Wednesday, June 11, 2008

WSFF 2008 #1: Monologues, Monoliths and Mangled Children!

Okay, so I almost missed the first day of the 2008 Worldwide Short Film Festival.

For some reason, I woke up this morning – and spent the first half of the day – thinking it was June 10th. So, in my mind, the only WSFF screening on the docket would be the opening-night gala. Imagine my shock and awe when, around noon, I realized that, no, it’s June 11th...and the fest would be in full swing...and I had three screenings earmarked for the afternoon...and I hadn’t even picked up my press pass yet.

Yipes!

Some scurrying around and rescheduling ensued, and I made it to all my planned shows.

First up was Official Selection 1: I Have a Dream, a collection of seven films relating to dreams, sleep, imagination and goals. Of the pack, only two really stood out for me:

* Frankie (6/8), Darren Thornton’s curious drama that exposes the inner monologue (spoken outwardly) of a 15-year-old Irish delinquent who’s about to become a father.

and

* Debora Diniz’s fascinating documentary Alone and Anonymous (6/8), which follows a nameless old man who’s trying to starve himself to death. It was at once heartbreaking and really weird...especially given its surprising final few minutes.

I hopped outside and immediately back in line for Official Selection 2: Crime & Punishment, which featured eight shorts relating to, well, crime and/or punishment. While a number of these films started off really strong, more than a few left me feeling meh as they ended because they lacked endings...they just kind of faded out. I dunno, I understand leaving the audience guessing, but in the 10+ years that I’ve been going to the WSFF I find that many short filmmakers seem to just end their films rather than giving them endings. That is to say, they just peter out or stop abruptly. If these were short stories, readers would feel cheated. Viewers of short films should be no exception.

Two prime examples of this in this particular programme were Chief (6/8), the story of a Samoan chief-turned-taxi driver in Hawaii, which probably would have received at least seven slices had it had an ending, and Tomboy (5/8), which “ends” with a strange and half-hearted whimper that seems to imply murder is okay if you get to kiss a boy for the first time.

Thankfully, two wonderfully clever films in this set more than made up for what the others may have lacked:

* Trevor Cawood’s brilliant Terminus (7/8), which is a visually impressive little gem that seeeeeamlessly blends CGI with live action in a story about a persistent stone monolith following a hapless office worker. It was terrific and I literally sat there trying to figure out HOW they created some of the images onscreen.

and

* How Much Do You Love Me? (7/8), a hilarious Australian offering from directors Nick Ball and Gus Johnston, which centers on a the perils of a young couple putting quantitative values on a relationship. So good!

Last up was a program I was very much excited to see, and it did not disappoint: Accidentally Funny: Order is Restored, a collection of instructional and educational films from the 1940s-‘70s which, when viewed now, are hysterically funny. Unfortunately, this particular program isn’t repeating during the fest, which is a shame because it’s so much fun and more people should get to see it. My faves of these ten shorts were:

* Making a Decision (6/8), a 1957 NFB film about a high-school girl forced to decide between a date with a boy and a family obligation.

* I’m a Mammal and So Are You (6/8), a musical explanation of mammals from 1972, with a very catchy tune.

and

* The Finish Line (7/8), a 1977 UK film – which was intended for schools but was promptly pulled from circulation for its completely twisted and surreal content...which, of course, makes it that much more entertaining now. It was meant to be a cautionary tale about playing on or near train tracks and is, instead, this freakishly demented story of kids being killed one after another. Best part of the whole movie? A wide shot where a girl playing one of the young “corpses” sits up among her fellow bodies (clearly forgetting she’s supposed to play dead!), looks around and readjusts herself. Priceless!

A full day. Tomorrow: movies about teens and the annual celebrity-shorts program!

Total films screened today: 25

2 comments:

Lou said...

While I love reading about the individual films, I am especially intrigued by the grouping of films under themes. It would be fun to be the person who makes those decisions.

Vickie said...

I think it would be fun to pick the films, period. :-)