August 1, 9pm, Middle Dam, Durham
by Tony Massett
This program is specifically designed to give independent filmmakers
the opportunity for their work to be viewed and possibly selected and
screened as part of this year’s film festival. To facilitate this process
we requested short film/video submissions from individual artists,
film collectives, and alternative film distributors around the country.
Following the success of last year’s jury selection process, which
was greatly appreciated by the jurors, we have again selected a jury
that comprises a fair representation of the Durham/West Grey community.
They were given the mandate of selecting a cross section of films that
they found appealing and would be of interest to a larger audience. The
jury was given free reign in this decision making process. Of the films
submitted, a large proportion were those in the more traditional narrative
of story telling and consequently most of the jury’s selection follows
along this vein whether in the genre of drama or documentary. Not that
this is altogether an issue, but to fully explore the ever expanding
medium of the moving image we need to further research that realm of
imagery that diverges from our notions of familiarity and comfort.
Several of the selected films depart from the norm in that their construction
incorporates elements of digital animation, which contributes to a whole
other area of expression. In Transhuman Dance Recital and Letter to Liza
the human protagonists exist in a digitally manipulated world. The former
as a disembodied head floating in a whimsical world of abstract design
elements, whilst the latter portrays a digital rendering of the downtown
streets of Toronto emphasizing and exaggerating the atmosphere of alienation
that Liza experiences as a street person living rough, and already outside
the norms of society. Of course digital manipulation of the image to
create special effects has been around for a while and become a mainstay
of the commercial film industry which has now carried over into the world
of independent filmmaking due to the availability of cheaper and more
accessible technology. This in itself presents a whole new realm of challenge
and political assessment as the filmmaking artist consume and critique
this density of contemporary media culture.
To present a more inclusive program of varying filmmaking genres I
have selected two additional films from those submitted because they
address other visual concerns in the filmmaking idiom. Both these films
present an indeterminate narrative that emphasizes the abstract nature
of film in its visual construction.
The first Death of Natural Language stood out from all the films submitted
due to the method in which the imagery has been put together. The presentation
of typewritten text acts much like the low definition reading of a poorly
focused print depicting scenes of a blurry and ambiguous nature. This
ingenuity of method gives play between the two dimensional world of text
and the necessity to distil meaning, whilst simultaneously scanning the
whole and discerning the three dimensional moving image. The ground between
this dichotomy allows for a multitude of abstract readings, resplendent
with comprehension and complete confusion.
The second film I chose for its stunning observation of the inherent
beauty in the prosaic mechanics of daily chemistry. Awash seems to play
with several definitions; Awash – as alternately covered and exposed
by waves or flood. A Wash - as the daily ritual of domestic hygiene.
This play on watery interpretations is the premise by which the filmmaker
explores the full range of form, light and all its inherent seductive
qualities. An unabashed indulgence in the sensuality of slow-motion,
up close cinematography.
3:35 minutes (2005) Canada
A young boy, after being tucked into bed by his mother, surreptitiously
departs the house and gleefully tricycles off to the local park to partake
in his passion of careening down the plastic playground slide. The child’s
perspective, in all its innocent excitement, is contrasted to the parental
perspective; the nightmare of the lost child! This becomes somewhat disquieting
when the mother checks the child’s bedroom. The dilemma of a safe childhood
verses untrammeled freedom.
Close and Low
4:30 minutes (2006) Canada
A man and his dog story. “Low to the ground and close to heaven” features
the dog as metaphor, an ideological touch-stone on the issues of life,
death, loneliness and love. This philosophic muse romps through this
film with all the dog-graciousness that one would expect of the canine
Journey My Heart
8:40 minutes (2007) Canada
A documentary following the fitness regimen of a dedicated distance runner.
She describes her daily running routine; pitfalls, expectations, discipline
and fervour. Only slowly revealing the true intent to which she pursues
her fitness regimen. The tenor of this documentary is to lead the viewer
through the portal of effort and dedication in the personal pursuit of
competitive performance. A specific cultural performance that only reveals
itself in the closing moments of the film.
Letter to Liza
7:00 minutes (2006) Canada
A graphic hybrid of animation and real life representation presents a
narrative of a young woman pregnant and destitute in the lonely big city.
The sermonizing letter from the father, absolving all responsibility
leaves Liza desperate. A sad and somewhat melodramatic account that probably
has a ring of truth for homeless youth in large urban centres.
