Friday, 13 June 2008

Worldwide Short Film Festival 2008 Day 3 - Thursday June 12/08

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Thursday I had the chance to yet again to see three of the programs for the Worldwide Short Film Festival, which included two Official Selections 5: A Brief History of Our Time and 7: This Sporting Life as well as the Japanese Spotlight Genius Party showcasing an anthology of Japanese animation by STUDIO 4°C. Director Shinichiro Watanabe was in attendance, which made for a very exciting screening.

Official Selection 5: A Brief History of Our Time
This selection of shorts brought together difference moments in history, time or even space be they real, fictional or futuristic. This program also had a very shy crowd who didn't want to ask questions. Thankfully, festival programmer Angie Driscoll had more than a few up her sleeve which provided the audience with a great Q&A after the screening.

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Christian Laurence, director of L'Astronaute with festival programmer Angie Driscoll

L'Astronaute
Dir: Christian Laurence
22 minutes, France/Canada

Highly stylized in a classic science fiction way, this film presents the reaction when an astronaut is found. Or is it just a suit? The interest in the astronaut spirals beyond the people who found the suit to a handful of people until more and more what to see the talk of the town. The reasons are all different and there are multiple levels of intrigue and desire. Extremely compelling short film.

The Q&A with director Christian Laurence was great and he was adept at answering a question with a question, but also very open different interpretations of the film*. On the subject of the astronaut, and if there was any other object that was in the running for that role, the response was that it had started with something else but was drawn to the mirrored helmet, and how when people looked at it they could see themselves in it which had a narcissitic element to it. Also, that nothing was too bizarre to include in the film, as the film is pretty wacky.

* It's strange, sometimes I find it annoying in a Q&A when people don't answer the question, because sometimes you want answers! For some reason, here it was perfect. Perhaps because you could tell he careed what people thought and was very friendly.

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Vasho Pekar, director of Renaissance for the Modern Lucifer with festival programmer Angie Driscoll

Renaissance for the Modern Lucifer
Dir: Vasho Pekar
10 minutes, Canada

Fascinating animation that step by step and brick by brick shows creation in a new light. The short flows from ethereal to visceral and beyond.

Q&A with Vasho Pekar started with attributing that it the majority of the films were done by him as the director, writer, producer, editor and animator. On the choice of re-working the creation story he shared that was obsessed with the idea of binaries: good/evil, god/devil and wanted to show a different perspective.

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Souvenirs from Asia director, Joyce Wong and cinematographer Maya Bankovic

Souvenirs From Asia
Dir: Joyce Wong
11 minutes, Canada

I had the opportunity to catch Souvenirs From Asia during Toronto International Reel Asian Film Festival 07 (see my thoughts here) and it lovely to revisit it here. It is a fantastic short exploring cultural identity, knowledge and acceptance.

The Q&A after the screening with the director Joyce Wong and cinematographer Maya Bankovic was great. When asked about worrying if people laugh at the wrong moments, Joyce Wong responded not to be afraid to laugh, in fact everyone is suppose to laugh. The intent was to make it comedic so that people will talk about the issues involved such as politics, cultural identity and adoption.

Odin's Shield Maiden
Dir: Guy Maddin
5 minutes, Canada

Glorious and textural in true Maddin style, this short film expressing longing, beauty and grief all at the waters edge.

Official Selection 7: This Sporting Life
I never would have associated sporting with hunting, hiking or boats (I'm urban through and through) but they play a strong role is this program along with wrestling, a bodybuilder and number of different recreational activities.

Wrestling / Bredrabylta
Dir: Grimur Hakonarson
21 minutes, Iceland

Spectacular short film that centred on friends Denni and Einar, two Icelandic wrestlers, while off the mat. As they fill their mostly mundane lives and have few vices, but both share the love of the rhythmic motion. I loved the stoic shots that felt like an analogy for persistence. Impressive in its tonal shift from rigid to tender, it won me over instantly.

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Mirabelle Kirkland (left), director of Home Team / Les Couillus

Home Team / Les Couillus
Dir: Mirabelle Kirkland
18 minutes, France

This was a challenge film to sit though. A satire based on a fictional support group for men that is actually a program where they learn to ‘control’ their partners. I’m not a fan of satire, and I don’t believe I am the target audience so I felt like I was sitting through instructions for how to control your partner. As I did hear laughter throughout I believe I was in the minority and I would be interested to hear other reactions to the film, especially from men.

