For the tenth annual Fear No Film portion of the Utah Arts Festival, curator Topher Horman has crafted seven sequences of presentations in the most imaginative interpretations of the various tipping points we encounter individually, familiarly, locally, nationally, globally, and even universally. Each program is described below.
You (Screenings: Friday, June, 22, 4 p.m.; Sunday, June 24, 6 p.m.)
In each of these films, ranging from perspectives of ethnic and cultural self-identity to the not-so-unintended consequences of the surprising inherent humor of premeditated murder, the potential for sudden shifts in one’s perspectives is evident. As with each of the programming clusters, Horman has orchestrated the sequence of the screenings to allow viewers to make their craft their own journeys in confronting the various tipping points presented in these films.
Two films from Spain exemplify the objective, including Lucas Figueroa’s ‘Because There Are Things You Never Forget’ (Porque hay cosas que nunca se olvidan’), a masterful 2009 13-minute black comedy that has won nearly 280 awards in festivals around the world. Ironically, the film is set in Italy during the 1950s and involves a group of soccer-playing boys who plot the murder of an elderly woman who mercilessly punctured their ball with her knitting needles when it landed in her garden. It is the boys’ solidarity of camaraderie that emboldens them to take their revenge.
The other Spanish entry in this category is ‘Dolls Factory,’ a 2010 short by Ainhoa Menendéz, that is a bit of a futuristic homage to Tim Burton. An incident at a doll factory where the protagonist works with repetitive mechanical motions — she puts eyeballs in dolls — liberates her routine and her life.
Other films include ‘My Muslim Eyes,’a six-minute short by Spy Hop students Laela Omar and Loren Ruiz that explores young Muslims’ perspectives on freedom in the world since the 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. This film was named the best documentary at last month’s Westport Youth Film Festival. It also has played at festivals in Newport Beach, San Francisco, Halifax, and Hollywood.
‘You Are Not Machines,’ a four-minute short by Harry Nordlinger opens the screening. It is a montage of stock newsreel footage and images set to a famous Charlie Chaplin monologue from the 1940 film ‘The Great Dictator.’
Other films include ‘SP #3,’ an experimental piece incorporating stop-motion puppetry; ‘When We Were Very Young,’ a seven-minute esoteric dance film from The University of Utah film studies program, and ‘Apocalyptadelic,’ described by filmmaker Jesse Holden as ‘part music video, part experimental film, and pure artistic expression.’ The music comes from the filmmaker’s days with the band ‘Strange Love Ocean.’
The Two of You (Screenings: Thursday, June 21, 2 p.m.; Saturday, June 23, 6 p.m.)
Horman’s set of screenings presents the various tipping points to be encountered in relationships of all types. Some deal with the obvious while others take unexpected detours — pleasant, bizarre, or poignant.
In ‘MIJO,’ a 10-minute documentary by Maryland filmmaker Chithra Jeyaram, the focus is on the relationship between a mother, a dancer who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, and her son who is trying to comprehend the seriousness of her illness.
The short is part of her debut feature-length documentary film ‘Foreign Puzzle.’ Jeyaram quit her job as a physical therapist to pursue her film studies, which includes a project examining the difficulties Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka must endure.
From Germany, ‘Love in The Kitchen’ (Liebe in der Küche) is a definite candidate to be the most talked about entry in ‘Fear No Film,’ even at its three-minute length. Directed and written by Teresa Hayer, the film might seem like a comedy at first but it takes an unexpected turn as a young man tries desperately and clumsily to rejuvenate the affections of his woman partner.
‘The Cortege’ (El Cortejo), a 2010 film by Marina Seresesky, is a 14-minute film about an elderly gravedigger in the cemetery, who has few friends and is often the hapless target of jokes and pranks. Yet, he looks forward to the monthly visit by a widow who dutifully brings flowers to her husband’s grave and perhaps presents the best opportunity to find someone who would treat him differently.
Other films in this screening include ‘Buon Giorno Sayonara,’ an eight-minute maturely handled story directed by Karen Hope about two foreign tourists — neither of whom can speak each other’s language — who enjoy a fleeting moment of romance at a British seaside resort after their respective partners have temporarily abandoned them.
‘Couch Potatoes,’ a 15-minute entry from New York by Jessie Goldenberg, is a about a couple of lovers who have just parted ways but are arguing over who gets to keep the couch.
‘Perfection’ is a concise compelling documentary short of 10 minutes that examines eating disorders from the perspective that the relationships individuals have with food cannot necessarily be assigned to neat clinical categories. Directed by Monica Zinn, it follows the stories of three young women and a school social work counselor who moderates the discussion.
