North Bend Film Festival 2019: Short Films – Cinema Vista

Grand Bouquet

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Grand Bouquet. Dir. Nao Yoshigai.

Nao Yoshigai has crafted a compelling audiovisual experience in Grand Bouquet. It is a silent film – in so far as it is without dialogue – cuts of guttural discomfort take the place of words, as her solo actress gurgles out haunted sounds, unable to create authentic speech. She is confronted by the force a black mass, reducing and enlarging itself, threatening her being. She wants to scream, or object, or have her own voice, but can only spit out flowers, ejecting an uncontrolled flow of organic matter, flowers that grow once they reach the all-white ground. For not having any words, it must rely on a meticulous cacophony of sound and makes measured use of its singular idea to really convey some exciting, dangerous imagery.

Selfies

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Selfies. Dir. Claudius Gentinetta.

Selfies sets out to subversively survey the modern experience of capturing the moment. An array of scattershot selfies, fragments of folks’ lives, pry into their best and worst moments. How it can look one way and be the absolute opposite. The way one person can experience something – and that looks really nice on Instagram – but the reality of their actual lived experience is rather grim. It does not take the optimistic view of its subjects, preferring a broader scope. Most interesting is how it arranges its collage of narcissistic decay. Fingers pull and stretch the photos of others. The stranger experiences someone’s vacation on the toilet before they are swiped off-screen. People make erotic videos while tragedy befalls someone else. Oh, all the wondrous and horrible things our phone cameras have seen.

Chaos

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Chaos. Dir. Samuel Auer.

A German-made one-shot, Chaos unfolds as an uncut procession of events. It follows a hobo’s walk through the woods, leading the movement forward until it reaches a halfway point where it unravels in reverse. The hobo and some men in pig masks place as our lone actors and they do not do very much. As every action is contained within one shot, the sequencing is labored over and clear-cut enough that it follows a simple trajectory. There is some creativity in the director’s workarounds the make one flowing segment, while the short asks, why are we here, what are these folks doing?

The Follower

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The Follower. Dir. Stephanie Szerlip.

The oft-anthologized Joyce Carol Oates story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” is the very literal inspiration for Stephanie Szerlip’s short, The Follower. The new context of the short revolves around a social media relationship, predicating a real-life meeting, where a young girl is dragged away from her home by a young boy who is too small for his leather jacket and still finding the proper expression of his puberty. It’s a wild little thing, that plays nicely into off-kilter melodrama. The logline here is intrinsically fun – this strange boy follows an attention-seeking girl, and she really falls for the approach. The director has done a really fine job modernizing one of the great stories that I’ve read in several collections, and it makes sense collected here, too.

Daughter of Bable

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Daughter of Bable. Dir. Ashlea Wessel.

There is no apocalypse like the present. This is a feeling we may all sit with lately. It feels like the world around us is burning away, by way of climate and not only human neglect, but active, and willful destruction of our shared spaces. One girl exists on a rooftop and experiences the hell of the impending natural disaster alone. Everyone below goes about their business as usual. Ashlea Wessel creates the captivating visage of a world gone mad, leaving the children to suffer. Lately, it has been on all of our minds. What are we leaving behind? Our cinema begins to confront the reality of how that looks from the perspective of those who’ve inherited our neglect.

Sometimes, I Think About Dying

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Sometimes, I Think About Dying. Dir. Stefanie Abel Horowitz.

Love can find us at the strangest of times. Fran (Katy Wright-Mead) thinks about death. She spends the workday fantasizing about hanging herself from the tree outside her window. She has become a prisoner to her own self-reflexive thinking. Meanwhile, office mate Robert (Jim Sarbh) has become smitten with her. They start a quiet office relationship. They go to an awful movie called Little Luxuries and do not really talk about it over an awkward dinner. They go on vacation. They find in each other what they cannot find in themselves. It’s an intricately lovely short and Horowitz has a great mind for framing the acute drama. Sometimes, I think about recommending fantastic short films.

Nymphs

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Nymphs. Dir. Isabella Torre.

Nudity, as they say, is the cheapest special effect. Full frontal nudity will cause more impact than the biggest explosion. Isabella Torre understands the art of nudity perfectly well, as encapsulated in her striking short, Nymphs. Some archaeologists have unearthed gorgeous women who now roam wordlessly, ethereally, toward some unknown goal. The women visually arrest and captivate us, just as they have their victims. The short is awash with dark blue hues, lovely camerawork and coloring naturally complementing its out-of-this-world aesthetic. A lovely little short.

Boogeywoman

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Boogeywoman. Dir. Erica Scoggins.

Last year’s Something Strange collection delighted me, providing the opportunity to write about a tampon monster. This year’s Cinema Vista collection ends in roughly the same way. A young lady experiences her first period at the skating rink. An unhelpful group of friends give her a bad time and they have a small falling out. Horror can be an excellent place for the coming of age story, especially for young women. Erica Scoggins benefits from her lean production, creating an urban legend story as worthy of a campfire as a festival screen. The director understands her darkness and channels it expertly in Boogeywoman, a neatly authored and confident short that ends this year’s Cinema Vista collection with something to write home about

 

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