Notes on Short Film

Lengthy diatribe on brief cinematic experience.

Posts Tagged ‘anthology film

Mister Green (2010)

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Another installment of the FUTURESTATES TV anthology, this 15-minute film by Greg Pak (comic writer behind The Hulk) personifies climate change as it gives us a vision of a bleak future if we do nothing to reverse this change. Greg Pak poses a question for the audience: How quickly would we seek change if we had to survive the same way plants do? Pak uses scenes shot directly into bright sunlight and scenes focused specifically on the drinking of water to emphasize for the audience how important these things are – to us and to plants. The director sets the stage in an interview on the Live for Films blog:

He blew it and as far as he’s concerned everybody blew it because folks didn’t get out there and push the government hard enough. Nobody pushed hard enough, so he’s this jaded and almost self-hating guy as the story begins.

In contrast to Mason, the corporate suit character, is Gloria, a woman from his past that represents everything ethereal and natural. (Greg Pak’s official website includes an interview with the actress, Betty Gilpin.) Gloria helps the protagonist to “be the change” he’d like to see in the world – quite literally. The filmmakers ends the film with that infamous Ghandi quote, as well as an image of Gloria and many others soaking up necessary sunlight on the National Mall in front of the nation’s Capital, a symbol of American government. Definitely an interesting look at the future.

Written by Alisa Hathaway

May 2, 2011 at 9:38 am

8 No Time Left

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Cinema cannot make the world better, but more aware, yes. – Gaspar Noe

This is the overarching theme of the 8 No Time Left campaign, in which eight filmmakers produced eight short films about the Millenium Development Goals set by the UN in September of 2000. By 2015, they hope to cut world poverty in half. The issues the filmmakers explore include poverty, education, equality, child mortality, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, environmental sustainability, and development. (You can read more about the No Time Left project on their website.)

I’d like to focus on two of the films included in this project, by two auteurs with distinct filmmaking styles, Mansion on the Hill (2008) by Gus Van Sant and The Water Diary (2006) by Jane Campion.

Honestly, I’m not sure I see the connection between a skateboarding montage and child mortality. The information Van Sant includes in the film is startling, and I can appreciate the simple way he reveals his purpose to the audience – with statistics in bold white lettering across a montage of young adults testing their limits. The only connection I could reach for is that many children will not get the chance to try things like skateboarding, because they’ll never reach the age to do so. In developed countries we take advantage of our time for leisure and ability to try any activity, while Third World countries struggle to meet the physiological needs of their younger generations. The simplicity, short length, and nonfictional nature of this short stands in stark contrast to Jane Campion’s short.

This film blew me away. Campion tells a much larger story about resources and sustainability through the eyes of a child dealing with the hardship of extreme drought and global warming in a diary format. The film has incredible pathos to move people to action; it is fiction, but it is believable fiction that represents a coming reality. The film includes great visual effects, like the scene where the children are leaping over clouds formed along the ground. My favorite part of this film is the way Campion framed many of the wide shots; when the protaganist finds out her parents had to kill their horses, the camera is so far away that the conflict between characters is going on down in the bottom left corner of the screen, while the audience can see the barren landscape these people exist in. She frames another scene, of Felicity playing her viola, through the window of her house at night, beautifully focusing our attention on this central figure offering hope to her community. The last shot, where Felicity plays on the hill as the clouds behind her gradually darken, offer the audience a glimpse of ambiguous hope (I’m thinking of the very last scene of Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster Inception) even as it visually suggests “dark days” are still ahead. This film is one of my favorites from this entire semester.

You can find more information on the anthology on the United Nations Development Program website, and on the Sydney Morning Herald’s website.

To Each His Own Cinema (2007)

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This anthology was commissioned in celebration of the 60th anniversary of Cannes Film Festival, and the credits read like a snooty film class syllabus. While some reviews state that these auteurs manipulated this framework to make a film about whatever they damned well pleased, many of these shorts have something unique to say about the ritual of going to the cinema, the devotion which we pledge to the chapel of film, the way the art of film mirrors our lives and how we shape our lives to mirror it, and finally how, as with every other artistic endeavor, technology and modernity are killing everything we love. Variety.com says this of the collection:

Especially through the first part of the grouping, the overwhelmingly dominant image is of old movie theaters fallen into states of disrepair, disintegration and disuse. In the films of Takeshi Kitano, Theo Angelopoulos, Andrei Konchalovsky, Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Tsai Ming-Liang, just for starters, one beholds the spectacle of a world in which cinemas, at least as a home for shared experienced in a privileged domain, no longer seems valid or valued. A mourning for the passing of the classical Euro-style art cinema of the ’60s — of the sort very much represented by films commonly shown in Cannes — filters strongly through the proceedings, no doubt in great measure because they were made by men who belong to that tradition or grew up on it (Jane Campion, still the only woman to have won the Palme d’Or, is the sole femme in the group here).

My personal favorites were Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Anna, about a blind woman’s visceral reaction to Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt, and  Zhang Yimou’s Movie Night, in which a young boy is so excited during the preparations for the town’s outdoor movie night that by the time the film is actually shown, he has fallen sound asleep. This anthology is definitely valuable, especially in terms of short film study, though I wish we had focused on each short’s context (who directed it, where they are from, and what else they’ve directed) in order to understand fully the range of celebrated talents featured on this DVD.