The closing film in this screening Is ‘Nightly Steps to Get Your Man,’ a five-minute silent short that follows precisely what one must do in order to secure the target of her affection.
Us (Screenings: Thursday, June 21, 6 p.m.; Saturday, June 23, 10 p.m.)
In this screening program, Horman sets the audience on a collective short venture that allows everyone simultaneously to consider the significance of that single ‘oh’ moment which triggers the tipping point.
‘The Missing Looks’ (La Mirada Perdida), a 2012 film by Damián Dionisio is a fantasy drama set in Argentina during the 1970s. Army personnel discover a political dissident who had gone into hiding while his wife goes to dramatic lengths to shelter their daughter from witnessing the violence that is about to occur. The film, which is playing extensively in festivals around the world, has won at least three best short film honors at festivals in Spain and Argentina.
Other films in the screening include Belgium’s ‘The Extraordinary Life of Rocky,’ directed by Kevin Meul about a young man who always seems to escape unscathed even as death and destruction surround him. The film won a gold plaque at the Chicago International Film Festival in 2011.
‘Motown Morning,’ a three-minute film by Canada’s Simone Stock, is true to its title in so many respects except for a nice twist at the end of its quirky little story that packs the humor with a lot better punch.
’999.999.999′ is a charming piece of old-school style flat animation from Germany’s Gerald Grunow that starts off in a cold futuristic environment and suggests potentially more appealing alternatives.
Finally, ‘Danny Macaskill: Industrial Revolutions,’ is a highly impressive short about the ‘urban adventure’ bike rider who demonstrates his skills at an old ironworks and railway yard in the Scottish countryside. The film, part of a British television documentary ‘Concrete Circus,’ also has received more than 5.7 million hits on YouTube.
Them (Screenings: Friday, June 22, 2 p.m.; Sunday, June 24, 4 p.m.)
The focus in this screening is turned back to the narrative on the screen, as audience members can see precisely where the characters confront and respond to the tipping point in their stories.
A bit of Galician mythology frames the story in ‘The Olláparo,’ a 2011 film from Spain directed by Miriam and Sonia Albert-Sobrino. The film features a narrator and two characters — an 86-year-old father and his deaf son, 46, who must deal with a one-eyed beast. The film has been receiving quite a bit of attention for its experimental cinematic treatment.
Another film from Spain, ‘A Practical Guide for Imaginary Friends [Abridged]‘ (Manual práctico del amigo imaginario [abreviado]), directed by Ciro Altabas, is a marvelously approachable story about pop culture and how easily the lines of pop culture and reality can be blurred. It features the unusual pairing of a pop culture author mogul and an imaginary friend.
The second film for the screening is a nice bit of romantic comedy confection from Australia called ‘”The Things My Father Never Taught Me,”‘ a seven-minute short directed by Burleigh Smith. It’s about a father who’s giving dating advice to his son who obviously is too young to date. Plainly, the father is an idiot.
From Germany comes ‘Blink of An Eye’ (Augenblicke), directed by Martin Bargiel. A man, who is unable to fall asleep because of a neighbor’s loud argument, tries to decompress by smoking cigarettes. He goes to the next door all-night convenience market to get matches and then he is awakened once again by the noise of nighttime thunderstorm. However, when he awakens, he is in an interrogation room, facing questions about a dead woman in his apartment building.
The film’s nightmarish effects are accentuated from hypnotic sequences and point-of-view shots from the man’s perspective that directly puts the audience into the challenge of making sense of the narrative at the same time as the main character.
‘Wrecks and Violins,’ a 12-minute short by Californian Kevin Lin, is a quickly paced action-adventure story that involves a teenager, a bizarre-acting stranger, a violin, and a comrade dressed in a monkey suit. ‘Sunrise over Venus’ is a five-minute music video from Radiophonic in Texas.
We The People (Screenings: Friday, June 22, 6 p.m.; Sunday, June 24, 8 p.m.)
Horman has curated a richly informing, entertaining, and timely series of documentary shorts for this thematic screening, which deal with the tipping points of our past and contemporary history.
The opener is outstanding: a nine-minute short entitled ‘Be Filled With The Spirit,’ a compact worthwhile historical look at the traditions of black storefront churches as documented by photographer Milton Rogovin, born in 1909 and who followed in the tradition of other social history chronicles including Jacob Riis and Dorothea Lange. The film is directed by his son, Mark, who brings alive the photographs with recorded music and preaching as well as interviews with his father and Alton B. Pollard III, dean of Howard University’s school of divinity.
