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2010 Silhouette Short Films
Sunday 31 October 2010, by
The Silhouette Short Film Festival (France, Paris, Parc des Buttes Chaumont) has the advantage of being outdoors, in the leafy and secluded middle of the Buttes Chaumont, of showcasing some new and edgy shorts and of being absolutely free.
On the other hand, it is outdoors: you have to be prepared for the two and a half hours sitting in the grass while the temperature drops and your concentration ebbs away.
Onwards and upwards : THE FILMS:
As one of this year’s attendees, I have had the chance to watch some pretty unmissable films, starting with these five:
“The six dollar fifty man”, a short film by New Zealand-based M. Albiston and L. Sutherland.
The film focuses on a young “different” boy, who uses his imagination to get through life and its pains.... And yet, how many of us as children have found in the depths of our imagination the answers to questions that could not be asked?
The kid is a big fan of superheroes and creates his own. He also believes he has superpowers, and ends up going that extra length over what “normal” children would probably dare. No film about “different” kids would be complete without the obligatory bullies that try to get them into trouble. The kid is relatable and likeable and his abilities, albeit impressive, especially his drawing skills, are within the realm of the human.
It might not sound particularly original, but the treatment is really unique and puts this film up high above productions revolving around similar themes.
The director has an amazing way with rhythm; silences, tense moments and close-ups are perfectly timed. His use of light and music is proof of a real technical talent.
And that’s without mentioning the spot-on narrative structure. The first scene directly immerses us in the story, immediately gripping us as we completely lose track of our surroundings...
Second short film from Silhouette is “Sinna Mann” (“Angry Man”), a Norwegian animated short film directed by Anita Killi.
“Sinna Mann” is a must see. Half educational film half artsy animation, “Sinna Mann” could serve as a useful medium to help break the silence around domestic violence.
I take my hat off to Anita Killi’s take on a subject as sensitive as domestic violence. How can one communicate the tension, reveal the anger bubbling under the surface whilst bringing out the unique mix of fear and love? “Sinna Mann” does all that and more.
Anita Killi’s talent shines through the choices she made in the animation. The characters’ outlines are made up of broken lines to illustrate the transgression of the bodily “borders” through the violence. The characters’ movements, made with cut-out animation, somehow enhance the tension in the situation.
The very sudden changes in shapes and camera angles reveal the unexpectedness of the anger and the lack of logic and reasoning behind it. Even the pattern of the father’s hands allow the viewer to picture the fracture inside him. Anita Killi offers a very deep and polished work. In the end, the film is a visually perfect combination of aesthetics and violence designed to convey those “secrets that shouldn’t be secret.”, as announced in the synopsis.
Reminiscent of Isao Takahata’s “Grave of the fireflies” animation, “Sinna Mann” uses similar patterns including child narration. That process emphasizes the possibilities of alterating the situation. The choice of having the child narrate also works on other levels. First is the obvious, natural vulnerability of children, which can easily move the audience. Second, the youthful narration takes us back to our own childhood and allows us to empathise as we naturally did when we were kids. That is why he, and not the mother, is at the centre of the film.
To conclude, the beautiful aesthetics of “Sinna Mann” contribute touchingly to its educational message.
“Napszúrás” (“Sunstroke”) gets third prize from me. It was part of the competition and has been awarded the professionnal jury’s “Grand Prix”.
Directed by Lili Horvath, the Hungarian and German short film is a very strong film about being a woman.
A woman runs aimlessly from the first sequence of the film up to the end. “Sunstroke” does not have a storyline running through it, rather, it leaves it all up to the audience’s varied interpretations.
The quality of the shooting and the misfit-like beauty of the main actress (who has also been awarded a prize for her performance by the Silhouette Short Film Festival) are striking from the get-go.
The talent of “Sunstroke” is allowing the viewers to make their own choices about the different characters and values brought about.
I also want to talk about the choice of title. What is a sunstroke?
The reaction of a human body exposed to high temperature for too long. As the body fails to thermo-regulate, it is increasingly damaged by the heat. The way I see it, it refers to the teenage main character as she becomes a mother.
The heat would refer to the presence of that fragile baby girl she, as a mother, is supposed to protect and watch. Though Maja loves her child, the fact that she somewhat fails to provide her with opportunities for later life increasingly damages her.
