Fantasia 2020: Born of Woman

Women storytellers are crucial to the expansion of the industry. As new stories are being told, films have created a burgeoning avenue of expression for the women. The Born of Woman block of this year’s Fantasia finds the arrival of distinct, fully-formed voices, with a diverse range of subjects and techniques. It’s a lovely category that we’re proud to share with our readers and to support the growth of and industry that represents everyone.

Come Fuck My Robot

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Come Fuck My Robot. Dir. Mercedes Bryce Morgan.

It all started on Craigslist. “I’m an engineer who built an AI with a vagina. I need someone to come fuck my robot and let me watch” the ad read, “I can’t fuck it because I’m like it’s dad.” A joke gone too far, Mercedes Bryce Morgan took the effective logline and formed a story that deals with modern consent. It is a useful analog, for a generation who’s consent may come by the ping of a text message, extrapolating the idea into a tidy short about a nervous boy and a reticent AI just wishing to be saved from her awkward lot in life. Funny and to the point, the short form is a useful avenue for its social messaging.

Blocks

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Blocks. Dir. Bridget Moloney.

The cult of motherhood is strong in the movies. The observable truth is that it’s the dirtiest, hardest job there is. Parenting is not all rainbows and sunshine, as Bridget Moloney’s short metaphor ably suggests. A mother of two convulses, vomits up plastic toy blocks. First, it is a burden. And then, she makes good use of her new quirk and builds a metaphorical hut out of her pain, a house of LEGO sheltering her from the difficulty of her obligations. A 4:3 aspect ratio lends itself well, as the frame is a kind of block itself. While parenting is hard during a pandemic, it is helpful when filmmakers create such tangible metaphors, and now due to expand to series, it’s a useful building block for further ideas. [Read previous coverage in our SXSW round-up.]

Break Us

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Break Us. Dir. Rioghnach Ní Ghrioghair.

Rioghnach Ní Ghrioghair’s breezy nine minute short finds a couple amidst a grand robbery. They’re about to hold up a post office (there have to be higher value targets with fewer protections). When their gig goes sideways, they learn a lot about each other. The nature of their relationship unfurls. We see the woman’s inner strength. Over some oddly placed Jazz, it efficiently shows how relationship dynamics manifest themselves in the oddest of situations.

Snowflakes

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Snowflakes. Dir. Faye Jackson.

A loose science-fiction story, Snowflakes carries impactful, pertinent, real-world trappings. At an UK detainment centre, a group is just about to be forcibly deported to Jamaica. The guards call in a nurse to help subdue a woman with some drugs and she begs and pleads, she’s a drug addict, please do not inject her. Then, some magic takes over, the nurse sticks herself, and when the reggae drops, the world becomes a dizzying drug-scape. Inventive and distinctly different, carries a broad message that’s cleverly conveyed in its short runtime.

Diabla

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Diabla. Dir. Ashley George.

A rape revenge story with the bite of witchcraft, Ashley George’s Diabla is a fast success. When a young woman is raped by her cousin and her brother doesn’t believe her, she must take her pride into her own hands. There is one way to take the film and it is abrupt and unsurprising in its conclusions. And yet, it burns with potency, and an eye for its reclamation story, that it is deeply enthralling. Big credit to actress Ruth Ramos, who’s eyes and body language do the most.

The Rougarou

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The Rougarou. Dir. Lorraine Caffery.

The Rougarou. The Rougarou. The Rougarou. It’s a fun word to say. As such, we’re cued in that it’s chiefly Louisianan. The story of a young girl and the father figure she does not know if she can trust, it develops a concise werewolf story that gets a lot out of a small costume moment. The themes are a bit threadbare and tangential to the point, though it quickly is able to reflect a kind of desolate urban mythmaking that fills up the runtime.

Narrow

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Narrow. Dir. Anna Chazelle.

Anna Chazelle, sister of popular director Damien, debuts with a laser-focused short. Narrow, as the name implies, keeps its sights within a linear framework. Anna proves herself a viable lead role candidate, acting for herself in the apocalypse. The film does not say a lot but explores a small space effectively, achieving an eerie effect that suggests everyone else left alive are monsters.

F for Freaks

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F for Freaks. Dir. Sabine Ehrl.

Every good shorts package has a supreme what-the-fuck moment. This one comes courtesy of Sabine Ehrl who has conjured some real backwoods madness. In the woods of Bavaria, Germany, a troop of inbred mountain people hunts down smaller, little people to sell back at base. The simple animalistic reduction in size plays as a favorable trick here, a shorthand gimmick that produces very fun offbeat results. A bit of novelty goes a long way, although it does not totally earn its F for Fake (1973) title allusion… let’s pretend it’s unintentional.

They Salivate

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They Salivate. Dir. Ariana Boukerche.

An infectious piece of erotic invention. Ariana Boukerche’s entry is magnificently sexual and fluidly expressed. A couple share a kiss and then spit it into a drink for a party, a party-goer takes it down, and suddenly everyone pours moisture, flowing into one another in a wet orgy. It’s artful and sexy, would function beautifully a silent film, as its words are never essential as the flowing expression of its actors. There is always one that makes a selection worth doing, and They Salivate really urges me to spread the word.

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