All the Invisible Children (2005)

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The goal of this anthology was to tell a story about ignored, forgotten or unseen children in the home country of each director. The filmmakers were given no other guidelines or rules in the hopes that the stories they told would be unique and close to their hearts, and it seemed to work out wonderfully. The press book for the DVD quotes one of the anthology’s producers, Chiara Tilesi:

The title says it all: ‘All the Invisible Children’; our aim is to bring ignored children’s issues into public awareness and consciousness, if nothing else, to make them more visible. Cinema, like music and other art forms, is a perfect medium to raise the bar of awareness, empathy, compassion and understanding. We all felt that this was an opportunity that needed to be seized. I am so glad we did, and I thank all our participants very sincerely.

We viewed two of the shorts from this collection in class, Song Song and Little Cat directed by John Woo and Jesus Children of America by Spike Lee. The films were constructed and shot in very different ways, with exceedingly different goals. Song Song was loaded with pathos, building a heartwrenching story through deeply personal experiences with two vastly different characters. Jesus Children shocked with cavalier brutality and made the audience feel for the main character through their distaste with everyone around her, causing her to act out in violence and hatred. Overall, these films told two important stories, and they serve to show us that the mistreatment of children is both transnational and wrong. The producers’ goal was to raise awareness, and they certainly did.

Written by Alisa Hathaway

April 16, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Lost and Found (2005)

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In Lost and Found, six young filmmakers from this region present their personal views on the subject of “generation” and the many changes that sometimes separate them radically from the generation of their parents. There are moving tributes to traditional values in a world of rapid technological change (Bulgaria) and to the pragmatic, can-do spirit of the elder generation (Serbia-Montenegro). – Short Film Shop

The image above is from Nadejda Koseva’s Das Ritual, about a couple who gets married in Niagara Falls as their Bulgarian family celebrates without them in the traditional way of their country. Through many small moments in the film, we see the generation gap between the parents and the marrying couple. The mother asks if the bride is wearing earring she sent; her sons assures her she is even as we see the bride wearing much smaller, more modern earrings of her own. The film lingers over the preparations for the Bulgarian celebration, the loud family gathering squished around a communal table, even as we see the couple quietly preparing to celebrate their private joy. After they are wed, they call their family to share the good news, and we see the generational divide best expressed as neither party can “hear” each other over the phone – despite celebrating the same event, the young couple and the older parents cannot reall “connect.” It is a blending of sadness and joy.

There’s a short bit on Nadejda Koseva’s work here.

Written by Alisa Hathaway

April 15, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Visions of Europe: 25 Films, 25 Directors (2004)

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An anthology film is a collection of short film projects by different directors for a common aim. Usually they are unified by a common theme – in this case, the European Union. The nature of an anthology is collaborative, transnational, and purposeful. They are not collected after the fact, they are made with the understanding that they will add to a collective vision on one DVD. Our own Dr. Deshpande explains Lars Von Trier’s Visions of Europe project as an anthology in his article:

…collective and collaborative anthologies are made across national boundaries, across cultures, bringing together a group of filmmakers to interpret and express a common theme. These projects are by their very nature “transnational” in some sense, even as one of the objectives of the projects is to search for and establish a context or parameters of a new entity, the collective, multinational form of European Union. The anthology film Europaische Visionen: 25 Filme, 25 Regisseure/ Visions of Europe (2004) was produced by 25 directors from the member states of the expanding European Union.

Indeed, the idea of an anthology film perfectly represents the collective idea of the European Union. The individual films on this DVD represent different countries in the Union with very different ideas about their role as a member. Peter Greenaway’s European Showerbath seems wary about the sharing of resources and what the larger countries of the EU will leave for coming generations, represented in the simple visual metaphor of a group shower. Everyone on screen is naked, highlighting their unity – everyone looks basically the same with no clothes on. One analysis states:

Fifteen countries of Europe, brightly identified with their national flags body-painted on their vulnerable naked flesh, and personified in their political economic history by older or younger, fatter or thinner corporeality, step one by one, optimistically into the warm showerbath of the European Community. First the original six; sturdy if plump-bellied Germany, voluptuous if a little over-extrovert France, young introspective Belgium, confident if a little vain Luxembourg, self-effacing Holland and elderly if a little frivolous Italy, followed, in order of membership by the remaining nine, each with their own physical identities, making up a community self-revealing in their camaraderie, all trying to maximise their position in the European warm water community, shoving a little, flirting a little, laughing and joking, if a little self-consciously, exuberantly demonstrating their togetherness a little too over-eagerly, enjoying mutual, frank, self-exposing, self-revelation, all dipping their heads and limbs and exposed bodies into the limited water-shower of benefits.

Other films on the anthology, like the Slovenian filmmaker Damjan Kozole’s Europa, make smaller statements, like those who are part of the European Union don’t value it as much as those outside of it. Hungary’s Bela Tarr, with the film Prologue, meditates slowly and liltingly on the black and white sameness of the EU, a bleak sharing of too-little resources. Irish filmmaker Aisling Walsh’s Invisible State employs spoken word poetry and flashes of disturbing images to make a heavy-handed yet powerful comment. I’ll leave you with that film…

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