Maja is unhealthy and she knows she has to return to her healthy self if she is to provide her child with a healthy environment to grow up in.
The teenager is a complete misfit. It seems her energy comes from her sheer thirst for life, which transforms itself a race towards freedom.
As we have no information about the baby, I was wondering if the child was born as a consequence of a rape. The question is of course never asked. But there are many sequences related to seduction. One could only see Maja as a confused victim of sexual abuse or as a complete nymphomaniac. Once again, it’s up to the viewer to decide.
Anyway, Maja never gets involved further in her relationships. She seems disconnected from her actual feelings and remaining unsatisfied... Can you find the reason why ?
Then, maybe Maja sees through the educator Rozsa the woman she doesn’t want to become ?... But she makes a choice to save herself and her child.
In my opinion, the focus of the film is the coming of age without the usual support or model to look up to. But due to the director’s choice of taking a neutral approach to the subject, there are no answers given.
“Sunstroke” is a very rich film for which every viewing can be different and fresh depending on how you look at it. Indeed, you have to go your own way!
“Monsieur l’abbé” (part of the competition), French short film directed by Blandine Lenoir.
This film is a unique testimony of a forgotten past. The actors, in thirties decor, are made to read letters from devout Catholics asking their local abbot, Abbé Viollet, for advice.
I want to congratulate Blandine Lenoir on having imagined such a film and restored this very peculiar heritage. In the letters, various individuals of the time ask the priest “Abbé Viollet” for advice on how to live their lives in a fulfilling way despite Catholicism’s tough moral rules. They address their demands facing the camera as if speaking directly to him. The abbot is rarely seen, and doesn’t say much.
The director has used Martine Sevegrand’s book (« L’Amour en toutes lettres. Questions à l’abbé Viollet sur la sexualité » (1924-1943)) as a basis for her film. The book is a compilation of only a few of the letters Viollet Abbott had received, which were selected for being especially hard-hitting and original.
Out of this selection, the director chose a few to bring visually back to life, one by one, in a well thought out order. Through the testimonies, it is clear anything regarding intimacy is considered a problem and human nature should always be repressed... or punished.
Letter after letter, the inconspicuency of the situation begins to appear. Our advice-seekers look increasingly ridiculous as they express their total ignorance of sex (asking things such as : will I have a baby after kissing ?). Obviously, modern audiences laugh at such ignorance or hypocrisy. The director wants to awake us to the progressive changes that have been made since then that we might take for granted.
The main purpose of the film is to pay homage to those people, mostly women, who refused to be subjected to religion’s extreme restrictions and to the changes brought about by the “sexual revolution”.
Today, these restrictions and distortions of human behaviour are still engrained as the result of social rules and stigma that still govern our moral values (privilege, wealth, masturbation, contraception and so on). The question is not Catholicism as such anymore , but living with social and moral rules that can distort human relations.
That film supports the message that sexuality should not be regarded with disgust but with understanding and tolerance. Specific audiences might benefit greatly from a screening..
The tense climax of the film arrives in the form of letters written by a homosexual man, a pedophile and a victim of sexual abuse.
Catholicism’s moral’s regulations have cast these people completely out of society. The gay man prepares himself to have sex with a woman and is confused by the lack of desire he feels for her. It is obvious to the audience that should he pursue his relationship, he will make himself and his wife miserable. It seems obvious now but sheds light on the morals of the period in a very intimate way.
Interestingly, the pedophile and the gay man are given the same exclusionary treatment by the Church. Morals aside, the desires are clearly not the same. Can we congratulate the Church on censuring pedophiles? The testimony proves we can’t. Not only is he unable to restrain his desires, but by casting him out, they become a taboo, preventing him from seeking treatment and preventing his potential victims from seeking help. In fact, the following person is the victim of child abuse, “stained” by the tormentor and considered just as guilty. But suicide is also considered evil. She has no choice but to sustain her suffering.
The director intersperses these monologues with images of a woman positioned similarly to Gustave Courbet’s very famous painting “The origin of the world”. This overt sexuality hints at the pervading presence of sex, sexual jokes and allusions in today’s society.
