The short answer

Every year the Women’s Film Festival offers audiences a spectacular variety of films, and it’s not always easy to pick the ones you want to see. When offered the chance to preview a selection before the Festival, Jordan Canning was faced with the same problem: “with so many great films, which ones do I review?”The short answer? Shorts.If you want the most bang for your buck, short films are the way to go. With some screenings showing up to ten films, you’re sure to find something that turns your crank.

Here’s a look at six shorts over two nights.

Thursday Oct 18 10-11:30pm
The Majestic

If you’re in the mood to see some ass-kicking females, then this is the night for you.

First there’s the Bitch in Bitch—a self-proclaimed vigilante against all hipsters and scenesters who dare cross her path. She works at an indie record store (where else?), taking twisted pleasure in calling out posers in search of the latest trendy album. When a hoodied shoplifter nicks an armful of records, she lets him off the hook – if he agrees to go out with her. He turns her down but, against her better bitchy nature, she falls for him. Now she’s dressing like a girl, wearing makeup and losing her misanthropic edge. It takes a little heartbreak, an alleyway fistfight and a bloody French kiss to get back to her mad bitch roots.

The polished black and white cinematography makes this short a visual thrill, and the cock-rockin’ score is the perfect life soundtrack for our ball-bustin’ heroine. Be sure to watch the tail credits for some hilarious character names—“Insufferable Prick” and “Vaguely Hot Old Chick” were two of my faves.

More reluctant in her role as a dominating female is Vivvy, one half of a couple trying to spice up their sex life in Hombre Kabuki. Her partner brings a Mexican wrestlers mask into the bedroom, insisting that it will empower her and, in turn, turn him on. What ensues is an intense verbal dance that leaves us—and the couple—wondering who really wears the pants.

Also shot in black and white, this two-hander reminded me of a theatre piece, where the blocking and movement of the characters were as integral to their status struggle as the dialogue. Bordering on voyeuristic, this film gives us a glimpse of what goes on behind closed bedroom doors. Don’t be surprised if you feel a little naughty afterwards—or, like me, find yourself searching eBay for a leather Lucha Libre mask of your own.

Finally there’s Lina, whose character in Coco-Nuts has no qualms describing her latest mediocre date to a girlfriend. This surreal story is like three films in one. At first you think you’re watching a documentary about a small Norwegian bakery. Next you find yourself in a romantic comedy, listening two women kvetch about men over coffee and carbohydrates. Then, just when you think you’ve got it figured out, one of the women suddenly bursts into an ABBA-inspired love ballad.

A little on the indescribable side, this film was bizarre and highly enjoyable to watch.

Friday Oct 19, 7-8:30pm
The Majestic

While the women on Thursday night have a cynical slant on love, Friday night’s girls (and boys) are all searching for it.

Samantha Weinstein (Canada’s answer to Dakota Fanning) plays Sara, the wise beyond her years heroine in Ninth Street Chronicles. Jaded by family, friends and the meaningless mundanities of her eleven year-old life, Sara quietly pines for Leo, an older neighborhood boy whom she achingly loves from afar. After catching him on his knees in a public washroom, Sara believes he’s caught up in a child prostitution ring and sets out to save him by paying off his pimp with lemonade money. And that’s just in one afternoon. In this bittersweet coming of age story, the rest of the world finally catches up to where Sara’s been sitting all summer.

While I found the musical score to be inconsistent—sometimes working against the visuals rather than complimenting them—the story and strength of Weinstein’s performance definitely make this a short worth seeing.

The female lead in Happiness works in a factory testing condoms. Lost in a sea of hairnets, she can’t help but be discontent in her daily routine. On her way home from work she makes an impulsive purchase—a box labeled “Happiness”, which she sees in a store window. Alone at home, she stares at the sealed box on her bedside table. It makes you wonder…can you really buy happiness? And, should you keep the receipt?
While the theme may seem obvious, the film is anything but. With understated performances and elegant direction, this wonderfully subtle film should not be missed.
The last short I was lucky enough to preview—and, incidentally, the only one featuring all male leads —was Tanghi Argentini. Gushingly dubbed one of the Festival’s favorites, this backwards De Bergerac-like tale is sure to please anyone and everyone. Hoping to impress a blind date, an insecure office clerk begs his sure-footed coworker for dance lessons. What follows is a side-splitting training montage of two grown men dancing the Tango.

Expertly shot and scored, and with a nicely underplayed twist at the end, this is a textbook example of great short filmmaking.

The 18th St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival runs from October 16-20 at The Majestic, The Arts and Culture Centre, and The Rooms. Call 754-3141, or visit www.womensfilmfestival.com for more information. Click here for a schedule.