Sunday, 21 June 2009

Worldwide Short Film Festival - "What You See Is Not What You Get"

Because of some other things going on, I wasn't able to make it out to any of the Short Film Festival screenings this year. Fortunately, the fine publicity folks for the festival were kind enough to pass along some screeners, so I selected my top 4 anticipated sessions.

My first choice to view was the Official Selection set entitled "What You See Is Not What You Get" - each film was to follow a bit of a different path than perhaps you may have expected initially.

Section 44 (directed by Daniel Wilson) - A man gets abducted coming out of his house and is brought into a dark interrogation room. He's peppered with questions and then threatened with what appears to be some sort of torture device. Why is he there? Is it because of his online screen name? Will he crack? This was a solid, humourous beginning to the set that preps you to avoid setting your expectations too rigidly.

Here's the entire 5 minute film:

Coagulate (directed by Mihai Grecu) - A man's head is under water and yet the rest of him is dry and he's standing upright. Less a play on your expectations than a total breakdown of all physical laws. A wordless and beautiful film that I couldn't even begin to try to explain.

The Last Breath (directed by David Jackson) - A great concept: while a group of SCUBA divers are under water, all the air on Earth suddenly disappears. What happens when they come up with air tanks that are starting to run out? Not a wholly convincing realistic follow-through on that idea, but still worthwhile and with an appropriate ending.

Pencil Face (directed by Christian Simmons) - A human sized pencil able to stand on its tip (and with a freakish looking face) appears before a young girl. She quickly figures out that whatever you draw with it actually becomes real. Of course, you need to be very careful to be specific in what you're drawing - otherwise you might not get what you expect. Creepy music adds to this well-directed, slightly disturbing and very strange piece.

Here's the entire 4 minute film:

The Hunter and the Bear (Der jäger und der bär) (directed by Joachim Brandenburg) - Anything set to the music of Sigur Ros can only get better. The story in this short of a hunter determined to find a polar bear is well thought out, but the music just simply elevates it. Though I couldn't stand the animation (especially of the faces), I think that's mostly my own personal taste - it was kind freaking me out.

The Refuge (Les réfugiés) (directed by Emile Proulx-Cloutier) - A lonely Quebecois man falls in love with a Mexican woman and brings her back to Canada. Will they find true love together or is there some other reason behind the marriage? I appreciated how the film took its time with the characters, but I have to say it never really engaged me - I couldn't help thinking I should feel something stronger by the end.

Pawnshop (directed by Andrew Bush) - An old man behind the counter of a pawnshop plays mind games with a young man looking to buy an engagement ring. What should have been a nice switch-a-roo at the end doesn't amount to much because by then you don't really care about either of the two characters. The writing lets this story down from pretty much the first line.

Top Girl (directed by Rebecca Johnson) - A wanna-be girl rapper and her friend bring their talents to the house of a local teen who has his own recording studio set up in his room. Though unable to really strut her stuff, she ends up gaining a great deal of life experience and maturity from that day. Surprisingly effective and genuine.

Here's the trailer:

The Kinda Sutra (directed by Jessica Yu) - My favourite of the bunch. Filmmaker Jessica Yu ("Ping Pong Playa") intercuts several adults talking about their childhood memories of where they thought babies came from with animated Indian characters recreating those descriptions. Very funny, sweet and finishes up with a modern view from some real kids.

Here's an abridged version (embedding disabled).

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