Tuesday, September 11, 2012

shnit International Short Film Festival Preview

The shnit International shortfilmfestival is into its 9th edition this year, and each edition boasts a carefully curated selection of hundreds of shorts, in competition nationally and internationally, judged by its esteemed panel and audiences around the world. The Singapore leg will take place between 3-7 October, and you can keep up to date with the latest on this micro site here.

The following is but a select few of about 64 shorts you'd come to expect from the Singapore selection:

Flamingo Pride
by Tomer Eshed, Germany, 6:02 (From Shnit Programme Block 07)
An upbeat score opens this short animated film, where a pink flamingo finds it difficult to gel with its GLBT counterparts in one huge rainbow pride event, complete with booming music, and flamboyance all around. He seeks love in the unlikeliest of places, but also gets rejected based on the looks of its exterior alone.

Beneath this story lies the very human trait of judging someone by the very cliche cover of a book, but it is this adage that gets so strongly translated for the screen, boosted by the very photorealistic animation of the animals, and its comedic timing. There's little dialogue here, at least some semblance which you can make out from its deliberate murmurs, that deals with one's existential and identity crisis in the hunt for one's true soulmate.

Now You Know It Anyway (Nu ken je het toch al)
by Schravendeel Bastiaan, Netherlands, 2:38 (From Shnit Programme Block 09)
This very short animated film tells of a young girl's selling of her stories in a flea market, only for her imagination to get the better of her, bringing to life her creations, well at least in her own mind anyway. A showreel of sorts for the director and the team involved, with vibrant colours complementing the solid artwork, with contrasts made for images and objects that spring from the author's mind.

The Voorman Problem
by Mark Gill, United Kingdom, 12:16 (From Shnit Programme Block 05)
Based on an excerpt from the novel "number9dream" by David Mitchell, The Voorman is an engaging mystery thriller involving a Prisons psychiatrist, Dr. Williams (Martin Freeman), engaging in a battle of the wits with a prisoner, the titular Voorman (Tom Hollander), who believes he is a god. Given the task to examine Voorman and determine if he is indeed crazy enough to transfer to an asylum, there's a surprise waiting for Williams as evidence start to point to Voorman really being more than meets the eye.

Well acted by the two men who bring a certain rivalry to the table, with disbelief and disdain, giving way to a neat little revelation toward the end, that makes one wonder if it is indeed the act of a god, or a demon, at play. Would love to see how this could have been developed into a longer film, given the investments in the art department, and plenty of promise yet to be developed fully, making this seem like a calling card to a much larger movie.

Voice Over
by Martin Rosete, Spain, 9:48 (From Shnit Programme Block 01)
Martin Rosete brings forth all the emotions felt before, during and after one's defining moment in life, in very vivid terms interpreted through three short narratives intertwined in different timelines, and scenarios, from an astronaut, a soldier and a sailor, all cusping on life's edge as they battle challenges lying ahead of them, threatening their very existence.

Narrated by Feodor Atkine, each of these different narrative threads is wonderfully shot, with an eye for detail, adopting various creative camera angles that one may feel an overkill for a short film, but in no lesser terms showcasing the filmmaker's ambition to make this film a force to be reckoned with. Combining technical brilliance with an emotional core, the highlight is the portrayal of one's last few minutes struggling with the feeling of inevitable death, before the eventual euphoric release of joy when near impossible objectives are reached. It comes close to perfection in the encapsulation of how that virginal experience revealed much later gets approached, jittery feelings overcome, and conquered. Bliss.

Chambre 69
by Claude Barras, Switzerland, 3:26 (From Shnit Programme Block 08)
Simply put, a stop motion animated short film for adults, given its subject matter involving a man and his blow up doll which he checked into a motel, room 69 no less, for the night. But there's a larger story working here, something that reminded me of Richard Donner's Ladyhawke, where a couple is condemned to live their lives together and yet apart. I am always such a sucker for stop motion, that this invariably charmed my socks off.

It Was My City (Inja Shahreh Man Bood)
by Tina Pakravan, Iran, 8:48 (From Shnit Programme Block 08)

You'd be forgiven if you'd think this had something to do with social ills and challenges faced by a bunch of people, who are seen in phone booths, talking in animated fashion to an unknown person at the other end of the line, with regards to topics involving children, schools, and even fuel. For starters, you may even think that this film deals with the complaints of the callers, trying to get and make their attention known to a third party, in phone booths that looks quite dilapidated. What's more, there seems to be yet another person, probably waiting in line to use the phone, who interrupts at an opportune time.

Then there's where the film shows its brilliance, when the camera pans out to show us the horrors that surround these broken down communication infrastructure, a war zone of sorts, and these suddenly aren't your usual complainers and moaners, but people displaced and affected by fighting, who have to find some means to regroup and reclaim some semblance in their lives. And the landscape gets messier, with the introduction of military personnel and hardware, and the fighting getting closer. One key highlight is the continuous tracking shot from start to end, that captured the horrors of war and the everyday common folk that war actually impacts. Powerful, as it plays on our narrow views of things, before the bigger picture comes into play.

La Huoda
by Victor Carrey, Spain, 10:39 (From Shint Programme Block 02)
It started with a 50 Euro note lying on the sidewalk. You can imagine how one can spin a story around this premise to give it a little more engaging form, which the director Victor Carrey really let his mind run wild in creating little narratives involving vastly different elements, setting the stage for one big narrative to happen when these ideas got strung together in one of the most effective telling of a story experienced in a long while, and a beautifully crafted one as well. The first five minutes had been used to set things up, before the brilliance of a rich imagination started to shine through, delivered by a remarkable song accompanying the visuals drawn from its setup. It shows how sometimes random moments in life are never just as frivolous as first thought, when the big picture is finally shown and taken into consideration.

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