One of the more exciting projects I’ve come across recently is 99 Percent: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film, a current work in progress organized by NYC-based filmmakers Audrey Ewell and Aaron Aites. Given the somewhat questionable media coverage of the protests, the idea is that documentarians will team up and record the event as it unfolds, eventually turning the collaborative footage into a more representative depiction of the movement. It’s exciting stuff, and there’s some great video already up on the project’s YouTube channel.
This week, however, Jonathan Demme has jumped into the OWS documentation fray. He took his camera crew down to Zuccotti Park and got a bunch of pretty interesting stuff, which has now been edited into a 15-minute documentary short. It’d obviously be marvelous if Demme decided to team up with Ewell, Aites and their now-international band of filmmakers. In the meantime though, let’s take a look at End the War, Tax the Rich, We’re the 99%, Occupy Wall Street. It’s an intriguing short, hitting on a lot of the important elements of the protests and their place in the city. Yet as much as it effectively captures the feel of Zuccotti Park and its dedicated inhabitants, it also only begins to scratch the surface and proves the excitement and necessity of this sort of direct cinema.
It is a muggy, chilly, wet day here in New York City. The rain and wind have mostly finished their assault on our windowpanes, leaving them with little to do but mope around the tops of trees and the little rivulets in the street. It’s the perfect scenario to curl up inside and watch something replete with atmospheric tranquility.
5:46am fits the bill. Directors Olivier Campagne and Vivien Balzi of ArtefactoryLab have crafted an eerie three minute tour through Paris. Everything is partially submerged in a surprisingly still layer of water, presumably the reason that the city is completely devoid of people. Yet that sort of narrative logic is far off from what this short is trying to accomplish. On the one hand, there is definitely a post-apocalyptic feel to this bizarre trip around Paris-as-Venice. However, the feel of dread is matched by the profound stillness of the water. Even if something terrible happened here, it’s all over – now it’s time to reflect. Continue reading
The External World picked up yet another award this week, Best Short Film at Anim’est in Romania. I don’t pretend to entirely understand what’s going on in this vibrant and eccentric short, but I like it nonetheless. Somehow managing to find the balance between hyperactive editing and slowly developing themes, director David O’Reilly effortlessly shocks, charms and bewilders. It’s a bit like Don Hertzfeldt’s Rejected, in both its schizophrenia and penchant for the violent and scatological.
Yet The External World requires a little bit more work on the part of its audience, and not just because it’s eight minutes longer. There are so many elements, crowding the film’s first half in a succession that would approach tedium if O’Reilly’s structure weren’t so creative. A surprising number of television-reminiscent linking devices guide the short through an almost impossible number of vignettes, with characters behaving more than a little horribly to one another along the way. The initial kid and his abusive piano teacher are almost forgotten by the time they make their second appearance, the first hint of any structural clarity. Continue reading
The Chicago International Film Festival closes up shop later this week, but they’ve already handed out the Hugo Awards. The big feature prize went to Le Havre, which I quite like (though it isn’t Kaurismäki’s best by a long shot). Actually, I have to shout agreement with a number of the awards: The Forgiveness of Blood, Cinema Komunisto, and The Good Son are all films I raved about at Spout. But that’s hardly what I’m here to say.
Nine shorts were awarded at CIFF this year, with Hugos and Plaques alike. The Golden Hugo went to The Eagleman Stag, which I must say looks pretty fantastic. As for the other eight awards, they’re spread out over six different countries (with the notable absence of the USA). None of the winners are available on the web, and I’ve only seen one of them myself. However, I loved Caretaker for the Lord so much that it’s worth talking about anyway.
The film, which picked up the Silver Hugo for Best Documentary Short, is the best documentary short I saw at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. And there was some stiff competition. Director Jane McAllister brought her camera to dying community church St. Luke’s and St. Andrew’s in Glasgow, Scotland to capture its final days on film. The result is a quiet, elegiac piece that brings life to this aging congregation even as it faces its end. Continue reading
I cannot tell you how many times I have looked dreamily at the shorts line-up of some faraway film festival, desperately wishing someone would fly me to Austin, Venice, or even Cleveland. That rarely ends up happening. However, as is often the case, we have the Internet to thank for a consolation prize of sorts. The Short Rounds: Fantastic Fest piece I put together for Movies.com last week is a good example of what I’ll try accomplishing here. The experience of attending a film festival in person is irreplaceable, but here at ShortStack we’ll do the best we can remotely. To kick things off: Tucson Film and Music Festival, running now through Monday.
Now, there are a number of cool things on the TFMF program I could talk about. There’s Guru, a documentary short I saw at Tribeca this year. It’s fantastic, an unsettling psychological tour de force that looks at a motivational speaker spiraling out of control. There’s a new fiction short by Chad Hartigan, which looks interesting and which I’m sure I’ll have cause to write about once I’ve seen it. Neil LaBute even pops up, having written the screenplay of an inevitably bold short called After-School Special. Yet in spite of all that, the one aspect of the fest that draws me in the most is their Music Video-Rama. Music videos are easily seen on the web but almost never on the big screen, and the very idea of having a festival program of music videos is pretty cool.
Of course, if you’re not in Tucson you don’t have much chance to actually catch the event. Thankfully, most of the videos are available online. Here are a few favorites: Continue reading
“Ingeborg, you changed my life
Ingeborg, please be my wife. ”
Perhaps it seems a bit small-minded to kick off this feature with two consecutive and recent Oscar-winners. Yet I think that for many people, myself included, the Academy Awards for short film are one of the better ways to initially discover the world of shorts. Now that they’re shown in theaters every year, thanks to Shorts International, they’ve become some of the only short films available to audiences on the big screen outside of a festival setting. There’s always the intrusion of some unfortunate “Oscar bait” material, but most of the nominees tend to be inspired, high-quality work.
That’s certainly the case for 2007’s animated winner, The Danish Poet. Relaxed and charming, this Norwegian-Canadian co-production is a nice reminder of the simple joy that can be offered by animation, short cinema, and life itself. Directed and animated by the Norwegian-born Canadian Torill Kove and narrated by Liv Ullman, this is a tale of how chance and coincidence can lead down a meandering road to unexpected love. The hand-drawn animation is calm and whimsical, in a good way. The little details shine, from Ingeborg’s voluminous hair to the backpackers and rowdy drinkers on the ferry to Norway. Continue reading