to actually have lunch and dinner.
Hooray for Hollywood: International Competition 7
I’ve been to a few film festivals over the years and while I was nominally aware of audience awards for films it wasn’t something of which I had any experience. However, low and behold, a member of festival staff came round the screening, presented me with a ballot paper and a pen, explained the voting system and there I was, part of the system. So if some of the reviews seem a little as though I’m awarding and deducting points as I go – that’s because I was.
Hollywood Movie (2012, Volker Schreiner, Germany) ****
Hollywood Movie is a construction, or possibly more accurately a reconstruction of an existing text. The text is a mediation on a different way of engaging with cinema and the text is constructed from clips of Hollywood movies to form the monologue from cut up snippets of existing movie dialogue. It’s cleverly done, well edited and the juxtaposition of original and constructed context is by turns interesting, poignant and at times humorous. It’s rather meta and honestly I think its more a work of video art than a short film but the more I think about it the more I think it needs to be seen by a cine-literate audience that appreciates it fully. It really needs being projected in the dark into that shared audience space.
Jerry and Me (2012, Mehmaz Saeedvafa, USA) ***
Jerry and Me is an autobiographical documentary about the relationship between and the impact on an Iranian film-maker by the films of Jerry Lewis. Given that she has been living and working in the US for a long time now and the times that we live in, its also about her wider relationship with cinema and with the US. It’s an interesting little documentary, and the archive footage of Iran is fascinating, but in the end I wasn’t exactly sure what message it wanted its audience to take away from it.
The First Hope (2012, Jeremy White, USA) ***
The First Hope is odd. It looks good, the dialogue is minimal and its a fairly tender view of first love and growing up. It’s also a bit about obsession with movies you watch repeatedly, with your first crush, all the little transgressive pleasures of early teen love/crushes. And I’d probably have like it far better if I hadn’t seen so many art films with implied or subtextual incest in the background…
Warning Triangle (2011, Virgil Widrich, Austria) ****
Warning Triangle suffers from the same issue as Hollywood Movie, except more so because it doesn’t have a clear through-line of narrative. It’s very effective at what it does and I enjoyed it but it didn’t feel like a film? It probably doesn’t help that it started out as an installation in a museum demonstrating autophillia…
Burning Hearts (2011, James McFay, Japan) *****
Burning Hearts is my favourite from this selection. It starts out as a tale of urban ennui and disengagement. A depressed taxi driver mourns the loss of his ambition and dreams, a mysterious woman discovers her lover and her best friend are having an affair. Her tattoo fascinates the taxi driver and her lover promises her will ‘take care of her’ only for her to mugged by a gang moments later. The fight scene that follows is almost comic yet brutal enough to avoid parody. There’s something almost computer game-esque about the fight-scene. And it has the best pause in a fight scene I’ve ever seen. It’s not clear how much is real or fantasy or quite what those linking tattoos on their wrists mean but they’ve clearly found whatever they were looking for and somehow, that’s enough.
Adrift: International Competition 4
Adrift seems a particularly appropriate title for this programme of short films, as their protagonists are all somewhat adrift in their very different ways.
Echo (2012, Lewis Arnold, UK) ****
Echo has a clever and rather strange conceit, which is hard to explain without ruining the reveal of the film. The reveal comes early on in the film but its worth seeing unspoiled. It’s an interesting take on grief and how we deal with it after the initial shock of it, how it can trap us and consume us if we let it. And that ring tone will haunt you afterwards.
The Globe Collector (2012, Summer De Roche, Australia) *****
The Globe Collector is a charming if odd documentary about an Australian eccentric. A man who collects lightbulbs (light globes) of every kind. He’s passionate about electronics and determined to preserve the legacy of their innovation before they are eradicated to give way to the more ecofriendly energy-saving variety.
Secrecy/Sigilo (2012, Karla Gomez Keep, Argentina) ***
If The Globe Collector is odd in a good way then Secrecy is odd in a bad way. It’s the sort of film people describe as ‘dreamlike’, melancholic or contemplative when actually they mean beautifully shot but almost nothing actually happens. The children are interchangeable, none of the characters get developed, there’s no apparent plot and nothing actually happens until the denouement at which point I was a) baffled and b) keen to follow the small girl’s course of action if it meant the film would end.
Vanishing Point (2012, Abhijit Mazumdar, India) *****
Take all your expectations about Indian cinema and leave them at the door. This is not an India that most people reading this will have seen on screen. There is no Bollywood glamour here, nor is there any ‘poverty porn’ to feel voyeuristic watching, Vanishing Point owes more to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas than anything else (if Hunter S. Thompson had been Indian and smoking cannabis rather than all the psychotropics he could get his hands on and Dr Gonzo had been sane, sober and rather put upon…). It’s the story of two young film-makers – very different people, and arguably friends who are slowly drifting apart – on a location scouting trip in the countryside, they’re in search of the perfect bus stop but they find (and lose) all sorts of other things along the way.
I Am Tom Moody (2012, Ainslie Henderson, UK) *****
I Am Tom Moody is a weird but compelling stop motion film, that’s a bit about a childhood, but definitely not for kids. It’s about pursuing lost dreams, and facing your demons, about facing the little voice that says you can’t and facing up to where that really comes from. It’s touching and sad, and worth sticking with despite the un-promising beginning.