Shorts and docs

With so many films airing in such a short span of time, it can be a little daunting to choose which times to go to the Women’s Film Festival. We at The Scope have heard your weary cries for guidance and present to you a brief guide to some of our favourites in the short and documentary film categories.

By Adam Clarke.


Wednesday, October 15
Shorts night! The shorts being screened from 9-10:30pm at The Majestic offer some of the finest material from this year’s WFF. Canada, Australia and Turkey are but a few of the countries offering an eclectic mix of fanciful surrealism, dark comedy and down-to-earth drama this year.

The French-Canadian Mordu (16 mins) is the most lucid of the bunch. It centers on Judith (Patricia Marceau), who lives in isolation as the sole care-giver for her doddering mother (Deborah Grover). Although her caustic demeanor towards her shallow sister (Jessica Heafey) suggests this is by choice, a long-forgotten photograph triggers memories of a forbidden romance that could’ve led to a very different life for Judith if pursued.

Directed by Lucie Pagé, Mordu is distinguished by an excellent cast and that the actors speak all of their lines in a mix of both official languages.

Throwing reality out the window completely, both Unus Mundus (4 mins) and Madame Tutli-Putli (17 mins) are the kind of unusual, innovative shorts that make this particular night of the WFF so much fun. The Turkish Unus Mundus is so short that writing about it is impossible without giving the game away. Needless to say, it comes with a full recommendation to see such inventive and exquisitely-shot piece of madness.

The multi-award-winning Madame Tutli-Putli (17 mins) is a phenomenal piece of animation by Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski, care of the National Film Board of Canada. Relying almost entirely on stop-motion, with occasional bits of digital trickery, Lavis and Szczerbowski have put such care and detail into the movement, character designs and backgrounds that one could easily forget the story and just stare in wonder at the beautiful images.

We follow the meek title character on a train ride full of bizarre grotesques, like the pervy tennis champ who bears an odd resemblance to an SCTV-era Eugene Levy. However, once we grow accustomed to the oddities on the train, the train stops, and that’s when things get strange.

Creating a world with lush red and brown colours and incredibly detailed models, Madame Tutli-Putli is an absolute show-stopper.

 

Thursday, October 16
New Boy (11 mins) and the documentary Kids + Money (30 mins) will be shown at Holy Heart Auditorium from 10am to noon. New Boy is superb drama about what an African student must do in order to gain acceptance in a rowdy Irish classroom and is well worth a look for its tragic-comic story and cast of terrific child actors.

As for Kids + Money, you’ll never again want to see so many children die horribly. This unsettling U.S. documentary tracks various adolescents and teens in Los Angeles and their spending habits. One teenager confesses that money has been a “huge source of pain” for him, as he pinches his pennies just so he won’t be seen as poor and excluded. Most of them don’t give a second thought to the amount they spend on clothes and other meaningless status-grabs.

Of particular joy in the film is lunkheaded child actor Matthew Underwood, who is caught lying on camera and makes the bold assertion that class prejudice is better than racial prejudice because “it’s based on something.”

From 10pm onwards, the second evening of shorts at The Majestic features the French-Canadian comedy Next Floor (11 mins). Floor, a Cannes favourite, depicts a series of gluttons amassed around a dinner table set up in an abandoned warehouse. There, a flock of waiters, chefs and musicians provide the diners with a pleasant atmosphere and a never-ending buffet of rare and exotic foods like roasted lion. With their collective weight increasing with every bite, the staff of this exclusive, yet shady eatery faces the unusual challenge of finding a floor strong enough to support their clientele. Despite the brevity of the story, director Denis Vileneuve gives Floor a generous handful of moments where the characters put down their forks and allow their personalities to shine through.

The short’s superb sound effects transform the eaters’ fine-dining experience into a downright pornographic cavalcade of cutting, slurping and gnoshing.

 

Saturday, October 18
From 12:30-3:30pm, The Majestic Theatre will be screening a glut of home grown fare helmed by Newfoundland artists. Doubtlessly many will be heading to the festival that day to support local culture, but there is one particularly worthy find being screened that afternoon.

Local filmmaker Jordan Canning has made a name for herself by helming everything from music videos for Hey Rosetta! to well-received shorts like Thick & Thin and the popular YouTube video Jerry. Bathroom (18 mins), her latest effort, is one segment of a trilogy of shorts where each film has the hook of taking place in a single room.

Canning’s Bathroom is a two-hander story, as a junkie locks herself in a former acquaintance’s bathroom, fearing that her druggie beau is out to get her, among other things. There’s a definite risk in filming a script like this, and while the short does consist solely of actors Suezn Carpenter and Susan Kent talking in a cramped space, it pulls it off quite well. By employing some creative blocking, combined with the electric performances from its leads, Canning’s film never once feels like a stage play that someone just happened to film.

The 19th St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival runs from October 14-18 at The Majestic, the Holy Heart auditorium and The Rooms. Call 754-3141, or visit www.womensfilmfestival.com for more information.

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