As the nation awaits momentous U.S. Supreme Court decisions dealing with immigration and health insurance laws, ‘A Question of Integrity: Politics, Ethics, and Supreme Court,’ appears that much more timely in this festival screening. This 17-minute film is a classic example in the recent movement of high-quality NGO advocacy journalistic style documentaries. Produced by the nonprofit Alliance for Justice and narrated by actor Edward James Olmos, this film will provoke rightfully so a discussion about how to address concerns that the nation’s highest court is becoming uncomfortably politicized.
A rare treat among Fear No Film festival offerings is the 12-minute mockumentary entitled ‘Phoenix: City of The Future,’ a slickly made satirical take on those often cheesy Chamber of Commerce-style promotional videos. This film, directed by Robert Kilman and Safwat Saleem, has an Australian celebrity has-been with misgivings as the promotional narrator.
‘Dinner’ comes from one of the four 2011 PitchNic films of Spy Hop Productions students. Directed by Laela Omar, Erin Cole and James Hadden, it is a good first course for stimulating the dialogue about why so many families find it so difficult – and even awkward – to sit together for dinner.
The student filmmakers, who include interviews with a family counselor as well as Liz Edmunds, better known as the Food Nanny on Brigham Young University’s public television programming, illustrate a curious irony that only has become more apparent with food becoming the political lightning rod it has become.
Other films include the four-minute ‘Mugs,’ a fast-paced treatment about our fascination with celebrities especially in their confrontations with the law. On the other hand, ‘Strong is Beautiful,’ is an artistic piece celebrating in slow motion the grace of women’s athleticism.
‘Control/Response,’ originally intended as a video art installation, will be shown on split screen. Directed by Anthony Stagliano, the film explores the changes in human movement and space as propelled by the rise of the automobile industry and mass manufacturing.
The Citizens of Earth (Screenings: Friday, June 22, 10 p.m.; Sunday, June 24, 2 p.m.)
With each cluster dealing with the theme of tipping points, Horman gradually extends the observational perspective from the individual to the family to the community, and ultimately to the multinational and multi-regional areas of globalization. Five films deal with variations of the theme and its impact upon the growing awareness of inevitable globalization.
‘Pennipotens’ epitomizes the global dynamics in this screening. Directed by Heather Freeman of North Carolina, this animation fantasy is based on a Flemish fairytale ‘White Caroline and Black Caroline,’ first recorded by Edmund Dulac in 1916. To boot, she uses world music accents including Balinese rhythms. The animation actually is a digital version of the classic cut-out style well known to ‘South Park’ viewers. For those interested in the original fairy tale, it can be found here.
Other films provide heartening documentary chronicles, such as ‘Project Hopeful,’ a 14-minute short of 2011 directed by Grace Johnson and Kelsie Kiley. A couple (Carolyn and Kiel Twietmeyer) with seven children of their own decide to adopt children from Central and Eastern European countries who have a variety of disabilities. ‘Lift a Life,’ a six-minute short produced by Chris Madsen of Utah, documents his trip to the Dominican Republic to work with Haitian refugees who left their homeland after the 2010 earthquake.
‘Workers Leaving The Factory’ (Arbeiter Verlassen die Fabrik) is a German narrative film directed by Anna Linke and running about 10 minutes. Definitively a universal love story, the film portrays a woman welder bored with her job in a metal factory who decides to make whimsical little characters out of spare parts in her free time. Soon, a new employee enters, and the woman hopes to become more than friends with her male colleague.
Finally, ‘SNAILS,’ another of Spain’s fantastic entries, is replete with cheesy graphics and hard-edged rock ‘n’ roll music in a story that involves a giant squid attacking its victims. The film is more than a trifle because of its biting commentary on stereotypes of American pop culture.
The Planet (Thursday, June 21, 4 p.m.; Saturday, June 23, 2 p.m.)
No doubt, one of the broadest contemporary debates concerns whether or not the planet is immediately vulnerable to a potentially catastrophic tipping point – whether it be in climate change, trash management, or the integrity of our food supply.
In his deft curating skills, Horman’s seven collections cover the range rather nicely in an about hour-long screening including three selections by directors who have appeared at previous Fear No Film editions.
New Zealand’s James Cunningham, whose ‘Das Tub’ and ‘First Contact’ were screened at the 2011 festival, returns with ‘Dr. Grordbort Presents: The Deadliest Game,’ a smart seven-minute animation piece that hits at the issue of endangered species. The film, based on Greg Broadmore’s fictional work, follows the intrepid hunter as he seeks out wildlife trophies on Venus.
