FNC taking place during a pandemic is the perfect time to check out the shorts program. Some audiences don’t feel confident going to the physical cinema to watch a bunch of shorts that may be good, but may be bad. With the online and On-Demand format this year, it’s possible to download an entire Shorts program, and pick and choose only the films of interest.
As a handy guide, here are a few shorts Cinetalk enjoyed.
Red Aninsri; Or, Tiptoeing on the Still Trembling Berlin Wall’s title is actually longer than its contents. But in just 30 minutes, its points are made. It can be taken on two levels: A very tongue-in-cheek parody of older cinema trends, or, a more serious encouragement to be ourselves.
“Inspired by Thai cinema from the past”, the film states from the get-go. Its theatrical lighting, dramatic over-acting, and bad wigs would feel cringeworthy if not for this disclaimer. The central character, code-name Insri, is a hooker-slash-spy. Though the role is portrayed by a male actor, many of his lines are overdubbed by a female. It is less absurd than it sounds. Insri appears to represent what some might call a cross-dresser nowadays, but in Thailand it is still politically correct to use the term Ladyboy. In Western culture, we might prefer to use the word Transgender, but then, Red Aninsri does not fully stick to one identity for its lead character. (S)he may be trans. She may be a gay man who likes to wear dresses and put on makeup. Modern society has many new labels for people’s gender and orientation. Insri in 2020 North America might identify themself as enby (non-binary), for all we know. This film is modern but alludes back to the olden days, so this ambiguity might be intentional: the sub-plot is about finding ones own voice. Get it? The overdubs? It all fits together once we start seeing how the bits and pieces are interwoven.
With an entirely different approach to filmmaking, Max Hattler creates a not-so touristy visit to Hong Kong. Serial Parallels is nearly a flicker-film, with images that flit past so quickly it’s hard to find a balance. The dizzying heights of Hong Kong skyscrapers, tenements and condos become abstracted parallels (and perpendiculars!). At times it’s hard to tell if the camera is panning, or if the buildings themselves are ‘breathing’. Out of non-organic matter (architectural elements), Hattler creates strange and hypnotic movement as if the city were a living creature. Somewhere between a sewing machine and a construction site, the soundtrack of industrial machinery accompanies predominantly pink and blue hues. Anyone unfamiliar with Hong Kong might think the buildings have been digitally colorized, but those who have visited Hong Kong would recognize the pastel palette. A warning for those sensitive to flashing lights – this is a LOT of provocation for seizures. It is hyper-stimulating yet meditative if one is the type of person to find repetitive patterns soothing in some way.
In three-dimensional space, many distortions can occur. The use of repetition can add an element of surprise when such distortions overlap. This has been studied in many experimental films, and Mood Hall takes a 3D animation stab at it. The style of the collection of experimental shorts by Kawai+Okamura may seem familiar to viewers of Vermilion Pleasure Night, for which they were contributors. The sketches have an inexplicably eerie mood. This may have something to do with the absurdity of bodies in motion for no other purpose but to interact with other bodies or objects. For those who have studied Animation, it may be reminiscent of class exercises. The walk cycles, run cycles, and dancing cycles used in Mood Hall are common building blocks for animators learning how to create movement. Rather than deliver a particular story, the collection focuses on spatial relationships between character and environment. The segment Multiplication 2 is the best example, where characters die and then spawn another version of themselves, over and over again. The deaths increase the more selves they collide with. An interesting and slightly bizarre experiment.
Various short films – On Demand October 7th – 31st, 2020