Reprising an idea from the 2016 Fantasia Film Festival, this year on the 21st of July, those who were lucky enough to be in attendance at the festival got to see this year’s BORN OF WOMAN short film programming block. I have reviewed each film in the order in which they were shown at the festival. Some of them are currently available online, some of them will be eventually. All of them are awesome! Read on for more info.
From the good ole US of A comes THE GAZE, written, edited, and produced by Ida Joglar. At a run time of less than 14 minutes, one might think there’s not enough time to build a fascinating character. In the case of Mayra (Siri Miller; Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk, Suburgatory), this simply isn’t true. A devoted science student with maybe a little touch of telekinesis, Mayra can’t seem to escape the horrors of the male gaze.
Easily the most feminist short film I’ve ever seen, with a very firm stance against sexual assault, I hope every woman sees this! Also, I can’t wait to see more from Ida Joglar. The film also stars Drew Moore (Catching Up, Queerskins: A Love Story) as the smarmy Dr. Booker, Jennifer Rostami as Mayra’s roommate Jenny, and Josh Caras (Definitely Maybe, The Glass Castle) as their classmate, Lucas.
THE GAZE premiered at Fantasia Film Festival, but can now be viewed on Vimeo. Check it out!
The second film in the BORN OF WOMAN block is PETITE AVARIE out of France, the directorial debut of Manon Allirol and Leo Hardt.
My initial response at the end of PETITE AVARIE was “HOLY SHIT!” It is one of the more twisted comedies I’ve seen in a while. There’s not really anything I can say that won’t spoil this movie except for—-if you have ever once been embarrassed by a dysfunctional relationship, this will make you feel like the most vanilla Norman Rockwell painting come to life.
Starring Manda Toure (Ombline, Braqueurs) as the super powerful Laura, a girl with whom one definitely does not fuck around with. Of course, naturally, there’s always the idiot who decides to try it, who in this case is Sylvain, played by co-director and writer, Leo Hardt (Heterox, Etude de cas).
This is a completely unexpectedly hilarious farcical comedy about sex and death. It premiered at Fantasia Film Festival. Be on the lookout for it’s online debut to the public!
Up next, we have another entry from the US, LUCY’S TALE, written and directed by Chelsea Lupkin (Flutter). A coming-of-age tale in the vein of Carrie (there’s even a scene where the titular character is watching the classic Brian De Palma film), I would love to see this as a full-length film.
Lucy (Irina Bravo; Elegia, The Nightwatchman) is a teenage girl who doesn’t fit in at all with the other mean girls from her school. Her mother (Sandra Lucas; Affluenza, Grave Secrets) is concerned about Lucy’s lack of friends and does her best to push her to be “normal”.
Lucy has no inherent interest in being normal, other than having a crush on her schoolmate and local pharmacy cashier, Brad (Zach Fifer; Block Island, Dominant Species). Brad has a shared affection for Lucy and says he doesn’t “like normal” which calls me back to Jeremy Sisto in May when he said, “I like weird”. Similarly to the plot of May, Brad has no idea how weird Lucy actually is, but he certainly finds out in the end.
LUCY’S TALE is very entertaining and darkly funny. I look forward to seeing more performances from Irina Bravo as well as hopefully an upcoming feature from Chelsea Lupkin.
Up next is NOSE NOSE NOSE EYES! from South Korean director Jiwon Moon (Good Timing). The film starts with a little girl, Ji-hyo frantically running to her mom after a very creepy dream about her father.
Her mother Hyeon-Woo seems nice enough to begin with but it doesn’t take long to realize that somethings not right about her. Her husband is sick, but is he really? With disturbing imagery that calls back to A Clockwork Orange, Audition, and Psycho, this film is one of the more disturbing that I’ve seen in quite some time.
Gotta hand it to South Korea for continuously releasing the most stomach-churning, tension building horror in the world. This is Jiwon Moon’s second film and I’m incredibly intrigued to see what she has brewing in the future.
Next up is a super-short film from Norway. Clocking in at only 8 minutes, we have VOYAGER, directed by Kjersti Helen Rasmussen.
The film starts out with the text “One of the 55 greetings sent out with the Voyager Mission in 1977: FRIENDS OF SPACE. HOW ARE YOU ALL? HAVE YOU EATEN YET? COME VISIT US IF YOU HAVE TIME!
The film takes place at The Global Seed Vault on the island of Svalbard where Stella (Siv Torin Knudsen Petersen; Aber Bergen, The Last Song) works. She comes upon a prototypical “drifter” eating from their stock shelves. She and her co-worker Thomas (Oliander Taule; Aber Bergen,Dette er oss) escort the drifter (Enok Groven; House of Odin) to a room for questioning. He doesn’t speak and he can draw a lifelike portrait of Stella in less than a minute.
