Tuesday, March 27, 2007

NPA shorts finale

Filmmakers at NPA Shorts Awards; photo by Val PhoenixNPA SHORTS
Genesis Mile End

After a year-long process of screenings and eliminations, the final eight contenders had their day with a screening and audience award, as well as an industry award.

I detected a theme of moral quandaries among several of the shorts. The one I found most striking was Breaker, directed by Nick Scott and produced by Fiona Brownlie. This film worked well as a story as well as technically. The protagonist, a failing artist, alights upon a can't-miss concept to retain his patron's support and break through to the mainstream: photographing broken windows. But how can he ensure a steady supply of broken windows? By breaking them himself. As a wry comment on artistic licence and morality it works well, but the characters were also intriguing, the moral compass being a neighbour of the artists with whom he trades art: her origami for his photos. Plus, it was shot in black and white, giving it a moody, classic feel.

Sadly, Breaker won neither audience nor jury prize. The latter went to Jez Benstock's Holocaust Tourist, a documentary asking whether such a thing is morally justified. Strangely, Benstock's was the only film with no representation at the event.

The audience award went to Rudolf Buitendach's Rearview, which I found a bit creepy. It was shot in one take and cost £400, which seemed to intrigue many. But I found it a bit gimmicky and the twist at the end did not endear me to it at all.

Family Portrait was quite striking, composed of home movies and pictures over a woman's call to 999 as her husband breaks into the house. I remember the news story on which it was based and it creates real menace.

The other films didn't quite work for me. Wooden Soul featured a girl killing her fish. String seemed gimmicky and pointless. One Hundredth of a Second set up another moral quandary with a photojournalist on location in a war zone faced with a girl in danger. But then it dropped the ball with a London-based setting. This film felt like the opening scenes of a longer film rather than a piece of itself. Indeed, the filmmakers hope to shoot a feature. A Lump in the Road had an intriguing set-up as a daughter tried to jolly her terminally ill mum with a fantasy trip but it didn't really deliver either.

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