6:29 minutes (2007) Canada
A discombobulated delight as the disembodied head of the narrator bobs
around in the digital world of graphic design. The ensuing pas de deux
of bodiless head and graphic brilliance (accoutrements) defines itself
in a performance of versatile absurdity, full of grace and wit.
Million Dollar Gamer
2:54 minutes (2006) Canada
A young woman dares to dream of participating in the male dominated world
of video gaming. A game where foot manoeuvres (dance sequences) are the
controlling device in competition with the machine. The boxing metaphor
becomes immediately apparent as the crusty coach takes on his new protégé.
A pastiche tribute to the formulaic Hollywood movie depicting the little
guy as archetypal fighter overcoming all the odds.
2:32 minutes (2006) Canada
The morning gets off to a bad start, popping pills, ruminating death
and the cosmetic nature of a corpse, an all pervasive tone of suicide.
More pills and the frantic parental banging at the bathroom door. “Should
have started with Eggs Instead,” she remarks as the final sardonic quip
that mystifies rather than clarifies (or is that visa - versa)?
Wanda and Miles
12:55 minutes (2007) Canada
Lesley Loksi Chan
The transient life of a mother and son as they continuously move residence
to avoid the demons that lurk in their past. The mother’s compulsive
drawing of maps is an act of securing definition and destination. But
these maps are the harbinger change that precipitates the need to move.
This psychological strategy by which she navigates their way through
the maze of life presents itself as neurotic and ultimately destructive.
The suitcase that provides the metaphor of the shifting life, contains
the future but also encompasses all that which holds the past (literally).
4:39 minutes (2008) Canada
A nostalgic discourse on remembrance and time passed, juxtaposed with
the clinical assessment of the body through the diagnostic discourse
of a hospital nurse. Superimposed are images of the past and present,
a life long lived and all the associative family ties. Dementia and withdrawal
from the present to the significant reflective moments of past connections
ensue. Flow is the timeless order of lives lived and lives expiring,
wistful and inevitable.
1:45 minutes (2007) Canada
TV as the modern day demon, sucking the life sustaining forces from out
the bodies and souls of our children. Unless of course the lens should
turn and focus on me to be its particular celebrity and instantly shall
I acquiesce to its seductive charm. An animated short that moves monstrously
through a dense convergence of image and sound.
Red Like Meat
7:30 minutes (2006) Canada
In bed awaiting his anniversary present (hints of the sexual), the husband
peruses his wife’s magazine, where-upon he indulges a surrealistic carnal
fantasy. The magazine that stimulates his erotic desire, is an essay
of the photo based work of artist Janieta Eyre. The artist’s depictions
of women presented in still life tableau are recreated and manipulated
to further the lustful yearnings of the expectant husband.
3:30 minutes (2006) Canada
An ephemeral animation, elusive as it floats through the universe just
beyond reach, unanchored with no allegiance to place and time except
the melancholic murmurings of things once been. Its charm lies in the
very notion that gesture need not be explained nor accountable.
2:00 minutes (2007) Canada
A man flies his kite beside the sea. Uplifting and uneventful, the kite
does what all kites do and does it well.
2:10 minutes (2007) Canada
A young woman walks to the centre of a street and starts to sing a love
song. Meanwhile a ferocious rainstorm lashes down and the few pedestrians
brave enough to face the downpour seem oblivious to the performance and
more intent on fending off the elements. We empathise with her wild act
of bravura, her stamina and over the top theatricality. Could this be
the prosaic version of Gene Kelly’s, “Singing in the Rain”. This simple
premise creates a most compelling scenario that resonates as the most
appropriate of audacious gestures.
Death of Natural Language
2:54 minutes (2007) Canada
A laconic film, spare in its representation, where ghost like forms evoke
hints of the familiar. An ingenuity of abstraction utilizing the graphic
representation of type-written text to produce the iconic images associated
with airplane travel. Augmented with the melancholic phrasing of solo
guitar that culminates in a quiet discourse on the nature of ambiguity.
10:00 minutes (2007) Canada
Awash is an observation filtered through the slow moving seduction of
light and form. The prosaic mechanics of daily chemistry are imbued with
aesthetic tension as the filmmaker observes through close-up and slow
motion photography the abstract beauty these actions behold.