The director Mirabelle Kirkland was present during the screening, which was excellent as it provided some clarity on the film and its message. It’s a film against domestic violence. In terms of the concept, she was intrigued by the fact that almost all of the information out there on the issue only shows women and often in horrific situations as oppose to the men. When asked about the reaction to the film, she said that they do get laughter, but it often ends abruptly. Also that men tend to laugh during the first half, and then women during the second. During test screenings, the film went over a lot better when the credits at the beginning included the director's name, so that you knew it was directed by a woman.

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Pierre-Antoine Fournier, director of Déraciné

Déraciné
Dir: Pierre-Antoine Fournier
14 minutes, Canada

In this film we follow a teenage boy as he struggles with a complicated home life. Beautifully shot, we often seem the images go from fuzzy to clear as they hone in on the subjects, like an actor walking into his light on stage. Brilliant effect not only visually but it hints to us that not everything may be as clear as we think it is.

Director Pierre-Antoine Fournier was present for a Q&A after the film. Here are the highlights: On the subject matter and keeping it from feeling like a melodramatic after school special, he said that that it is a thin line to cross. With the cinematography, he found that sometimes it would have them turn off some of the lights to it didn’t look too' beautiful.

Waving / Wellen
Dir: Daniel Burkhardt
3 minutes, Germany

Hypnotic experimental short tells a rolling tale through back and forth movement of two figures on a beach.

Dennis
Dir: Mads Matthiesen
18 minutes, Denmark

This film was one of the highlights of the program. Dennis is a extremely fit bodybuilder yet despite his amazing physique is self conscious and lonely is his self sheltered life. This films shows his attempt to break free.

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Shinichiro Watanabe (left), director of Baby Blue

Japanese Spotlight: Genius Party
Canadian premiere of the anthology of Japanese animation by STUDIO 4°C, including works from numerous first time as well as established directors such as Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Beboy, Samurai Champloo). He introduced the screening and provided some background on the program. This series provided the opportunity for the artists to have free reign with the direction of their work, which was a new experience for them. Sometimes for this project, they were a little too free with the creative direction therefore some of the shorts may be a little hard to understand. He suggests when watching to keep this quote from Bruce Lee in mind “Don’t think, just feel." It was a true delight that he was present, and won over the crowd instantly.

Shanghai Dragon
Dir: Shoji Kawamori
19 minutes, Japan

Fantastic fun short that follows a little bean of a underdog kid who just tries to keep to himself and his drawings. Little does he know that the entire universe may depend on him! Pulling from many genres this film had the audience in stitches throughout.

Deathtic 4
Dir: Shinji Kimura
11 minutes, Japan

Who knew there would be zombies here? Not me! But one little zombie is trying to do good in a world full of crazy zombie creatures including the zombie police! A wacky and bizarre world but with a beautiful narrative this was one of the best of the program. It may have included the oddest line of the festival “You stink. Can I touch you? Can I lick you?”

Door Bell
Dir: Yoji Fukuyama
13 minutes, Japan

Oh my, this type of film is one of the reason I can shy away from animation – it’s too scary! Ok, there were no zombies or anything like that, but there were … gulp. Doubles. Dopplegangers. Things that shouldn’t be able to happen … do! Things being visable to only you, or even worse – no one being able to see you. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I’m surprised I didn’t run screaming from the theatre! Maybe it was because I was too scared to move.

Happy Machine
Dir: Masaaki Yuawa
15 minutes, Japan

This cute short follows a baby as it’s left to its own devices and tromps through the world creatively fending for itself. Delightful and innovative, it was a refreshing change of pace from some of the heavier subjects included in the program.

Baby Blue
Dir: Shinichiro Watanabe
15 minutes, Japan

Touching short with a rekindling friendship as a teenage boy and girl spend a day and “not worry about tomorrow”. A beautiful story with superb animation brings the Genius Party series to a close on a sweet note.

Q&A with Shinichiro Watanabe shares that the inspiration for Baby Blue was because of the numerous complicated stories in the program he decided to put in something that was more understandable to get people back on track. On the whole, the short was inspired by high school experiences although he didn’t do all the things in the short as if he did he’d be locked up. The theme of the story was inferred at the beginning and begins with the letters l o and v.

The Worldwide Short Film Festival runs from June 10-15/08 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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