A lot of short films today, split into three areas, so I'll keep each one pretty brief.
Many of the films are profiled on the shortfilmcentral website. I've included some direct links for my favourite ones.
International Fiction Competition 2: Small Europe, Big Cinema
This segment was all about highlighting short films from the smallest or most overlooked corners of the European Union.
Akmeni [Stones] (Latvia) - Gets off to an odd start; a mysterious man carrying green plastic bags visits schools and houses looking for men and boys to 'volunteer' for a mysterious purpose. This was a bit too abstract and weird to hold together and then ended before telling us what the hell was going on. 3/10
Maykomasmalon (Slovakia) - A very short but highly charged film, going through the final thoughts and emotions as a Nazi soldier is condemned to death, seemingly because he chose the wrong sort of girl to fall in love with. 6/10
Halib Ix-Xitan [Hells Dispite] (Malta) - Annoying music and overly slow panning shots almost but not quite spoils this film; a couple bicker and argue in their comfortable lives until their ignorance of the things going on around them ends in tragedy. 4.5/10
Josh (Luxembourg) - Several days after his parents have been killed, Josh's house is a den of complete destruction, a hive for the local kids to go and get drunk all day in their otherwise quiet village. Maybe it was the point, but this film made my blood boil with the complete lack of restraint and desecration of his parents house. 5/10
Must Peeter [Black Peter] (Estonia) - A long suffering man with a (frankly batshit) wife are trying to see out a fortnight without having one of their arguments that so often becomes their only persona in front of friends. After a night of mental torture from her, he decides to take matters into his own hands once and for all. A good idea, but spoilt slightly by an abstract 'jazz club' style improv track. 6/10
Odigeos Chriseos [Instructions] (Cyprus/Greece) - An art student living alone buys herself a flat pack bed, but upon getting it home realises she just doesn't have the right sort of brain for the ordered instruction following it requires. Calling the helpline, a man calls who is the polar opposite of her; tidy, ordered and clinically efficient in his every action. After marvelling at his quick assembly skills she falls in love, but after repeated purchases of new furnature she seems unable to communicate with him using her normal means, until she realises how well he can follow instructions.. A magical little film, using no dialogue, just actions. Definitely the best of the bunch. 7.5/10
International Fiction Competition 3: Fireworks
These films all dealt with action going on within the workplace.
Daichi wo Tataku Onna [The woman who is beating the earth] (Japan) - A female butcher works with her colleagues, her main function is to blat the meat with a hammer to tenderise it. Her boyfriends beatings are taken out on the meat as she dreams of running away with her friends to form a pop group. Will she drum up the courage to leave her boyfriend, or at least give him a bit back? A nice film with a good twist at the end. Stay for the credits. 6.5/10
Tall Greens, Tight Yellows (UK) - Jules chose the gypsy life and works part time wherever she can get it, and at the moment that's picking daffodils (the source of the film title). Unfortunately, she has to drag Molly with her, who tires of being uprooted before she can make friends at the local school when the work dries up. A quiet slice of life film. 7/10
El Mourabbi (Netherlands) - A cocky pizza delivery boy encounters an abandoned baby at one of his delivery addresses, and suddenly changes his outlook on life. Making the mistake of getting too close too quickly, how will he be able to tear himself from the child once he accepts that he cannot give it a proper future? 7/10
Auf der Strecke [On The Line] (Germany/Switzerland) - A security guard has access to all the cameras in the department store where he works, and misuses them to monitor a woman who works in the book department. He even uses them to find out when she leaves so he can be innocently found on the same train as her. One day, he sees her board with a man, and his jealousy overwhelms him, walking away when the man gets into a fight with youths. When the man is reported dead on the news the following morning, he realises the betrayal of his emotions. On The Line is a very strong film, made well, and stirred up a lot of emotion as the situations unfolded. There's more here than in some full-length films. 8/10
Soleil Bas [Oblique Sun] (France) - Based on an account of a real-life event in 2004, two farm inspectors visit a farmland to perform a routine check on conditions, but the farmer wants none of it. Any more would spoil the surprise, and it was quite a shock. 6.5/10
Intre Ziduri [Between Walls] (Germany) - In Berlin, a group of Moldavian immigrants work illegally on some demolition work in a building, hiding whenever the police come round for an inspection. Their supervisor takes exception to one man's refusal to drink and promises him a wad of cash if he can down a full bottle of vodka. Events to alter the balance of power are about to occur, but in whose favour? A good little film, keeping me guessing which way it was going to go till the end. 7/10
