Reviews of screenings from the 2012 CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival (WSFF), Toronto, Canada.
Screens: Wednesday June 6, 6:15 pm @ Isabel Bader Theatre; Saturday June 9, 3:00 pm @ Isabel Bader Theatre
The Short Take: They might not all pass the Bechdel Test, but these all feature strong female performances. The doc and cartoons were the best things going here; the dramas' appeal will depend more on your own sensibility.
Unravel (Dir: Meghna Gupta, United Kingdom/India, 2012, 14 minutes) A lot of us probably don't wonder what happens to all that clothing that we get rid of to be "recycled" — but the (mostly woman) workers in Panipat, India who disassemble them wonder about us. Maybe water is very expensive there, they consider, so instead of washing their clothes they just throw them away while the still look new. Similar conundrums are considered as the workers slice out zippers and buttons and prepare the fabric to be stripped down to be recycled back to thread. We get an overview of the whole process while meeting the people behind it — it's physically demanding work, but the employees seem relatively happy and curious. And as they consider the people who had worn these clothes, they generally admit they'd love to be able to go to Europe and North America and see how they really live. Beautifully shot and presented with empathy, this is a worthy comment on both the "fabric of Western society" and those who are left to unravel it.
Girl (Dir: Fijona Jonuzi, Sweden, 2011, 15 minutes) Fleeing a dull dinner party, Hannah impulsively decides to head to up the apartment of a guy she meets at the convenience store. Once there, she suddenly finds herself in the company of five young men, barely out of their teens. There's definitely a hint of underlying tension and danger, especially once the booze and cocaine begin to flow. But the older Hannah remains calmly aware of the situation.... and is by no means running away screaming. There's a slightly unpleasant tang under it all (especially in documenting the general casual vileness of young men) but in the end it's the sharp veracity that leaves an impact.
Big Mouth (Dir: Andrea Dorfman, Canada, 2012, 8 minutes) What price honesty? In this NFB animation, we meet Trudy, a girl with the gift of saying precisely what's on her mind. She doesn't mean to hurt people's feelings, but soon she's being taught things like "if you can't say something nice....". A lucky encounter gives her a better lesson: her "big mouth" isn't trying to make fun of people, it's trying to share what she sees as being unique and astonishing. A real charmer. (Also: fine musical work from Mike O'Neill.)
Snow Canon (Dir: Mati Diop, France, 2011, 33 minutes) Stuck in a chalet in the French Alps, teenaged Vanina doesn't even have an opportunity to go searching for a boy to hang out with, like a friend on a Mexican vacation that she jealously exchanges Instant Messages with. Instead, she's stuck with American babysitter Mary Jane, who's busy with frantic transatlantic telephone calls — and then the pain of being dumped. This creates new opportunities, however, as Mary Jane crosses a few lines while Vanina pushes her own boundaries, at first unsure what she's getting into. The result is basically a seduction tale with a queer twist on the old "naughty babysitter" tropes. The film tries to dress that up with some portentous art-house symbolism, but the lingering shots of snowy mountains, flashes of rabbit abuse and soupçon of Salomé don't ultimately add up to much.
Little Plastic Figure (Dir: Samo-Sama, Germany, 2012, 3 minutes) A stop-motion ode to a toy figurine, this gives us a jaunty song, some cute imagery and then kindly steps aside, leaving a smile on your face.
Exode (Dir: Nathaniël Siri, Canada, 2011, 11 minutes) For the uninitiated, dance can sometimes seem like an oblique form of self-expression. This film does an admirable job of providing the emotional underpinning of a piece of choreography by cutting from the dance to the events in the dancer's life that animate her. Eliza is trapped in a relationship with a man she can't quit, and it's interfering with her rehearsals as much as it inspires. When beckoned back yet again, at first she shows the metaphorical strength to push him away, but then succumbs, leaving the viewer wondering if she is willingly stepping up for one more dance from a need to further her anguished inspiration as much as mere co-dependency. The music here is over-the-top, but an otherwise accomplished film.
What A Young Girl Should Not Know (Dir: Emily Pickering, Canada, 2011, 5 minutes) This entry comes very close to being commendable, but the mixed messages underwhelm the impact. A visually interesting mix of hazy, memory-like childhood footage and animated embroidery (suggesting a tradition of "women's work" and femininity) are interspersed with a numbered sequence of lessons and nostrums that are, presumably, the things a young girl should not know. It seems in places that the advice is on the level of "little girls should be seen and not heard", (i.e. controlling and patriarchal commandments that, in fact, should be ignored) but some cut the other way, and some simply seem inconsequential. Taken together, the images, commentary and a pleasing ambient score from Icelandic band múm all tantalize, but even after trying to tie the strands together afterward I couldn't gain much clarity as to the intent here.