Apparently, I stopped writing down my ratings for the films after the 2nd screening of the day. Which matters less for the 3rd screening, as I wrote reviews of them during my break for food (Japanese, very tasty). However, as I was tired and all filmed out by the end of my last screening, I didn’t write the reviews at the time…and writing them now I was cursing my lack of star ratings. My opinions about the 2nd screening were much easier to retrieve with the stars as a guide…
Mutations: International Competition 1
Mutations was my favourite of the screenings. It was certainly strange but a good strange I felt. Half the films were animations and that always predisposes me to view positively. Overall it managed to balance the dark with the light well.
Edmund was a Donkey/Edmund était un âne (2012, Franck Dion, France/Canada)
Edmund was a Donkey is a definitely both the strangest and the saddest film in the collection. A small man, who has been by turns contentedly miserable and quietly happy comes to believe, after a cruel office prank, to believe himself to be a donkey. It’s a film about escapism, madness and more about how we treat those who we perceived to be ‘mad’ or ‘different’ and how thin the line between cruelty and kindness can be.
The Pub (2012, Joseph Pierce, UK)
The Pub is an animation and not an animation, as far as I can tell, it was filmed live with actors and then had animated effects added – rotoscoping perhaps? There’s an ugly beauty to the animation that lends it an extra power. The landlady of this particular pub can see the animals and monsters that lurk under the skins of her punters (and perhaps even under her own) which can be both a blessing and a curse.
Stammering Love/L’Amour Bègue (2012, Jan Czarlevski, Switzerland)
Stammering Love was my least favourite of this set, largely because handsome young man angsting about girl and how they are so shallow and can’t see past X thing about them, got old when I was still a teenager myself. The most interesting thing about the film is the way the central character fights to assert that it is the shallow casual hook-up culture itself that leaves him sad and depressed, rather than his lack of success in it.
Trans (2012, Mark Chapman, UK)
Trans is a documentary of a sort, built entirely of still photographs taken with very long exposures. The film grew from a conversation between the subject Callie and the film-maker, about Callie’s trans-ness. Which evolved into him documenting Callie’s transition to where she is now, which is comfortable. This gives the film’s narration an intimacy that would be hard to achieve otherwise, it feels like someone explaining something quite complex but very close to their heart to a friend, it presumes an audience that doesn’t understand but wants to. The nature of the photographs, always slightly blurred, matches well with the topic of gender fluidity and also serves to disguise a lot of the process of changing that both steers it away from seeming exploitive, and denies the inherantly voyeuristic nature of cinema.
Through Ellen’s Ears/Door De Oran Van Ellen (2011, Saskia Gubbels, Netherlands
Through Ellen’s Ears is a documentary following a young deaf girl, and to a lesser extent her deaf and hard of hearing classmates, as they face decisions about where they will go to secondary school: the hearing school, at hard of hearing school or to a boarding school for deaf children. Having grown up in deaf society she is keen to learn to interact with hearing society to help her cope with wider society once she leaves school. Whereas her parents and classmates are keener for her to go to deaf school where she will have community and better academic prospects. Making the whole process harder is that her best friend (from whom she is inseparable) is hard of hearing so cannot go to deaf school. Can they find a way to stay together and still get their educational needs met?
Fear of Flying (2012, Conor Finegan, Ireland
Fear of Flying is a charming little Irish animated film about a bird with a fear of flying. This, as one can imagine is rather a major problem for a bird in general life but worse when the rest of his kind fly south for the Winter. It was light weight and light-hearted and generally a bit of a relief after the intensity of the previous films in the screening.
Bottled Up: International Competition 2
This was the last screening of the day, and its late night slot was clearly intentional, as it was more consistently dark and the themes were definitely post-watershed. It was my least favourite of the screenings though whether that was due to the subject matter or if I was just burned out by that point, I can’t be sure. There were some very good films involved, I just got to the end of it feeling a bit ground down by them.
The Curse (2012, Fyzal Boulifa, Morrocco/UK)
The Curse is a rather depressing little film, in which a young woman has sneaked away from her village, to make a last rendez-vous with her older lover who is going abroad for a while. Having been caught by a young boy from her village, she begins the long walk home trailed by an increasing number of inexplicable village children, who taunt her with their knowledge and demand sweets in payment for their silent. Getting hold of said sweets proves more costly than she could have imagined or that they could understand.
This Charming Couple (2012, Alex MacKenzie, Canada)
This Charming Couple is odd and purposefully so. Created from water-damaged, found footage, from an old educational film, it transforms the footage for its own purposes, undermining the original message. But quite what the intended message of the new film is, remains as opaque and unclear as the footage itself.
The Buried/Sepulte (2012, Jonathon Pop Evans, USA)
The Buried is a film about a murder, or at least the aftermath. It’s apparently based on a real-life hate crime, from the evidence of the film, a traditional ‘gay panic’ effort. The film focuses on the awkward messy aftermath of trying to dispose of the body and facing up to the horror of what they’ve done in the cold light of day when the violent passions of the night have passed.
Under the Colours/Zur-e Parcham (2012, Esmaeel Monsef, Iran)
My favourite from this screening, by a long way. A red skirt is found caught on the barbed wire around an army barracks, having presumably blown off one of the washing lines belonging to the surrounding blocks of flats. A group of the soldiers rescue it and attempt to solve the mystery of where it came from and to return it to its rightful owner.
Softly One Saturday Morning/Mollement, Un Samedi Matin (2011, Sofia Djama, Algeria/France)
Softly One Saturday Morning is definitely one of the better films from this selection, even if I remain a bit leery of it for the whole ‘attempted rape’ as metaphor for the state of the country thing. The film is well-shot, atmospheric, and the lead actress’ performance was compelling and her character interesting and intelligent. The best of the film is undoubtedly the confrontation/debate between her and the police chief, I just feel there should have been a better way to get there, but perhaps that says more about the world the director lives in rather than the director herself.