International Animation Shorts Competition
Le Jour de Gloire [The Day of Glory] (France) - A very moving piece remembering those who have died in the world wars; clay and mud were used to model the soldiers on the battlefield as they went over the trenches and became one again with the soil as they fell. 7.5/10
Hungu (Canada) - Using a computer to generate 3D models, but with a very silhouette-like appearance, and overlaying subtle measures of sand to give effective shadow and shade effects, this piece tells of an African tribe who lose one of their number to illness, and having to tear her child away from the dying mother to keep going after the day's food which is getting away on hoof. 7/10
Kleit (Estonia) - A very strange one; a woman's dress tears and re-heals in an organic way, giving the impression of a biological entity that decomposes and returns in a more broken-down form. Very well done, so long as you just sit back and enjoy the work gone into it rather than attempting to extract any story. 5.5/10
La Dama en el Umbral [The Lady on the Threshold] (Spain) - Michael, a sailor arrives in his home town on shore leave and finds his old friends Gerard limbless and married to his childhood sweetheart. During a meal with similarly lopped friends who all served together on the good ship Delphine, Gerard is told of how they came to be as they are, and finds himself in a very dangerous situation. The quality of the animation was barely distinguishable from anything that Pixar has created, and was funny and unnearving to see to the end. 7.5/10
Ona Koja Mjeri [She Who Measures] (Croatia) - An abstract yet scathing satire on consumerism. A line of sheep-like consumers with shopping trolleys walk patiently behind a big fat floating clown, who is farting out products for them to hoard as they watch the monitors that have been screwed to their heads. Truly bizarre, but worth the effort just to see a clown firing products out of its arse. 7/10
The Pearce Sisters (UK) - Two fugly sisters live in a beach hut, catching fish and occasionally the odd washed-up sailor, who for some reason (if they aren't already dead) run screaming from the hut once regaining consciousness. This film was brilliantly done, the gruesome-looking sisters resembling a comic-book 2D look, but fully realised in 3D. The story is funny, unsettling, macabre and even a little touching. See it if you can. 8.5/10
Skhizein (France) - A really inventive story - a man is struck by a huge meteorite, and suffers no damage, except that he is 91cm away from where he should be at all times, leading to a lot of chalkmarks all round his little flat as he tries to cope with his other-dimensional affliction. Great film, unique concept and funny, appealing style. 8/10
Aquarium (Czech Republic) - A domestic situation is described in scruffy pencil lines as a child and its parents laze around at home, until the kid decides to peel back the wallpaper to see what is behind it. There's a world outside those walls.. 5.5/10
Seemannstreue [Sea Dog's Devotion] (Germany) - Based on a macabre poem by Joachim Ringelnatz about a man who finds his true love, but after burying her body when she dies in an accident, he cannot bear to be without her and digs her back up again. The film is very beautiful, using swirls of colour and photos of the human body to create the characters who move fluidly and with sparkle. 7/10
Monsieur Cok (France) - No giggling at the back - In a reality not looking that different to socialist Russia, an egg-shaped greedy executive runs a munitions factory. Not satisfied with output, he begins firing his workforce and replacing them with robots who do the job twice as quick, and also investing in a few robotic guards to police the place when the angry mob descends. One man however is determined to get through. A highly detailed art style, where every character is a gargoyle and the world is a forest of metal and fire. 7/10
That's the end of today's short films. There were a few duffers, but that's the good thing about the short film segments, if you happen to encounter a duffer, it won't last long and there may be a cracking one along to replace it.
Empties (Czech Republic) (wiki)
My only feature-length film today is the last in a trilogy by Jan Sverak. I think after this film, I'll have to take a look at the other two because it was a bit of a cracker. Josef is a disillusioned schoolteacher in his sixties who has a late mid-life crisis and leaves his job. To his wife's despair, he chooses first to be a cyclist courier, and then after going flying into a fence and breaking his ankle, a more sedate job at the empties counter in the local supermarket. His old boss is disappointed, as is his wife who cannot bring herself to visit him in his new place of work and is going through a bit of a crisis herself, convinced that he is having it away with all the ladies he naturally seems to attract. It's a cheeky poke at the idea that life has pretty much ended after sixty beyond bus passes and cabbage stew, and benefits from having a well-made script and some quality acting from the cast. 8/10