It looks like Blandine Lenoir denounciates the use of woman’s body as an object of desire in our “free society”, a society so convinced of its own freedom that it covers its taboos with explicit sexual references. Lenoir seemingly hopes for a society with a balance between freedom and control.
Gustave Courbet was denounciating the hypocrisy surrounding women’s sole role as mothers, even though eroticism and pornography had existed since the origin of mankind. Courbet hinted that a woman’s body is not “the origin of the world”, as Lenoir seems to be saying that a woman’s body is not “the gate of pleasure” as sex has become a religion in itself.
The last sequence sees a feminist woman making a speech, passionately refusing the rigid rules of Catholicism. The speech reminds me of the work of Orlan, a feminist sculptor, famous for, in her own words, “working on the human body, the female body, to liberate it from the social, political, aesthetic and sexual limits”.
And it’s interesting to note that one of Orlan’s works, “The origin of war”, the phallic body of a man parallels Courbet’s “The origin of the world”. Lenoir and Orlan both denounce the manipulation and control of the human body, which are in their opinion bound to fail, because whatever the rules (of religion, of freedom, or any other) one hides behind, the human body “is not an object.”
The last film I want to share with you is “Luz”, the French experimental short film directed by Natalianne Boucher.
It was a wonderful experience to discover this film, revealing the physics in light through artistic representations of its own subject. An experimental film on experimental physics !
The film renders a dream-like atmosphere, calming to the viewer, like looking at the rising sun after a long night.
Lights are jumping and winking, running one after the other, fusing or bouncing off each other... The aesthetical research in the visual arrangement of the lights and the accompanying music produces a real ballet.
“Luz” is a visual, artistic explanation of light (“luz” in spanish) in all its dimensions. But as I believe it would be a pity to dissect a poetic film like this one, I won’t give too many details... I will just quote the different aspects I have read between the lines (I should say “between the pictures”):
Light is colour.
The colours of light are a “chromatic spectrum”. Visible or not, light colour changes according to its wavelength.
Light is pulsation.
Stars are constantly pulsating. Huge conglomerates of energy particles, stars are fusing themselves little by little, and creating light, heat and gravity.
Light is scintillation.
Scintillation is the result of ionization, the physical process of fusing particles to create ions. Flashes of lights are created as a consequence of fusing particles, and what we call “scintillation” is the sum of the flashes.
Light is wave.
You know the waves creating by say a bar of soap falling in your bath? Like these, light is made of rays, those rays have different wavelengths and thus travel differently. Reflection, refraction, diffraction and interference of light can be experimented with solid interfaces, such as crystals. Such as the famous triangular prism.
Light is speed.
Rays travel according to a specific speed. The speed changes according to the environment in which the rays travel like we take longer to walk through a snowy path than through a meadow. The light we see from a star in the sky was produced thousands of years ago.
Light is multisourced.
Light has many origins: radiation (stars, electromagnetism...), chemistry (animals, candles, oils...), eletricity (in city lights for instance), quantum reactions (photons...)...
Light is life.
Without light, vegetation would die. Without vegetation, pretty much everything else would die...
Light is perception.
According to the distance, to our moves, to the environment’s changes, to the way we look at them, lights are blurred, distorted or losing their shapes.
Overall, I found this incredible journey inside light, a perfect combination of art and science, truly enjoyable. The best parts are the aesthetics and music which leave you with an incredible feeling of well-being.
I don’t want to say more and invite you to see the film online !!
Here : http://natalianneboucher.blogspot.com/2010/04/luz.html
These were my top five short films in this year’s edition.
Here are another few which I would also recommend : “Never drive a car when you’re dead” (Gregor Dashuber), “Hypnotic” (Johanna Vaude), “Premier anniversaire” (Pascal Rambert), “50 blue” (Oded Hirsch), “The cow who wanted to be a hamburger” (Bill Plympton), “Hocchaus” (Nikias Chryssos) and “Dounouia” (Anthony Quéré & Olivier Broudeur).
You can also see the Jury’s choices, and extracts of Silhouette Film Festival Awards at http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xeq888_palmares-festival-silhouette-2010_shortfilms
With a big Thank you to Abla Kandalaft for English language corrections