Menace: Selections from 2013 New Directors/New Films: Shorts Program 1

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2013 ND/NF Shorts Program 1

As a menacing group, these shorts become ever more violent in sequence, and all host shocking reversals. Each film pushes their central characters to a state of disorientation, bewilderment, or reckoning. All stack their themes moment-to-moment, impacting their human threats, each director going for the tone inherent in the irreversible turning of events.

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Peter Kerek’s WONDERLAND (Romania) charts the path of a boy who manages objects to manage his emotions. In the sparse kitchen of his home, he stashes a biscuit in his coat pocket, where its fate will later be decided. Along with his mother, the boy enters a wealthy house. A man offers a drink to his mother.  The boy wants to quench his thirst for a Pepsi promised by the man, but not delivered. He wanders through the man’s house, haunted with its wares glaring at him – from the heads of animals pegged on a wall to whole hairy heads of pigs. There is much irony in a black-haired pig’s snobbish snout sticking up in the air atop a counter, while the boy gets drunk on the floor with his treasure of Pepsi, and the mother tries to resolve her pressing situation by offering herself sexually. The boy continues to create an excess all his own. They must leave the house immediately, only for the boy to be left outside while the mother returns inside the gate. This dark fairytale, it’s heavily seductive atmosphere, and the boy’s innocence vs. wanton desire, treads an obsessive path wherein the boy’s handling of objects, and his limited/unlimited options read as bleak wonder.

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SOUTHWEST

Jordi Wijnalda (USA/Turkey)

Wijnalda undertakes the emotionally definitive operations surrounding SOUTHWEST’s Turkish border crossing. In the exigency of helping illegal immigrants, a Dutch mother must decide how much she will allow her estranged son to re-enter her life at a crucial moment in her preparations. Her allegiances are so crammed with intensity she cannot process how far her heart lies distant from her own flesh and blood. She must decide whether to make a crossing of her own heart’s borders. Everyone is completely committed to cross the borders they intended. The mother is caught between helping the couple, and her seemingly good-natured son, even when he gives her news of her granddaughter. When she suddenly has to seek his help, an open-ended turning point is forged. Wijnalda’s wrenchingly visceral short belongs to a feature length production.

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WHAT CAN I WISH YOU BEFORE THE FIGHT?  

Sofia Babluani (France)

Marie does not speak. The first image is a question of Marie’s identity. She is adopted, though silent Marie clearly has a good relationship to her father and sister. A wayward Chechen girl arrives in their barn and the family lets her in. Marie, maybe for the first time, tries to interpret someone else’s gestures and language. She tries to emulate the other girl intruder/guest, by copying her Muslim prayer, by wearing the girl’s scarf. When the Police come for the runaway, the Chechen girl runs from the house, or does she? Therein lies a shocking reversal, and for the first time, Marie’s silence breaks, a startling shift in Marie’s willingness to assume her identity as other.

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Mauricio Arango’s EVERYTHING NEAR BECOMES FAR (Colombia) recalls shards of Claire Denis’s “L’Intrus” in its juxtapositions, deep emotional spaces, and sharp edges (knives). The wild exterior versus the relatively open interiors where the people come and go, in this case, a young sexually attached couple, and gritty, lush and dangerous landscape. A creature, boar or a wild dog, reigns in the forest. Wild men with machetes prepare for an unknown action by a river. In the domestic life of the couple stands a still life of a tomato cut in half, black-bladed knife astride a black cutting board. On the faces of the couple, acceptance of their day ahead, both working, one in town, one on land. Then just by proximity, the danger, the wild, meets the lone young worker while he takes his lunch. The woman is left without a ride. The violent actions are taken, almost in a hush; the wild animal easily locates the human carcass. The wild men leave their mark on one lone individual. And everything near, like the tone of a loved one’s cell phone becomes far, pinging in the wilderness.   

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Cyril Amon Schaublin’s STAMPEDE (Croatia) becomes the ultimate human-made wilderness. In a busy train station, it is clear from the title on black screen what violence the course of the film will take, though not how it will start, or subsequently, how it will happen. It pieces together, beautifully and menacingly, the moments of human beings going their way as in a dance. A public system is about to fail them. The follow up interviewees are effectively bewildered, flabbergasted speechless emotional-“I don’t know how it happened”. All builds to a climax in slow motion, while a dog sniffs through the humans for the unattended bag. The station conductors are on point until they have cause to sweat. A mother with her baby in a sling is left unattended in the center of the ensuing chaos, which rounds up like eggs in a batter. All hell at the center breaks loose in slow motion as people are led by a loudspeaker to move away from a platform, and as they pile into each other, details crack open, the glass face of a watch breaks, people mash together as if in a contact improvisation, a bad dream of arms and legs, this quite elegant dance of humans moving together through public space, never before so dependent on the other, becomes a nightmare over the course of 20 suspenseful minutes. One can imagine being as painfully aware as the victims of the stampede, and like some of inarticulate survivors, horrified.

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