Then, of course, shit starts to get weird. There’s some interesting usage of ivy, aliens who all look like they’re in black metal bands, and more. The atmosphere of this film is beautiful and somewhat reminiscent of Under the Skin. The ambient noise score from Extreme Music, Yngve Leidluv Sætre, and Martin Smoge highlights the weird desolation that encompasses this film. Overall, this is a beautiful experiment of sound and vision that’s absolutely worth so much more than the 8 minutes it takes to watch it.
Next up we have an entry from Ireland. CATCALLS is the latest short from director Kate Dolan (Little Doll, Breathe In). Based on a true story, well, partially, we open up on a person driving their car around. Then we see it is a man, next thing you know a girl who we earlier see walking with a friend is giving him directions and he does something VERY inappropriate and drives off.
Come to find out this pervert is actually a “normal” guy named Paul (Martin O’Sullivan; Morgan, Red Room) who is married to a nurse named Jen (Sarah Kinlen; The Cured, The First Wave). One of the girls who Paul traumatized, Meabh (Edel Murphy; Coco Dreams) shows up to the house, not knowing Paul lives there. Maybe. She asks to use the phone to call the police. Turns out, Paul definitely picked the wrong girls to play show-and-tell with, if you get my drift.
A quick slap in the patriarchy’s face, CATCALLS is yet another feminist work of art to come out of this year’s Fantasia Film Festival. Check it out online soon!
The next film in the block is PUPPET MASTER, not to be confused with the US horror franchise. This Finnish film is a very different animal, or, puppet, as it were. Writer/Director Hanna Bergholm brings a magical ballet of heartbreaking loneliness that is at once terrifying and beautiful.
Merja Pöyhönen stars as a nameless woman who sits lonely in a crowded bar, mourning the loss of a boyfriend. Not too long after she gets there, she notices a man (Jari Virman; Euthanizer, Concrete Night) looking at her. They exchange glances and smiles. He appears to be drawing her. Then, just like that, he leaves. The woman decides to follow him. She arrives at a large fantastic puppetry studio/art space. She marvels at the art and then is not so pleasantly surprised by the man.
The film is almost entirely devoid of dialogue and instead serves as an avant-garde puppet show that is a metaphor for power dynamics between men and women. I think it’s an absolutely inspired film and I will be looking out for more from Bergholm in the future.
Up next in a collaboration between the US and the Czech Republic, we have WHO’S WHO IN MYCOLOGY?, a debut short from writer/director Marie Dvorakova and co-writer Micah Schaffer (Rev, Death of 2 Sons).
I am not lying when I say that this is one of the strangest movies (short or feature) that I’ve ever seen, but I mean that in the best way possible. It’s hard for me to really explain much without giving the plot away but I can say that it’s something akin to the result of Jan Svankmeyer (also Czech!), Terry Gilliam, and Jean Pierre Jeunet all getting high on mushrooms and then making a movie—-about mushrooms.
Seriously, there are talking books, people walking on the ceiling, all manner of insanity. It’s really quite impressive for a debut directorial effort and I sincerely applaud Marie Dvorakova, and again, like all the films in this block, I am very excited to see what she does next!!
Now, to conclude Fantasia Film Fest’s BORN OF WOMAN short film block, we have an offering from the United Kingdom called THE OLD WOMAN WHO HID HER FEAR UNDER THE STAIRS, written, directed, produced, and edited by Faye Jackson (Lump, Resurrecting Bill).
Sara Kestleman (Zardoz, Lady Jane) stars as the titular “old woman” who lives alone. We see as she reads the news and watches tv and becomes more and more scared of the world around her. So much so that she cannot sleep at night.
So, like any normal human these days, she turns to the Internet for answers. After searching she comes along one of those stereotypical hokey self-help gurus websites. After paying $78 to the unnamed guru (Alice Offley; Fix The Past, Trollied) she is told to essentially wrap up her fear in a dishtowel and it works to amazingly great results.
A metaphor for truly overcoming fear, especially as women, THE OLD WOMAN WHO HID HER FEAR UNDER THE STAIRS is a fun jaunty meditation on one of the rawest human emotions. The use of Gospel standard “God’s Gonna Cut Them Down” by The Golden Gate Quartet is an amazing background song for “the old woman” to finally overcome the fear that was keeping her from being her true self. The song is also probably going to be stuck in my head for the rest of my life.
Well, folks, that’s it. This has been my review of all the truly wonderful short films being shown in Fantasia Fest’s BORN OF WOMAN short film programming.