Aurelio Voltaire of New York returns to Fear No Film for the fourth time with ‘Odokuro,’ a six-minute insanely innovative gem of science fiction animation about a rat-monkey’s skeleton that comes to life in a room full of cursed objects. As Voltaire fans will appreciate, the film has that wonderful Gothic inflection and, of course, a short film of his would not be complete without securing the narrative services of a major music figure. This time, he has Gary Numan.
His 2010 entry ‘DemiUrge Emesis,’ featuring a mummified cat with an upset stomach, took the Fear No Filmmaker Award. That entry featured music by the cello-rock trio Rasputina and was narrated by Danny Elfman. This film won two awards at the 2011 Dragon*Con Short Film Festival for best animation and best in animated surrealism.
Seaton Lin’s short ‘Reluctance’ is the companion piece to ‘Civilian,’ which was screened at Fear No Film in 2009. In that piece, Lin took his cue from one of the most famous and extensively documented accounts of alien abduction as reported in 1961 by Barney and Betty Hill. ‘Civilian’ takes up the story in 1964 as Dr. Benjamin Simon, a psychiatrist, puts his patient (Betty Hill) under hypnosis. In the dream state, she tells him of being in a medical ward and speaking to “the leader,” who shows her an animated map of stars. For Hill, the experience is both beautiful and frightening. Now, in ‘Reluctance,’ the patient is the man.
While Horman received numerous entries from American filmmakers about dumpster diving, he and his fellow jury members were drawn to an entry from New Zealand: ‘From Dumpster To Dinner Plate,’ an 11-minute documentary directed by Vanessa Hudson. It is estimated that the equivalent of $750 million of edible food ends up in New Zealand’s trash every year. However, Hudson puts the essential question of ‘would you eat food from the trash’ to an experimental test.
From Italy comes the six-minute ‘Veggie Propaganda,’ directed by Kristen Palana, an animated musically quirky piece that offers up a surprising yet substantial look that pierces through the poseur mentality of those who espouse animal rights and the eating habits of humans. It’s worth quoting from the director’s artistic statement:
‘I wanted to make an animation that got people thinking about their relationship to animals and to their food. I have found that many ‘propaganda’ offerings that seek to convert people into vegetarians or vegans come off as heavy-handed or extremist and ultimately turn off more people to their cause. My goal was to make something funny, quirky and yet full of educational information that was targeted to regular every day meat-eaters who might be looking for good reasons to eat less meat.’
As Fear No Film audiences know well, Horman always includes a short that serves to cleanse the palate – a cinematic ‘amuse bouche,’ so to speak. This screening’s entry is a six-minute music video ‘Cradle To Grave.’
Last year, Fear No Film offered its first program exclusively for kids in the Art Yard venue. With the assistance of the jury and his children – who already have become serious cinema critics in their own right – Horman decided to offer two sets of screenings this year: one for children generally between the ages of 3 and 7, and another for children 8 and up.
Four of the films in the ‘junior’ category are short animation pieces running between one and four minutes each. They include ‘My License,’ ‘Live Outside The Box’ (which comes from Taiwan), ‘Oliver’s Treasure,’ and ‘The Plastic Perils of The Pacific,’ which is a returning entry from 2009. The single live action short is ‘Stetson, Street Dog of Park City,’ based on the illustrated story book by Jeanine Heil.
For the ‘older’ kids, the screenings offer a more diverse mix of genre and definitely more substantive narrative treatments. The opener is a two-minute video as part of a competition sponsored by They Might Be Giants for the song ‘Can’t Keep Johnny Down.’ Any video involving a pair of tighty whities is sure to entertain a juvenile audience.
The story lines grow from there. From Thailand comes ‘Taxi Karaoke,’ directed by Pete Smithsuth, about a boy who is trying to win over his father’s affections by installing a karaoke machine in the back of his cab. ‘Secret Club,’ directed by Ben Kadie, is a fun confection that will leave adults confused but children nodding in knowledgeable agreement to the three-minute-film’s premise.
‘Letting Go,’ directed by Cameron MacKenzie of North Dakota, is an impressive piece by a young filmmaker who explores coming to terms in her grief with the death of a beloved family member. The film is shot in muted tones and there is no dialogue.
The screening closes with ‘BOO!,’ directed by Adam Orton, a perfectly suitable nine-minute short set on Halloween, and ‘Thomas Comma,’ directed by Ken Kimmelman, a cute animated piece about a comma in search for the right sentence. This might inspire youngsters to become punctuation gurus.
The screenings will recycle continuously for children in the Art Yard every day during the festival.
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