We go from a series of documentary shorts to a series of fictional shorts from around the world. Like the Documentary Shorts Program, no two films in this series are alike. This time, they contrast not only in story but also in style. Because there’s no common theme among these films like there were with the documentary shorts, I’m going to have to divide the review by each movie.
Based on a true story, Hari tells the story of a young Hindu priest in training who must decide what’s more important; his love or his faith. During his studies, Hari (Kanishk Kumar Jain) had developed a relationship with young Prathvi (Kinjal Jain). But due to Hari’s oath of celibacy, he can’t take this relationship beyond cute conversations. Soon, Hari realizes he has to choose between keeping his oath and being with Prathvi.
The strength of this romance is the relationship between Hari and Prathvi. Writer-Director Tushar Tyagi avoids romance clichés to create a believable relationship between two young people. Most of the film consists of them trying to get their picture taken, but when they argue over whether or not to pay 500 rupees, it sounds like the kind of arguments real couples have over the small things. Of course it helps that Tyagi has two great performers to work with. Kanishk Kumar and Kinjal Jain bounce off each other with the kind of chemistry most romances wished they had. It’s a shame it won’t get a wider audience with it being a short film. With it making its debut at the Cannes Film Festival, I hope Tyagi will gain attention and make feature length films.
FOREST OF ECHOES:
From Austria comes this mindbender from writer/director Luz Olivares Capelle. While searching for her friends in the woods, teenager Christina finds 3 drowned kids on the shore of the woods. At the same time, 3 cousins play around the lake when they find a dead young woman in the water. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see this film, so I’m not able to review this.
Corner Gas’s Lorne Cardinal tries his hand at drama. He plays Frank, a man who lives along in a little shack near the lake. All he has left of his family is 3 tombstones and a bunch of photos on his wall. But his way of living could be coming to an end. With the water rising closer to his house, his home’s deemed unsafe for living. Despite Mounties coming to his home with an order of evacuation, Frank refuses to leave. Instead, he tries to push his shack further away from the lake. Unfortunately, it won’t budge.
It’s kind of weird for this film to be among a collection of foreign films, it being a Canadian film and all. But I digress. With little dialogue, Cardinal expressive performance allows us to empathize with Frank.
Though Frank doesn’t practice any cultural activities in the film, you can imagine his struggles are meant to embody the changes aboriginal people have to cope with. The rising waters are clearly meant to represent climate change. The others aren’t so obvious. There is a reference of Franks neighbours moving to town, but that seems to be just about it. If there’s anything, it’s so perfectly hidden under a tale of a man trying to keep his home safe that you need to examine them closely. But then again it would be reading too much into this short film. At least it wouldn’t be if the program’s summary didn’t make these claims.
To make a living, young brothers Charlie (Theo Dardenne) and Gerstoph (Florian Vigilante) rob night shops or “Magasins”. They dream of saving enough money to find a more fulfilling life in Paris. But due to youthful recklessness and naivety, their dream gets undermined. Their lives take a different direction when they encounter Julie (Marilyse Hermans), a more professional thief. Their relationship goes from the boys being tied up to her offering tips on how to get a bigger score out of their Magasin robberies. Julie and Charlie start to get closer, but little brother Gerstoph grows envious of their bond. Soon it all leads to a confrontation that threatens the brother’s dream.
An import from the Netherlands, the film seems to fit most of the tropes of an art film. Dark black and white cinematography? Check! Complicated, intense relationships? Check! Philosophical dialogue? Well, in the first few minutes, yes. On the surface, the film seems like an art film. Cinematographer Amandine Klee graces the film with a beautiful, black and white cinematography which brings out the grime of the city and the emptiness of the road. The actors deliver restrained performances most often seen in art films. And the relationship between the three leads an intense, complicated direction.
But for an art film, it’s takes a slightly conventional direction. Unlike most art films, the film has a coherent storyline audience can follow. The characters’ motivations are easier to understand. But writer/director Jordy Tempelman’s most unusual addition is the humour. There are a few really funny moments in this film. In one early scene, the brothers head over to a targeted Magasin, only to find someone’s beaten them to it.
TO THE SEA:
From Turkey comes a look at the struggles of caring for an ailing loved one. Yunus (Gokhen Onus) remains bedridden from a deadly disease, cared for by his wife Emine (Nilay Erdonmez) and his fisherman brother Adem (Hakan Karsak). Doktor Hamit (Serdar Brodonaci) can only relieve Yunus’ pain through acupuncture. In a last ditch effort to cure Yunus, Adem and Emine turn to medicine woman Hafiye Ana (Aysen Sumercan), who recommends they wash his wounds with water from 7 mouths of the stream. So Adem takes the couple on his boat and set sail across the streams to collect the water and hopefully cure Yunus. But during the trip, Adem and Emine develop feelings for each other.
Writer/Director Ufuk Cavus creates a film of quiet beauty. The film begins with a beautiful image of Emine’s rests her hand on the stream while they sail. There’s also a beauty in the humanity of the characters. Cavus avoids melodramatic acting in favour of grounding the performances in realistic acceptance. There are some magical moments, especially every time Yunus comes to and asks Adem when they can go fishing. But it’s still portrayed in a realistic manner. It especially works when Adem and Emine develop feelings for each other. They can’t bring themselves to act on their feelings because they love Yunus too much.
This program concludes with Rain Lotus, an animated visual feast from China. Unlike the other shorts, it contains no plot. At its core, it’s an ancient painting brought to life. But director Joe Chang turns this into a ballet of drawings worthy of Fantasia. Chang beautifully blends drawings by Hu Shuita with the score by Sun Jianguo. From drawings of birds
 Courtesy of cinematographer Kagan Kerimoglu