The world we live in now is so different from the one that many of us grew up in that it can be hard to believe all those videotapes, rolls of film, and CDs we so lovingly bought and developed are now mostly obsolete. With these changes has come a change in the cinematic landscape that can be seen no more clearly than with the short films being produced today. The second annual Videodrunk Film Festival occurred just a few weeks past and the films on display were a testament to our ever-changing digital, and technological, landscape. Many of these films use innovative means to show us a changing world on the level of the individual. Outside of experimental cinema, filmmakers have nearly always tried to ‘hide the brush strokes’ as it were and not display the camera apparatus. In these films the apparatus is often at the forefront, serving as a window, and writing a new language for the 21st century.
While that seems to be a running theme for many of these films, it is not the rule. Several films, dare I say the best ones, are simply cinema: short but potent portrayals of experience. Many of the experiences on display are the kind of silly, punchy comedy that is enjoyable but not particularly profound. At times the films at Videodrunk go deep into the cinematic, without a wink. Those are the moments, amidst all those filmic visions, that one remembers why they love movies.
34 films were on display at Videodrunk though for the sake of brevity only 10 films will be highlighted, 5 in this post.
February 28 (Diana Galimzyanova, 2014)
I want to start off by discussing what has become my favorite film at the festival: February 28, written and directed by Diana Galimzyanova. A young cancer survivor struggles to return to normal life and reclaim her sense of identity. She finds herself plagued by an apparition, a woman in black (Diana Galimzyanova) who asks her to question the meaning and purpose of existence. She feels disconnected from her new co-workers who she finds silly and frivolous and she is no longer able to take the beautiful photographs that had once helped define her. This is a very succinct film, which is part of the reason it works so well, but there are also delicious moments when Galimzyanova’s camera seems to revel in minutia. In one scene the woman is having coffee and cake with her co-workers. The other women discuss something silly while our woman pokes at her cake with a tiny dessert fork. These forks come to be a token symbol of the kind of social problem our woman is having in the moment. The forks are fussy and unnecessary. They’re accouterments reserved for prissy old ladies and people with more money than brains. The camera lingers on them, and in a lot of ways, this moment in a self-admittedly symbolic film feels the most honest.
Certainly, one can feel the influence of 20th century international film in Feburary 28th. The woman in black who speaks in philosophical metaphors to our heroine is a direct reference to Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. Even so this doesn’t feel anything like the meta pop-shock crap we’ve grown to associate with self-referential film culture. The references are pure and integrated. They clearly come from a person who is deeply in love with film and isn’t afraid to let it show.
Snooze Tease (Tim Phillips, 2015)
Snooze Tease is nearly seven minutes of a two-minute joke. A young man continually hits the snooze button because he’s having a dream about a blonde girl with a pink umbrella doing a strip tease. He finally resets the alarm to go off later at which point the hot girl turns into a portly man. Then he runs into the portly man in the elevator. While I applaud the colour cue of the neon pink umbrella, the film doesn’t really go anywhere. The story is outdated and dull and it’s the kind of thing we have already in about 800 teen films. College boy is upset that his fantasy girl turned into an ugly dude? Pretty boring.
Texting: A Love Story (Jeanette L. Buck, 2014)
I really liked this one. At times it’s a little overlong but the punch line is so hilarious you may not even notice. A couple can only be intimate with each other through text message. It’s an amusing premise, and the film manages to avoid feeling repetitive while continually showing us these filthy texts in odd environments. Lisa Bol and Rob Goeller who play the man and woman are well cast. They embody the sort of cringing awkwardness usually reserved the very young. It’s as though they have channeled their inner tween, and it works well. The film culminates in one of the most ridiculous, guffaw worthy, sex scenes I’ve ever come across. Texting: A Love Story is fluff but it’s good fluff. It’s talking about something pertinent to our culture but manages to avoid knocking us over the head with it by wrapping it in some very funny comedy. It’s worth a watch.
http:// (Bartosz Kruhlik, 2010)
I have a lot of mixed feelings about http://. At first I admired its aesthetic mix and found it very clever. The filmmaking oscillates between high quality digital and a youtube camcorder aesthetic. It works to a point but the story is so mundane that all virtuosity falls by the wayside. Two young men convince a younger boy to “shoot” his brother with a handgun. The boy shoots, his companions pretend it’s real, reveal it’s not, and the boy disappears with the gun. The point that messing with people’s heads in order to have a popular online video is cruel and unnecessary, is lost because the film gives us no reason to care for these people. They’re crass and rude, and the boy never says anything but just stares at the ground. So obsessed is this film with its own style that the narrative weight it was meant to give that style is totally lost. In the moments when the characters realize their cruelty, and when the audience should feel some emotion, it’s just not there. Kruhlik does his best to hammer it in in the final scene, followed by excessively long credits, but it just doesn’t work. It’s a shame to call something with so much stylistic ambition a failure, but it is that.
Selfie (Ali Erfan Farhadi, 2015)
Selfie accomplishes in less than 2 minutes what http:// couldn’t accomplish in 12. A man is trying to take a photograph of a child cancer patient. Over the course of the film several other men join the shot, talking about how their involvement will further their careers and professional stance in the hospital. Meanwhile the child just stands there. In the end the photographer walks up to the group so he can be in the picture. When the photo is finally taken, only the top of the kids’ head is visible. Like http://, Selfie moves between viewing the action inside the cellphone camera, and outside of it. The concept works better for this film for a couple of reasons: It’s very short and to the point, and it is not particularly heavy handed. Where Kruhlik’s film spent ample time hitting the audience over the head with his message, Selfie is less concerned. Farhadi lets the characters and their actions speak for themselves. His aesthetic meandering feels honest, and there’s no misplaced or unworkable emotion. The kid just stands there, indifferent to the grown men who want to use his illness for their own gains. Farhadi leaves it up to the audience to decide what is right, and how to feel.
Part 2 to come!