WWSFF: Opening Night Gala Programme

The Danish Poet
The Danish Poet

Tonight’s programme consisted of award-winning shorts released in 2006, and just watching them one after another led me to a few conclusions about short films in general. To compare them to written works, they’re a bit like poems to a feature film’s novel. And to compare to spoken word, they’re like jokes as opposed to sagas. With such a short amount of time, they need to make their points quickly, so there is often a high “cleverness” factor and the endings often feel like the punch line of a joke. This can work well, but a film that stands out is one that doesn’t make these tropes so obvious. Here, in my order of enjoyment, are tonight’s selections:

  • The Danish Poet (Canada/Norway, 2006): With lovely narration from Liv Ullmann, this story felt the most organic and the least gimmicky. Even though there is a sort of punchline “payoff” at the end, it’s telegraphed early enough to set us down gently. The whimsical animation style and always-great use of animated (but non-speaking) animals made this a worthy Oscar-winner this year. Check out the film’s web site. (9/10)
  • Dreams and Desires – Family Ties (UK, 2006): Another animated short, this one cleverly used animated sketches to simulate a wedding video filmed by the oddly cinephilic Beryl, a large woman of grandmotherly vintage. Her attempts to film the disastrous occasion in the styles of famous directors from Eistenstein to Riefenstahl, all the while keeping up a steady stream-of-consciousness narration, keeps this one rollicking along, despite the nearly impenetrable accents. (9/10)
  • Tanghi Argentini (Belgium, 2006): This is a charming tale of an office drone who just might be an angel. André needs to learn to tango in two weeks so he can meet his Internet crush, so he turns to his colleague Frans to help teach him to dance. Will love bloom? (8/10)
  • Contact (Raak) (Netherlands, 2006): Three characters paths cross again and again in this cleverly-edited short. There’s that word “clever” again. (7/10)
  • The Substitute (Il Supplente) (Italy, 2006): A class of high-school students is terrorized by a Scott Thompson (ex-Kids in the Hall) lookalike, who then gets his comeuppance. Funny in an odd sort of way. (7/10)
  • Make A Wish (Atmenah) (USA, 2006): A straightforward, almost documentary-like tale of a young girl who will go to any lengths to get a special birthday cake. Only it’s set in the West Bank. The filmmaking is pretty rudimentary and there’s a bit of a (tragic) punchline at the end. (6/10)
  • Imagine This (Australia/Ireland, 2006): Sometimes a short should also be a “small.” Using found internet footage to make George W. Bush “sing” John Lennon’s “Imagine” was a pretty funny idea. But it really shouldn’t have made it off the YouTube site. (5/10)
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