Always one of my favourite programs at the Worldwide Short Film Fest, the sci-fi shorts this year were also very strong, and less “retro-kitsch” than last year’s. Nice to see entries from such sci-fi hotspots as New Zealand and Africa too!
- Defoe (9 minutes, UK, Director: Ross Neil): An astronaut crash lands on an inhospitable planet in this visually arresting film. It’s not a new idea, and the short ends abruptly, but great use of makeup and effects. (Official site) (7/10)
- Schizofredric (15 minutes, UK, Director: Andy Poyiadgi): A nerdy slob signs up for a self-improvement course that involves a wormhole in his house. Breaks some of the conventions of cinematography while hewing carefully to the conventions of comedy shorts. (Facebook page) (7/10)
- Fard (13 minutes, France, Director: David Alapont and Luis Briceno) The only animated film in the bunch, this approximates the look of a shaky handheld camera, and the reason soon becomes apparent. Oscar is a drone in a highly regimented society. His life is predictable until a friend asks him to hide a strange package. Though the dystopian storyline isn’t new, the contents of the package pushed the film into surprising and technically impressive territory. (Watch the whole film on Twitch’s site) (9/10)
- Vostok Station (8 minutes, New Zealand, Director: Dylan Pharazyn) At an Antarctic research station, an injured man stumbles from a terrible disaster before being transfixed by a beautiful vision. What does it mean? The unusual setting and imagery really add to the sense of mystery in this short. (Watch an excerpt on YouTube) (8/10)
- ?E?ANX (The Cave) (11 minutes, Canada, Director: Helen Haig-Brown) Based on a tale from the Tsilhqot’in people, this film adds a sci-fi element to the story of a bear hunter who crawls into a remote cave and finds a portal to the afterlife. Beautifully-shot but fairly straightforward. (7/10)
- Pumzi (23 minutes, South Africa/Kenya, Director: Wanuri Kahiu) It’s 35 years after the “Water War” and Asha works at the Virtual Museum of Natural History somewhere in Africa. It’s a self-contained society where all moisture (even urine and sweat) is recycled. One day she receives a mysterious soil sample from an unknown source. It’s high in water content and free from radiation, but when she asks to go and investigate its source, she’s denied permission to go outside. Undaunted, she escapes in order to plant a tree. Strong art direction, but the ending is more lyrical and dreamlike than realistic, leaving the source of the soil a mystery. This helps reinforce the film’s environmental message, but left me a bit frustrated. (Official site) (7/10)