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Review by Eric Staszczak
Whakatiki centers on Kiri, an overweight Maori woman in New Zealand whose countenance reflects years of disappointment and unhappiness. As a young girl she establishes a deep connection to the Whakatiki River, which becomes a point of solace for her. From there, we’re given a short tale of redemption and reclamation of identity that’s as inspiring as it is unsettling. Director Louise Leitch makes great use of the landscape of Wellington and Mabelle Dennison’s performance is as compelling as lead roles can be in only 13 minutes.
Places Other People Have Lived is one of the most structurally experimental films of the weekend. The seven-minute short explores the connection between our memories and where we’ve grown up. Director Laura Yilmaz shares her experiences by delving into each room of her childhood home, establishing the significance of her familial relationships and tying them to location. It’s not the most direct film, and the narration remains fairly vague and subtle, but it shares a sentiment that’s moving and relatable to anyone.
As a college student who hasn’t spent nearly enough time with friends from back in the past four years, Tourist is one of the most relatable viewing experiences I’ve seen in a while. Sabine is a young woman who’s returned home from a long absence and immediately gets together with her old group of friends. While their behavior and activity appears unchanged since her departure, she doesn’t seem to be able to connect the way she used to. Tourist is beautifully shot and sustains a simultaneous sadness and sweetness that communicates the alienation we often experience after being away for so long.
Being Bradford Dillman was probably the most talked-about film in the Portraits program. The animation, reminiscent of the stop-motion mastery of Coraline, carries a gloomy yet enchanting atmosphere that makes for a startlingly funny short. With an irresponsible and pill-popping alcoholic mother, an imaginary friend, and a story that centers on a surgically removed “willy,” the absurdity, sadness and humor come together into nothing short of brilliance.
I Am John Wayne was the only film set in an urban area, and it really takes advantage of the space sprawling metropolitan cities offer. After his best friend is killed, Taco takes the friend’s foster horse from its stable and rides it through Brooklyn on a short, introspective journey that has some unexpected negative repercussions. The mood remains pretty sad and static for the whole 18 minutes, but the cinematography and Jamir Daaliya’s performance make it worthwhile.
Unravel was the only documentary in the program, which was a refreshing change of pace. Set in India, the film discusses the donation of clothes from the Western World into the impoverished areas of West India. Hearing the men and women who work in these processing plants discuss how confusing our consumerism is to them and how the freedom and control we have over of our lives fascinates them makes the viewer realize and question our relatively privileged lives and lifestyles.
The Gathering Squall takes the cake for the most depressing film of the program. Based on Joyce Carol Oates’ story of the same name, the short focuses on young teenage girl Lisellen’s lack of a male figure in her life—her parents are divorced, and she hasn’t received much attention from boys. But when she finally receives that attention, shocking and disturbing events follow. The performances are exceptional in Squall, and even with scenes of death, rape and rage, the film still fascinates, especially with the closing chill-inducing scene of a bruised and battered Lisellen looking directly into the camera from her bathtub.
Vox rating: VVVV
THE RATING SYSTEM
VVVVV = AWESOME! SEE IT TWICE
VVVV = DEFINITELY GO SEE IT
VVV = HMM… IT’S OKAY
VV = EH… DVD MAYBE?
V = DON’T BOTHER
Tagged with: Short Films
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